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Thread: My journey thus far

  1. #1
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    My journey thus far

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Afternoon all. Firstly can I say thanks to everyone for keeping this fantastic forum alive!!

    Around six months ago, I was a daily perker and quite enjoyed the ol' stove top sludge I was pushing through my stainless steel Vev percolator, though owning (and one day mastering) my own espresso machine had long been an ambition. My ambitions often exceed the limitations of my wallet.

    The first step was realised when I inherited an as new condition Sunbeam Cafe Crema ii - the owner decided to downgrade to a Delonghi pod machine. Perusing this forum, I discovered I could have done a lot worse for my first machine!

    Within weeks, I had splashed a few more dollars on a single wall (double shot) basket proving to myself that the lacklustre 'crema' that the double walls were squeezing from cheap grind was a mere magician's trick, and there the journey really began.

    For Father's Day I was lucky enough to receive a Porlex hand grinder and a nice heavy stainless steel tamper, upping the anti from the pre-ground rubbish I was purchasing from the local Woolworths to ample beans from Jasper Coffee (blend 8 my favourite so far).

    I had been happily playing with tamp weights and coarseness of grind up until only a week ago where, on a local classifieds site, I came across a (priced too good to be true) Breville BES820XL. I rushed to the call and brought home a machine that looked like it had been sitting above a range hood in a commercial kitchen for the better part of a decade...

    Too good to be true; unfortunately the die-cast chassis is prone to a little rust and the brushed steel doesn't look so great when it's been abraised heavily against the grain. Anyway, a week later, a lot of elbow grease, a de-scale and a new group head seal and this afternoon, I finally pulled a soy latte any n00b could be proud of!


    Admittedly, my milk frothing skills need to improve with this new steam wand.


    Given the above mentioned issues, she scrubbed up quite well.


    Now the tough decision needs to be made, can't keep both... Or can I?

    So where to from here? Well, I picked up a spare group handle and double wall basket for the Breville for the princely sum of one dollar earlier this week, so my project for the weekend is going to be to pull out the Dremmel and try my hand at making a naked portafilter for further experimentation.


    Thanks for reading and I look forward to learning more and swapping stories with as many of you as possible in the near future, Kiz

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  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Well done Kiz...

    So long as you're getting all of the basics right (and it seems to me that you are), there is no reason why delicious coffee pours are not possible. Have fun and enjoy the journey...

    Mal.

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    My journey thus far

    Sorry if I've been posting around the forum like crazy today, but spent most of my day reading and researching *here* and far since upgrading some equipment...

    The Breville at the start of this thread is unfortunately being institutionalised since having a meltdown a little over a week ago! Still, for a machine I paid very little for, I got about 12+ months of coffee pleasure out of it...

    I spent the last week agonising over what to do (hadn't budgeted for a new machine so soon) and trawling Gumtree for another cheap banger (dreading having to clean all someone else's kitchen filth off yet another neglected appliance). Finally, Thursday I see an EM7000 come up that looks in reasonable condition for an okay price. It was a fair distance from home, so I really drilled the guy about condition and history; he seemed to know his stuff and certainly sounded like he babied the thing, so Friday after work, I headed over to inspect.

    An older gentleman answered the door and, long story short, we pulled some shots, chatted coffee and I eventually relieved him of his machine - it was such an enjoyable experience and so well looked after that I didn't even haggle!

    Whilst trying out his machine, we were grinding with his Breville Smart Grinder Pro and today I just couldn't get out of my head just how easy it was to adjust grind and dose compared with my Porlex hand grinder (of course!!), so this morning I decided I had to have one! Nothing on sale at the moment, but Myer have $15 off for every $75 you spend on kitchen appliances... I've spent the rest of the day making an amount of coffee only acceptable to consume on a Saturday and am still pretty wired - hence the novella you may or may not be reading! So here is the before and after shots of the recent evolution of my kitchen bench, thanks for reading!!


    A week ago:

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1447503400.355715.jpg

    Today:

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1447503426.196451.jpg
    Last edited by KizZ84; 15th November 2015 at 07:33 AM.

  4. #4
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Great story Kiz...

    And a great outcome to boot...

    Mal.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Thanks Kiz, always entertaining to hear other folk's stories.
    Your tale raises a couple of thoughts with me:
    Whether there are significant improvements occuring in both the grinders and machines from Breville and Sunbeam.
    I think it's probably fair to say that in the past there were some pretty ordinary machines from these brands, but I notice that Breville now do a twin-boiler automatic with electronic temp control plus a conical burr smart grinder for $1700. What are the prospects for these brands to eventually rival the better continental machines?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    Thanks Kiz, always entertaining to hear other folk's stories.
    Your tale raises a couple of thoughts with me:
    Whether there are significant improvements occuring in both the grinders and machines from Breville and Sunbeam.
    I think it's probably fair to say that in the past there were some pretty ordinary machines from these brands, but I notice that Breville now do a twin-boiler automatic with electronic temp control plus a conical burr smart grinder for $1700. What are the prospects for these brands to eventually rival the better continental machines?
    G'day Rocky

    1) Improvements - IMO a real mixed bag.

    SB: The EM480 grinder has gone through a number of changes, mostly forward (one intermediate stage had a high [2* "normal"] speed setup which burnt the beans on the fly). A friend bought a new one a couple of weeks back and it needed a Kg of beans to bed in (rocked the bench violently for the first 250g and then settled down nicely) and is now doing a really sweet job. Very impressive particle spread. Still too noisy for most domestic SWMBO's.
    The 6900 was not much of a machine (hard to pull a decent shot out of one). The earlier 6910's mainly suffered from buyers not keeping it clean and / or using crap water (i.e. avoidable maintenance SNAFU's). The same friend bought a secondhand "Feb 2008" 6910 (barely used, in storage for a long time) for $200 a few weeks back and it took three purges of vinegar to remove the gunk and make it consistent. If I had built up that much crud on the La Cimbali I learnt on in 1970, it would not have lasted two years... that La Cimb went for ten+ (lost contact, still very alive) with no more than "routine cafe maintenance" plus a few spares. Anyway, that friend's s/h 6910 now has more "shot grunt" than either of the two 6910's I bought new (Aug 2008, July 2011 - both still alive) plus my 7000 (new on Aug 2014). Mulquemi (CS poster) has a large collection of 6910s he rebuilds (plus a few "beyond hope" dead I presume). Later 6910's / 7000's need a lot less routine TLC than the early 6910's. My take is that as long as you look after them "reasonably" and feed them good water they (6910 / 7000) are pretty sound.

    Breville: Smartgrinders seen to have gone through the same teething / development pains as the SB. Whilst I have seen a couple of shockers, most have been OK+. The last new one I saw ('bout 6 months ago) was also a good unit which should last well. My Mahlkonig Vario's are certainly better as a domestic grinder, however you have gone from a $200 grinder to a $700 grinder - better adjustment granularity, particle spread & more consistent timing are only worth it for "true coffee fanatics".
    Ditto the Breville DB's - look up posts on this site and the first ones were for masochists only. Never buy version one of anything applies to most products. The later ones are pretty good.

    2) Prospects: I guess it will be the old "cost cutting vs better build" for the bulk brands. FWIW, I wish they would bite the bullet and build a truly top end domestic machine (SB Torino is probably not it, although I haven't played with one yet). Given Breville / SB's huge cost advantage via mass production they could give the commercial machines a real headache in the domestic market. For example, my 7000 has made my 2 group La Pav completely obsolete in a domestic setting - equal or better coffee at a fraction the startup time, noise and power consumption. Ditto the Breville DB's for those addicted to boilers - I am not, they take too long to warm up in a domestic setting in my view - YMMV.

    Given EU have finally outlawed brass in coffee machines (toxicity grounds), all stainless construction will probably be ubiquitous in the next few years anyway. No more boiler "fish oil taste" - Yay! Apart from warm up time / power consumption & boilers that are too small, that is my other "boiler pet peeve". The low grade stainless "metallic taste" (e.g. most Italian stainless moka pots) should also be consigned to the history books (hopefully) as higher grades of stainless are used.

    My suggestion:
    Why don't SB / Br not have a look at the LM Strada and build a real, honest to goodness, domestic machine with the ability to set, vary and store different preinfusions, pressure & temperature profiles so anyone can tinker and then repeat at will? How hard can it be! Adding a preinfusion / shot timer, digital shot pressure & shot temp gauge next to a milk temp gauge is not too much of a stretch - and USB ports are cheap so a computer can graph it for you. Mind you, I have had a lot of crap shots from a Strada (including some of my own) until the P-Plates are removed. A few standard profiles can fix most of that issue.

    Even some CS / HB posters have done a mod to their domestic machines to manually tinker with temp & pressure so it is feasible. One friend has an adjustable pressure setup on his 6910 - goes up to 12 bar - just. He figured the plumbing out himself after someone posted about a SB 45xx (4540?) "slayer mod" on a coffee site to do just that.

    TampIt
    PS: All I have ever wanted is an easy to use domestic replacement for my manual lever Electra... one that can pull 15 or so shots on the trot (complete with frothed milk)... oh, and have ALL the adjustments available.
    Last edited by TampIt; 16th November 2015 at 06:28 PM.

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    Thanks Tamplt, very comprehensive response!

    I haven't been in the game long enough to make a real comment of improvements in quality and build across the two brands; for me, I've been going up in the range every time, so of course each step has been significantly better for that reason alone!

    Tamplt, can I ask, on the 7000, should I be able to remove the bottom of the group handle (not sure what it's called, but the bit the coffee distributes through?) my 69xx unscrews, but the 7000 is stuck real good and I don't wanna break it if it's not supposed to move!!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by KizZ84 View Post
    Thanks Tamplt, very comprehensive response!

    I haven't been in the game long enough to make a real comment of improvements in quality and build across the two brands; for me, I've been going up in the range every time, so of course each step has been significantly better for that reason alone!

    Tamplt, can I ask, on the 7000, should I be able to remove the bottom of the group handle (not sure what it's called, but the bit the coffee distributes through?) my 69xx unscrews, but the 7000 is stuck real good and I don't wanna break it if it's not supposed to move!!
    G'day KizZ84

    You are welcome, I just felt it was a good time to do a brief assessment based on my experience and you happened to start this thread... I reckon if I get asked it once a week or so in person, then a few CSr's are possibly wondering the same thing.

    The 7000 - the showerscreens unscrew and the seal comes off the same way as the 6910. The group handle (aka portafilter holder or p/f) also unscrews the same way as the 6910 - but they used a lot more loctite / equivalent on some of them (including my own one). You need to use a vise (pack around the p/f very carefully) and then a moderate amount of applied violence on the handle (grippy gloves should do it).

    Presumably you are converting it to a naked p/f in a lathe? Given the improvement in hole saw technology lately (Sutton & Josco anyway, plus matching "proper trident / three pronged mandrills") IF you have access to a decent drill capable of circa 80rpm (i.e. very sloowwwww) it may be a better option (no need to remove the handle). Cleanup with a standard Dremel grinder setup or grinder "cylinders" on a drill is also pretty quick & accurate nowadays if you don't rush it. Ironic given that I always used a lathe on stainless until an engineer friend of mine demonstrated his latest holesaw recently... Tech moves on.

    Have fun


    TampIt

  9. #9
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    but they used a lot more loctite / equivalent on some of them (including my own one). You need to use a vise (pack around the p/f very carefully) and then a moderate amount of applied violence on the handle (grippy gloves should do it).
    The judicious application of a slight amount of heat from a butane torch or similar, around 150C or so, will significantly lessen the amount of force required and decrease the potential for the possibility of causing any damage....

    Mal.
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  10. #10
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    My oxy is still rusting over at my parents' place, might have to see if there's any juice left ;-)

  11. #11
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    My journey thus far

    Hey TampIt

    I'd like to make a naked PF, but more inclined to do it to the 69xx one... Main thing is just cleaning. I'm a little OCD with secondhand equipment and wanna pull apart the whole thing for cleaning. Who knows what is in that little pipeline, it smells sour on extraction and has an aftertaste, so have been using the 69xx PF till I can get that one apart. As for quality, the 7k is a much better portafilter, no plastic insert, just machined metal all the way!!

    I have tried to lever it with a screwdriver, get it to budge about 1/2 a turn, but that's it, then I feel like I am going to snap something (screw driver or PF handle) so back off! Maybe someone has cross threaded it, but it doesn't look like it, as it is screwed on flush! :-(

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    The judicious application of a slight amount of heat from a butane torch or similar, around 150C or so, will significantly lessen the amount of force required and decrease the potential for the possibility of causing any damage....

    Mal.

    Good one Mal. As a high grade stainless it is pretty impervious to heat (should have thought of it - duh). The acetal handle is not flameproof - a little care would be needed. Perhaps heat it up on the group (even pull a shot or two) and then unscrew it when it is warmer! The strange thing is several friends have 7000's and most of the p/f handles come off easily. The ones that don't seem to be almost welded in place.

    Quote Originally Posted by KizZ84 View Post
    Hey TampIt

    I'd like to make a naked PF, but more inclined to do it to the 69xx one... Main thing is just cleaning. I'm a little OCD with secondhand equipment and wanna pull apart the whole thing for cleaning. Who knows what is in that little pipeline, it smells sour on extraction and has an aftertaste, so have been using the 69xx PF till I can get that one apart. As for quality, the 7k is a much better portafilter, no plastic insert, just machined metal all the way!!

    I have tried to lever it with a screwdriver, get it to budge about 1/2 a turn, but that's it, then I feel like I am going to snap something (screw driver or PF handle) so back off! Maybe someone has cross threaded it, but it doesn't look like it, as it is screwed on flush! :-(
    Kiz, just find a slatted bench (standard old bus seat is perfect) and wedge the spouts & unscrew it using the handle. That gives you access to all the bits you need to clean. No need to remove the p/f handle at all. BTW, it still has loctite but a little leverage gets them off easily.

    I agree - do the 6910, not the 7000. The older style 6910 shown in your photo originally had a brass p/f. A decent holesaw will go through it like firm cheese (a max 5 minute job). Later 6910's have a stainless p/f under the useless bit of plastic - needs to be done more carefully with a much slower drill speed.

    TampIt

  13. #13
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    My journey thus far

    If you haven't already you can remove the plastic insert from the 6910 PF. Take the spout off then push through the hole from underneath and it will just pop out. Then throw it away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeroyC View Post
    If you haven't already you can remove the plastic insert from the 6910 PF. Take the spout off then push through the hole from underneath and it will just pop out. Then throw it away.
    I had a laugh, I've pulled it out for cleaning, but always put it back in for some reason. Never occurred to me to just toss it ;-)

  15. #15
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KizZ84 View Post
    I had a laugh, I've pulled it out for cleaning, but always put it back in for some reason. Never occurred to me to just toss it ;-)
    . I take it it's now found a suitable resting place. Excellent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeroyC View Post
    . I take it it's now found a suitable resting place. Excellent.
    It certainly has now ;-)

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    My journey thus far

    It continues...

    I popped into my local Cash Converters store earlier in the week and was strolling past their small appliances aisle when, low and behold, what do I see before me, but a GAGGIA classic hidden amidst a rack of scummy plastic pod machines!! Better yet, not sure who was responsible for pricing that day, but the $29 tag had it snapped off the shelf and cradled in my arms as I rushed for the counter!!

    Definitely needed some loving elbow grease put in, but I think the results speak for themselves:

    When I got it home:





    Cracking her open:





    After a clean and epic descaling session:







    Right at home:



    Whilst I am having some fun with my first traditional boiler machine, and it certainly pulls a nice shot, I don't think it will take the place of the Sunbeam, so will eventually probably have to go!

    Not having a lot of luck with the pantella wand either:

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  18. #18
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    Nice find!
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  19. #19
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Nice work KizZ...

    These Gaggias have a pretty strong following for good reason, they are relatively easy (and inexpensive) to get parts for when needed and quite easy and simple to work on. For owners that want to go to the trouble, the Steam Wand can be updated for better performance and a PID Controller installation puts the quality in the cup up there with the best of 'em but isn't necessary if Temp. Surfing doesn't bother you...

    Mal.
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