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Topic: Barista skills (11 msgs / 337 lines)
1) From: Jim Karavias
Hi,
Another beginner question here. I've been reading a number of reviews of
espresso machines lately and I've read a number of them where the machine
was Ok, good to buy if you're a beginner and interested in building one's
Barista skills.  Are barista skills really challenging enough to acquire
that its worth spending money on a lower end machine only to replace it in
the future.  If I know I like good espresso, is there any reason to doubt
that I could develop these skills in a reasonable time? How many of you wish
you had just purchased the higher end machine first off.
Reagards,
Jim karavias
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2) From: jim gundlach
It really depends on what kinds of machines you are looking at.  I have 
seen some recommendations that suggest the Silvia requires the 
development of skills.  If you went ahead and got a Silvia and  the 
Rocky, set the  Rocky six notches up from burr contact, tamped at 30 
pounds and pulled a 23 second double shot, the odds are good that you 
would produce good espresso.  That is assuming you had good coffee.  
Knowing what I know now and if I had had the extra money that is the 
way I wish I had started.  You would be looking at a little more than 
$600 to start this way.  Much of the discussion about people starting 
with lesser machines is due to the sticker shock to people who move 
from a $19.95 drip machine into espresso and hear  $600+ for a coffee 
pot and a grinder.  When they bring it up with significant others they 
get reactions like:  "Are you crazy?"  So most of us work into it as 
cheaply as possible and bring the others along when they see that the 
first $200 was worth it.
    Jim Gundlach
On Sunday, October 27, 2002, at 12:45 PM, Jim Karavias wrote:
<Snip>
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3) From: Jim Garlits
Jim K,
So many factors go into producing a good shot of espresso.  Fresh, suitable
beans.  Correct grind.  The machine.  For milk based drinks, the ability to
produce exceptional froth.  Presentation and additives.
Beans shouldn't be an issue here.  Just keep in mind that you don't have to
char them.  Many blends can be stopped at a medium roast and are fantastic
in the cup.  It depends on the nuances you are searching for.
Grinding plays a big part, and has to take into account the barometric
pressure on the day you're grinding, ambient temperature, altitude, type of
beans and roast.  Good grinders have a collar that gives you thirty or so
settings.  Where I am in Indiana, my setting stayed pretty close to 25 on a
Rancilio commercial grinder.  First thing each day, I pulled three or four
shots (drank them) and adjusted the collar accordingly.
Any machine that can keep a constant or near constant temperature, force the
water at seven atmospheres of pressure through the puck and with the correct
dose, extract one ounce in 18-24 seconds consistantly is a good machine.
Looks aside, of course.
A teaspoon of sugar should take exactly six seconds to drop through the
crema on a "perfect" shot.  You may not like sugar in your espresso.  Thats
okay, the sugar test is just that, a test.  Let someone else drink it.
Thats subjective, though.  You may prefer a roast that is blended to produce
more or less crema.  Dry processed beans will produce more.  If you're
adding robustas, that will increase the crema, too.
Frothing milk is an art best picked up apprenticeship style.  For an amateur
the best advice is to do what you will, but don't scorch the milk.  Thats
easily said.  Scorched milk is easy to smell, but by that point you've
already scorched it.  Use a thermometer.  Don't slosh the milk around
needlessly.  Froth is produced by placing the steam wand just under the
surface of the milk so that air incorporates into the steam path and
recirculates the milk in a center to outside pattern.  If you're making big
bubbles, the wand is pulling in too much air.  When you get the sweet spot,
you'll recognize the sound.  To me, it sounds like Barbasol shaving cream
coming out of a can.  Once you've got as much froth as you need, raise the
pitcher up again so that the nozzle is near the bottom and continue to heat
the milk until you get it to your perferred temperature.  After a couple
months, I tossed the thermometer and went by feel.  It doesn't hurt that
much.  And I never scorched milk that way.  We only use stainless frothing
pitchers.
Additives are overrated.  If you're looking for syrups that don't scorch, my
experience is that Oscar's is best.  Torani fruit flavors turn to gelatain,
but the nut and extract flavors do okay.  Presentation?  Never got into that
at all.  I can't make a rosette or a tree or anything.  My customers were of
the "Large triple shot almond mocha.  NOW!" variety.  They would have looked
at a rosette and gone "hmmph.  Did I pay for that?"  :)
Jim G.

4) From: Mike McGinness
From: "Jim Karavias" 
<Snip>
It really sounds more like if you already have good Barista skills you'll
find the particular machine being review junk.  Not specifically saying it's
a 'good' machine to develope your skills.
<Snip>
wish
<Snip>
I 'started' with Miss Silvia and will stick with her for quite some time. Do
I 'wish' I would have bought higher end? No. Not that Miss Silvia is low
end, just kind of entry level for a really good home espresso machines
IMNSHO (Though at the time 4 bills seemed somewhat high end for a coffee
machine to me!:-)) Do I drool over higher end rotary pump dual boiler direct
plumbed always on temperature stable machines? Absolutely!:-)
I did a lot, I mean a lot, of reading before buying. Not just on machines
but on espresso brewing technique. I was pulling good to great shots first
day after 1/4 to 1/2#  practice.
I believe it's been mentioned but it's worth mentioning again. You WILL NEED
A GOOD GRINDER, not want, NEED.  Minimum Innova, Rocky better, Mazzer Mini
maybe ideal for home use. Grinder wise I DO WISH I'd bought better. But
then, I had gotten the Solis Maestro just a couple months before getting
Miss Silvia. Wasn't into real espresso yet (just steam toy...) For grind
quality a Zass will do a great grind, you'll just be spending around 5min
grinding per double shot! (At least with the Zass Turkish Mill...) Ok for
emergencies, but not for everyday...
MM;-)
Variable Variac Rockin' Rosto Roasting
Miss Silvia brewin'
Limping along with Solis Maestro grindin'
Christmas is coming!!!
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5) From: Jim Karavias
Hi Mike,
I guess I should have clarified my idea of higher end. I'm probably talking
about a Silvia or the Isomac Venus.  Until I read a more detailed review of
the Venus I'm leaning toward the Silvia.  Four to 5 hundred dollars does
feel 'high end' to me, particularly since I'll need to spend another two to
three hundred on a grinder.  But I'd rather save  a little longer and have a
setup that I can settle into rather than jumping in on the cheap and wanting
an upgrade in 6-12 months.  Not that $200 to $300 is cheap...just in this
context.
BTW,  if the Zass. hand mills are so good I wonder why I haven't seen anyone
mention adding their own motor drive to one?  Have you seen this by any
chance?
Thanks everyone for the excellent information I've been getting so far - in
response to this and other posts.
Regards,
Jim Karavias

6) From: jim gundlach
On Sunday, October 27, 2002, at 06:22 PM, Jim Karavias wrote:
<Snip>
I think adding a motor to a Zass would soon kill the Zass.  If it ran 
fast, it would probably start getting hot.  I generally have mine for 
when the electricity goes out here so it doesn't make sense for my 
purposes.  To run burrs off a motor requires a strong frame to hold 
things in place and the basic design of the Zass just doesn't allow for 
it, if it did, it would have to be ugly.
Jim Gundlach
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7) From: Owen Davies
Mike McGinness extolled the virtues of Miss Silvia, but
in a little less detail than I'd have appreciated.
Mike, what was it that made you buy the Rancilio, rather
than the equivalent Solis?  Does that consideration still
seem valid to you?
And how badly deficient was the Solis grinder?  After
buying the roaster, not to mention the vacuum pot, vacuum
flask, digital scale, French press (in hand!), many little
beans, and all the rest, if I blow $250+ on a grinder, my
wife will gut me with a dull saw.  And at the moment,
I'm not even sure I'd blame her.
Thanks.
Owen
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8) From: Isabel1130
The minimum you want to start with is a Silvia in my opinion.  You will make 
good coffee faster with a better machine (and a better grinder)  Isabel

9) From: Les & Becky
I agree 100% with Mike!  Spend the money on the Grinder!  I have a Solis
Maestro, and it is a minimal grinder!  However, I do have a SAECO espresso
machine, and it pulls good shots for less money than the Miss Siliva.  If I
had the bucks, I would have gotten the Silvia.  However, for the money the
SAECO does a good job.  I have had espresso from a Silvia and I really could
not taste a superior cup.  I doubt that the SAECO will last as long, so in
the long run, the Miss Silvia would be a better way to go.  If I had to do
it over again, I would go into debt for the Miss Silvia.  However my next
equipment buy will be a Mazzer Mini, and then a better espresso machine!
Without the proper grind, you are not going to have a good cup not matter
how great the machine is IMNSHO!
Les
Roasting in S. Oregon.
P.S.  I rarely pull shots from a roast past Full-City.  As Tom has taught
us, espresso is a drink, not a roast!
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10) From: Mike McGinness
From: "Owen Davies" 
<Snip>
Have you spent time on the Coffeegeek site reading reviews etc? One of the
sites I spend a lot of time before making major coffee equipment purchases.http://www.coffeegeek.com/Another good site is Randy's. He documents his researches etc. before
getting Miss Silvia.http://www.quiknet.com/~frcn/Coffee/Coffee.html<Snip>
Full pro-size PF on Silvia, heavy duty stainless steel, consistent high user
reviews. No regrets.
<Snip>
The Maestro works ok but the burrs wear out fast grinding for espresso. Also
burr adjustment increment just barely fine enough to dial in shots. Much
better adjustability than 166 or *$ Barista or Mulino but still too large a
grind change. Unfortunately only the upper burr is user replaceable which
means you cannot return it to good grinding after a few months espresso
grinding use. The lower burr is still worn out!:-(
MM;-)
Variable Variac Rockin' Rosto Roasting
Miss Silvia brewin'
Limping along with Solis Maestro grindin'
Christmas is coming!!!
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11) From: Owen Davies
Mike McGinness wrote:
<Snip>
I'd found, but not spent time at Coffeegeek.  The other site is
new to me.  Lots to learn.
<Snip>
What a very bad idea!
Thanks, Mike.  To Coffeegeek I go.
Owen
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