Hi all - not sure if this is my first post, but just in case - long time lurker, this site has already been a huge help to my coffee making. Thanks for all the advice!
So far, I've spent very little on equipment. At the moment I own a 3-yr old Sunbeam EM440 grinder ($100) and a Breville 800ES ($28.50 after replacing C1). I am getting OK coffee, but I think there might be a lot more life in the beans I have, and suspect the grinder is not grinding fine enough. I have shimmed it once or twice and got some improvement, but the grounds are now quite variable. The grounds look all right dry, but after extraction there are clearly some biggish chunks once the finer stuff has washed through a bit. Using an unpressurised basket, I have not been able to choke it or get close to 25-30 second pours. On the other hand, I am not sure if the 25-30 seconds rule applies to a thermoblock which has been designed and sized for use with a pressurised basket.
I'm wide open to advice. My questions are:
- what does a perfect pour look like on an 800ES? how long does it take, is the crema mottled at all etc? (My BIL has a Bo-ema and was getting beautiful treacly espresso from a bag of my beans.)
- if I have to buy one new thing, should it be the grinder? Will I be able to take my coffee game up another notch with better grind or will I not notice much improvement on a basic machine? I was thinking Breville smart grinder 820.
Take a look at the Breville smart grinder BCG820 and the new BCG600 which is cheaper, it has less electronics but has the same conical burrs as the 820.
These grinders are very suitable to grind for espresso.
Thanks Barry. I was considering the BCG820 for the dose control - seems a smart way to do it. I am not a fussy man, but if a machine wants to fuss on my behalf, I'm not too proud to accept its help. Got my fingers crossed for a commercial Macap I bid on; but we'll see. That would be overkill. Giant, shiny overkill.
I have used a 800ES with a BCG800 Smart Grinder for approx. two years. After lots of experimenting and fiddling with different things (unpressurised baskets, converted group handle to naked, shim kit to grinder, different beans, dosing, tamping, etc.) I have determined the following:
The 800ES is a finicky machine. Any one of a number of things can upset the balance of extraction. Bean freshness seems to be more important than other machines I've used. I found it incredibly difficult to keep the balance. I had a period of about 2 weeks where I was getting what I would consider meeting the minimum standards of a "good" coffee, but something must have happened to upset the machine and that was it. I couldn't get it back again. I would say I was consistently getting a 5.5-6/10 coffee, and the magic fortnight would have been about 7-7.5/10.
All Sunbeam grinders in that series seem to have a problem with grinds being left behind in the chute, in my experience. This means that every time you grind the first bit you get is stale. Maybe try clearing the chute prior to each grind. A better grinder will help but only as far as the 800ES will let you. If you can afford it I would recommend upgrading both machine and grinder.
P.S. If you're in Sydney you're welcome to my naked group handle if you want it. I'm in Casula. I bought a new machine a few days ago and will be giving the 800ES to some friends. They will be fine with the normal group handle and the naked would just sit in a cupboard somewhere. It helped me improve my dosing and tamping consistency.