Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen — even if you have ‘soft’ water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine’s performance.
Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don’t risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That’s certainly one tack to take, but we’ve found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.
If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.
Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.
Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler — and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn’t have a detergent component, it’s a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn’t have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.
Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.
We sell several semi-automatic espresso machines (such as the Saeco Aroma or Via Venezia, any of the Brevilles or DeLonghis that feature a pressurized portafilter basket. This is a major functional difference from other machines, like the Rancilio Silvia or Rocket Espresso semi-automatic espresso machines, which have non-pressurized baskets similar to commercial-grade machines. In the photo to the right, you can see the physical difference between a non-pressurized basket (on the left) and a pressurized basket (on the right).
OK, so they look different — but what do they do that’s different? Well, we think it’s all about forgiveness.
Continue reading Ask the Experts: What’s the Difference Between Pressurized and Non-Pressurized Filter Baskets?
The team recently got together to analyze the cost and benefit of making your espresso at home and we released this study last week that details relative savings associated with each drink.
It’s kind of surprising, but we found data to support the fact that the average American coffee drinker can spend about $2800 each year on their daily coffee. This is based on the average cost of a latte at $2.45 and the average number of coffee drinks consumed per day of 3.2. Obviously, lattes can be significantly more expensive (we often shell out nearly $4.50 for a grande soy latte) and your daily consumption can vary, but we figured the averages balance each other out.
If you’re looking for ways to cut your expense budget but don’t want to give up your daily joe, strike a compromise between your hedonism and pragmatism by investing in a home espresso machine.
If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:
- Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
- Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
- Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
- Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
- Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
- Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
- Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
will be scalded
- Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
- Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
- Pour to make your favorite latte art
More visually inclined? Check out our video.
If you’re planning on transporting or storing your machine, it’s important that you drain the boiler of any residual water from the last use. The main reason is so that it doesn’t freeze, expand and damage the internal components.
Here’s a guide on how you can drain your boiler before you store or ship it. This care tip is essential to the longevity of your machine, so don’t skip it!
You may be sensing a theme here…keep it clean! The best way to keep your machine out of the repair shop and performing optimally is to regularly maintain all of its components.
Your machine’s brew group is arguably the most important part, so taking the time to keep it in tip top shape means it will give you delicious espresso shots for years to come.
We’ve compiled some how-to tips for each of the basic styles of home espresso machines. If you need more assistance, refer to your user manual or give us a call.
There’s more to the bottomless portafilter than gorgeous crema and striking pours. In addition to giving you a three shot pull, this tool is fairly unforgiving in the extraction department, making it incredibly useful in helping you perfect your shot.
Without the spout on the bottom, you’ll be able to see your shot as soon as it begins, easily identifying any unevenness in tamp or grind. Once you are able to see an even distribution of the espresso as it pours from the bottom of the filter and coalesces into a thick, tawny stream, you’ll know your shot pulling skills are second to none.
Do you have a machine with an E61 brew group (such as models made by Rocket, Quick Mill or Izzo) that sometimes pulls bitter or burnt shots? It could be that you’ve left the machine on for an extended period of time and that the temperature is too high to pull an ideal shot.
We recommend pulling the lever and letting some water run through for a few seconds before you place your portafilter in the brew group, which will release some of the steam pressure and cool the temperature down a bit. If the machine has been sitting unused for more than 10 minutes, be sure to do this and your shots will taste great every time.
(E61 diagram courtesy of HomeBarista.com)