While we have carried a bottomless portafilter for E61 brew heads that also did work fairly well in the Rancilio Silvia’s brew head, it didn’t seal quite as we might like and so there was often a little bit of water leakage over the top that really was just gauche.
Rancilio released their own version for their commercial machines that fits the Silvia, so we gave it a test drive. We did notice a bit of water leaking over the top, but nothing like the former model. And the spurting/spraying/mini-geysers? There were a few present in Gail’s extraction — more of a fine mist — but that’s just a result of channeling, baby.
Wanna see it in action? Watch Gail demonstrate it on our store’s PID-enhanced Silvia.
We’ll admit that we have a little bit of a soft spot for Crossland Coffee’s CC1. While it may not be the sexiest machine on the block, it’s hard to beat all the excellent features for the price!
Setting it up for the first time does involve a bit of care and feeding to ensure the boiler is filled properly and will then recover/heat consistently afterward. So we asked Gail to show us how to set this little baby up right out of the box — and, thankfully, she agreed.
Watch the setup process as well as tips Gail has around troubleshooting the ‘HH’ error that appears if your boiler is not filled properly and, therefore, overheats.
So you’re in the market for an espresso machine and you’re not sure what all these different portafilter styles are about, eh? We’ve created this handy guide to break ‘em down for you.
A great learning tool for the newbie barista, the pressurized portafilter can be found on most entry level machines and takes away the stress of finding the precise grind and tamp before you extract an ideal shot.
The Way It Works
Creating the pressure that tamping would create, the pressurized portafilter is built with the function to allow water to pass through the filter when the exact pressure is reached. With no need to base it on your tamp, it will do the work for you giving you a consistent shot every time. Whether it be with a valve or a filter basket, all you need to do is fill the portafilter with your favorite ground coffee, level it out, insert the portafilter in the brew head and watch it extract your shot, leaving it to do all the work and you stress free.
However, even though the pressurized portafilter may take a lot of the work off your hands, what you’ll be trading it off for is the ability to control the flavor and strength of your brew. While commercial portafilters are made of durable chrome, stainless steel and brass material, most pressurized portafiters are are made with aluminum and plastic, which don’t maintain heat as well as the more durable commercial portafilters.
This is how the big boys roll, or let’s just say these are the portafilters that give you the ability to control the taste and quality of your shot. When you’ve passed the stage of having your machine do all the work for you, this is where you can get your own hands dirty and start learning how important dialing in your grind and knowing what 30 lbs. of pressure feels like when you tamp.
The Way It Works
The commercial portafilter is made from heavier materials (chrome, brass, stainless steel) and will likely last longer. With these components, it guarantees heat stability which is key when making the ideal shot.
However, with more quality parts comes a little more time spent preparing your extraction. You’ll now have the variables of grind consistency, coarseness, tamp pressure and dosage to concern yourself with. You’ll calibrate your shot based on shot timing, changing each of these variables one by one to achieve the correct grind for your grinder, coffee and machine. With great power comes great responsibility, so while you have the most potential to get a great shot with this style of portafilter, that potential all lies in your hands and skill set.
If it’s mess free that you want, it’s mess free that you’ll get. Taking a cue from tea bags, pods are single shots of prepackaged coffee sealed in a paper filter. Not only are they mess free but they are convenient, taking away the need to dial-in the right grind and filling your portafilter with the ideal amount of ground coffee.
The Way It Works
Most semi-automatics that are E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) friendly, tend to include a pod adapter that you can pop right into your single basket filter for your portafilter. Once that adapter is in all you need to do is place a pod in the portafilter and lock it into place in your machine’s brew head.
However, unlike grinding your grounds fresh, we’ll warn you that your shot may not taste as rich and velvety smooth, nor will it have that layer of rich crema as fresh ground coffee does. Also, you’ll have little to no control over the strength of your espresso since each pod is already pre-measured and packaged.
No this isn’t rated X, but let’s just say you’ll go balls-to-the-walls-crazy for this portafilter when you see how sexy your shots will be when they’re extracted! A bottomless portafilter looks exactly like your average commercial portafilter except the bottom half is cut off, so your extraction is visible and ‘nakedly’ exposed for all to see.
The Way It Works
The bottomless portafilter is also a great teaching tool as you’re able to see the bottom of the portafilter and what the color of your extraction is once the hot water hits the coffee grounds. You’ll also seeing channeling, if you’re tamping harder on one side vs. the other, etc. Just like the commercial portafilter you’ll go through the same exact steps, dialing in your grind, finding what 30 lbs. of pressure is like and locking in your portafilter in the brew head.
The benefits of having a naked portafilter versus a dressed (commercial) portafilter is the ability to identify blonding, tiger striping, channeling, overdosing and the evenness of your tamp, which is usually hidden with a portafilter with single or double spouts.
Channeling happens when “spurters” or “geysers” occur. This is when espresso sprays out in small or large jet-like streams at various angles from your extraction. There also are multiple smaller streams that are separate from the unified stream which indicates side channeling. A perfect extraction will not have any channeling.
You asked for it, so we answered! Recently, a viewer suggested that we experiment with the Aeropress when making Turkish coffee. So we asked our resident Turkish coffee expert, Rade, to jump into the 21st century by prepping up some coffee and then putting it through an Aeropress.
Watch to find out how the experiment turned out.
A common inquiry we receive is in regard to the type of water customers should use in their coffee making equipment. Some folks think that distilled water will be their best bet, as they won’t have to worry about scale build up or performing descaling procedures for the life of the machine. While there seems to be as many supporters as there are detractors regarding whether or not it’s healthy for the human body, we do know that distilled water is not healthy for your machine. Seriously!
First up, let’s talk about your equipment. Putting water that has a lack of ions or mineral content through equipment that is basically composed of minerals (stainless steel, copper, nickel, brass, etc.) means the water will take that opportunity to take on ions from the surrounding space, contributing to a slow breakdown of those materials. It will essentially leach minerals out of the metal components and degrade the machine’s performance over time. Additionally, there are several models of machines on the market (such as the Rockets) that use a minor electrical charge to determine if there is water in the reservoir. If there aren’t enough minerals in the water to conduct that charge, the machine’s sensor will report that the reservoir is empty.
Now, let’s talk about the coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America performed extensive testing and found that the ideal mineral balance is 150 parts per million (ppm). Coffee produced with water that contains this level of hardness is better balanced and a smoother cup. A lower mineral content allows for too much available space, often resulting in an overextraction and a bitter flavor. Conversely, water with a higher mineral content won’t have enough available space, so coffee will be underextracted and possibly more sour. As distilled water has hardly any mineral content (roughly 9ppm), using it for coffee preparation will result in a bitter cup.
We often say that you should use water that you like to drink to make your coffee — after all, coffee is over 98% water. Another option is to use softened water, which encapsulates the minerals, maintaining their structure within the water while prohibiting their ability to adhere to internal components. This can give you the best of both worlds: A smooth and balanced cup of coffee while also reducing the overall maintenance for the life of the machine.
We offer a couple of different coffee varieties that are treated with a nitrogen flush during their packaging (specifically, Lavazza and illy employ this practice), and we often have folks ask about what this is and why it’s done.
Once a food is processed, it begins to deteriorate immediately with exposure to oxygen. Foods that are high in fat or oil content are especially susceptible to this degradation, as their oils will begin to break down and become rancid in relatively short order. Flushing the package with nitrogen forces out the majority of oxygen and, unlike vacuum-sealing, also provides a bit of packaging protection as well. Nitrogen-flushing is often used with more delicate foods (like potato chips!), but is also very popular in preserving coffee beans.
According to a few different roasters over on coffeed.com, coffee preservation experiments revealed that while packaging the coffee directly after roast did result in the out-gassed CO2 expelling oxygen through the one-way valve, their nitrogen-flushed counterparts lasted longer. In fact, one roaster reported that the shots pulled with a bag roasted 24 days previously still held up well! A major drawback, however, is that the nitrogen flushing process is not considered to be an organic-friendly practice, so roasters that are certified organic cannot employ this technique.
Whether or not you’re cool with this preservation process is sort of personal preference, but it’s something that a lot of large scale roasters practice — even some of the renowned third wave roasters, like Europe’s Coffee Collective. And while the coffee will stay fresher using this method, once the bag is opened, it will age just as rapidly as any other variety … so use it or lose it.
While we have over 100 different espresso machines at our jittery little fingertips each day, our crew sometimes opts to brew a batch o’ java using a different method. We asked Gail, Bunny, Allie, Brandi and Rade to share which non-espresso coffee preparations they dig the most, then filmed how they do it.
We shot this series over a few weeks and didn’t realize until the slice-n-dice that one very common theme throughout is that all of us lack the precision some folks adore, but we’re pretty sure you know that about us by now!
Watch as each of our trusty compatriots talk about why they like the prep they’ve chosen and make us a cup so we can taste their handiwork. This video is a true homage to shooting from the hip if there ever was one.
A little bit of the ol’ science behind the magic! Dialing in a grinder is one of the most fearsome tasks for new home espresso enthusiasts, and we’re often asked for advice on how to get the hang of it.
While we produced a video a couple of years ago that covers this topic, we have had many folks ask more questions that weren’t covered in the original version and we’ve learned a few new tips and tricks along the way. Watch Gail dial in the Nuova Simonelli Grinta for the Nuova Simonelli Oscar, providing recommendations that can be applied to any home espresso setup.
Do you really need a fancy, specially-designed gadget to brew up a batch of cold coffee? Or can you just use your trusty ol’ press pot? While we carry a couple of different cold brew options (from Hario and Sowden), we wanted to see if using one of them (namely, the Sowden) produced a better, worse or similar cup to making a cold brew with a La Cafetiere french press.
So we put Allison to the test! Watch as we brew up a batch in each, using the same grind and coffee-to-water ratios, allowing them to sit over night and then giving them a taste test. We also compare how much sediment appears in the cup. So exciting!