Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Bit About My Set Up

When I first started obsessing over espresso and coffee, about two years ago, I wanted to buy some machines that would allow me to make exceptional stuff but not drain my wallet at the same time.

After researching and investigating numerous machines, I settled on a Gaggia Carezza, a machine praised for its high quality innards and cheap price (I think I paid around $150 for it, a lot cheaper than the recommended "first" machine most people say to get, the Rancilio Silvia, which I now see is selling for close to $700). When I say innards, I mean the Gaggia has the same internal pipping, wires and other goodies that much more expensive machines have. The reason it's so cheap is its plastic body; pricier machines have heavy steel bodies, and some extra doodads that might matter if you were going to make a lot of espresso drinks in a row, but not so important for someone at home making a shot or two for himself.

Choosing a grinder is also important, in fact, many people say the key to making good espresso is having a good grinder. A whirly blade machine won't get the grounds fine enough. You want a machine with burrs, to grind the beans, not chop them, and a large motor, which allows the burrs to spin slower, and thus prevent the grinds from heating up too much during the process.

I went with the controversial KitchenAid Pro Line Burr Coffee Mill because an initial review on gave it a good rating, it looks great, and supposedly did a good job at grinding beans for numerous uses, from turkish (finer than espresso) to French press.

Both have worked well for me for two years. If I had the money, I'd splurge on this beauty, the Gaggia Achille, a manual machine that requires you to pump the water through the grounds. Now that's hardcore.


Anonymous said...

Aloha, Ryan,

Sounds like you did OK with your espresso gear. After a certain point it really is more about the beans and the barista fu.

Since last November I've been using a Starbucks Sirena with a Rocky grinder. My only mods were to take the panarello sleeve off the steam wand and to add a bottomless portafilter (Gaggia).

I consider the Sirena a decent entry-level machine, but now I'm thinking of a Ponte Vecchio Lusso. Spring lever, very retro.

Happy Brewing,
Wayne said...

The Ponte Vecchio Lusso looks like a nice machine, and I really want a spring lever as well. If I had the cash, I'd go with the Gaggia Achille.

I also took the panarello sleeve off my machine, and replaced it with one from Ms. Silvia. I'm happy I did, even if the fit isn't exactly tight (though no problems after a year of using it).

Did you buy he bottomless portafilter from Gaggia itself? I haven't been able to find one that I was confident would fit my carezza.

Anonymous said...

Ciao again,

Espresso Parts Northwest sells the naked portafilters. There are 2 types of Gaggia PFs: one has two spouts cast in; the new type has a twin spout that screws into one central hole (the only kind you see on Gaggias now).

The Achille looks like a very clever design. I hear it makes great steam, but too bad they kept the same panarello steam wand!