Coffee Cup
"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved

Coffee Cup
Striving for Consistency
2/18/01 - Consistency is the key and probably the most difficult thing to achieve in espresso. The variables could fill a book let alone the solutions and controls for those variables. The grind, the tamp, the quantity of grounds used whether by weight or by volume, the humidity of the atmosphere in the room, and the blend and roast of beans. Then the water temperature and water pressure in the machine being used, and how consistent those can be maintained during a pull and from one pull to the next, the quality of the water, and so much more.

      If that is not all difficult enough, factor in the God Shot. That once in a dozen, or a week, or a month shot that dances on the tongue, is so full of flavor that it's like a party in your mouth, almost totally lacking in bitterness- not under extracted nor over extracted. That shot that has pulled all the is good from the coffee and left behind all that is bad in the puck. Get one of those once in a while and it spoils you for all the rest of the shots that are good, but not as great as... You find yourself muttering things as you sip like, "Oh, this is nice, but that shot I had the other day was so much better."

      So, what can you do? Well, learn to live with the fact that even those who pull shots for a living and use machines that cost many, many thousands of dollars do not get God Shots consistently. Then learn the procedures to gt shots that are as good and consistent as you possibly can from your machine.

      I actually did pull a God Shot the other day. I am in the midst of roasting and blending for my own house blend for espresso. Why? Why not? I put together five house blend tests batches (all different). One of the tests was a God Shot. My wife (who as you all know by now is not a big fan of the taste of coffee, or at least was not when I started all of this) actually finished nearly the entire straight shot espresso from this pull. It was really quite incredible. When I saw that I realized that, although I would never pull such espresso all the time, I could do better.

      Greg S. In on Usenet had recently been doing some temperature testing with his Silvia that had opened my eyes. By following a simple set of steps before each pull he had been able to achieve a level of temperature control with his Silvia that many though to be difficult or nealry impossible with any home espresso machine. The steps I have been following to duplicate this procedure are as follows:

1) Thoroughly allow Silvia to come to temperature. For me, I usually turn on Silvia and let her "idle" for about an hour before use. Get an appliance timer if you need to get her started before you get up in the morning. If you are going to use a timer, before shutting down Silvia each session, be sure to bleed through the steam wand using the hot water switch until a solid stream of water somes through. This will assure you that the boiler is totally full and can be safely left on during the next session without you being in attendance or worrying about the boiler being run dry.

2) Prepare for the pull as you normally do- prepare pre-heated cup, grind, dose, level, tamp, lock and load.

3) When you are ready to hit the brew switch add the following procedure for which you will need a clock with a sweep second hand. I have taken an inexpensive quartz kitchen clock and removed the hour and minute hands leaving only the sweep second hand for timing purposes:
A) Using a spare container such as a Pyrex measuring cup positioned under the steam wand, open the steam valve and turn on the hot water switch.

B) Pump water into the measuring cup until the ready light comes on. At that very instant click the switch off, begin timing, and then turn off the hot water/steam knob. Only then should you remove the measuring cup from under the steam wand. From the time the ready light became illuminated, time twenty seconds.

C) When twenty seconds has elapsed, turn on the brew switch and begin the timing for your shot, and proceed as normal. The ready light should still be on during the pull.

note: Vary the procedure in step 3b by using different times such as fifteen and twenty-five seconds. Use one time for a few days, then try another until you find the 'sweet spot" that works with your Silvia as well as with your espresso blend.

      Does this procedure really work? Well, I have no long-term data at this point to be sure, but I have been using this for a couple of days now, and yesterday, for the first time since I got my Silvia (about three months), Wifee consumed and entire cappuccino with no sugar nor syrup at all! I prompted her to test sip before adding sugar and her face lit up, and she then took another sip. Before you knew it, the cappa was gone. It really was that good.

      Be aware that if you are a new Silvia owner, these machines go through a 'break-in" period. They seem to improve over the first ten weeks or so. It may take that long for yours to reach a thermal stability and consistency so that this procedure becomes totally effective.

Coffee Cup
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