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).
A public service announcement from our technical department regarding the care & feeding of your burr grinder:
Never adjust the grind finer without turning the grinder on. The motor needs to be on & spinning as you adjust the burrs more closely together to ensure that beans are not compacted in the burr teeth, clogging the burrs or carrying grinds into the grinding chamber threads, thus jamming the burr carrier. This can damage and/or break the grinder and is not something that is covered under any manufacturer or retailer warranty.
So if you’re going to tweak your grind to go a little finer, kick on the grinder first and, if you have beans in the hopper, make sure it’s grinding normally as you move the burrs closer together. This will ensure that you don’t clog/jam the burrs and potentially damage the grinder.
Saeco’s Odea Go and Giro superautomatic espresso machines are a little bit on the tenderhearted side: They have sensitive sensors that are sometimes difficult to interpret.
We commonly receive calls from customers who are being prompted to empty the waste drawer (dregs box and water tray located with the brew group on the right side of the machine) more often than they deem necessary. There are two sensor lights that can indicate this needs to happen:
This light specifically indicates that the dregs drawer needs to be emptied
This light indicates any number of issues are present and is not specific — you may need to add beans, add water or empty the dregs drawer
The dregs box that catches used pucks doesn’t use a sensor that measures the volume, rather, it’s based on cup count — around every 10 shots it will indicate that the dregs box needs to be emptied. The waste water area under the brew group, however, is pressure sensitive and will indicate it needs to be emptied once a specific weight has been reached.
If you see the warning light and empty only the dregs box and not the waste water drawer as well, it will reset the dregs box shot count but then indicate (likely shortly thereafter) that the drawer needs to be emptied again because the waste water has reached capacity. And vice versa. Another cause for the frequency may be that the dregs box was removed, emptied and placed back into the machine too quickly or when the machine was off, so that the shot count was not reset.
You can easily keep these overactive lights at bay by thoroughly cleaning the dregs drawer — both the box and the waste water area — each time it indicates it needs to be emptied. Also, making sure you do this when the machine is on is very important. Finally, expect that it’s going to happen about every 10 shots or so — and if you’re drinking 4 – 6 shots a day, you won’t be able to let those little pucks hang out in the dregs drawer longer than a couple of days.
If you’ve misplaced your user manual and want to refresh your memory on how your Odea functions, here are PDF versions of the Giro and Go.
The most frequent repair issue we see on Ascaso Dream machines (both the older version and the new UP) is a burned out boiler. These machines are single boilers without an automatic boiler refill, so folks often burn out the boiler because they don’t pull enough fresh water into the boiler before trying to steam or brew.
Watch Gail as she walks us through refilling the boiler and temperature surfing on the Dream UP.
Another Rancilio-related FAQ is about the Rocky grinder. Over the last six months or so, we’ve seen an increase in customers contacting us with issues around the Rocky’s ability to effectively grind oilier dark-roasted beans. Gail talks to us about the issue and her theory about what’s going on.
A few times per week, a new Rancilio Silvia owner calls in with this question — what the heck is that 2nd tube for? The machine diagram in the user manual hasn’t been updated by Rancilio to show this tube or describe what it’s for, so we recorded this for posterity. Gail shows us the tubes and talks about their functions.
It’s a good idea to regularly pull out your Saeco superautomatic’s brew group and spray it down with hot water — we recommend doing this once per week and using water only, no soap. Why? Because the soap is going to break down the lubrication on the brew group and you’ll be re-applying it weekly as opposed to twice a year. Ultimately, you’ll be using more than you need to and we’re just thrifty that way.
Gail shows us where to apply the lubricant on the brew group when it is time for a touch up. A general rule of thumb is that if you can see/feel the lubrication on the group, you’re probably as lubricated as you need to be. When applying, don’t put a large quantity into each area; just apply some to a q-tip and then put a light layer. We often see big globs applied that then mix with coffee grounds to make a rather dangerous cement. In this case, you can have too much of a good thing.
While working on a Francis Francis in our repair center, we found out it’s awesome little secret: It comes with an internal PID! You can’t adjust it yourself, and some of the newer models like the X7 aren’t designed to be adjusted at all, but it will keep the boiler’s temp within 1 degree of the set temperature — unlike less sophisticated thermostats that have a varying range of about 20 degrees and, thus, require temperature surfing.
Josh and Gail cracked open an X7 to show its guts and glory!
The Ascaso Dream UP is considered a ‘versatile’ espresso machine, meaning that — like its predecessor — the brew head has been designed for use with both ESE pods and ground coffee. However, the stock brew head definitely favors pods and you don’t get as rich of a shot using grounds as you can off of other machines in this class.
When we did our review recently, we noticed that even though the new UP has a three-way solenoid valve, it didn’t seem to perform that well, leaving really soupy grounds behind. So we decided to experiment with the machine by installing the Brew Head Upgrade kit to see if that improved the performance. It did!
Watch Gail show us the different screens, talk about how they perform and demonstrate a shot. We even spliced in footage from the original review (accompanied by super sessy muzak!) for easy side-by-side comparison.
Recently re-engineered, Ascaso’s Duo series is designed to give you a little bit more power than a traditional single boiler at a portion of the cost of a heat exchange or double boiler. With a semi-automatic version or programmable/automatic version available, the Duos feature a brew boiler, thermoblock for steaming and two separate pumps so that you can theoretically brew and steam at the same time.
We have noticed that the steaming function is not as strong as you find on machines that have a steam boiler to back it up, and also that the Duos do not have a PID on the brew boiler, so you still have to temperature surf to be certain of where your temperature is at in the heating cycle. Watch Gail show us the internals of a Duo, temperature surf and pull a couple of comparison shots.