Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.
Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.
First we took brewing to the mat with The ‘Great’ Breville Brew Experiment, then we took on the steaming side o’ things with The ‘Great’ Breville Steaming Experiment and now it’s time to give temperature the what for.
A YouTube viewer suggested that we try pulling shots with cool tap water and then warm water in the reservoir to see how it would measure up with the Breville’s thermoblock. The results? Much better temperature with the warm tap water versus the cold tap water — so if you’re using a Breville and trying to get a great shot, you might want to introduce this variable into the mix.
Watch all the action:
Cleaning and maintenance is a hot topic in this neck o’ the woods, but some folks aren’t clear on which specific maintenance routines apply to the type of machine they own. This comes up specifically in regard to backflushing — do you or don’t you?
You do backflush if you own a machine with a valve system referred to as a three-way solenoid, brew pressure release, three-way valve, solenoid valve or any other combination of these phrases. Not sure if your machine has this? If your machine has an E61 brew group (such as those on Rockets, Quick Mills, Izzos or Grimacs), it has this valve system. Other models that feature this without the E61 are those made by La Spaziale, Pasquini, the Rancilio Silvia and Ascaso’s Uno Pro and Duo series. This valve system relieves pressure post-brew, which results in a drier puck, but it sucks a little bit of coffee and water into the system each time which can build up in there and adversely impact the machine’s performance. Backflushing forces detergent and water through the valve system, thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining the system. It also has the added benefit of cleaning up behind the brew head’s screen without taking it apart.
You don’t backflush if your machine doesn’t have this system — because you don’t have the valves to clean! Some machines that don’t need backflushing include the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia, Sirena, models made by Breville, those from Francis Francis!/illy and Delonghi and Capresso semi-automatics. But since you’re not forcing detergent through the brew head, you will need to take it apart semi-regularly to clean up behind the brew screen.
The best way to determine if you need to backflush your machine is to read the manufacturer’s manual and the machine’s technical specifications to see if it has the valve system. If it doesn’t, you’re good to go; if it does, you should backflush once every 1 – 2 weeks, depending on how often you use the machine.
Creating a silky microfoam can be a challenging enterprise: Even with the higher end prosumer machines we sell, it is arguably the most difficult skill to learn and sometimes takes more practice (and patience!) than folks expect from the outset.
The technique involves infusing the right amount of air and steam at the right pace to ‘stretch’ the milk, ultimately resulting in that wet paint texture that can be used in latte art, if you’ve got the skillz. You rest the tip of the steam wand on the surface of the milk and ‘ride’ it as the milk is slowly expanding with tiny air bubbles and coming up to temperature via the machine’s steam. You’ve got to keep a steady roll going, the bubbles to a minimum and eventually you’ll submerge the wand completely once you’ve achieved the amount of foam you want and need to simply bring it up to temperature.
If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:
- To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
- To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
- To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)
Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.
Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.
In the vein of the old Profi Estro machines that had a grinder built into the machine, Breville recently released the Barista Express, a programmable espresso machine that has a doser grinder incorporated into it. You can select the quantity and then indicate either a double or single amount to be dispensed into the portafilter, then tamp and extract. The pressurized portafilter system makes it simple to use, and it even comes with its own magnetized tamper.
Watch Gail show us the ropes of this machine, pull some shots and steam up some milk. While the shot quality on this Breville does seem to be a bit better than the others we have tried, we still think this machine is probably best suited for latte/cappuccino drinkers and espresso shot-only or Americano drinkers will find better flavor elsewhere.
Round two of our experimentation with the Breville machines covers steaming. We liked the fact that you could take off the panarello sleeve on this machine and have access to a standard steam wand that would allow you more control over steaming. So Gail tried it out both ways — with the panarello sleeve and without — to see how it performed and this video records the result for posterity.
The Brevilles are a recent addition to our suite of products here at Seattle Coffee Gear, and we have been messing around with them for awhile to determine the best way to make them perform well — and if that’s even possible! In this video, we take the Breville Die Cast Programmable espresso machine through the paces, trying out different grinds, tamps, filters and measuring the temperature. The result? Watch to find out!
While relying a bit more on form than function, Breville‘s series of espresso machines do offer some great features like dosage programming and on-the-fly water heating, plus quite striking design. In this video, Gail discusses the different machines available and tells us their features, pros and cons.