Heat exchange espresso machines offer simultaneous brew and steam functionality by employing a large steam boiler with an embedded brew boiler and a dual pump. They’re easy to use and work well for the majority of home espresso enthusiasts who aren’t interested in dialing in and playing around with different temperatures.
We have two heat exchange, automatic espresso machines in our store so we thought we’d do a lil of the old side-by-side comparison, if you know what we mean. Gail runs through a basic overview of the features on the Nuova Simonelli Musica and Pasquini Livia 90, then pulls shots off each to see if there is any practical difference in shot quality or flavor.
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.
You know we are so focused on cleanliness, baby! In addition to descaling, backflushing and washing all your gear regularly, cleaning around the brew head and keeping the gasket free of coffee residue will ensure an effective seal with the portafilter — and a better shot in the end.
If you have a machine with a 58mm brew head, check out this snazzy little brush by Cafelat. It locks into the brew head and makes short work of your maintenance.
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.
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!).
We have a wide array of cleaning products available — from descaler to milk frothing cleaner to backflushing detergent — and, admittedly, we sometimes get a little stuck in our ways. Machines with a three-way brew pressure release/solenoid valve (such as the Rancilio Silvia, La Spaziale machines, many of the Ascaso machines and any of the machines with an E61 brew head), require regular backflushing in order to keep that system in tip top shape.
Heretofore we have always recommended powdered backflush detergent — Cafiza or Joe Glo — but when we were meeting with Urnex a couple of weeks ago, they mentioned using the Cafiza tablets for backflushing. And it blew our minds.
Yeah, it doesn’t take much, does it?
If you want to be precise about the quantity of detergent you’re using in your backflushing and cleaning your gear, these tablets are the exact amount you need. Place one tablet in your backflush basket and follow your process as normal; one tablet in a couple cups of hot water is perfect for soaking baskets, portafilters and any other gear you may have that comes into contact with coffee oils and needs a good scrub down.
So what we previously attributed solely to superautomatic brew group cleanliness is cross functional and a great way to easily backflush your equipment without concern of using too much/too little detergent.
While you won’t find us purporting that cleanliness is next to godliness, you will hear us talk about keeping your gadgets clean for the good of all involved. Because darker roasts (such as French or Italian) bring so much of the bean’s natural oil to the surface, we wondered how this impacts a grinder’s burrs: Does it clog more easily and quickly? Do you need to clean your grinder more often if you’re using this type of bean/roast? What kind of residue does it leave in comparison to grinding medium roast beans?
To determine this, we put two Baratza Virtuosos to the test. Over a month period, we ran the timer on each of them twice each day, using Velton’s Treehouse drip coffee in one and some particularly intense French Roast Gail picked up at Costco in the other. Then we opened them up to find out what kind of residue was left on the burrs.
Watch as Gail takes them apart, meticulously studies them and then tests how easy it is to clean them (using Grindz).