Category Archives: Semi-Automatic

Ask the Experts: What is a Standard Grinder Setting?

Q. I have a Rocky Doser grinder and would like to know what the standard setting is for my Quick Mill Alexia espresso machine. Can you tell me what number you have your demo model set to?

A. Unfortunately, there is no standard setting for grinders and machines. Each grinder is going to be engineered a little bit differently, so while we could give you a rough estimate of the range, the best way to determine your grinder’s setting is to go through the calibration process.

To calibrate your grinder to your espresso machine, you need to time your shots. The standard timing for a double shot is between 25 – 30 seconds for two shot glasses filled to the 1.5 oz line. When you initiate your shot, you want the extraction to begin 7 – 10 seconds after, and then the espresso should run smoothly into the shot glasses until they’re full at that 25 – 30 second range. Note that this is for a standard shot and there are other shot styles out there (ristretto or luongo) that have shorter or longer extraction time frames. For the purposes of calibration, however, we’ll stick with the standard.

Start with your grinder in a lower end setting — for stepped grinders, maybe start around 5 or 10. Grind and tamp and then time the shot: If it’s coming out too slowly, you know your grind is too fine and you’ll need to make it coarser; if it’s coming out too quickly, then the converse is true and you’ll need to make that too-coarse grind finer. Keep an eye on your tamp because that could also being affecting it — too hard means too slow, too soft means too fast.

Continue to experiment until your shot extraction occurs within the standard time frame. Once you have calibrated your grinder to produce a shot at the rate and consistency described above, make a note of it. This is something that will need to be tweaked regularly — especially if you live somewhere with extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year, as the environment and weather will impact the nature of the bean. You’ll also need to recalibrate if you try different beans, as they will have unique grind requirements.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that calibrating and getting familiar with your grind is a crucial element to producing delicious espresso, so don’t be afraid to experiment or change it often! Espresso is as much art as it is science — tweak it to your individual preferences, regardless of any tenets you may read elsewhere…after all, isn’t that why you decided to make espresso at home in the first place?

New! Rancilio Silvia V.3.0

Rancilio has souped up their semi-automatic espresso machine, the Silvia. Improvements are mostly aesthetic — the portafilter handle is now fashioned similar to their commercial machines and the knob for the steam/hot water has been upgraded — but the steam wand itself is a marked functional improvement with its increased range of motion and an option three-hole tip upgrade.

Watch Gail as she shows us the features of the Rancilio Silvia, version 3.

The Grind – May 2009

The May issue of our monthly newsletter, The Grind, has hit the bricks! Including the Turkish Dee-Lite recipe, our process for making excellent french press coffee, tips on how to brew a strong shot in a superautomatic espresso machine and a directory of all the recent YouTube videos we’ve done over the last month, May’s news is a sweet little compendium of a lot of the content we’ve shared with you here.

But what you won’t find here is The Grind Special — this month: $10 off the Hourglass Cold Brew Coffee Maker! Get this special and all future specials by signing up.

New! Seattle Coffee Gear’s Commercial Espresso Equipment

We have a deep love for and commitment to the home espresso enthusiast, but as our passion for making excellent espresso at home has grown, we have been exploring commercial-grade equipment, too. Obviously, comparatively few of us can afford to drop $15k on an espresso machine for our homes, but if you’re looking to either upgrade your business’ existing setup or thinking about launching a new espresso-based business, we have a wide selection of machines that is going to continue to grow.

Currently featuring primarily La Marzocco and Nuova Simonelli and Rancilio commercial-class espresso machines & grinders, we’ve also included a few of the prosumer class of machines that could work well in a smaller-scale business that has espresso as a complementary service — such as a bookstore or an art gallery. We also have tons of quantity discounts on accessories and wholesale pricing on coffee and syrups so just ask.

We’re excited to venture into a new realm within the coffee world and look forward to talking with you more about it! This blog will also expand as a resource and start offering up information that may be of interest to cafes and other small coffee businesses, so stay tuned.

Tech Tip: Adjusting the Temperature/Pressure on the Rocket Giotto

While Rocket thoroughly calibrates their espresso machines prior to shipping them out, some folks have found that, over time, they can maintain their shot quality by adjusting the temperature of the water that’s delivered to the brew group.

Gail walks us through the process of popping open the lid of the Rocket Giotto Premium Plus and adjusting the pressure to improve the temperature — and while we know people love to geek out and mod their machines themselves, following this process will void any warranties still on the machine. If yours is still under warranty, leave this to the pros.

Crew Review: Quick Mill Anita v. Andreja Premium

The Quick Mill semi-automatic espresso machines are some of the best available on the market — they’ll turn your kitchen into a gourmet coffee stand that serves up excellent java from morning until night (although you might want to put some hours of operation in place if you plan on sleeping regularly).

In the US, Quick Mill offers four semi-automatic espresso machines, all featuring the E61 brew group. The Alexia has a single boiler, which can be modified with a PID controller to provide better performance. Then you’ve got the Anita and the Andreja Premium — both heat exchangers with varying feature differences — and the Vetrano, a plumb-only heat exchange espresso machine.

When folks are narrowing down their search, they’re often interested in what constitutes the few hundred buck difference between the Anita and the Andreja Premium, so we asked Gail to give us a run down on how these machines compare. Of course, we filmed it for all you voyeurs out there — enjoy!

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Brew Tip: Some Like it Hot

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Temperature, temperature, temperature. For truly great espresso, there is a fine balance between too hot and not hot enough — and maintaining the temperature from portafilter to lips is very important. Oh yes, yes it is.

The first step is to let your machine warm up all the way; often, folks think that as soon as the light goes out (generally around 1 – 2 minutes after turning it on), the machine is ready to rock. Not so! In fact, all that means is that the machine has reached ideal boiler temperature, but all of the other parts of the machine have not, so if you pull espresso right at that time, the water is going to cool significantly as it travels through colder apparatus to reach your cup. Depending on your machine, we recommend waiting anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes to allow your machine to reach an even heat.

Next step is to pull some water through the system to warm up the brew head, the portafilter and — if it’s a heat exchange — the copper tubing that pulls water from the reservoir to the brew group. Let it run through and fully warm up all the metal components.

Finally, make sure you’re pulling into a preheated cup; you can easily preheat by using the cup as the container to catch the water you just pulled through the brew group, or you can keep your cups on top of your espresso machine and let them toast as your machine warms up.

Do you have any tips on how you maintain ideal temperature for your espresso extractions? Drop us a comment here if there’s something we didn’t cover that you think is essential.