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Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob!

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  • Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob!

    Hi folks!

    I’m brand new to the world of espresso, having for a long time been a drip filter or French press fan.
    After stumbling upon this glorious website I used a gift voucher to purchase a cheapo Sunbeam Café Ristretto to see if I’d enjoy espresso.
    Although I can tell the quality is not as good as say the corner café (which unlike most cafes can actually make good coffee!) it still does the job, and has turned me into an espresso addict.
    My question is, how do I make the Café Ristretto experience better? I have read something about changing the basket to a Krups, but I have no idea how to do this, or exactly what part I need.
    Also, any tips on making the espresso using this machine? I spent two weeks on holiday trying different techniques and found some worked better than others – ie, tamping pressure, frothing different types of milk, grinding at different settings.
    I have bought a Breville burr grinder (set me back about $128) and am about to do the mod that I read about on this forum that allows you to increase the fineness of the grind to what the machine is capable of.
    Also – one last question – what is the difference between a pressurised and non-pressurised basket? This is totally new to me. Obviously not all espresso machines are created equally [ch61514]
    Many thanks.

  • #2
    Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

    Hi cafeiguana and welcome.

    The Cafe Ristretto paired with the Breville burr grinder is a fairly low entry point.
    I would hazard a guess that your fondness for espresso will press you to a better combination when funds allow.

    For the moment though, its all about the taste, and if you are happy, then keep on trucking!

    The quickest and usually most noticeable way to jump in quality is with a good grinder.
    Sadly, the Breville isnt really in that class. You need to look at something like an Iberital Challenge, Sunbeam E0480 or E0450 or similar. Have a read of the grinders section to get an idea.

    The pressurised question comes up quite a bit.
    Have a read of replies 3 and 4 from this post

    And keep asking questions. Were here to help you with this obsession!



    • #3
      Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

      Thanks fatboy – I now understand the pressurised vs non-pressurised situation.
      Obviously I’ll upgrade in the future – although the ‘accountant’ believes I’ve spent enough on coffee equipment already [ch61514] so it might take some convincing before I have my own Silvia machine.
      I have a feeling the Ristretto will die an early death though at the rate I’m using it. It’s a tiny machine and I often wonder how many cups it has in it before it’s no good.
      I bought some beans from Jespers Coffee in Melbourne and I am already a fan of the Sulawesi Kalosi blend – very nice short.

      So for a pressurised basket would you recommend tamping lightly to achieve a better extraction?


      • #4
        Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob


        Its been a long time since I used pressurised baskets. Im not sure how they react with fresh beans. Whether they make more crema or the same amount, or it goes nuts etc. Hopefully someone with recent experience will come along and answer that one.

        Common advice when trying to get the best from your machine is just change one thing at a time.
        So if you have done all other things the same as last coffee, try a slightly different tamp and see what the effect is.

        Do you know when the Jaspers coffee was roasted?
        Less than 4 weeks ago is what you really want to aim for for best results. Some beans do OK for longer, but generally beans are best used within 4.


        • #5
          Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

          I accidentlly used the pressurised basket yesterday but it didnt seem to make much difference.
          Other than getting the puck out was a PITA.
          Probably because I tamped normally.

          The general opinion on pressurised baskets IIRC is that tamping doesnt make much difference.


          • #6
            Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

            Ive heard that reported too TG and it may be one of those interesting facts that one person says, a hundred repeat and a thousand believe! : The only pressurised system Ive used one of my tampers on was a Kenwood and the difference over the built-in tamper was definitely noticeable. I made one for a friend of mine with a Sunbeam EM5800 and he still raves about it over the other-end-of-the-spoon tamper it came with. Whether thats the whole story I cant say but its an alternative view Ive certainly come across myself.



            • #7
              Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

              Originally posted by cafeiguana link=1204587676/0#2 date=1204591510
              So for a pressurised basket would you recommend tamping lightly to achieve a better extraction?
              When I had my $50 very cheap & nasty "wellseek" I found different tamping pressure [for a fixed grind setting] did indeed effect the pour.
              Both the time and richness of extraction could change.

              But it is not as critical as for non pressurised, because, ultimately by my guesstimates, whilst my best shots could look 80% as good as real ones, they only had about 10% of the flavour, and best achievable mouthfeel was just a tad thicker than like water.
              So its "measureable" effect in the cup is sortof reduced by a factor of 10.

              I must say though, you gotta start somewhere and at the time I did enjoy the shots I made.

              Basically, though Id suggest you stick with the standard espresso making rules:
              A 13-14Kg tamp [check on bathroom scales], then adjust your grind for a 25 sec pour.
              In experimenting, you will hit the point where you will choke the machine, when that occurs back off the grind, rather than the tamp pressure.

              Youll get the richest possible extraction this way, and at least when you change to non pressurised baskets and/or get a new machine, your tamping arm will be calibrated and your basic barista skills will be well practised.

              Its very worth while, trying espresso at very good cafes so you always know what the benchmark is, will lead to upgradeitis though!

              <..............Seeing as your in Melbourne, try site sponsor Veneziano/First pour cafe some time


              • #8
                Re: Please help a coffee noob become a coffee snob

                Upgradeitis is always lurking in the background niggling away at ones willpower!!