Category Archives: Manual Machine

Ask Gail: Espresso Shot Quality

espresso shot qualityAs with everything in life, when you choose one thing you will always have give up a little something elsewhere. And that’s not always a bad thing! But in order to make an informed decision you should know what it is exactly that you will be gaining and losing. When it comes to espresso machines, a lot of what you will be gaining and losing is espresso shot quality.

Let us preface by saying that there are a lot of factors that need to come together in unison in order to create the perfect shot of espresso. Everything from the grind, to the tamp, to the humidity in your environment need to be just right for that espresso to make the ultimate list of all things delicious. So one machine simply can’t make all things come true. But it certainly can get you close.

When it comes to espresso machines you have essentially three families: manual, semi-automatic and super-automatic. We are going to focus on the semi- and super-automatics since they tend to be the most popular. The super-automatics are the one stop shop machines. Espresso at the push of a button. Super convenient for those who want it. The semi-automatics give you a little more control over your espresso shot. You have the ability to fine tune your grind and tamp pressure to just how you like it. That is not to say that super-automatics don’t give you options, but there will inherently be less.

As a result, your shots will vary from machine to machine. We think that you can pull better shots on a semi-automatic but that comes at a cost. You will be required to hone your craft in order to get that sweet nectar just right. While a super-automatic will get you close enough with little to no effort. It all comes down to what you want! That’s really the best part of it all.

Watch the video below to hear Gail’s full explanation of espresso shot quality from machine to machine. And be sure to check out our YouTube channel as well for more information and Crew Reviews!

 

How to Descale a La Pavoni

Uncle BobWe’ve descaled double boilers, heat exchangers, every superautomatic under the sun and even simple thermoblock-driven machines, but in all of our years giving scale the what-for inside espresso machines, we had not descaled a La Pavoni. So when Sam’s Uncle Bob asked us to show him the ropes, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to delve into something completely new!

La PavoniThe first part of the process, of course, was to find a willing participant, and Bunny stepped in to do the job. After working in our retail store for years and performing tune-ups for customers, she knows a thing or two about descaling machines, so we tasked her with researching how to perform it on a manual lever style machine like the La Pavoni. What she learned (and what we then filmed) was deceptively simple! It will take some time, patience, a little elbow grease and, of course, some Dezcal, but it was a very effective method for removing scale within the La Pavoni’s boiler and on its heating element.

Watch as she guides us through the process. And if you happen to have a La Pavoni or a lever machine that you descale in a different way, we’d love to learn new techniques! Post your process in the comments and we’ll share with the class.

SCG How-To Guides: Descaling La Pavoni Manual Espresso Machines

SCG How-To Guides: Packing Your Espresso Machine for Shipping

Packing an Espresso Machine for ShippingDoes your Saeco Via Venezia need to be repaired but you don’t have a repair center in your area? Did you try on a DeLonghi Magnifica for size and it didn’t quite fit? Will that Rocket Espresso R58 see more action at your vacation home? Regardless of your reason for shipping your espresso machine — repair, return or simple transit — ensuring that it’s packed properly to limit damage is key.

In this series of videos, we asked a member of our shipping crew, Spencer, to guide us through the best practices for three general styles of espresso machines: Small (under 35lbs), large (over 35lbs) and superautomatics (watch those drip trays!). Check out the video that most closely matches your style of machine to learn how the pros do it.

Episode One: Packing a Small (Under 35lbs) Espresso Machine

Episode Two: Packing a Large (Over 35lbs) Espresso Machine

Episode Three: Packing a Superautomatic Espresso Machine

Maintenance Tip: Steaming with Rinza

RinzaLooking for a quick and easy way to keep the milk-residue at bay on your espresso machine’s steam wand? If you can take it apart and soak the components in a solution like Rinza or Full Circle’s Milk Cleaning Solution or Milk Wash, that’s a great idea, but what if there’s a leetle bit o’ milk hanging out in the internals of your wand?

Check out Gail’s super simple tip for keeping your steam wand super clean, even if you can’t easily take it apart to clean separately.

Compare: La Pavoni Manual Lever Espresso Machines

For classic espresso extraction, it’s difficult to beat the clean lines and elegant design of La Pavoni’s series of lever espresso machines. We sell a few different variations, so asked Gail to take us through a feature and functionality comparison of them.


If you’d like to see these guys in action, we have a few different videos on that topic:

  1. Learning to use the La Pavoni
  2. Frothing on the La Pavoni
  3. Crew Review: La Pavoni Stradivari 16

Tech Tip: Portafilter Positioning

When is it time to say when? We’re often asked where the portafilter should be in respect to the machine — at a 90 degree angle? 45 degree? A little over to the right? Every machine will be a little bit different and the key is to make sure that it feels snug. Additionally, you’ll find that you’ll move it further as the gasket ages.

Watch as Gail demonstrates the position on several of our demo machines of varying style and age.

Espresso Machine Maintenance with Urnex

Keeping your equipment sparkling clean is just as important as the freshness of your coffee and dialing in  your grind & tamp — in fact, without the former, the latter will be an exercise in futility. If we have to tell you that rancid coffee oils will adversely impact the quality of your shot, we’re sorry. But if we have to be the first, then we might as well do it right, right? So we asked Louie Poore, who specializes in educating professional baristas on proper equipment care for Urnex, to give us the rundown.

First, he introduces us to Urnex’s new Full Circle, sustainably-produced cleaning products — including a toe-to-toe comparison of Cafiza and Full Circle’s coffee equipment wash.

Next, he walks us through using tablets to backflush the La Marzocco GS/3.

Finally, Gail shows us the newly arrived 1, 2, Brew Kit for Espresso Machines, which features the goodies you need to keep your machine in tip-top shape (plus a bag of Velton’s Coffee of your choice!).

Espresso Machine Storage Tips

Leaving your machine alone for the winter? Need to store it or move it (by hand) to a new location? Gail gives us some tips on what you should do to prepare your machine so you limit the possibility of damage.

Brew Tips: Tamper Base Testing

Does the shape of your tamper’s base make a significant difference in your shot’s quality? That’s the question that we asked and we brought in five base variations to help determine the answer.

Dialing in the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus with a standard flat base, we then pulled shots using the c-flat, US curve, Euro curve, ripple and c-ripple base styles available from Reg Barber. Watch as Gail tastes each shot to practically assess whether or not the base structure makes a noticeable difference.