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Yes, it is true. After about 12 years, I’ve finally decided to move the guide to using a La Pavoni manual lever espresso machine to another home.

The site has generated quite a bit of traffic over to years and I’ve met some great people through it, but various bits of functionality have stopped working. So, the decision was made a few years to move it to a more modern platform. Well, it took a while, but the new site is at Coffee Gurus

The site is still a work in progress. For now, you can add comments with tricks and tips etc. Have fun! Let me know if you have any suggestions.

As some of you may know, I’m traveling on business in New York City for the week.  NYC has got to be one of the foodie capitals of the world.  With the all the cosmopolitan flavours, the high density of people from all backgrounds, and the amount of cash (still) flowing here…it all adds up to the ability to find great eats at all price levels.

One envious colleague knows about my coffee fetish, and was wondered out loud whether even the coffee tastes better in NYC.  At first, I thought it was a silly comment, but you know what?  IT DOES!  Even your average cup from a street vendor tastes pretty good.

Sure there are artisanal roasting of superior beans here and yes, there are great barristas that care about their craft.  But do you know what I think makes the biggest difference???

The WATER.  Yep, the tap water here tastes great!  This goes against most people’s idea of the state of tap water in this bustling metropolis, but it is true.

I always thought the tap water tasted good, but never really put too much thought into it.  But, while at dinner with a friend that’s a local, she mentioned that NYC’s tap water consistently rates extremely highly as the healthiest and best tasting in the nation.

A bit of research shows that the municipal water system is fed by 19 reservoirs and three lakes in upstate New York.  Most of the supply is protected and filtered by the natural processes of the upstate ecosystems.  In blind taste tastes, NYC’s water frequently rates right at the very top.

So, it makes sense.  If, the main part of a cup of coffee is water, then BETTER WATER = BETTER COFFEE

For those of us that don’t have the luxury of having best tasting tap water, or have municipal water systems that add a lot of chemicals for treatment, the best thing you can do for the taste of your coffee is to run the water through something like a Brita filter.

The fact that NYC’s water may not be kosher is another story…  🙂

While the ECM Giotto is out of service waiting for a small part, I’ve been using the Pavoni and for a change took out the Bialetti Moka Express.
I have the medium sized one that holds 6 cups and while it isn’t technically espresso, I like the rich full bodied moka that it makes with Lavazza “Qualita Oro” out of a vac pack.
For those that don’t know, Bialetti has been making this stove top coffee maker since 1933.  In Italy, where these are still made (although I’ve seen some steel Bialetti made in China…a shame), it is an iconic fixture in almost every home.
The original model was and is made of aluminum–a material popular at the time as a sign of Italy’s modernity.  They pots are also made by other vendors as well in both aluminum and other materials such as steel, glass, etc.  Being a traditionalist, mine is aluminum.
Some tips:
– Use coffee that is ground a bit coarser than you’d normally use in your espresso machine.
– The instructions say to not tamp, but I do…lightly using the bottom of a plastic baby bottle.  YMMV.
– Italians swear that the more you use the pot, the better the brew.  I’m not sure why they think this, but my guess is that after a while without scrubbing with steel wool etc., that the pots start to oxidize a bit…and over time, this makes the metal more neutral to the coffee being brewed.  So, I only rise the pot out with water and wipe off the residual coffee with a wet cloth.  So far so good.
Try it, you’ll like it.  These coffee makers are relatively cheap and widely available.

Well, the the burr grinding of the PC Grinder was fine, the over quality of the grinder is NASTY. After a few months of messing with various bits falling off the grinder, the entire top bean hopper snapped off!

I reattached it with duct tape (yes, I’m a geek) and it worked for a while longer until I could no longer stand it!

It has since been replaced with a new burr grinder that was on sale at Starbucks. More later on that.

In the meantime, dear readers, my advice is to stay away from the PC Grinder!

In my never ending quest for a good deal, I wandered by my friendly neighborhood Loblaws (a large grocery chain in my neck of the woods). Along with foodstuffs, they are starting to sell VERY stylish small appliances and other household items for very low prices under the PC (President’s Choice) brand.

For instance, I bought a beautiful chrome toaster with bagel sized slots and even a defrost setting for $12. It works great and is on par with a toaster 10x as much. So, needless to say, I was quite excited to see a burr grinder for $29. Well, let’s just say that my enthusiasm was a bit misplaced.

The grinder looks good, has nice burrs, but the plastic bits aren’t up to snuff. The top hopper area attaches to the metal base with a few plastic prongs. Either while using the hopper to twist the grind settings (like I do on my Gaggia MDF) or just normal regular grinding, the plastic prongs snapped off…and probably got ground into smithereens.

Other than that, the coffee comes out of the chute and sprays coffee all over the counter unless the rubber seal is perfectly seated into the receptacle. I don’t know about you, but when I need a cup of coffee in the morning, I’m not exactly in a mood to be messing with aligning plastic bits with rubber bits yada yada.

The coffee that comes out is very nicely ground though, and not simply pulverized as in a whirlyblade grinder. This makes a big difference in the level of silt you get in a cup from using a french press.

I’m thinking of modifying the grinder to accept a glass hopper that is permanently affixed along with a longer chute into a metal coffee catcher. For now, my wife is using it but it is slowly driving me nuts.

Overall, I wouldn’t buy the grinder again. Looks great, has great features at a great price….but the performance and durability just isn’t there. $29 isn’t a bargain in this case, it is money misspent… 🙁

We were vacationing on Cape Cod and went to a coffee shop in Provincetown. The place was called Wired Puppy which had excellent in-house roasted coffee and a nice assortment of coffee toys such as decent espresso machines and accessories. To top it off, there were a few laptops hooked up to the internet for a bit of surfing and email…and open wifi was free to all.

While looking through the store, I saw an IMEX Home Coffee Roaster that was originally marked $200…reduced to $20. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Needless to say, I pulled out a double sawbuck and took the roaster home.

I haven’t used it yet, but first impressions are that the machine is pretty well built. It is basically a hot air roaster connected to a timer. The clear top should allow for a good view of how the roast is progressing. There is a screen to keep the chaff from entering the motor, but I’m not convinced that the roasting will be smoke-free as per instructions.

More later, but for $20…how can you go wrong? I think my last air popcorn popper I bought for coffee roasting cost more than this.

I couldn’t take it anymore. The ECM Giotto at home has been dripping from the around the portafilter for the past little while. The reason being that the filter gasket was old, hard, and cracked.

So, I pick up a new gasket on the way to the office. This sets me about around $13. This is the easy part.

When I get home to attempt the repair, I find that the old gasket doesn’t want to come out.

The instructions that I found on the web are straight forward and shold work for all E61 group head machines:

– Remove the drip tray

– Take a flat screw driver and lever against the inside of the group head and the outside of the shower filter. The shower filter and gasket will drop out. (yeah, right)

– To re-instate the filter and new gasket. Insert the shower into the new gasket ensuring the flat side of the gasket is facing down.

– Take the portafilter and remove the coffee filter. Place the gasket and shower set in the portafilter and load into the group by applying upward pressure and turning, as if loading into the machine normally. Turn the portafilter around so it goes beyond the right angle position. (yeah right, again….)


What you REALLY need to do:

What you really need to do, if the gasket is hard, is to chip out the old one with a small chisel. Once it cracks and a fair sized piece falls out, use a flat screwdriver to pry out the rest of the old cracked bits of rubber until the rest of the gasket is removed.

If you try to do a brute force prying of the shower filter, I’m pretty sure the screw driver will puncture and damange the shower filter.

To replace the gasket, you need to put a tiny bit of dish soap or food grade lubricant on the outside of the gasket to lube it. Next, fit the gasket back into the groove by prying lightly with a flat head screwdriver so that it is seated all the way around. THEN, use the empty portafilter and use it to press the gasket back into the machine.

Paul Martinetti writes:

“Yesterday I bought a Capresso Infinity grinder at Williams-Sonoma for $140. They will refund me if it doesn’t grind fine or consistent enough for the pump machine..haven’t tried it yet. If it is unsatisfactory I will look into the Rancillio.”

Later, he reports:

“I’m pleased with the grinder’s consistency and fineness. The dark oily beans ground in the extra-fine settings stalled my La Pavoni, but the fine settings are perfect. Most important it lets me pull a great decaf for my wife, because it grinds more fine than the Turkish setting at my local Starbucks.

The reviews were accurate that it is tough to clean. There is a groove between the spinning disk and the well wall that is impossible to clean thoroughly. The blunt teeth on the disk push ground coffee out the shoot, but the fine grounds cake up easily and cling to every surface. It’s also a bit clumsy scooping the powdery fine ground coffee from the collection bin to load the portafilter. And I think the motor spins a bit too fast to allow beans to easily drop into the burrs in extra fine settings, beans bounce around quite a bit.

Overall I’m pleased not to have to buy ground coffee, and the improved flavor seems worth the extra cleaning effort. If I were to upgrade grinders I would want an improved dispenser for the ground coffee, and a machine that cleans thoroughly in less time.”

Hmmm…you might want to check this out. It seems cheap from Amazon.

Must have missed this while going through my emails, but it seems that the world is full of Coffee Fiends.
Even better, they dig La Pavoni.

Hmm…I really should be more dilligent about checking my e-mails. Thanks Brunsli!

I needed some beans to roast for espresso. While rooting through my pantry, I found a small stash of Colombian beans.

A South American neighbour happened to be visiting. She asked about my crazy hobby probably more out of politeness than anything. In any case, I decided to make her a believer by roasting it up for her to take home.

While I was to explaining to my politely interested neighbour where the beans were from, and what the name refers to, it occured to me that it is a truly crazy and outdated grading system.

You see, for most of Central America and South America, the grading is based on altitude vs. size (higher is generally better). The name Colombian Supremo refers to the solely to the screen size. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that big beans means better quality.
This is completely untrue. However, it stuck and that’s the way it has been for a long time.

The stuff I had was from Narino (south western coastal Colombia). When roasted a bit past “city”, it wasn’t bad as far as Colombian coffees go. Some caramel notes but not too much to write home about.

To me, most Colombian beans are rather boring. You get a clean cup with no aftertaste. This is probably a good thing if you are only to starting to drink coffee, but just having a cuppa joe that isn’t offensive isn’t what makes me go through all the trouble and expense
of sourcing, roasting, grinding and brewing.

Hmmm…enough ranting. Time to pull a shot. Nectar of the gods…