"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2004 - All rights reserved
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The New Non-Sense-Eo!
What happens when a guy with an imagination, a Senseo, a spare single basket, a Dremel tool, and about an hour of spare time all come together? An experiment that creates the ...
Many of us have considered the fact that pods make no sense for folks looking for the very best in coffee taste. Unless you live next door to pod central, and somehow convince them to roast some quality beans, pods are a compromise at best. An unknown quality of bean is roasted, ground, packed into little, air-permeable envelopes, packaged, then shipped, stocked, and by the time you finally get them they could be 80 in coffee-years, and that on a good week. *1
So, the Senseo is easy to use, fast, has excellent temperature control, but makes mediocre coffee using the Douwe Egberts pods. The solution would be to have some sort of easy-to-use system that allows the user to grind and use their own coffee. To mix and misspell exclamatory cliches, "Vye-O-Lah! I've got it!"
As you see here, I put the above named resources together and came up with a way to use a nearly-standard espresso portafilter basket in the Senseo. The original Senseo single pod holder was modified by having the center cut out to form a rim to hold the portafilter basket. This was done by first using the Dremel with a cut-off wheel (I love those things) to cut a series of connected slots arounf the rim. I then smoothed the cut out with a die grinder and 1/4" carbide bit. It was finished off by hand using a file and emery cloth. By the way, the pod holders are a high grade of stainless steel and even with only the thin lip left, it is sufficiently stiff and strong.
The other modification I had to make was to the portafilter basket itself. It had to be modified by having its rim flattened. The curved rim is meant to seal against the brewhead gasket in the espresso machine, but in the Senseo it keeps the lid from coming down far enough to latch. I flattened it in a vise, working my way around until it formed a flat flange. I did this with a single basket, and it appears that there is also room for a Rancilio double basket, but the La Marzocco large double basket will not fit without modifying the coffee spout assembly, being to tall.
I only pulled a few "cup shots" but here's what I found:
The Good -
Obviously, the good part is that I can now use my own coffee, ground the way I like, to create a cup of coffee in the Senseo. I made a couple of "single" cups and both my wife and I enjoyed them. Definitely better tasting than cups made with the pods
The Bad -
Obviously, the use of loose coffee does increase the clean-up as well as lengthening the time between shots because you no longer have the pod to just dump out, but a loose-coffee mess. No big deal- just knock out the coffee and rinse under the sink.
That leads to the next problem- if you don't precisely cut the opening, the PF basket will fall out when knocking out the used coffee. It might be possible to take a portafilter spring and bend it to a smaller diameter and place it around the basket after it has een inserted into the "Non-Sense-Eo" pod holder.
The Ugly -
During the first test the loose coffee went everywhere. The upper seal is designed to work with increased efficiency as the pressure increases during the brew cycle. Unfortunately, the lip of the seal forms a hollow area on the brew-chamber side that traps huge amounts of loose coffee when the Senseo is used like an espresso machine with an uncovered portafilter. To remedy that I applied the nylon mesh cover portion of my Cafe Filter (it is the infuser that allows you to use you on coffee in the Senseo's stock pod holder. See my review). This seemed to work quite well. I m going to look for some sort of screen or mesh to make a reusable cover for it, but for now the Cafe Filter cover works quite well, and is an excellent fit.
I think that the most important part of this test is that I have shown that Phillips could have easily created (and included, or at least offered) a holder for the Senseo that would have allowed us to use the loose coffee of our choice. Something like I created, with a hinged or pivoting mesh cover (stainless steel screen or even nylon mesh would work). But much like inkjet printers, the money is not in the sales of the coffee makers but in the profit from the coffee-ink cartridges.
*1 If we base this on coffee being still usable for drip within a week of grinding (when properly stored), then one day = ten years.