I have owned the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for a little over two years and the Super Jolly for a little more than a year and yet I have never thought of using the Breville for espresso! Up until today, the Breville was dedicated to drip and manual brewing duties while the Super Jolly was used exclusively for espresso. Seeing that I have some extra beans and time, I decided to finally dial in the Breville and the Super Jolly to produce a 33gm shot using approximately 17.5gm of Stumptown’s delicious Hair Bender blend, in under 35 seconds. The Super Jolly shines in expected reliability and fluffier grinds but the Breville is a great value at a fraction of the Super Jolly’s cost. Watch the video below to find out what I think of the taste difference and more of my thoughts of the two grinders.
If you haven’t read Part 1, please do so before reading this post for complete details and tasting notes. To quickly summarize, the first and second shots I pulled were off. The first shot was too fast and the second was too slow. This time, the flow and timing were right on point using the same variables, only difference was the grind size. I started by using the 300 and 600 micron sieves and 34.6gm of coffee from the Super Jolly, which is almost two times my usual dose of 17.5gm.
I dumped the 34.6gm of coffee into the Kruve and started sitting for approximately 1 minute.
The result from the middle tray was approximately 22.5gm, which means between boulders and fines, I lost 12gm. That’s a hair better than last week’s experiments.
Out of the 22.5gm I used approximately 17.5gm (my usual dose) and pulled the shot
The shot was neither fast nor slow, very much the same time it takes for my non-sifted shots but the taste was nothing like my usual shots. The shot was absolutely delicious, creamy, sweet, rich and with a tiny little bit of welcomed acidity. I’m not a fan of too much acidity that’s why I stay away from light roast coffees but the acidity here was just a hint and it added to the complexity of the shot.
My conclusion here is that the Kruve and its impact on the uniformity of coffee grounds is undeniable but the questions are, will I be okay with sacrificing more than 10gm of coffees every time I pulled a shot? What about the time, do I really want to add more than 15 Minutes (cleaning the Kruve and the mess it makes take time), to my routine and workflow to achieve a better shot? With these questions in mind, I have decided to use the Kruve but only on weekends. On weekends, I have much more time in the morning and I can enjoy the process. On weekdays, not so much.
Since I received my Kruve, I never gotten the chance to test it with Espresso so last week I decided to give it a shot and see what I can do with it. I started by using the 300 and 600 micron sieves and 34.5gm of coffee from the Super Jolly, which is almost two times my usual dose of 17.5gm.
After I shook the Kruve for a minute or so the yield in the middle tray was almost 21.5gm so I lost 13gm between the boulders and fines.
I chose to only use my usual dose of 17.5gm and the results were underwhelming. The shot was too fast and somehow way too bitter. The bitterness can be caused by the coffee lacking the boulders and fines but the water temperature could have been higher than usual as well.
This week, I decided to try the experiment again but this time move the adjustment collar/ring on the Super Jolly couple of notches finer. By doing so, I was hoping to create a finer grind to slow the flow while keeping the dose the same at 17.5gm give or take 0.1 or 0.2gm.
I started with the same amount of coffee I started with last week, which is 34.5gm (remember that the grind is finer here)
After shaking the Kruve for a minute or so, the result was 24.1gm, so I lost a little more than 10gm, which is better than last week when I lost 13gm. This can be attributed to the grinder being more consistent as the grind gets finer or maybe I shook the Kruve harder last week compared to this week.
To stay consistent, I kept the dose to my usual, which is 17.5gm and pulled a shot. The shot was on the slow side but the taste was much more balanced. Still, bitterness was a little higher than I’d prefer but there was absolutely no sourness whatsoever. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sourness in coffee, or anywhere really so this shot was a really good one to my taste.
Next week, I will go only one notch finer instead of 2 notches like I did today and do the same test again and see how the shot will taste. Stay tuned!
The Aeropress brewer is loved almost universally. I have neither talked to anyone who complained about it nor read a negative review by someone who bought it and didn’t like it. This love and appreciation by coffee lovers all over the world is mainly due to the delicious coffee the brewer produces, ease of use and portability but not due to the delicious espresso it produces. You see, the AeroPress promises to be a coffee and espresso maker but coffee lovers, including myself, disagree with the “espresso maker” part.
Now, a company named Fellow, which makes the fancy Stagg gooseneck kettles and other coffee brewing equipments and accessories, decided to try and bring the AeroPress closer to its promise of making espresso by manufacturing and selling the Prismo. To be clear, the Prismo does not promise espresso shots instead it promises espresso-style (more on that in a second) shots. According to Fellow (copied from their website), the reason they can’t claim that the Prismo produces an espresso shot is the following:
“Traditional espresso has a long and honored tradition of how it’s made, from tamping the puck to pulling a shot in the right amount of time, to that well-revered 9 bars of pressure. There were enough differences between how “espresso-style” coffee with Prismo works and traditional espresso that we felt the need to let our customers know. Here are a few important differences we wanted to share:
The pressure inside Prismo doesn’t reach 9 bars… unless you’re superman! By our calculations, you would need to put over 2,000lbs of force on top of your Aeropress Coffee Maker to reach 9 bars (130psi) with Prismo. That’s not something we recommend trying at home!
The temperature of a Prismo shot is somewhat lower than an espresso shot. High end espresso machines tend to have pre-heated group heads, which help to maintain high temperatures in the puck while pulling a shot. Our preferred recipes with Prismo haven’t involved pre-heating, which means the coffee slurry temperature is a little lower. This lower temperature does great for producing chocolatey flavors with a lot of body and is excellent for blends and medium to dark roasted coffee. Your local cafe’s espresso blend will probably work great! However, for some lighter roasted single origin coffees, we’ve prefered brewing a full cup of coffee on the Prismo rather than an espresso-style shot.
Our best tasting espresso-style recipe takes about 70 seconds from start to finish. We’ve loved the flavor we’re getting from Prismo’s espresso-style coffee when we give it just a little extra time to develop. With some stirring, the right temperature water, and a strong press, we’ve produced full-bodied shots with a thick, yummy crema that lasts. But yes internet, a traditional espresso shot is about 20-30 seconds.”
Fellow’s approach to the Prismo was to replace the original plastic basket (or filter holder) of the AeroPress with one that has a pressure actuated valve. This valve allows more pressure buildup inside the AeroPress, hence making it easier to produce a shot with qualities, such as crema, resembling a traditional espresso shot. The way the Prismo allows for more pressure buildup is simply by having the valve require more pressure from the user before it opens up to release the coffee. This idea is very similar to pressurized baskets used in lower end espresso machines. The pressurized baskets help cheaper machines achieve the pressure needed for an espresso shot while making the grind and the grinder less important.
The Prismo comes in two pieces, the first piece is the plastic basket replacement and the second piece is the built-in 80 micron filter.
The Prismo has few benefits that I like:
- It allows for the use of paper filters if you prefer paper over metal filters. I personally use a combination of both (yes, a paper filter fits on top of the metal Fellow filter)
- It eliminates the need for brewing using the inverted method since the valve does not release coffee unless you’re applying pressure. This also makes the AeroPress much easier to use as you do not have to rush and insert the plunger after you have poured enough coffee to start the blooming phase of your brew.
- The metal filter by itself, which is included with the Prismo, makes the device worth the $20 I paid for it.
After playing with the Prismo over the period of few days, I don’t believe that it produces an espresso-style shot/coffee. The Prismo produces excellent coffee and an americano I made with it was absolutely delicious, and the “espresso-style” shots I made were full bodied, had a rich mouthfeel and really maintained some of the chocolatey notes I usually pick up in the shots I pull using my Nuova Simonelli Musica (coffee I used was Lavazza Top Class). However, I think the same way the Bialetti Moca Pot and the Turkish coffee made in the Ibrik don’t claim to make espresso or espresso-style coffee, the Prismo shouldn’t claim that either. The reason I believe so is that I don’t think it’s fair for the Prismo! While Fellow went to great lengths to explain what they mean by espresso-style, I’m positive that many people out there will confuse espresso-style with espresso and the Prismo will still be compared and measured against traditional espresso and the verdict won’t be in Prismo’s favor. Having said that, when the Prismo is judged by itself as a coffee making device or accessory, that can take a brewer (AeroPresso) to the next level, the results are very favorable and highly desirable.
For this week’s post, I wanted to compare two different coffee distribution tools, The Force Tamper distribution tool vs the OCD knockoff distribution tool. Both tools are supposed to achieve the same thing, which is distribute the coffee grounds evenly in the portafilter basket, albeit using different methods. The OCD knockoff is using three fins that are slightly angled as to push (distribute) the coffee around as you twist the tool. The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool uses a metal bar that sits on what appears to be tiny springs. The base’s weight sits on the coffee grounds and when you start twisting the tamper/base the metal bar starts pushing the coffee around to also distribute the coffee and the springs that the bar is sitting on ensures that it adapts to coffee bumps or any unevenness in the basket, the same way a car’s suspension adapts to road unevenness.
For the purpose of this comparison, I have chosen to pull 2 shots, one using the OCD knockoff distribution tool and the other using The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool. The only variable here is the distribution tool. Both shots were pulled using the same coffee (Kimbo Superior Blend), same grinder (Mazzer Super Jolly), same espresso machine (Nuova Simonelli Musica), same cooling flush duration (5 to 6 seconds after flash boiling), same basket (VST 20gm) and even same tamper (The Force Tamper, one with base that has the built-in distribution tool and the other with a flat base without the built-in distribution tool).
The results were interesting, the shot pulled with The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool looked nicer and a little less bitter. Below is a side by side comparison of both shots 10 seconds after the first drop of coffee appeared from the basket.
To be totally fair, the less bitter taste could have been the result of a little longer cooling flush before I pulled the second shot but it could also be the result of a better distribution, as shown in the side by side pictures above.
Personally, I prefer The Force Tamper built-in distribution tool for the following reasons:
- Visually better extraction (taste difference is negligible but definitely better distribution).
- Tool costs under $30 and can be easily retrofitted to your existing The Force Tamper. The OCD knockoff costs around the same, although it can be used with your existing tamper but with less than ideal results.
- More streamlined workflow as there is no need to switch between tools.
- Unlike the OCD knockoff distribution tool, The Force Tamper does not need to have the depth of the fins adjusted (manually or by adding shims) every time you change dose or coffee, as it adapts to the height of the coffee bed.
I have made a video documenting the comparison and you can watch it here:
For this week, I decided to take advantage of the fact that The Force Tamper, which I have reviewed and blogged about before, have been sent to me with multiple bases and make a video to compare the effects the shape of a tamper base plays in the extraction of an espresso shot. What I’m after is to find out if there is a basis to claims that some bases perform better than others taste and looks wise. I chose the following bases for the test as they are more commonly used/known:
For this test, the following variables are constant:
- Temperature is maintained at around 200F by doing a 5 to 6 seconds cooling flush
- The basket is the same one used across all 4 shots, a VST 20g basket in a bottomless portafilter
- The input is 17g of coffee and the output is around 32g to 34g of liquid.
- Distribution evenness was maintained by using the WDT distribution technique (paper clip to distribute/agitate the coffee grounds in the basket) and a Chinese knockoff distribution tool similar to the OCD.
The following are pictures showing the shots 10 seconds from the moment the first drop of liquid appeared from the basket. This will give a basis for comparison that’s pretty consistent.
First shot is using the Curve base:
Second shot using the C-Flat base:Third shouting the Ripple base:
Fourth shot using the Flat base:
Looking at the pictures, I seem to think that the Ripple and Flat bases have performed best. Taste wise, I haven’t noticed any major difference, except that the shot extracted using the Curve base tasted unbalanced and the shot extracted using the Flat base tasted the most balanced. Please note that these tasting notes are based on my palette, others may be able to detect much deeper differences and complicated notes that I may have not tasted. I personally use a flat base as I find it to be the easiest to work with and the most consistent but others have found other base shapes to be best for their coffees, use or machines. You can also watch the video below for the full extractions and feel free to leave me comments with any questions or suggestions you may have.
When Acaia released the Lunar, they advertised it as the only scale you will ever need to pull espresso shots. The company, as you would expect, highlighted all its features such as water resistance as pros for espresso enthusiasts but one aspect of it really stood out to most people and it wasn’t a feature, the app or the water resistance capabilities instead it was the price! The Lunar retails for $220. Yes, that’s correct, $220 for a scale that’s designed for the sole purpose of pulling espresso shots consistently and tracking those shots via an app.
Because of this price, consumers started wondering if the Lunar, despite its small size, can double as a scale for manual coffee brewing methods such as V60 and Chemex. Thinking that way is a normal and rational human behavior as people try to maximize utility or benefits for every dollar spent. Now, Acaia also sells the Pearl scale, which is a scale dedicated to manual coffee brewing, but this scale is also not cheap at $150. In other words, you will need close to $400 if you would like to have a dedicated coffee scale for manual brewing and an espresso scale for pulling espresso shots and have both scales from Acaia.
The good news is that the Lunar can definitely be used for coffee brewing, as long as you are using the included mat that goes on top of the scale. Watch the video below and see how for $220, you can get yourself an excellent espresso scale that can also double down as a manual coffee scale.
Couple of months ago, Zubing Sun, the owner and inventor of The Force Tamper posted a video on Instagram demoing a tamper base (for The Force Tamper) that can distribute the grounds inside the basket before tamping, needless to say I was intrigued and impressed. Zubing graciously sent me couple of units for review along with a clear glass basket so that I’m able to see in action the distribution done by the new base.
As pictured below, the base has a thin metal bar going across the diameter of the base Zubing sent me one flat and one ripple base. This thin metal bar moves up and down as needed and depending on the amount of coffee in the basket.
The way it works, you sit your The Force Tamper on the basket like you would do for tamping, except instead of pressing down right away you let the weight of the Tamper sink inside the basket and then you rotate the tamper handle few times at either direction (clockwise or counterclockwise). This motion leverages the metal bar that’s built in the base to sweep or distribute the coffee.
Here’s a video showing how it works
Here’s another video showing the distributor tool in action, using a clear basket that was designed to showcase the distribution action.
Before receiving this base, my flow involved using a separate distribution tool (similar to the OCD distribution tool) to distribute the coffee and then tamping the coffee. There are 3 main things I like about this base:
- No need for a separate tool. Distribution and tamping can now be done using one tool and that’s The Force Tamper.
- No need to adjust the depth of the distribution tool. If you have owned a distribution tool, you know that every time you change dosing or coffee you will need to manually adjust the depth of the blade of the distribution tool to get a flat, even puck with no holes or irregularities. Since the distribution done by the base relies on the weight of the tamper, there are no adjustments needed.
- The price. For $29 you get a base for tamping and a distribution tool. This price is unbeatable on the market as the cheapest distribution tool out there cost more than $80. Even the Chinese knockoffs of the OCD distribution tools cost more than $40.
Overall, I’m very happy with the new distribution base for The Force Tamper. It does the job effectively and efficiently while saving you some cash in the process.
In my last week’s blog post, I listed 5 things I don’t like about my Nuova Simonelli Musica. In this week’s post, I’m listing 5 things I love about it.
- The steam power, wand and tip: if you’re like me and you steam a lot of milk and love latte art then you will appreciate this steam on the Musica. The Musica has a 4 hole steam tip, the same tip used on the Nuova Simonelli machines used in the Barista Championships. You can watch this video here to have an idea for the steaming power. You can also watch some of my posts on Instagram to see examples of latte art.
- Temperature consistency: so far my experience has been that before I pull a shot, if I flush the same amount of water after the flash boiling stops (cooling flush), the temperature in the cup is pretty consistent so is the taste (assuming other variables are constant)
- Design: beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I personally find the design to be very attractive and a nice combination between modern and retro making it a good fit with other coffee equipment or appliances.
- LED strips: you may think that the lighting on the LUX model is a gimmick and unnecessary but I personally find it extremely cool and a nice WOW factor when I have people over at the house.
- Tank and drip tray capacity: both are huge compared to the size of the machine. The reservoir holds 3 liter of water while the drip tray holds close to a liter. Both don’t need to be frequently refilled/empties often. Coming from a Silvia, which had a small water reservoir and a tiny, almost nonfunctional, drip tray, the Musica is a relief.
For those of you who don’t know or didn’t read my earlier posts, I’m the owner of a Nuova Simonelli Musica that I purchased off of eBay for 40% of its retail price! The Musica was a flop for Nuova Simonelli simply because it was double the price of its smaller sister the Oscar without double the features. Below I will list 5 things I don’t like about the Musica:
- Crazy price: the Nuova Simonelli Musica Lux (with the LED strips) retailed new for $2500 for the tank model while the Oscar retailed for close to $1000 and the Oscar 2 for close to $1300. Keep in mind, these machines are nearly identical except for the price and couple of other changes. I purchased this machine for close to $1000 so depreciation is crazy on these machines.
- Missing brew pressure gauge: for $2500, you would think that a brew pressure gauge (feature found on much cheaper machines) is a given but somehow the folks at Nuova Simonelli didn’t think so, so you only get a boiler pressure gauge.
- Unnecessary NSF certification: for some reason Nuova Simonelli thought that certifying a machine like the Musica, with its vibratory pump and 2 liter boiler, was a good idea. The certification was intended to make the Musica a viable option for small, low volume commercial application (e.g. galleries, small restaurants, etc.). However, the vibratory pump is ridiculous with its 1 minute on 1 minute off requirement and the heating element is only 1200 watts. The high price (for what the unit offered) and the reliability concerns all played important roles in making this machine a nonviable option for the commercial or even semi commercial environment.
- Can’t choose between plumbing and tank after purchase: the Musica must be purchased as either a tank (pour over) model or a plumbable model. You can’t plumb the tank model if you choose to after buying the machine and you can’t use a tank with the plumable model. Again, for the price, the option to switch between tank and plumbing should have been a given.
- Pre-infusion time is not adjustable: the Musica has a pre-infusion option, which you can turn on and off using the keypad, but the length of the pre-infusion is already set at 3 seconds and is not adjustable.
In the next post I will talk about the things I like about the Musica and why it’s a good buy in the used market.