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Topic: Espresso Newbie question (37 msgs / 816 lines)
1) From: daottman
Isn't beginner's luck a wonderful thing?  Your first espresso was a good one.  So many people "don't like" it because it's bitter and otherwise bad.  It's (almost) all in the skill of the barista.
At home, there are many challenges.  Good equipment is necessary, but not sufficient for making good espresso.  I've finally got Silvia/Rocky making drinkable shots, but it seems like it's been harder than it should be.  My key was figuring out temp surfing.  (Check archives.)  Many on this list have had good experiences with other equipment as well.  Unless you find a good deal on a really good used grinder and espresso machine, $500 seems a reasonable minimum to expect.  (Go ahead guys, flame away...)
Check out the espresso books for sale at our hosts' web site, and maybe David Shomer's tome on the subject.  Good luck.
-- 
Anthony Ottman
daottman
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2) From: jim gundlach
On Thursday, October 24, 2002, at 10:07 PM, Jim Karavias wrote:
<Snip>
You don't say why you are not including the grinder, but for good 
espresso a good grinder is absolutely essential.  I can make much 
better espresso with the Rocky, $240 grinder and my old $99.00 
refurbished Gaggia Gran than I could with my Solis 166 grinder, $130 
and the SL-90 $400 espresso machine.  If I bought now, I would wait a 
month or so and see if the rumored Rocky without a doser does come out 
and I would probably go with the Silvia rather than the SL-90.  I got 
the SL-90 because it is easier to make a good espresso with and there 
are four other people in the household that make espresso every now and 
then.
In order of importance I would say good coffee is first.  And, unless 
you have a good neighborhood roaster handy, the only way to have good 
coffee is buy good green beans and roast your own.  Second, the grinder 
and third the espresso machine.  Once you have these, a little practice 
will be required.
Jim Gundlach
roasting over pecan wood fires
in La Place, Alabama
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3) From: NOEL HONG
Yes. With good quality fresh roasted blend, good quality water, a high 
quality espresso dedicated grinder,sound barista technique.  For hardware do 
not skimp on the grinder. Eventually you will be upgrading. If the budget 
allows consider the MazzerMini (~$375).  A great grinder with a good 
quaility "entry" level espresso machine (Solis SL70, Rancillo Silva) can 
create excellent espresso. An average grinder with a great machine will 
create more of a challenge to pull a good shot.
Noel V. Hong
email: nhong32590
<Snip>
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4) From: Jim Karavias
Jim, Noel - thanks! I was figuring on spending about $250 on the grinder =
and was thinking about the Rocky.  The grinder seems much more tangible =
and I can visualize why higher quality parts and design would yield =
better results.  The espresso machine, on the other hand, seems less =
intuitive to me and the output is so much more subjective that I feel =
less confident about my ability to judge them.  I don't want to spend =
$500 on an entry level machine and find that I'm unable to get a really =
good shot only and feel compelled to spend more on a better machine =
without being able to tell if its "me" or the machine.
regards,
Jim

5) From: NOEL HONG
Jim, if you have not looked into coffeegeek.com check it out for info 
regarding anything espresso or coffee. The reviews & forum are another great 
resource for info & feedback.
Noel V. Hong
email: nhong32590
<Snip>
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6) From: Les & Becky
Jim,
Having experienced a Silvia this past week,  I am very happy with my Saeco.
It isn't a Silvia, but it pulls a very nice shot.  I really couldn't tell
that Mike's machine pulled a better shot, and I paid less that $250 for my
espresso maker.  I know I might get flamed for the comment, but I think for
the money, my Saeco is well built and I can make really good espresso with
it.  I would spend my money on a grinder too!   When I go to upgrade it is
going to be in the 4 figure range!, but that will be ways down the road.
Les

7) From: Chris Beck
My recommendation is always to buy the best grinder you can - I went the 
Solis route, and while it was worthwhile, I ended up with a Rocky anyway.
Get a Rocky and a cheaper machine - not as glamorous, but much better 
espresso will result, as long as the machine is 'decent' - Saeco Maestro 
or other decent boiler machine w/o a fake crema enhancing portafilter. 
    A Reneka Techno will produce dreck when used with a cheap grinder. 
Big waste of $$.
Chris
Les & Becky wrote:
<Snip>
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8) From: Les & Becky
Chis, 
We are thinking along the same lines!
Les

9) From: Mike McGinness
From: "Jim Karavias" 
<Snip>
is
<Snip>
in
<Snip>
for
<Snip>
I've read a good 'starting point' for dialing in espresso shots is the size
of Equal-NutraSweet. (don't know what size in microns that would be:-)
MM;-)
Variable Variac Rockin' Rosto Roasting
Miss Silvia brewin'
Limping along with Solis Maestro grindin'
Christmas is coming!!!
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10) From: R.N.Kyle
Thanks for the tip on the nutri sweet I have some and will compare it =
with the grind I've been using.
Ron Kyle
Anderson SC
rnkyle

11) From: Jim Karavias
Hi All,
I've had espresso twice in my adult life.  Once at a small cafe in North
Beach (San Francisco) and the other at Starbucks.  The one I got at the cafe
was like taking a bite of Scharfenberger dark chocolate with a hint of
molasses. If I hadn't actually watched it being made I would have thought it
was 'enhanced' somehow. It was incredible.  The one at Starbucks was like
very strong black coffee, very bitter, without much real character and very
little crema.  I'm glad that wasn't the first espresso I ever had 'cause I
wouldn't have gone back for more.  I can only hope my first experience is
indicative of what's possible with some skill and a decent home espresso
machine.  If so I can see my next obsession.  So here's my question....is
that first experience reproducible for under $500.00 (not including a
grinder).
Regards,
Jim
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12) From: Rick Farris
Jim wrote:
<Snip>
No, but I *would* if I could figure out where to buy some sizing screens.
Anybody have an idea?
-- Rick
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13) From: Rick Farris
In response to Jim's question:
<Snip>
Mike replied:
<Snip>
Err...Mike...he didn't ask how finely to grind the coffee... :-)
-- Rick
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14) From: Mike McGinness
From: "Rick Farris" 
<Snip>
Rick, I was referring to his last question which was:
"Makes me wonder, is there a published particle size for espresso grinds?
Ok.  Its obsessive, i know."
That sounded like asking how fine to me!:-)
MM;-)
Variable Variac Rockin' Rosto Roasting
Miss Silvia brewin'
Limping along with Solis Maestro grindin'
Christmas is coming!!!
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15) From: AlChemist John
Sometime around 22:35 10/24/02, Rick Farris typed:
<Snip>
Any scientific supply.  VWR and Fisher come to mind.  I don't know if they 
sell to the public, but for me, I'm not the public (now there is an odd 
sentence).  If you really want some sieve screens, and want help, let me 
know.  I can buy them through the lab.
<Snip>
--
John Nanci 
AlChemist at large
Roasting and Blending by Gestalt
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16) From: jim gundlach
On Friday, October 25, 2002, at 02:17 AM, Mike McGinness wrote:
<Snip>
The screens are made and I've seen places that sell large quantities, 
it is simply a matter of finding a source that will sell small 
quantities.  What I could see making is a series of say ten or so short 
cylinders that would screw together.  Each would have a finer screen 
the the one above it.  You set your grinder on a  test setting, grind 
enough coffee to fill the top compartment.  put a top on and shake, 
rattle, and roll or vibrate if you choose, and measure the amount of 
grounds in each of the compartments.  The location and distribution of 
the results would tell you how good a job your grinder was doing and 
even let you know when it was wearing out.  It would also give real 
numbers for FP, vac pot , espresso, Turkish etc.
Obsessive, I think not.
Jim Gundlach
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17) From: Dan Bollinger
Another way of measuring grind distribution is to spray the grind from a
nozzle over a series of bins. The more massive particles will fly further.
Just weigh the bins' contents for the distribution curve.  Dan
<Snip>
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18) From: steve_w
Quoting jim gundlach :
<Snip>
I agree.  If this sort of screen set is affordable it could be used as
more than a grind tester.  You could use them to optimize results from 
any grinder on a regular basis.  For that you would just use the "too 
coarse" and "too fine" screens for your desired brewing process and 
discard or otherwise pass off the stuff you don't want to brew with.
Steve Wall
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19) From: Chris Peters
You could try using a mechanical sieve shaker.  This apparatus is typically
used to identify soil particle size.  I believe the sieve sizes go down to
0.038 mm opening (No. 400).  You can view an example athttp://www.topac.com/shakerRP09.htmlChris in KC

20) From: John Abbott
What a horrible thing to wake up to!  I'm clearing my e-mail for the last
time for a week, having trouble finding my face with my coffee cup and I
read this! I think I'm glad I'll miss this week-end, its destined to become
more active than the endo/exo/thermic battle of a month ago.  Ye GADS!  Use
a particle counter!
Y'all have fun - I'm going to be trying to talk my wife out of spending my
coffee money at the craft fair next week. I'm heading for Canyon Lake
Texas - no phones - no internet - well.. no fun.. unless you like craft
fairs.
John - gone in 60 seconds... my money will take a moment longer

21) From: floyd burton
Saw a report evaluating several different grinders by using screens of
various sizes to classify the grinders output.  Think it was on
coffeegeek-was very interesting-they did a whirly blade-from boulders to
dust. Will try to find source of report and post it.

22) From:
If you want to go low tech, you can buy a can of pre-ground Illy coffee which is
perfectly ground for espresso. Then you take a sheet of plain white paper,
sprinkle a bit of coffee on it and thinly spread it around in a small area, put
a piece of clear tape over the grounds and use this to compare your ground
coffee to as you adjust the grinder.
Quoting floyd burton :
<Snip>
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23) From: jim gundlach
On Friday, October 25, 2002, at 09:34 AM, floyd burton wrote:
<Snip>
It's about $1600 more than I expected to spend.
Jim Gundlach
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24) From: Rick Farris
I asked:
<Snip>
John replied:
<Snip>
I checked VWR and found that there is no such thing (VWR) anymore.  It's
changed hands and changed names, and as far as I can tell, they're
concentrating on chemicals, not lab supplies/equipment.  I forgot about
Fisher, though.
Further, John said:
<Snip>
I'd love it if you could post a URL...
-- Rick
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25) From: EskWIRED
<Snip>
We should make Tom or Mark buy them, so that they would be tax deductible!
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26) From: EskWIRED
<Snip>
Even a whirly blade!
 For that you would just use the "too
<Snip>
You could also have your presspot, Mokka pot, drip, and espresso screens.
That way, only the dust need be discarded.
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27) From: EskWIRED
<Snip>
I volunteer to drive down to Hingham and pick it up for anybody who wants
one!  Hingham is a nice town, with old sea captain's houses.  I'd lovingly
pack it up for free and ship it at cost.
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28) From: David Lewis
At 10:35 PM -0700 10/24/02, Rick Farris wrote:
<Snip>
. 
Like most lab equipment, not cheap, but there you are.
Best,
	David
-- 
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or 
that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only 
unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American 
public."
     -- Theodore Roosevelt
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29) From: Becky and Nikos

30) From: AlChemist John
Sometime around 11:37 10/25/02, Rick Farris typed:
<Snip>
I am not sure what you checked, but they are definitely still around.  I 
have a  5" thick catalog of theirs at work which we use very often.
They have much more than just chemicals.
<Snip>
I will check on Monday and post.
<Snip>
--
John Nanci 
AlChemist at large
Roasting and Blending by Gestalt
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31) From: Rick Farris
John wrote:
<Snip>
Surely, then, you wouldn't mind posting a URL, would you?  Perhaps you could
find it on the front of the catalog?
-- Rick
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32) From: AlChemist John
Sometime around 10:49 10/26/02, Rick Farris typed:
<Snip>
No problem.  I did say I would do that after getting it at the lab Monday.
John Nanci 
AlChemist at large
Roasting and Blending by Gestalt
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33) From: David Lewis
At 10:49 AM -0700 10/26/02, Rick Farris wrote:
<Snip>
Best,
	David
-- 
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or 
that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only 
unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American 
public."
     -- Theodore Roosevelt
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34) From: Jim Karavias
I just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback.  I've done quite a bit
more reading since I asked my original question I'm convinced the grinder is
key.  I was wondering if anyone had ever seen a purely objective test of
grinders.  Perhaps something that measured the percentage of the ground
coffee distributed over a range of mesh sizes?  That's what I used to do in
the lab I worked in in high school when measuring the consistency of
powdered pigments.  Makes me wonder, is there a published particle size for
espresso grinds?  Ok.  Its obsessive, i know.
Thanks,
Jim

35) From: Jim Karavias

36) From: Jim Karavias
oops hit 'send' accidentally.
Here's one that might be in the price range of someone doing frequent
grinder evaluations.http://www.legend-reno.com/minesupply/m73.htmI've also seen hand shaken screens down to 200M used for glaze mixing for
$28 each.  I'm not sure if one would need a finer mesh than that.
Jim Karavias

37) From: Jim Karavias
Here's a source for sieves.  I'm still not sure of the appropriate mesh
range.http://shop.store.yahoo.com/ascscientific/testing-sieves-dual-testing-sieves-dual-8-inch-diameter-sieves-dual-8--brass-frame---cloth-sieves.html
Jim


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