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Thread: Lower end machines can still make a great coffee

  1. #1
    DIG
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    Lower end machines can still make a great coffee

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi folks, I have been a member here for maybe a month now, and I am really enjoying the site, some really helpful and valuable tips and discussion, so thanks to all the members who regularly share their knowledge and experience. I am still a relative newcomer to coffee snobs, but I have been thinking about the point of this thread for a while and felt that it was worth posting.

    When I bought my original plastic and metal Breville Cafe Roma maybe 6-7 years ago (based on choice magazine actually) and my little $40 dollar blade grinder, I was able to make OK to good coffees (usually lattes, which is my preferred style). My goal then was to make something that I would consider as comparable to a latte I would get in an average to good cafe. I think that was about the standard of my typical brew, nothing fantastic, but certainly better than the results that a plunger or stove top could achieve using the same coffee. My wife (who has trouble disguising her disappointment with my coffees) was positive without being over-the-moon about them. Anyway, the old cafe roma broke down earlier this year (plastic housing cracked) and I decided to get another, and was very happy to see that they had upgraded this macine to an all metal, much tougher, version for a similar price ($150-200). I bought it a few months back, and some Lavazza beans from Safeway, and I was up and running again, making my decent but not fantastic coffees. A friend (who owned and worked in a restaurant) tried one, said the coffee was good (better than the last two he had had in cafes the previous day), but that I should consider getting a proper grinder and freshly roasted beans to lift it to another level, and that I should look on the web for some coffee forums for good info. That led me to buying the sunbeam 0480 grinder, and to discover coffeesnobs.

    The combination of the grinder, and the use of very fresh coffee (roasted within days of purchase), a milk thermometer, and a bit of coffeesnobs education, lifted the standard of my average coffee (latte) to another level and I was completely amazed at how good it was (and even my wife seemed genuinely impressed and started asking for them each morning). Since then, from this site I also learnt about the disadvantage of the pressurised basket, modified mine by cutting a larger whole in the bottom layer, and this has added another level of quality to my brews. I am sure that it is not just me kidding myself because I want it to be good - I have had many friends come around and they all comment on how good it is now (and some of them would not just say it to be nice!). The grinder has needed a couple of adjustments as it has worn in, but that isn’t a major problem by any means (at least not yet after 2 months of twice daily use), and all in all, I am very pleased with my setup, which far exceeds my expectations when I purchased this equipment.

    So, I just wanted to post my experience. Probably like many who think about getting a home machine, I came into this hoping that I could make a nice coffee of a standard that I would expect from a decent cafe, and now, with roughly $330 worth of equipment and a bit of attention to detail, I have easily and convincingly surpassed that standard, to the point where I am hesitant to purchase coffee from most cafes because I know Ill be disappointed. I dont doubt that another $1000 or so would allow me to produce still better coffees, approaching perfection, and the equipment would probably last longer and have higher resale value, but for many, an additional $1000 or more is not that easy to find. I think there are probably many others out there, who like me, are hoping to get an affordable (low hundreds) set up that will make a brew that surpasses their plunger, stove top and even their local café brew. In my experience, my low end equipment has gone well-beyond my expectations, and I would not hesitate to recommend a similar setup to anyone who is looking to get into home coffee brewing but not prepared to spend $1000 or more. Striving for perfection with higher-level equipment is very tempting (it is in my nature and will probably happen eventually) but I am finding it hard to justify at the moment because the results I am already getting are so good.

    Cheers and thanks for the ongoing help and advice.

  2. #2
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by DIG link=1183681550/0#0 date=1183681550
    Hi folks, I have been a member here for maybe a month now, and I am really enjoying the site, some really helpful and valuable tips and discussion, so thanks to all the members who regularly share their knowledge and experience. I am still a relative newcomer to coffee snobs, but I have been thinking about the point of this thread for a while and felt that it was worth posting.

    When I bought my original plastic and metal Breville Cafe Roma maybe 6-7 years ago (based on choice magazine actually) and my little $40 dollar blade grinder, I was able to make OK to good coffees (usually lattes, which is my preferred style). My goal then was to make something that I would consider as comparable to a latte I would get in an average to good cafe. I think that was about the standard of my typical brew, nothing fantastic, but certainly better than the results that a plunger or stove top could achieve using the same coffee. My wife (who has trouble disguising her disappointment with my coffees) was positive without being over-the-moon about them. Anyway, the old cafe roma broke down earlier this year (plastic housing cracked) and I decided to get another, and was very happy to see that they had upgraded this macine to an all metal, much tougher, version for a similar price ($150-200). I bought it a few months back, and some Lavazza beans from Safeway, and I was up and running again, making my decent but not fantastic coffees. A friend (who owned and worked in a restaurant) tried one, said the coffee was good (better than the last two he had had in cafes the previous day), but that I should consider getting a proper grinder and freshly roasted beans to lift it to another level, and that I should look on the web for some coffee forums for good info. That led me to buying the sunbeam 0480 grinder, and to discover coffeesnobs.

    The combination of the grinder, and the use of very fresh coffee (roasted within days of purchase), a milk thermometer, and a bit of coffeesnobs education, lifted the standard of my average coffee (latte) to another level and I was completely amazed at how good it was (and even my wife seemed genuinely impressed and started asking for them each morning). Since then, from this site I also learnt about the disadvantage of the pressurised basket, modified mine by cutting a larger whole in the bottom layer, and this has added another level of quality to my brews. I am sure that it is not just me kidding myself because I want it to be good - I have had many friends come around and they all comment on how good it is now (and some of them would not just say it to be nice!). The grinder has needed a couple of adjustments as it has worn in, but that isn’t a major problem by any means (at least not yet after 2 months of twice daily use), and all in all, I am very pleased with my setup, which far exceeds my expectations when I purchased this equipment.

    So, I just wanted to post my experience. Probably like many who think about getting a home machine, I came into this hoping that I could make a nice coffee of a standard that I would expect from a decent cafe, and now, with roughly $330 worth of equipment and a bit of attention to detail, I have easily and convincingly surpassed that standard, to the point where I am hesitant to purchase coffee from most cafes because I know Ill be disappointed. I dont doubt that another $1000 or so would allow me to produce still better coffees, approaching perfection, and the equipment would probably last longer and have higher resale value, but for many, an additional $1000 or more is not that easy to find. I think there are probably many others out there, who like me, are hoping to get an affordable (low hundreds) set up that will make a brew that surpasses their plunger, stove top and even their local café brew. In my experience, my low end equipment has gone well-beyond my expectations, and I would not hesitate to recommend a similar setup to anyone who is looking to get into home coffee brewing but not prepared to spend $1000 or more. Striving for perfection with higher-level equipment is very tempting (it is in my nature and will probably happen eventually) but I am finding it hard to justify at the moment because the results I am already getting are so good.

    Cheers and thanks for the ongoing help and advice.
    Nice one DIG,

    Would you consider adding a brief review to this thread:

    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1163234999

    including what mods (if any) you needed to do to create a good brew. The machine review is lacking lower priced models which would be helpful to many.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  3. #3
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Thanks Matt
    I am happy to give it a go if you think it would be appreciated.
    Cheers
    Dale

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Great post DIG

    It is good to hear that you have been able to make increasingly good coffee with small additions to equipment and technique etc.
    Im sort of in the same boat with my $70 ristretto and you give me hope that when I grab a decent grinder (hopefully in the next couple of weeks) and modify my baskets (and then my technique!!) I wont be too dissapointed in the coffees I can pull.

    The higher end equipment may come, but not for a while yet - I dont even the tax check will convive SWMBO ;) especially if I can end up pulling a half decent shot after modding.


  5. #5
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Hi Shannon
    I am sure that a decent grinder and fresh roasted coffee will raise the standard for you. I dont have much experience with different grinders, but the sunbeam is doing a good job (apart from a few minor adjustments as I said - check out the grinder section of this forum), and the one year warranty makes it a pretty safe buy, particularly if you get it from Myers where they reset your purchase if you have to return it. Even before I modified my basket, I was very pleased with the fresh ground coffee. Good luck with it!

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Yeah man Im totally with ya, Ive only ever had a Roma at home and even though I can make a better brew on the sunbeam at work, I still have people coming around going "man thats a bloody good coffee rolley".. and its true!

    The Roma is very simple, ultra simple, steaming milk is as easy as anything since it steams so slow and once you get to know the machine you can tweak your process to get the best out of it every time, no variables.

    Ive actually just given both of my Roma baskets to my brother in law, who is a boiler maker, hell remove the bottom layer for me and tac it all back up - so itll be really interesting to see how the shot quality is after that, Im sure itll be very good for such a "small" machine. *I will definately post some info and some pics when I test it out.

    Im happy to keep the Roma until it totally dies, then buy something fairly similar again. *I think the only other machine id buy while I still had the Roma is a manual lever machine, probably La Pavoni.. not because I want "better coffee", but because Id love to incorporate that level of intervention in my coffeemaking. *

    But yeah, the Roma does the job, and youre right, much better than a plunger or stove top.. (althought, Ive had some awesome stove tops before which could easily be as good as a machine-made espresso).

    R

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I still have my ristretto....one day I will go and get some non-pressurised baskets and have a go at that.

    Its amazing that with attention to detail and fresh coffee, you can impress your friends with good coffee at home without going to the ends of the earth in terms of set up costs. I was happy with milk coffees from my ristretto using a KG-100 grinder. I have come quite a way since then and the quality that you can get out of the high end machines is quite amazing...and consistent. But at the end of the day if you are not going to go further, then you have learnt to make coffees that are generally better than many that you get at coffee shops and thats all that matters ...that an having fun making the coffees and being proud that you did it youself.

    Cheers

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Just stumled across this post.

    As Shannon said DIG "Great post".

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    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Thanks alot for the positive feedback everyone. I was away for a long weekend in Bright with the family, and had to drink pre-ground lavazza in a drip machine. I had to concentrate not to express my dismay at the taste. I found the solution.... Tea.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    lucky youre not a teasnob who knows the exact temperatures the tea should be steeped in.

  11. #11
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    A few months ago I thought I would give espresso making a go. I bought a Breville cafe roma second hand, because I didnt know any better - went off the NZ Consumer magazine which gave it top marks. I have learnt a lot since! - just didnt relaise how critical all the variables are.
    After getting very disappointing results my engineering training kicked in - there had to be a way to make this thing work. I didnt want to admit that Id bought a dud, and I didnt want to spend the big dollars that "better"coffee machine seem to go for (BTW I cannot understand why they should be so expensive? marketing I think)
    I tried to use my old burr grinder but gave up when I couldnt get any control over the rate of pour - bought a second hand La Cimbali Junior, which is a brilliant grinder - and solved that problem. Tamping pressure I control by using my digital bathroom scales. I weigh out the beans on another digital scale before grinding, to control that variable. The pressurised filter was a bit more of a challenge - I cut the bottom skin off the filter using a grinder - but not like in a post I read on CoffeeSnobs - I left the bottom rim intact so the inner screen is suported at the edge. I removed the plastic thing from the filter holder. Tamper I made from a large diameter plastic rod - much more substantial than the poor fitting one that comes with the machine. The biggest challenge has been the temperature control. When I put my thermocouple on the machine I was surprised at the temperatures achieved. Only about 55C. My current fix for this is to boil a jug of water and then add this hot water to the water tank on the machine, untill the temperature is 70C - the machine seems to be able to increase this to about 90C using the thermoblock. The one variable that I dont know about is the pressure - I would love to hear from any one who has measured what this machine achieves.
    After doing all this I can report that I get coffee that is much better than the average cafe - in fact I was surprised over the weeked just how poor cafe coffee can be - you would think with their big machines they would get it right , but no.
    I am experimenting with preinfusing the coffee before extraction - at the moment it seems better if I dont do this. Im also not sure of what the long term effects of adding hot water to the machine will be - I didnt pay a lot for the machine and its been fun to try to get a decent cup out of it, so it doesnt bother me too much if it dies.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    JT- thats the spirit! What a hoot! pouring boiling water into the tank! Why not. I dont reckon youll damage anything. Its great to hear of how you nailed the variables.
    As to the pressure- you could borrow a pressure sensing portafilla(group handle). When I did a course in Hobart with Chris from TalkCoffee we tested my silvia and it was up round 12 or 13 bars if I remember rightly. Since then I got a little "o"ring from CoffeeParts and my mate bullitt helped me add it in to the Over Pressure Valve... I dont think that will help you though cos your machine probably doesnt have one of those.
    Good on ya
    RH

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    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Hi JT
    I was a bit surprised that your cafe roma only put out 55C water. This prompted me to test mine just then. After preheating the glass with roughly 30ml of water through the machine (without coffee in the basket), I tipped the water out, added another 30 ml to the glass, and the temperature was 75-78C (using my milk thermometer and verified using a cooking thermometer). Note, this is without adding coffee to the basket, which will probably drop the temp - I havent measured that because the temp will be variable depending on how far through the coffee the water has travelled, but obviously it will be 75-78 when it enters the coffee. Maybe your second hand unit was faulty - is it the all metal version, or the plastic/metal version? It would be good to hear from anyone else who has tried a similar expt.
    DIG

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by DIG link=1183681550/0#12 date=1184674591
    Hi JT
    I was a bit surprised that your cafe roma only put out 55C water. This prompted me to test mine just then. After preheating the glass with roughly 30ml of water through the machine (without coffee in the basket), I tipped the water out, added another 30 ml to the glass, and the temperature was 75-78C (using my milk thermometer and verified using a cooking thermometer). Note, this is without adding coffee to the basket, which will probably drop the temp - I havent measured that because the temp will be variable depending on how far through the coffee the water has travelled, but obviously it will be 75-78 when it enters the coffee. Maybe your second hand unit was faulty - is it the all metal version, or the plastic/metal version? It would be good to hear from anyone else who has tried a similar expt.
    DIG
    Hi DIG, thats interesting. *
    I thought Id put the milk thermometer to the hot water coming straight from my all stainless steel Sunbeam EM4800s brewing head (without even the group handle and filter basket in place).
    Just to get the maximum reading.
    After preheating the bottom part of a dual wall SS stovetop (for insulating purposes). The highest temp was 65C!
    The hot water out of my taps was 58C!! :(
    Im hoping the temperature under the 15 bars of pressure as it goes through the coffee grinds is a bit more than that.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Hey Folks,

    You CANT measure brew temperature of a thermoblock machine that way!!!

    Thermoblocks heat a given volume of water passing through them to a defined temperature. So no PF and puck..... you get far greater flow rate.... the same amount of heat is transferred to far more water...... which raises its temperature less....

    If you want to get anything like a useful measurement, you need a thermofilter (read very expensive) which replaces your PF and reduces the flow rate (but Im not sure you can get one for other than 58mm PFs)

    or you load your PF with coffee like you would normally and place a small thermocouple over the rim of the PF into the basket above the puck.... and insert the PF into the group (with the thermocouple lead going through the seal.... shouldnt damage it..... It must be a SMALL thermocouple so it doesnt affect the reading.... with a thin lead which will go into the PF.

    Any other attempted method of measuring temperature on a thermoblock machine will be a total waste of time.... and will yield crazy results!

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaB link=1183681550/0#14 date=1184682173
    Hey Folks,

    You CANT measure brew temperature of a thermoblock machine that way!!!

    Thermoblocks heat a given volume of water passing through them to a defined temperature. So no PF and puck..... you get far greater flow rate.... the same amount of heat is transferred to far more water...... which raises its temperature less....

    If you want to get anything like a useful measurement, you need a thermofilter (read very expensive) which replaces your PF and reduces the flow rate (but Im not sure you can get one for other than 58mm PFs)

    or you load your PF with coffee like you would normally and place a small thermocouple over the rim of the PF into the basket above the puck.... and insert the PF into the group (with the thermocouple lead going through the seal.... shouldnt damage it..... It must be a SMALL thermocouple so it doesnt affect the reading.... with a thin lead which will go into the PF.

    Any other attempted method of measuring temperature on a thermoblock machine will be a total waste of time.... and will yield crazy results!
    Thanks JavaB, It must be the late night. Thank god for that. Good night.

  17. #17
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Hi. I agree that the temp measurement will be lower if the water passes more quickly through the thermoblock. This means that the temp measured will be an underestimate. I cant see how it could be an overestimate, at least up to the point when the water hits the coffee. This means that in my case, the water temp would be at least 75-80C, possibly higher. I realise that this is not as accurate as the thermocouple approach, but I was really just trying t determine if the cafe roma was capable of generating water hotter than 55C (which would obviously be disastrous for a decent espresso). I think measuring the temp of the espresso in the preheated glass immediately after pouring, will provide a lower estimate of the temp when everything is in place (PF, coffee). I might try this.

    UPDATE: Temp of the brew in the preheated glass was approx 55C. This suggests there is substantial heat loss (roughly 20C) as the water passes through the coffee - perhaps not a surprise but I wasnt expecting that much drop.

  18. #18
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Agreed. Ill have a go at fitting the thermocouple into the space above the puck. There might be an easier way though. If the ideal extraction temperature has been established as 90-94C then what temperature could one expect the shot to be ?- assuming no great heat loss due to a cold filter handle and cup. Given that all the variables are controlled to get a 20-25 secs pour I would expect that the shot temperature should be pretty consistent over all machines. In retrospect I think this is what I measured to be 55C.

  19. #19
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Todays test results Breville cafe roma (plastic/metal version ESP6)

    set up:

    Equipment as discussed in my previous post. Filter is the double one.

    thermocouple inserted above puck in the machine.

    room temp 17C, water temp 15C from tap, machine on 30mins to warm up, coffee to level of filter lip at 15kg tamp ( this results in a slight indentation in the coffee surface from the filter screen when the handle is fitted to the machine - this gives a dry puck after the pour), temperature above the puck before the pour 70C - this stabilised after leaving the handle in the machine for 10 minutes before the pour

    results:
    pour time was 30 seconds for 50-60ml (blonding = cut off)
    plentiful long lasting red brown crema
    good body
    good taste
    temperature above the puck at 5 second intervals 97C 94C 93C 94C 94C 91C
    temperature of the shot (into a preheated cup) 58C
    Slight leakage (a few drips) from the group head seal, which might affect the pressure acheived during the pour.

    conclusions:
    I cannot be absolutely certain of the thermocouple position on the puck, but the fact that the temperature dropped a bit during the pour leads me to believe that it was on the coffee rather than against the metal of the filter.
    The temperature at the puck is in the range generally regarded as optimum for the espresso process.
    The espresso produced was very acceptable for appearance and taste.

    recommendations:
    With the technique outlined in my earlier post and above the breville cafe roma delivers an impressive result! Given that it cost me only $50, its a bargin. Recommended if you are prepared to take a bit of time in learning how to use it.

    I believe the quantity of coffee in the basket is very important for this machine. I probably didnt use enough coffee during my early attempts(14g).



  20. #20
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Apologies if this is getting a bit too scientific, but I found an interesting recent scientific study of water temp and espresso quality in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture vol 83, page240 2003. One interesting thing was that the difference in overall acceptibility, (based on scoring by a panel of judges in a blinded experiment) between 88C and 92, 96 and 98C were fairly marginal, but 88 scored the same as, or better than, 98C for three different coffees, whereas 92 and 96C was favoured for 2 out of 3 types of coffee. In addition to subjective measures by judges, they also examined a range of chemicals released at different temperatures. The paper info (title, abstract and authors) is below.

    Influence of extraction temperature on the final
    quality of espresso coffee†
    Susana Andueza, Laura Maeztu, Luc?´a Pascual, Carmen Iba´n˜ez, M Paz de Pen˜a
    and Concepcio´n Cid*
    Departamento de Bromatolog?´a, Tecnolog?´a de Alimentos y Toxicolog?´a, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Navarra, E-31080
    Pamplona, Spain
    Abstract: The final quality of espresso coffee (EC) depends upon certain technical conditions, such as
    the extraction temperature used in preparing it. The aim of this work was to investigate the effects of
    water temperature (88, 92, 96 and 98°C) on the final quality of three types of EC (Arabica, Robusta
    Natural blend and Robusta Torrefacto blend) in order to select the optimal temperature. Volatile
    compound (analysed by Static headspace gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) and sensory
    flavour profiles were the most relevant parameters, whereas physicochemical, taste and mouthfeel
    parameters were not very useful for selecting the water temperature. For Arabica and Robusta Natural
    blend ECs, 92°C was the optimal water temperature. For Robusta Torrefacto blend EC the overall
    acceptability might lead to the selection of 88°C as the ideal water temperature, but the high
    percentages of key odorants related to roasty and earthy/musty flavours and the ‘not hot enough’
    perception dictated the selection of 92°C in this case as well.
    # 2003 Society of Chemical Industry

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Science is what we need, DIG, so thanks to you and everyone for the fascinating posts, and keep them coming!

    All the mythology and ritual is fascinating, but it can get in the way of great coffee.

    This sort of objectivity is valuable, because it demonstrates that mega-dollar equipment is not essential to produce good coffee.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Ofc not. Plungers and stovetops produce great coffee. All at a fraction of the price of a "machine."

    Youre better off drinking espressos from cheap machines anyway. Milk-based drinks will always be a challenge for the low-end machines.

    Its long been known that newer thermoblock technology provides relatively stable brewing temperatures. The Sunbeam thermoblocks are quite good. Thermoblocks, however, are not as good at steaming milk. A small boiler would do a much better job.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    JT, those temp figures are excellent and well within range for espresso... I agree wholeheartedly with nunu about TB and steaming... but a well designed and built TB would be ideal for espresso only

    Im actually very impressed with those figures...Id love the same test done on the Sunbeam EM6910...

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Sparky was thermologging a 6900 TB.

    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1161475339

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Yep... I remember this... Would like to see the Em6910 with its adjustable brew temp settings....

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    You could hook a 6910 black box up to the 6900 TB methinks. Theyre not exclusive.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I dont think its wise pouring boiling water into a tank designed for cold water. Not to mention what damage the hot water is then doing to the pump and, possibly, pipes leading to the thermoblock.

    Its highly unlikely that outflow from the thermoblock is 50s or 70s degrees.... (Ideally it should be around the low-90s as it hits the coffee grounds.)

    If it was in the mid 50s, by the time it hit the lips it would be barely tepid.

    Milk thermometers are a poor way to measure flowing liquid. The probe has to be deeply immersed in liquid, and response is pretty slow.

    --Robusto

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I do agree...

    What I really would like to see is the same test that was done on the Breville.. because those test results were really impressive,,,

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    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    My test on the Breville was with tap water in te reservoir at 15C

    Is it worth cutting the bottom off the filter handle body to create a bottomless portafilter - to see whats really going on with the pour?

  30. #30
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I have now modified the filter holder on the Breville to be bottomless. It was amazing to see the extraction - all stripey and smooth, with a single centralised flow. Can anyone direct me to webpages/comment on what one is supposed to see - what to look out for? What causes the stripes? The flow was slightly off centre - is this ok?

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Slightly off centre would be fine...

  32. #32
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    My first attempt with the bottoless portafilter gave the best result so far - i tamped several times lightly to get a lot of coffee into the filter and added more and more until it was fill to the brim bedore giving a 15kg tamp. In the interests of being "scientific" about it, Ive been trying just filling the filter up to the top and then one tamp 15kg. Ive had to make the grind finer. The results have been interesting - there is a central pour stream but then there are very fine jets from one or more of the filter holes. I wonder if this is the channeling that I have heard of. I think the coffee tastes a bit bitter, but dont know if this is related. My question is how do i stop this - the first tamping method outlined would do it but is a bit hard to make repeatable.

  33. #33
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Yes, the jet spray is channelling

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by JT link=1183681550/30#31 date=1185169143
    My first attempt with the bottoless portafilter gave the best result so far - i tamped several times lightly to get a lot of coffee into the filter and added more and more until it was fill to the brim bedore giving a 15kg tamp. In the interests of being "scientific" about it, Ive been trying just filling the filter up to the top and then one tamp 15kg. Ive had to make the grind finer. The results have been interesting - there is a central pour stream but then there are very fine jets from one or more of the filter holes. I wonder if this is the channeling that I have heard of. I think the coffee tastes a bit bitter, but dont know if this is related. My question is how do i stop this - the first tamping method outlined would do it but is a bit hard to make repeatable.
    The channeling may be due to a bit of clumping of the grinds from the grinder. I had the same problem and found that grinding into a takeaway cup first and giving the grinds a stir with the end of a paperclip and transferring those into the pf gave a better result. There is something called the Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) which if you google should give you a good read.

  35. #35
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    That Weiss system has always brought a wry grin to my face. It sounds so inventive. So scientific.

    But its simply garden variety every day common sense. If there are clumps, stirring the basketful of grinds with a straightened paper clip will dissolve them.

    Do I call that the RSPC system? --- Robusto Straightened Paper Clip system?

    Of course not. Its generic Its not worthy of a title. No more than stirring pasta immediately after insertng in the boiling water to stop it sticking.

    --Robusto

  36. #36
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Shouldnt that be the Robusto Straightened Paper Clip Approach?

  37. #37
    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    How far threads can drift...
    :-)

    I liked the initial post in this thread too. That very same machine is still one of my travel machines. Makes a pretty good shot with fresh coffee...
    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1117287322

    (Although the Presso gets used more for travel now)

  38. #38
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Putting the fresh ground coffee through my tea strainer does a much better job of removing clumping than waving a paperclip at it...

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Just a good consistant dosing technique is required.. I did the Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) and it drives me nuts! So I found a common ground...

    (double basket) Dose, tap PF on bench, Dose, tap PF on Bench, compact with fingers with small amount of pressure evenly then level with a straight knife and tamp 10-15kg.. This is for the Sunbeam EM6910.. I get excellent dry, perfect shapped pucks when I do this consistantly...

  40. #40
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Off topic replies have been moved to [link=http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1185437101/0#0]This Thread[/link]

  41. #41
    JT
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Where have they been moved too?

  42. #42
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by Mal link=1183681550/30#39 date=1185437100
    Off topic replies have been moved to [link=http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1185437101/0#0]This Thread[/link]
    Quote Originally Posted by JT link=1183681550/30#40 date=1185587591
    Where have they been moved too?
    Click on "This Thread" above and all shall be revealed.... :)

    Mal.

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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Quote Originally Posted by DIG link=1183681550/0#0 date=1183681550
    Anyway, the old cafe roma broke down earlier this year (plastic housing cracked) and I decided to get another, and was very happy to see that they had upgraded this macine to an all metal, much tougher, version for a similar price ($150-200).... A friend (who owned and worked in a restaurant) tried one, said the coffee was good (better than the last two he had had in cafes the previous day), but that I should consider getting a proper grinder and freshly roasted beans to lift it to another level, and that I should look on the web for some coffee forums for good info. That led me to buying the sunbeam 0480 grinder, and to discover coffeesnobs.

    The combination of the grinder, and the use of very fresh coffee (roasted within days of purchase), a milk thermometer, and a bit of coffeesnobs education, lifted the standard of my average coffee (latte) to another level and I was completely amazed at how good it was (and even my wife seemed genuinely impressed and started asking for them each morning). Since then, from this site I also learnt about the disadvantage of the pressurised basket, modified mine by cutting a larger whole in the bottom layer, and this has added another level of quality to my brews.
    Great post, glad to hear there are others out there in coffeesnobs using the Cafe Roma. I got one on the weekend from my folks (they werent using it and wanted to reclaim some bench space) for nix! Ive made reasonable coffees every day since and am really enjoying the process. Im using a 200gram tin of Merlos Private Blend as this will only last a week at the most. I know, I know... I MUST get a grinder!

    I typically post on golf forums, so ill use a golf analogy. To me, the Cafe Roma feels like playing with Pings. kinda like cheating. It wouldnt matter what I did, this thing gives great crema and tastes reasonable. Much the same as a ping, ie. doesnt really matter what sort of swing you put on them, the results are always pretty consistent, if unspectacular.

    The trouble is, as a golfer I play forged Titleist "player" clubs and can see myself ending up down this road with coffe.... ie. a bigger, boiler machine with more room for cups and foaming, non-pressurised baskets, burr grinders, stainless steel tampers, knock boxes etc....

    This should be fun!

  44. #44
    Senior Member Lizzie's Avatar
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Welcome, Brisvegas... :)

    so you are someone who enjoys the pursuit of excellence, if not at least the enjoyment of trying to get there... and a bit of a GS (GolfSnob) ;D ;D

    yes, when you start "making your own " you realise that coffee can taste like real coffee :o
    then comes the chase of "better still" (beans, grinder...), and eventually you are hooked on chasing the "god-shot" (great "up-there" machine with fantastic grinder, home roasted beans and 2 hours per day @ CoffeeSnobs ;D)

    i suppose it is like trying for the elusive hole-in-one... but with less exercise!
    enjoy the journey!

    L

  45. #45
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Hi folks. I feel I should add a caveat to my thread about the Breville Cafe Roma. Mine died yesterday (4 months old!). It short circuited and kept throwing the circuit breaker in my house. Fortunately, kmart took it back, even without the box and receipt and still with some coffee grounds stuck to the shower screen. I now have the perfect excuse for upgraditis, and I think I am going to go for the EM6910. It will be interesting to see how much improvement this brings to my brews. I will post when I have had enough time to suss this out.

  46. #46
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I think youll find the coffee acceptable.

    If the Sunbeam last more than 12 months (and Im betting it will) it will be better in the long run than replacing the Roma every change of season.


  47. #47
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Thanks TG. I hope you are right about it lasting more than 12 months, because I am now the proud owner of a 6910. I started playing with it this afternoon. It certainly is a different beast and I feel like I am a novice again. My initial attempts were failures. Firstly, using the exact same grind that I was using in the cafe roma, the pressure gauge went right round to the red zone and it started oozing water from the PF seal. I aborted that one, and wound down the grind a few notches, which fixed that problem. I also found that it is quite alot noisier than the Roma (not far off the jackhammer that others have described when just flushing water through, although it is quieter when pumping under pressure) and the PF arm is very stiff to get on and off - I hope this eases up a bit with time. After 3 attempts, I poured a pretty good shot. It tasted right, but the puck was sloppy (not really a puck) (and I am using the non-pressurised baskets). I guess I need to tamp harder, but the supplied tamper doesnt fit very well into the basket- it only goes a few mm in and then it jams because it is tapered at the edges, so I may not be adding enough coffee to begin with, or the tamper is crappy (I can see my next acquisition coming up...). The last challenge is steaming the milk. I had this down to a fine art with the Roma. It seems to work much faster with the 6910, but I am having trouble getting the nice microfoam that I always got with the Roma. Maybe cos I am not left handed. I might try some different programmable settings with the milk dryness. I dont want to sound disappointed - I am excited about it, but it has been a humbling experience so far.

    My wife (who thinks I have become a bit obsessed) said "Mmmm, almost as good as the ones you made with the old machine".

  48. #48
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    I didnt have high expectations for the 6900 at work so was pleasantly suprised by how well it did.

    I think youll find your feet pretty quickly with the 6910.

    BTW that was your wifes way of encouraging you.

  49. #49
    DIG
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    Thanks again TG. I am slowly finding my feet with some help from CSers. I actually think that is my wifes way of saying "you went and spent another $600 to get a machine that is ALMOST as good as the one we already had, that cost $200!!!"

  50. #50
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    Re: Lower end machines can still make a great coff

    After reading others experiences about filling the 6910 PF, I settled on filling it enough so that after a firm tamp, you experience a small amount of resistance when fitting the PF to the machine - ie the grounds are touching the shower screen.

    If you overfill it, the resistance is greater, and you are in effect giving it a second, shower-screen-applied tamp, which depending on the grind, will either slow down the pour or stop it altogether.

    The puck should never be wet, and the fact that your tamper is jamming suggests that you are under-filling. I have never experienced any jamming with mine - in fact there is probably around 2mm total clearance (not ideal).

    One other useful tip which helped me, was to aim for the 23-second pour, but always be guided primarily by whats coming out of the spout - ie, to stop it immediately blonding starts. Thats not quite as easy as it sounds, as the copious amount of crema the 6910 produces with a fresh grind can camouflage the blonding.



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