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 Frequently Asked Questions

   

Categories of espresso  machines  

Reducing Espresso bitterness

 

 Espresso machines, Espresso beans and

making the best espresso at home

 Espresso - What is so special about it?

Purchasing the first espresso machine is just the beginning of a long journey to explore the higher consciousness for real espresso. Espresso is a volatile drink and needs attention to details of its ingredients and the method of extraction. Espresso preparation is an art that demands the precision and the dedication of science. It is a passion and not just a stimulant. Espresso machine is only a tool for making espresso. It is important that the operator knows as much about the tool as the product made with the tool. It is a continuous learning effort and a never ending pursuit to achieve the best extract that coffee beans have to offer.

Information on this page is made available in the hope that it will help readers to understand why espresso is not just coffee and why this nectar of Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta is so elusive.

Buying an Espresso machine 

 

 Whether it is the first purchase or an upgrade over an existing home espresso machine, there are a large number of makes, models, choices, sizes and categories of espresso makers to choose from. Even for an experienced buyer it can be a daunting experience. It is normal to seek the opinion of others and receive confusing or conflicting opinions.

 

 Seeking opinion from others before purchase of a home espresso maker is common and normal. Allowing others to choose a machine for you is a different option that may or may not end up in satisfaction. It is always safe to make the final decision based on one's own preference for convenience of making espresso, the size of machine, the budget available, and finally, the quality of espresso one will enjoy every day. Before making the final decision, please note that:

 

 the machine is for home use and not for a coffee shop inside your home. 

It is not the machine but the skill of the operator who operates the machine, that will determine the quality of end product.

The quality of roasting & grinding and the method of extraction brings the final taste of espresso and never the size or make of the machine being used.

The grind must be right relative to the type of brewing method used. Ground coffee is like a shoe. One size of grind fineness does not fit all espresso machines.

Method of extraction can swing the taste of espresso from a bitter unpalatable sip to a highly aromatic sweet taste.
Note: Contents on this page are based on 15 years' experience in serving espresso drinks and managing a full service workshop for repairs of all types of home and commercial espresso machines (lever operated, semi-automatic, fully automatic and super-automatic. Information included in this article reflects comparative evaluation of the espresso made with a variety of coffee beans blend, roasting and extraction using a variety of espresso makers of different design, performance and price tag. We do not accept free machines from manufacturers to make 20 espressos and write a favorable review. We sell espresso machines that we know perform well, convenient for use at home and are backed by excellent after-sale service and availability of parts. 

 

  Categories of espresso machines

   Lever models -  LaPavoni Europiccola

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LaPavoni Europiccola 

Lever model machines do not have a pump. The water is pressed through ground coffee by manually moving the lever. The technique for making espresso using lever models requires a good knowledge of the balance between the fineness of coffee grind, tamping, pre-brewing and the extraction time, to bring the lever from the high lifted position to the lower end.

The lever is lifted up all the way to draw water into the group. It is held in the top position for five to eight seconds to allow water to soak coffee grounds (pre-brew). The lever is then pressed down manually, to press the water slowly through the compacted coffee grounds taking an average 10 seconds for one press.

 

Use the lever action by pressing itdown only once. This is not a manual tube well lever to move it several times up & down until a bucket is filled with water. For a larger dose of espresso, the process must be repeated all over again, with fresh ground coffee. 

 

 Semi-automatic home models with commercial portafilters

Semi automatic home models (Rancilio's Silvia & Audrey; Gaggia's Coffee, Baby, Tebe and Espresso; ECM's Giatto; Fiorenzato's Briccoletta) use commercial style portafilters. There is no pre-brewing mechanism built-into it. Therefore, the fineness of grind and the tamping pressure of about 25 to 30 pounds are used as factors to adjust extraction time to an average 25 seconds. The consequence is a dark over-extracted coffee with heavy consistency and bitter taste.

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 Rancilio Silvia

 The appearance of the extract in the cup is very satisfying for the effort. The pleasing appearance takes away attention from the bitter and bunt taste of espresso in the cup. This method of extraction produces an espresso of heavy consistency due to high contents of soluble as well as insoluble ingredients. Very few coffee lovers enjoy or order a straight shot of espresso due to its bitterness. To reduce the bitterness either extra sugar is used or use milk based recipes of espresso (like Latte and Cappuccino).  Espresso recipes with milk not only camouflage the bitterness but also cover up the inferior quality of extract.

Double Shot Espresso

When a single shot of espresso measures 3 to 4 oz. it is already more than it is supposed to be. A double shot is supposed by double the quantity of extract. Double quantity of extract means longer duration of extract and accordingly more bitter in taste. Oily rancid beans, fine powdery grind, 25 to 30 lbs. tamping pressure and extended extraction time of 25 to 30 seconds adds bitterness. Espresso extract without pre-infusion causes the following:

Destroys the aroma and flavor.

Caramelizes natural sugar and glucose to render it less sweet

Destroys the caffeine ingredient to less than 1/3rd,

Chemically alters many  known elements to increase the bitter taste

Increases the extraction of bitter tasting tannin.

What is the result of extended extraction time? It is double bitter espresso.  

Semi-automatic espresso machines and manual pre-brewing

  • Use freshly roasted medium roast beans.
  • Grind enough beans for one shot of espresso at a time.
  • Use coarser grind - no finer than the grain of table salt.
  • Tamp lightly.
  • Hook up the portafilter in the brew group and activate the pump for 5 seconds & turn it if for five seconds for manual pre-brewing.
  • Activate the pump again for 10 to 12 seconds or until 2-oz. of espresso is collected in the cup.

Semi-automatic espresso machines with electronic delivery

The espresso machines with electronic delivery are also termed as "automatic" which in fact refers to the automatic shut off when the programmed dose of espresso is dispensed. The term "automatic" is misleading for many buyers and compromises a much higher price.  The espresso machines with electronic delivery can be programmed
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electronically for the dose of espresso.

The automatic shut off function takes the attention away from manually switching the pump off. This extra selling point is a disadvantage in two ways. It takes off the attention from extraction time and it also increases the price due to the electronic control board. The electronic part is an Original Equipment manufacturer part that is priced exorbitantly high and manufacturers do not allow access to the part except through authorized dealers.

In order to improve the quality of espresso from semi-automatic machines with electronic delivery, program the dose for espresso for 2-oz. delivery. Press the coffee selection button for three seconds. Press the selection again to stop the pump. Wait five seconds for pre-brew and then press the same button again to complete the programmed dose.

 Semi-automatic home models with pressurized Portafilters

All of Saeco's semiautomatic machines (Espresso Classico, Barista, Estro profi, Via Veneto, Magic Cappuccino, Gran Crema) come with pressurized portafilters. The pressurized portafilters are different from commercial portafilters in that they have a valve below the filter basket which delays the passage for espresso for 3 to 5 seconds. This pause in extraction is equivalent to "pre-brewing" (Soasking ground coffee to prepare for extract). Pressurized portafilters make it possible to use coarser grind of beans (coffee grounds not finer than the table salt grain), eliminate the need for tamping just level the coffee in the filter basket and lock the filter holder in the group.  Light tamping occurs automatically as necessary by the shower screen when the filter holder is turn to the right. The result is a superior quality of espresso without effort or intense training. Unfortunately the pressurized portafilters are patented by Saeco and therefore not seen in other brands of espresso makers.

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aroma espresso.jpg

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 Barista

Aroma 

Gran Crema 

The pictures show Saeco's semi-automatic machines which are very convenient to operate. All semi-automatic espresso machines manufactured by Saeco use a pressurized portafilter as a standard feature.  These models are a good option for those who like a hands-on method of making espresso and also prefer the convenience of not worrying about the fineness of grind, tamping and manual pre-infusion technique. All semi-automatic models of Saeco come with patented frother (Pannarello or Plug-in Pannarello). The frother makes steaming and frothing of milk, a breeze. 

Fully Automatic home espresso makers

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Fully automatic machines have a built in grinder, a removable electro-mechanical brewing device, waste box, drip tray and a built in frother. A series of electronically controlled automatic functions follow at the push of a button. Once programmed, the machine delivers consistent quality of classic espresso every time. It grinds one cup at a time, empties the doser, pre-infuses and extracts one or two shots of classic espresso at the push of a button. No mess, no fuss or regrets. As many as six safety switches protect the machine from errors in operating. The machine displayed on the right is amongst the simple, compact and dependable fully automatic espresso makers, and an excellent choice for home use. 

 

Fully automatic machines meet almost all requirements for making classic espresso. Instant heating of water, instant grinding before extraction, light tamping as required, water pressure at 9 bars, lowest extraction time between 10 and 14 seconds with 3 seconds pause for pre-brewing. These espresso makers need non-oily medium roast beans and a finger to push the espresso selection button.

 

The price range is from $499.00 (Trevi automatic - single boiler  to $700.00 with double boiler and digital programming. 

 

Comments: Fully automatic home espresso makers by Saeco, Spidem and Gaggia are reliable & efficient.

The more expensive models like Italia, Italia digital, and Incanto, Charisma, Divina and Synchrony compact models have problems in steam delivery valve. Besides the steam valve failures the location of electronic control board is in the way of steam & water leakage.

 

 

Fully automatic digital home espresso makers

Fully automatic digital model home espresso makers have a digital display window in which operator can read not only the function in progress displayed, but also any message on functional faults. Most of the digital models have dual boilers and a pre-ground function (grinder by-pass) for manual pre-ground coffee feeding. The picture of the machine displayed on the right is amongst one of the best choices in this category. Price ranges from $750.00 to $1100.00 

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Espresso bitterness

 

The popularity of espresso and espresso based drinks is growing steadily. More new stores are opening in every neighborhood. There is an increasing number of homes with one or more espresso makers. Yet, there is very little attention is given to the quality of espresso drinks. Bitter espresso is served everywhere. Everyone talks about the bitter espresso drinks served at Starbucks locations.

 

Bitterness of a espresso is related to the duration of its extraction.  The extraction is dependent upon  factors like the freshness of roast, fineness of grind, the mineral content of the water,  temperature of water for extraction, duration of extraction,  and brewing procedure.

  • Oily beans become rancid very fast (less than one hours). Aromatic oil that come out of the beans interacts with Oxygen, turns rancid & contributes bitter taste.
  • Dark roast results in caramelization of sugars and reduces sweetness.
  • Bitterness is proportionate with the total dissolved solids of a coffee. Powdery fine grind results in over-extraction and bitterness.
  • Robusta coffee is bitter as it contains higher levels of both caffeine and chlorogenic acids, which are partly responsible for bitterness and astringency in coffee.
  • Extended extraction time of over 20 seconds,  causes chemical alterations to form Furfuryl alcohol. Furfuryl alcohol contributes a burnt and bitter taste to coffee.
  • Bitterness is reduced somewhat in coffee brewed with either soft or hard water relative to distilled water.

 Espresso - Reducing its bitterness

  • Medium & light roasted coffee has less soluble solids, a higher acid content, and a potent aroma when compared to darkly roasted coffee.  All of these factors are known to reduce perceived bitterness. 
  • Coarser grind definitely reduces extraction time and therefore, reduces bitterness. However, the proper grind size should always be used to ensure proper extraction. Grind size like the table salt grain has proven to give best results.
  • Soaking the coffee grounds for 5 to 8 seconds, (pre-brewing) prepares the aromatics for smooth extraction. and reduces bitterness.
  • Reduced extraction time with coarser grind and pre-brewing makes a phenomenal change in taste as it reduces the extraction of bitter tasting Tannin and other soluble bitter ingredients.
  • A shot of espresso should not be more than 2-oz. as it will increase the extraction time and contribute not only to bitter taste but also burnt taste.  
  • Bitterness is lower when coffee is brewed hot than when cooler water is used. This is related to be due to the intensity of aromatics released in hot coffee, which counteract the bitterness. 
  • Decaffeination slightly reduces the perceived bitterness of coffee.

Additional steps for reduced bitterness of espresso

  1. Freshly roasted beans have stronger aromatics and reduced bitterness.
  2. Oily espresso beans contribute bitter taste when exposed to oxygen for longer than two hours. Once the contents are removed from a sealed bag with one way valve, beans should be transferred into a sealed container and consumed as soon as possible but not later than 24 hours.
  3. Always use freshly ground espresso beans. Ground coffee should not be left unused for more than one minute. The rule is 'grind for one cup at a time'.
  4. Use 7 gms. of freshly ground espresso beans per shot of espresso. When using 14 gms., the espresso dose should not exceed 2.5 oz. Triple shot espresso will contribute bitterness due to extended time for extraction required for 3 or more oz. It is preferable to make two single shots than a double shot or a triple shot.

Pre-brewing 

Pre-brewing can be defined as a short pause of between 5 to 8 seconds in the process of espresso extarction. Water is pumped for 3 to 5 seconds, for just enough water to soak the coffee grounds. After a short pause of 5 seconds, water is pumped again until the desired dose of espresso is in the cup. In the semi automatic espresso makers, pause for pre-brewing can be applied manually by actually turning the switch off for 5 seconds. After 5 seconds the switched can be turned on again to activate the pump for 2-oz. espresso. The brew group in a fully automatic machine and the pressurized portafilters in semi-automatic machines have valves built in, to delay the extraction for 5 to 8 seconds.

There is no substitute for the taste of espresso when it is prepared using the following rules:

  1. pre-brew each shot  for 5 seconds
  2. use instantly heated chemical free water at 98C
  3. tamp lightly
  4. pump water through coffee grounds at 9 bars pressure
  5.  use freshly roasted beans. Do not use oily beans
  6. grind beans for one cup at a time
  7. maintain extraction time as low as possible. With pre-brewing the extraction time for 2-oz. shot will be less than 13 seconds.

The FAQ section is compiled with questions that our customers have asked us about espresso machines, about making good espresso, and the best choice of espresso beans. Our specific answers, illustrations and explanations are shared in the following paragraphs.

 Frequently asked Questions

Question: I am looking to purchase a home espresso maker.  I have the option between a LaPavoni Europiccola and pump operated semi automatic models.  Which one do you recommend and why?

Answer:  Your options include three different categories of espresso machines:

1st category   = LaPavoni Europiccola, Professional or Millennium lever models

2nd category = traditional semi-automatic machines using commercial portafilters without pre-infusion mechanism (Silvia, Audrey, Gaggia Coffee, Classic, Baby, Espresso, Tebe, Briccoletta, Giatto, Oscar & others)

3rd category = traditional semi-automatic machines with pressurized portafilters to make espresso with pre-infusion (Espresso Classico, Magic Cappuccino, Via Veneto, Barista, Estro Profi).

Between the three categories, I recommend the semi-automatic model with pressurized portafilter. The semi-automatic machines with pressurized portafilters are manufactured only by Saeco (Espresso Classico, Aroma, Magic Cappuccino, and Via Veneto. LaPavoni's Pisa is another model that uses a pressurized portafilter made by Saeco.

 

Question: I have a Gaggia Coffee, semi automatic espresso maker. I am having a hard time making good crema. The espresso is bitter too. I grind fine, tamp it well and timed the extraction time at 28 seconds. What am I doing wrong?

 

Answer: A straight answer to your question is that you are repeating the process of making espresso as you have seen at the coffee shops or as recommended on the coffee forums. Please use freshly roasted medium roast espresso beans, and follow the instructions mentioned on this page for semi-automatic machines.  

 

Question: I am told that semi-automatic machines make better espresso than fully automatic models. What is your opinion?

 

Answer:  I am sorry to say that I disagree. It is not the espresso machine that makes better or bitter espresso. It is the person who is operating the machine and the quality of ingredients used for making espresso. Better espresso is a relative term and depends on how it is made and who is approving the taste? I have not met a single person who likes the bitter espresso & swallow it without making bad face. Espresso is a sweet beverage. Please review the information explained on this page under each category of espresso machine. Compare the convenience of using fully automatic machines with semi-automatic. For home use I cannot recommend semi automatic machines when fully automatic machines make classic shots of espresso without much effort. The fully automatic espresso machines are also available at lower prices.

 

Question: I use a fully automatic Trevi Digital model. When I push the espresso selection, the LED window displays the various stages of making espresso. One such display reads "pre-brewing". What is pre-brewing? Do the non-digital fully automatic machines also have the pre-brewing function?

 

Answer: Pre-brewing or pre-infusion is a short pause of 3 to 5 seconds after initial pumping of water for 3 seconds. This allows the coffee grounds to be soaked before extraction starts. You may have also noticed that the message "pre-brewing" appears for 3 to 5 seconds. During this period the pump stops pumping. The sign disappears as the pump starts to pump water again. Pre-brewing is a very significant function that results in better quality of espresso. It helps to use coarser grind and therefore, reduces extraction time to less than 14 seconds. In the semi-automatic machines, pre-brewing should be done manually, by turning the switch off for three seconds.

 

The quality of espresso from fully automatic machines is effortless and consistent as programmed. It grinds for one cup at a time immediately followed by brewing, one shot of espresso at a time. It pauses for pre-brewing (some fully automatic models need pre-brewing function activated) and pumps hot water at 98C, with a pressure between 9 to 10 bars (135 to 150 p.s.i.). The result is sweeter espresso, the way it is supposed to be. 

 

Question: For home use I was suggested to purchase a Mazzer grinder in order to grind beans for use in semi-automatic espresso machine. How does that help make better espresso?

 

Answer: One does not need a Mazzer or any other commercial grinder for use at home.  Mazzer grinders are for commercial use and have disc type flat burrs. The disc burrs spin at a very high speed of 18,00 to 2,000 r.p.m. to grind fine coffee. At that speed, excessive heat is generated which alters the quality of coffee.  Purchase of a Mazzer grinder for home use is like buying a size-12 shoe for size-7 foot!  For home use,  there are a

 

 
 doge grinder silver tn.jpg  mazzer grinder burrs-21.png conical burrs pair tn.jpg 1virtuoso_for_web.jpg baratza home grinder conical burr.jpg 1virtuoso_side_bottom_burr.jpg

 Ducale commercial  grinder with conical burrs

 Disc type flat burrs

Saeco Conical burrs

Vituoso Conical burr grinder 

Conical burr in a Virtuoso grinder

  Conical burr in a Virtuoso grinder

 few conical burr grinders available. Infinity Maestro by Capresso, Solis Maestro and Baratza's Virtuoso grinders are available at a much lower price. Conical burrs grind uniform & consistent quality at a much slower speed of 500 r.pm. Conical burrs are threfore, quieter, have a longer life and generate much less heat. Grind one cup at a time. Do not purchase or store pre-ground coffee. The ground coffee has no tomorrow. Buy a grinder for home use. I recommend Infiniti Maestro or Virtuoso are excellent choices for lot less money. 

 

Roasted coffee is a perishable item. Ground coffee is 100 times more perishable as it is exposed to oxygen from a larger surface. Grinding just before brewing will protect the aroma of coffee. Once the beans are ground, it interacts with the air around it, and within a few seconds, absorbs moisture and loses a great deal of aroma and taste. The longer the ground coffee sits around, the less aroma you will find in your cup later. It is a good idea to have a grinder for grinding freshly one cup at a time and using it immediately.

 

Almost all fully automatic machines have built-in grinders with conical burrs (except Incanto Sirius). Conical burr grinders give a more uniform grinding result than the grinders with flat burrs.

 

Question: The steam in my Vienna Superautomatica appears to be quite wet, even after being on for over one minute. Is there a way to adjust this and get dry steam?

 

Answer:  Wet steam has almost same temperature as dry steam. The only disadvantage is that 1/2 teaspoon water is added by wet steam during the process of steaming. The easy solution is to start with 1/2 teaspoon milk less and not worry about it. Wet steam does not influence the taste of the drink in any way. For steaming we are dealing with milk and not with coffee. Whether it is Vienna or Trevi, enjoy the esprersso maker. You have  the best espresso maker for what it does and how much it costs.

 

Question: I like to make large cups of American type coffee in the morning (don't really have time for frothing)...Currently, I use the small cup setting and press it twice....then I mix it with hot water - is this the correct way?

 

Answer:  It is possible that you are making bitter espresso which is too much for you to take straight. You are doing the right thing by adding hot water to espresso instead of longer extraction time. You can try using Pannarello frother to speed up frothing without effort. It takes only 2 minutes or less with Pannarello and less than 30 seconds with Cappuccinatore auto frother. If you are really rushed, you can microwave milk and mix 2 parts of milk with 1 part espresso. There is no prescribed rule for how & what is mixed with espresso, as long as the recipe includes the best quality of espresso. 

Question: I consume 6 cups regular drip brew coffee at work every day. On the week-ends I love to enjoy Espresso but I cannot take more than one espresso. I feel jittery if I take more than one espresso. How much Caffeine is in regular coffee and Espresso?

 

Answer: It is difficult for many coffee lovers to believe that there is less Caffeine in Espresso than regular coffee served in McDonald, Dunkin Donut or 7-Elevens, but this is true. Roasting coffee beans for espresso is timed between 9 to 16 minutes for the type of roast. This is almost twice the length of time; the beans are roasted for drip coffee. Extended roasting with hot air at 440 degrees destroys a significant percentage of Caffeine. On an average there is only 1/3 Caffeine in Espresso roast. That means one can consume as many as 18 espressos on each day during week end to consume same amount of Caffeine from drip coffee. There is no need to hold back on espressos drinks over the week-end.  

 

Answer: If you are using a semi-automatic espresso maker, you can use measuring spoons. A scoop with measuring spoon is 7 Gms. 

Instructions for grinder setting in a fully automatic machine has been explained with illustrations on this web site. The coffee compacting cup in the fully automatic machines is sized for accepting 7 to 9 Gms. of ground coffee. One can use 7Gms. ground coffee with coarser grind like the grain of table salt. The quantity of beans per shot of espresso can be adjusted to a maximum 9 Gms. with a proportionately finer grind. The setting for good espresso extraction is a balance between the fineness of the grind, the quantity of coffee and the extraction time. After each change two shots of espresso must be made to notice the effect of change in the settings.

 

Question:  What is a bottomless portafilter? What is the advantage, if any?

 

Answer: A bottomless portafilter is one in which the lower half of the filter holder is cut out in a machine shop.  This concept is without purpose. A normal portafilter has a single or double spout at the bottom to channel espresso to fill one or two cups. It does not make any sense why the dispensing spout should be removed.

 

Question: I have received a Spidem Trevi automatica as a gift. I was told that fully automatic machines have many problems due to automatic functions. I love this machine for its simple operation. What should I do to prevent breakdown?

 

Answer: I do not know the source of your information. I am sure your sources do not think programming a video, using Digital cameras, using and programming cell phones, Internet technology, copiers, Scanners is difficult. Please do not pay attention poorly informed people have to say. Do not rely on what is discussed on Coffee Forums. The Spidem Trevi and Saeco's Vienna models are amongst the very efficient and best designed machines. Pay attention to instructions in the manual for use and maintenace of the machine. You will enjoy them and even get hooked on to their daily use. See additional details on Espresso Maintenance page of this web site under the title "DOs & DONTs" and "Descaling Espresso".

  

 Question: I have a Saeco Italia which has the following problem: When coffee beans are used, it keeps grinding until the grinder stops and the "No beans" light comes on. When I open it up, I find the doser is packed with coffee and does not empty into the brew group funnel. I can make espresso without problem using the "Pre-ground" cycle. What can be the problem? Please help.

Answer: Italia models have a design problem. The grinder outlet and the doser have a 3" long channel in between. Coffee grounds have to move forward through this channel. After making espresso when the machine is turned off, the coffee grounds trapped in this channel stay trapped until the next time machine is used. There are following disadvantages with this design:

1- the coffee grounds trapped in the channel stay until fresh grind pushes the trapped coffee forward. The stale coffee grounds will make the first one or two shots of stale espresso every day.

2- When freshly ground coffee is not able to push the trapped coffee, the grinder times out and 'No coffee beans' light will come on.

The soultion is very simple. - stop using oily beans and be prepared to clean the 3" channel between the grinder and doser, when the grinder times out. Espresso machines that have this design flaw include Starbucks Italia, Italia Digital, Spidem's Divina Deluxe, Gaggia's Syncrony Compact & Compact Digital.

 

 There are as many opinions about Espresso and espresso machines as there are coffee lovers. Very few recommendations are backed by comparative evaluation between different categories of espresso makers. Learning the art of espresso-making and comparative evaluation of espresso makers is the responsibility of the buyer himself. Unfortunately Coffee Forums are not the best source for information.

 

Making espresso at home

 

 Making espresso at home should be an effortless and a comfortable experience, without sacrificing the quality. There is nothing wrong with a 'hands on' method to make espresso. As a consequence to the effort and attention required, many owners of the semi-automatic machines end up with using Coffee pods. That is a sad ending.

 

Making Classic espresso

 

Ideally, espresso is an extraordinarily sweet and aromatic extract of the same flavor as freshly ground coffee. It is smooth, thick dark liquid that should taste sweet, and never bitter. When sipped straight, it should not be bitter. The process of extraction gases released from coffee mix with oils during and float on the surface of espresso as a golden colored foam called 'Crema'. A good espresso leaves a pleasant aftertaste of coffee that would linger on the palate for several minutes after consumption. There are several factors that go into making a good espresso. The more important ones are following:

 

The Blend 

Any single origin of beans has limited taste outcome. When blended with beans of different origin, it is possible to create a balanced aroma, rich sweet taste and with a smooth mouth feel. 

   

Roasting

 

Roasting espresso beans is a process by which aromatics, acids, and other flavor components inside of coffee bean are altered and balanced in a way that it enhances the flavor, acidity, aftertaste and body of the coffee as desired.

It is a process aimed at enhancing the espresso potential for the sweetness and aroma of the coffee while minimizing the bitterness and acidity. The freshness of the roast cannot be over emphasized. If freshly roasted bean is like a flower on a tree, stale bean  is like a withered flower fallen to the ground without any scent.

 

It is important to compare and familiarize the aroma of freshly roasted beans and stale beans with unknown date of roast, purchased from supermarkets, Starbucks or from distributors of Lavazza and Illy.  The shelf life of roasted espresso bean is following:

 

Pre-ground espresso

 

Ground espresso beans must be used up immediately. Pre-ground espresso purchased from the supermarket or a few pounds of beans ground at the supermarket to be used over two or three weeks is not a good idea. Storimg ground coffee in a refrigerator is even worse idea. Ground coffee is highly hygroscopic. Refrigeration increases condensation of moisture and makes coffee rancid very fast.

 

Pre-ground coffee gets rancid if contents of the package cannot be used up immediately after opening the bag. It does not matter if it is purchased in bricks or in Vacuumed cans.  

 

Pre-ground espresso is not a Latex glove that fits all sizes. Fineness of espresso grind must be adjusted for the type of espresso machine in which it is being used. Grind must always be different (coarser) for espresso extraction with pre-infusion and relatively finer grind for extraction without pre-infusion.

 

Pre-ground coffee absorbs moisture fast and changes the chemistry of its aromatic and useful components. It is not possible to prevent or stop deterioration of the quality of pre-ground coffee no matter how it is stored or protected.

 

Oily Espresso roast

 

Roasted beans are hygrospcopic and sensitive to Oxygen in the air. Both of these elements turn the rasoted beans rancid very fast. When oil comes out of the beans it is more important to preven its contact with air and moisture. All espresso beans are packaged in bags with one way valve to allow gases to escape and prevent air and moisture entering the bag. The espress beans sealed in bags have shelf life of 4 to 6 weeks. Once the bag is opened,  beans must be consumed within 4 hours. This is possible in Coffee shops where they open bags every four to six hours. Roasted beans in which oil has come out on the surface should not be used for home consumption because:

 

a- The beans cannot be used fast enough before they turn rancid.

b- Oil is the nectar of the beans. It is preserved better if oil is preserved inside the bean for longer shelf life.

c- The oily beans are bad for the fully automatic machines. Oils increase caking of coffee grounds and accumulate in crevises that are difficult to be seen and cleaned. Accumulation causes automatic machines to malfunction. 

 

Non oily Espresso roast

 

Non-oily espresso beans packaged in bags with one-way valve have a shelf life of 6 to 8 weeks. The beans should be used up within two weeks after the bag is opened, provided that during the consumption beans are stored in air-tight containers to protect from moisture and air. This can easily be done as following:

 

a- Do not empty the beans in the bean hopper. Beans will stay for few days exposed to air and moisture. Use enough beans for one day's use. Immediately upon opening the bag of beans, divide the contents of bag in four to five ziplock bags. Squeeze the air out and zip. When a ziplock bag is opened, only a small quantity is exposed to air and moisture and will be consumed faster. Remember: Beans with moisture damage the grinder burrs (rusting and fast wear), cause caking and stick inside in places that are not easy to access for cleaning.

 

Storage of Espresso beans

 

Roasted Coffee bean is very hygroscopic and rapidly turns rancid. It should always be stored in air tight containers (ziplock bags with air pressed out are better than large jars with air-tight lids), away from light and heat. Espresso beans should not be refrigerated.  

Long term storage of Espresso beans: There is no need to purchase large quantities of beans that have to be stored for long periods. Roasted beans have perishable aroma and should be purchased in small quantities, enough for 4 to 6 weeks use. When large quantities have been gifted and received free, then long term storage makes sense. For storage over three months to a year, espresso beans should be stored in air tight containers, preferable double seal ziplock bags and placed in a freezer at -10C. When removed from the freezer, it should first be thawed to room temperature while still protected inside air-tight bag. DO NOT FILL BEAN HOPPER WITH COLD BEANS.

 

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