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Thread: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

  1. #1
    Member SamR's Avatar
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    GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I thought Id share my experiences to date, as a newbie, and some fairly simple mods that Ive done in the quest to make a decent brew from a basic machine. The machine......well up until recently it was a Sunbeam EM4800 which was acquired with credit card points (so a freebie I guess), and has served me well for nearly 3 years. Knew nothing about the difference between this and a high end machine, especially with the crema that this machine produced. But recent research and joining this forum highlighted the masking effect that pressurized filter baskets make to what would otherwise seem like a decent coffee.

    So, my first step was to modify the filter basket which resulted in a straight gush of coffee - no crema but a lot a splashing and quite a mess. So, off to my local Sunbeam spare parts outlet and $15 later I have a Krups unpressurized filter basket. The first trial was a struggle and it seemed that the Sunbeam just didnt have the oomph to produce anything decent. After 3 years and about 3 trillion coffees the old girl is getting tired. Luckily, a spare machine (also a freebie) was brought into action - a Breville Cafe Roma. The first brew was just okay, with lots of trial and error to follow with different grind settings and different tamping pressure. Once all the grind and tamping experiments were over it seemed like the standard portafilter wasnt playing ball so some modifications were required. The inner plastic base was removed and the 2 outer spouts were riveted shut. The centre hole was then drilled through to give a decent sized opening. The result - pretty good flow and good crema.

    The second mod was to make a naked portafilter. The standard Breville portafilter is mild steel (at best) and I thought a drill and saw drill attachment might work. I wasnt prepared for just how easy it was.....about 3 minutes tops! It took me longer to sweep up the metal filings and put everything away than to cut the portafilter out. The cut is so clean and smooth that I didnt bother filing it.



    I reckon the end result is pretty good, producing good crema in about 30 seconds, and bearing in mind its still a sub $200 machine.....









    Im sure a higher end machine will produce a better coffee, but with these simple mods I can practice making good coffee for when a better machine comes my way. I kind of see this machine as my training wheels.

    As a side note, the coffee used was Genovese Super Brazil, freshly ground from a Delonghi KG100 grinder which I modified to give 3 additional increments. Anyone interested in this grinder modification should take a look at this youtube site I found that shows how its done at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu4t1uzOrF8 - just note that the disc needs to be rotated COUNTERCLOCKWISE not clockwise as indicated in the video.


  2. #2
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Neat work, SamR.

    Just out of interest what sort of hole saw did you use to churn through steel like that?

    I dread using my collection on wood --never tried on metal --and even then theres burning and a lot of effort.




  3. #3
    Senior Member Lizzie's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Nice work there, SamR!!!

    sounds like you could do with an improved version of your collection of hole-saws, Robusto....
    a good metal-cutting set is worth the money...
    we use (or have used...) hole-saws a lot for both timber, laminated timber, steel and aluminium. good fun.... 8-)


    L

  4. #4
    Member SamR's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    The hole saw was part of a cheap kit from Bunnings, that included drill bits and other assortments. The whole thing cost about $12, so Im guessing it was a cheap and nasty hole saw. But like I said, the portafilter is very mild steel and it cut through with absolute ease. PM or email me if you want to know how I did it.

  5. #5
    DIG
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Good one SamR.
    I was also very happily working with a modified Cafe Roma until recently when upgraditis (combined with Roma-self-destructitis) hit me. I have been the proud owner of the Sunbeam 6910 for the last 3 weeks or so. While it is clearly a better machine with many more options, more precise temp control and better/faster milk frothing, I would have to say that (so far) the quality of the coffee is not a BIG jump ahead of the coffees that I was making with my modified Roma. I think that is probably not surprising because at the end of the day, fresh roasted, properly ground beans that are extracted under high pressure and temperature can be achieved with a modified Roma. For me, the big jump in quality came earlier when I realised the importance of using a decent grinder, a non-pressurised basket and good quality fresh beans. I think improvements from there are likely to be a little more incremental. That is not to say I am disappointed with the new machine, the only point I am trying to make is that (solely based on my own experience) you should not be worried that you are miles away from an excellent coffee using your current setup.

  6. #6
    JT
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    I did the same modifications to my filter holder with a hole saw also - the metal is just plated aluminium or zinc casting and cuts easily. With the bottom cut off the filter basket so its unpressurized i am amazed at the good results i get from my Cafe Roma - dont see any point in spending $$$ unless you want the chrome. Steaming milk may be a different story though...
    I might add that I have a very good grinder and this has been the key to good results. (La Cimbali Junior)

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    DIG
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    yes, steaming milk is arguably the biggest difference from the Roma to the 6910 in my case. The 6910 does it in roughly half the time, however, the end result seems to be the same. The other factor is the temp of the final product, which is typically a bit hotter from the 6910, partly because it is more consistent (although I dont know that for sure), partly cos you can increase the temp manually (by second crack increments) and partly because the milk steaming process is much faster and there is less time for everything to cool.

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    Member SamR's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Out of curiosity, what life span did you get from the Roma?

    My Sunbeam has been going for nearly 3 years and still works a treat with the pressurized baskets but really struggles with the unpressurized basket. And the Roma, which was in storage and Ive only used for a couple of weeks makes a loud clicking sound. The authorised repairer has checked it out and says theres nothing wrong with the machine......but that clicking sound drives me batty.

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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Hi SamR, great post! I have also lately been struggling with my EM4800. Ive gone non-pressurised, got the grinder (Rocky), and use fresh beans from a local roaster. I am still however having trouble achieving the 25 odd second extraction time. Did you have a similar problem? Any additional tips you might be able to throw my way? (Dosing/tamping force etc).

    Right now Im going to pull out a hole saw.....

  10. #10
    Member SamR's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Hi prc6of7 - Im getting pretty much on the recommended 30 seconds for 30-35ml. It did vary at first (mind you, I only started using the unpressurized basket a few days ago) and Ive experimented with different grinds and tamp pressure. What Ive found is that 30lb of pressure just wont work with this type of machine as the machine just cant maintain the sort of pressure (I think about 9 bar???) throughout the whole extraction process. As a side note, I tested the tamp pressure on bathroom scales just to get a feel for what 30lb is. So, now I tamp firmly but not as you would expect with a high end machine - I would say maybe 20lb. The puck comes out pretty dry. If I tamp too hard, the crema is a much darker color and the coffee tastes somewhat bitter. As for grind, Ive now settled on the finest grind my Delonghi has (which Ive tweaked with 3 additional fine grind increments). A few clicks courser does work okay but theres a difference between the finest grind and 3rd finest grind in that the courser grind produces a wetter puck and weaker brew. But this has also varied depending on the brand of coffee I use. All I can suggest is to experiment. Let us know how you go.

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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Well, after being inspired by SamR, Ive just pulled my first shot with my newly naked portafiller (hes right by the way, the cheapest holesaw will do the job). Ive concluded theres nothing wrong with my tamping style, the extraction was nicely centered and not messy, still very quick though. My tamps have normally been quite hard so Ill try a softer approach and see how that goes. Ive currently got the Rocky set at about 8, Ill fine that up a bit too and report back.

    On a side note, I initially thought my quick extractions might be caused by a faulty grinder. I remembered however that it was tested in the shop before I walked out the door so that more than likely rules out that theory. The sales person recommended about 10 - 13 for a domestic machine...she obviously wasnt talking about one this domestic!

  12. #12
    Member SamR's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    I had the same problem at first, but found that a finer grind slowed down the extraction. But you may then need to vary the tamp pressure (maybe not quite as firm).

  13. #13
    ozz
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Thats amazing, what a great post, brilliant idea & workmanship.
    I think I read this right...you got that awsome shot out of a cafe roma?

    Im keen to try this out for my poxy little cafe roma but really paranoid about buggering it up so ive been trying to find another group handle & a basket that will fit my machine before I go to town with the drill & saw. Anyone have a spare handle & non pressure basket to suit? or know where to get one without paying huge $$$ for it?
    The best price ive been able to find for a new handle is $35 & thats almost half the cost of the machine so I dont particularly want to go down that road & find ive just blown some money for nothing.

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    Member SamR's Avatar
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    Re: GETTING THE MOST FROM A BASIC MACHINE

    Yep...that came from the Roma. I bit the bullet shortly after and have now bought the Rancilio Silvia & LaSpaziale Junior grinder. I really used the mods to give me some practice with an unpressurized basket. So, Ill sell the Roma, the Sunbeam EM4800 & the modified Delonghi grinder shortly.



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