Our friends at Sprudge visited to talk shop and came up with a neat lil’ buyer’s guide for the home espresso fan. Take a look for some insider tips and more than a few car analogies!
Attention all aspiring and inquisitive home baristas! Clive Coffee is very happy to announce an expanded barista class schedule! From now until the end of the year, Clive will be offering the Home Barista 101 class nearly every Saturday morning here in our Portland showroom. It’s a great way to polish skills you may already have, or, if you are new to espresso at home, I can’t think of a better way to quickly get started. Yours truly (Chris Ryan), or our new barista teacher, coffee star Jen Macias (Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe, AZ and Barista here in Portland) will run you through the basics of espresso extraction, milk steaming, and machine maintenance. Each class participant will pull a ton of shots and steam pitcher after pitcher of milk with a teacher right there next to you showing you the way step-by-step. Class size is limited to 4 folks maximum to ensure that we have enough time with everyone. Classes start at 9am, and generally run to 11-11:30am. You know all those questions you have while watching a barista at work, but don’t feel you can ask? This is your chance! Come on in, learn a little something, have a ball, and drink a copious amount of coffee. Cheers!
Check out class dates and sign up here: http://www.clivecoffee.com/product/barista_class.html
Questions? Please feel free to contact Chris Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org
A frequent question I am asked is what to look for when choosing between a heat exchange machine and a double boiler. Cost and size have always been the primary limiting factors, until recently that is…
In late August Quick Mill and Chris’ Coffee rolled out the brand new Quick Mill QM67 double boiler. It is a small and versatile Italian built machine that is PID controlled for precise espresso extraction, and a separate steam boiler for dedicated frothing ability. In addition, its price point is just low enough to compete with the heat exchanger family of machines.
In recent years, the idea of espresso and the “god shot” have reached almost mythological proportions. Like the great Titan Atlas, the perfect shot balances upon so many ephemeral pillars, and baristas the world over are racing to discover the perfect technique. For many, espresso represents coffee in its quintessential form. It is an indeed an art that, when performed skillfully, produces a drink that is at once bold, elegant, sweet, and as complex as its long history – a history that spans across the decades.
As we wait for the Rocket R58 to join the Izzo Duetto II in our office later this month, I thought perhaps now would be an opportune time to examine just what these double boiler E61 machines are bringing to the market.
The E61 Brew Group has been hailed as the industry standard since its inception by La Faema in 1961, but it has steadily been overtaken in recent years by the newer Saturated Brew Group design. The brewing group is open to the brew boiler itself in saturated groups, which results in improved temperature stability due to the group being saturated with the same body of water whose temperature is being controlled in the boiler. This design is only possible, however, with machines that have separate steam and brew boilers such as the La Marzocco GS/3 and La Spaziale Vivaldi II series.
One of the most common questions that we encounter here at Clive is whether or not investing in a quality grinder will improve your overall coffee experience. A grinder’s benefit is sometimes forgotten in the excitement of a new espresso machine or coffee maker, plus the array of grinder options can make it difficult to make a decision. We feel that it’s worth spending a bit of time understanding the basics before buying a grinder. The grinder you choose, after all, will be a daily companion for many years to come, and you do not want to be burdened by an uneducated buying decision.
In your research, you will find that multi-purpose grinders such as the Breville Smart Grinder, Baratza Virtuoso, or the all-manual Hario Skerton are well suited for a variety of brewing methods, whereas a dedicated espresso grinder such as the MACAP or Mazzer Mini are much more specific in application. With such a large marketplace, understanding your favored brewing process and pairing it with the right product is possibly the most important step in achieving your desired cup.
While we certainly don’t expect you to fully acquaint yourself with all of the technical details of your equipment, we do hope to help guide your understanding of the options available to you so that you can avoid having to reinvest in 5 or 10 years because you chose “too little” or “too much” of a grinder. Just as a blade grinder is not a good match for an espresso machine, the Mazzer Mini would not be a good match for a drip brewer.
You will notice that we have decided to offer only burr grinders. Uniformity of the grind is perhaps the most crucial element in achieving a full and sweet cup of coffee, and a blade grinder simply does not offer the finesse needed to bring out the subtle flavors found in coffee. Blade grinders chop beans into unevenly sized particles. Burr grinders both cut and crush uniformly. In the case of espresso extraction, where even the smallest of changes in grind can have drastic affects, a burr grinder is an absolute necessity. For other brewing methods, burr ground coffee provides more body and character to the finished cup. Not every grinder is the same, however, and the nuances of each will lend you a different result.
Conical burrs have a greater cutting surface than flat burrs and can therefore rotate at a slower speed. Slower grinding speeds will not only reduce noise, but will also reduce issues with heat and static buildup in the grinding and dosing chamber. Coffee is very sensitive to heat, and it is possible to “bake” your coffee if your burrs are excessively worn or if the cutting surface is too small for the amount you are grinding. Static also promotes channeling and bitterness in espresso due to grinds clumping. Conical grinders are also thought to produce a tighter and more uniform grind by crushing the bean rather than shearing it, which can cause an unwanted abundance of very fine channeling particles. This design of conical burrs, however, make them much more expensive and difficult to produce.
The primary difference that you will find is number of adjustments allowed by each grinder, and your need will vary depending on how you wish to use it. For most home users, 10 to 40 adjustment settings will be plenty, especially for a Technivorm brewer or French press. However, if you are considering pulling espresso as well as brewing in, say, a press, it would make sense to think ahead and purchase a grinder that has the capability to do both. Conical, doserless grinders such as Baratza’s Virtuoso Preciso or Vario models allow the user to adjust the grind for all brewing devices with a macro-adjustment lever, and then fine tune for espresso with an extra set of micro-adjustments. These let the user fine-tune shots from day to day as the beans off-gas from roast and as humidity in the kitchen fluctuates. Surprisingly enough, this can have a big impact on your espresso pull. Of course, this adaptability is evident in the price, but the investment will pay off handsomely in both the quality of your coffee and in your peace of mind.
A grinder’s physical make is also an important element to take into consideration. Metal components generally need to be maintained less often and provide a sturdier build than plastic. In addition, ceramic burrs, do not dull, grind cooler than steel and have increasingly becoming a more affordable option for home use. The Baratza Vario, for example, now offers burrs manufactured by Mahlkonig to a high standard of professional quality and durability. Conical ceramic burrs can even be found in the compact and lightweight Hario Skerton Hand Coffee Mill!
One final point: When in doubt, come visit our showroom or give us a call. Our goal at Clive is to match you with the equipment that will best achieve your goals at home. Whether you wish to perfect your espresso or conquer the timeless art of the pour-over, we’re here to help you every step along the way.
We’re glad you asked. You can improve the quality of your espresso by practicing your technique with the following guidelines in mind. The most important elements in espresso preparation are the grind, dose, leveling, distribution and tamping. Perfecting how you do these will allow you to make great coffee every time.
- A double “ristretto” or short shot of espresso contains roughly 1.5oz of liquid, .75oz each shot.
- The best shots of espresso are pulled in a range within 23-28 seconds from when then brew cycle starts, with espresso dropping from the portafilter after 5-10 seconds.
- Grind your coffee fresh and be as efficient as possible. Don’t let ground coffee sit in the portafilter, and don’t let the portafilter sit in the group head before brewing. Coffee stales very quickly once it’s ground.
- Pre-heat your shot glasses, demitasse or mug with hot water before you begin grinding the coffee and preparing the shot.
I have to be honest with you. I was skeptical at first. When I heard that we would be carrying the La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II, I wasn’t entirely sure why. Compared with the machines with the E-61 group head, I thought it looked a little less elegant, more commercial by appearance. I’d heard great things about its performance, but wasn’t impressed with how it looked in photographs and videos online.
The day after we received the first unit in our shop, my co-worker pointed it out to me as it sat on our workbench. When I turned around and saw the machine in person for the first time, I immediately did a double take.
“That is the Mini Vivaldi!?” One look at the machine and my mind was changed. It looked bigger and much prettier in person, definitely a more substantial presence than the impression given in any photo I’d seen. Later that day, when I first tested the Mini Vivaldi by pulling shots and steaming milk, then I was really impressed.
Check out our 90 second video on the Rancilio Silvia; it gives a quick overview of how you can use the machine to make great espresso drinks. Stay tuned for a “how to” on the Silvia which will demonstrate our version of temperature surfing and our tips for getting great microfoam out of the Silvia.
If you’re wondering, the intro is a short animation that Mia Nolting did for us. It’s a quick glimpse of the Portland skyline view from our place in SE Portland. The birds are the famed Portland swifts. You know, cuz we like to put birds on things.
Pouring nice looking latte art is a goal for many home baristas and an essential skill for professionals in the café. Creating a pretty espresso drink will impress your guests and enhance the overall experience of enjoying your coffee. However, getting a heart or a rosetta to look right takes lots of practice (and lots of milk) at first, but once the techniques become comfortable it’s very satisfying to produce attractive drinks every time. It definitely takes patience and the right touch during the pour, but most importantly you’ll need to start with nicely textured milk or no amount of finesse will help while you’re actually making the drink.