So I bought this shiny Gaggia lever machine....???

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So I bought this shiny Gaggia lever machine....???

Postby Leporello » Fri Jun 09, 2006 11:50 am

Hi there Friends. Thanks for welcoming me as a guest. Four weeks ago I made an impulse buy of a Gaggia Factory. I simply couldn't resist such a shiny piece of steam engineeering. As you may have by now guessed, I'm no barista! However, I have an open mind to the prospect of aspiring to become one.

Anyway, having bought the Gaggia, I discovered I needed a grinder to do justice to the gleaming espresso machine so I bought a Gaggia MDF grinder. Having aquired the grinder, I discovered that the damned thing needed a base, otherwise I had to chase it around my work top during the grind, so I bought a Gaggia base with a ridiculous knock out drawer. To this growing collection I've added a stainless steel frothing jug and a wooden handled tamper. The fact that I'm the only coffee drinker in this household will give you some indication as to my feeble state of mind so please bear this in mind if you're kind enough to respond to this post.

So far I've discovered that I can make a nicer cup of espresso or capuccino than with my previous cheap Krupps machine. However, I've also discovered that my new equipment involves more effort that I had anticipated.

Is there anyway to avoid dusting my entire kitchen with freshly ground coffee each time I take my caffeine fix? Our cat is beginning to get red eyes and insomnia from the coffee fall out into her water bowl. Is it my imagination or is the design of the Gaggia MDF doser more suitable to a spreader?

My grinder has no less than 34 different settings! I understand that the lower numbers represent the finer grinds. At present I have this set at 5. Would anyone owning a similar grinder give an informed comment or opinion on the best setting for a good strong brew?

When I bought the machine I bought some Starbucks espresso beans which I don't care for too much. I'm just finishing off a kilo of Blue Mountain blend, which I find quite bland and I have a kilo of Lavazza Gold that I'm about to try. I'd welcome some advice on what roasted beans make the nicest espresso and were I should get this in the UK.

I'd also welcome any other tips people might offer me to shorten this rather expensive journey of discovery that I seem to have got myself into.

Thanks for your attention.
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Postby Beanie » Fri Jun 09, 2006 1:08 pm

Hi Guest, I have no experience with the Gaggia machines; however, for
Guest wrote:I'd welcome some advice on what roasted beans make the nicest espresso and were I should get this in the UK.

www.hasbean.co.uk :D :D :D You will not be disappointed; HOWEVER, consider this your warning - you may encounter difficulties finding much better after HB and definitely impossible if your main search for roasted beans occurs in the supermarket :lol: There are other roasters (from where some TMC members also happily acquire their roasted beans) listed in the "Resources" section on the top bar of the home page here.
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Postby Guest » Sun Jun 11, 2006 10:47 am

Many thanks for helpful reply. I shall certainly get my next order of beans from Hasbean. However. having thrown away several kilos of ground coffee to accommodate the Gaggia I must struggle through with the kilo of Lavazza Gold before entering (hopefully) espresso Nirvana.

I've read through many of the members' threads on this site and I'm tempted to join but as encouraging as the enthusiasm for coffee is on these pages is, I do hope that its not too infectious, as I would be reluctant to abandon my search :) for the meaning of life for the quest for the perfect espresso.
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Postby BazBean » Sun Jun 11, 2006 11:27 am

I do hope that its not too infectious, as I would be reluctant to abandon my search for the meaning of life for the quest for the perfect espresso.


HA !! ..... Run, Run like the wind... while you still have a chance.
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Postby zix » Sun Jun 11, 2006 1:30 pm

I have no personal experience of your grinder, but I suppose there might be individual differences on MDF as well as on other grinders. Setting nr 5 of one user might for example be the same as setting 7 for another, and so on. This means you will have to judge for yourself, but there are simple methods to do it. It boils down to:
Amount
Grind
Tamp
---
Extraction.

Start with fresh, good coffee, following Beanies advice and choosing something that your favourite roaster recommends. They should know. If not, you could always ask here, there are several Pavoni Pro/Europiccola users here.

First, since your grinder has a doser, try to dose the same amount always. Around 14-17 g for a double is usually perfect, but you will have to find the right amount for your Factory. People in the know say that overfilling on a Pavoni is no good, so you should probably avoid overfilling on the Factory too.

Next, adjust grind fineness. A good shot should run through in about 20-30 seconds, regardless of machine, so try getting there by adjusting setting until you get the right pull resistance and extraction time.

Try to tamp with the same pressure always. It is possible to change extraction time by changing amount of coffee, grind fineness AND amount of tamping, but I recommend you ONLY change grind to begin with, until you have found the "sweet spot". After that, feel free to start experimenting with the other factors. Recommended tamp pressure: around 15 kilo I think. Use a bathroom scale and press against that the first few times if you feel you need to. I never did that, I must admit... Anyway, 15kg is not as hard a pressure as one might believe...

------

Next, since this is a small lever machine, one that probably will become hot enough fast (in 10 minutes or so, perhaps) and too hot sooner than you like, you will probably need to watch temperature too. Too hot temperature means a burned and/or bitter taste, and little or no crema. Too cold gives you a sour taste and beige or almost white crema, but I don't suppose this is a problem you are likely to encounter in case you wait a couple of minutes before brewing.

A good shot with a typical espresso blend should have medium to dark brown crema, and you might also find some motta spots in it (darker spots often, but now always, seen with good extractions). As to how it feels to pull, you must ask someone else. I have no experience of the Factory or the Pavoni Europiccola/Pro.
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Postby Guest » Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:18 am

Thanks zix for the detailed reply. I shall bear your good advice in mind. My coffee is getting better by the day but obviously I still have a long way to go before I can start to regulary pull a consistently good shot. The crema on most of my shots is a dark ready brown as you describe. This is using the Lavazza Gold which is an improvement on my previous purchases. I shall order my next batch of beans from Steve at Hasbeans and look forward to the next upgrade to my coffee experience.

With my last order of coffee I was given a sample of a strawberry flavoured syrup. I've noticed that lots of coffee shops seem to stock these interesting bottle of multi flavoured syrups. Do real coffee drinkers use this stuff? I haven't dared to try a strawberry flavoured espresso. The very idea seems a trifle exotic to me.

Oh and just in case there is any other new owner of a Gaggia Factory or Europiccolo Pro out there I've discovered that the correct size for the tamper is 49mm not 53mm. I've found it very difficult to find a 49mm tamper in the UK and have had to order one from Reg Barber in Canada. The cost £34 Sterling incluiding postage.

Thanks again.
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Postby Paul L » Wed Jun 14, 2006 5:46 am

Guest, alas you will read that many folks similar to yourself assume (and hope) that their initial outlay will be a short journey, as you put it, to coffee nirvana. An analogy might be that having passed your test, you buy your first supermini and hope that the thrill you gain from driving and all the personal freedom you experience will be the last car you ever buy. Hmm...

Read coffee stories from the folk on here though (myself included) and you will find a very different picture. Coffee sucks you in, period. Your skills develop, your taste buds develop and in fact what sucks you in seems to be that as you start to discern flavours and many signs such as freshness and variables in coffee making you become fussier and fussier and your palate rejects more and more. A well known person on this site told me recently that their palate continues to drag them along with each year and they are years ahead of where I'm at ight now.

This leads to abandoning all the high street places you initially frequented, it turns upside down all the places you respected and it makes it harder and harder to find and drink quality coffee. I am not kidding, there are times you realise that ignorance was bliss and you also realise that your real budget is more like £1,500 for a decent E61 HX or double boiler, Mazzer/Macap quality grinder, home roaster and all the accessories.

Should this put you off? No, no no. Does it mean you're destined for misery and it's only a question of time that you're in the same situation as a lot of folk on here? Well,no actually.

You gradually make better and better coffee at home and don't feel the need to find you fix elsewhere. You appreciate your drinks more, you enjoy the journey, there are some fine places out there if not many of them. The biggest thing of all for me recently and the one which has removed the ball and chain of where to get a decent cup, is the Aerobie Aeropress (Hasbean sells them) that allows you to take quality coffee with you during your day. Workmates have got used to seeing the coffee geek wih the strange little plastic contraption and all who have tried the result with a teaspoon have been amazed as well as curious.

So, you could turn back whilst you have the chance but stick with it and do join. Buy an Aerobie for taking with you or another form of press pot or plunger if convenient and join the mass who I'm sure would say that with each step taken there's no going back.

The nice thing about the RB tamper BTW is that you can order a different base in the future to go with any machine changes you make in future years.
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Postby Guest » Wed Jun 14, 2006 10:10 am

"real budget is more like £1.500"

Oh I see. Well, I suppose needs must. Anyone want to buy a second hand wife who comes with an inbuilt head tamper?
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Postby Guest » Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:00 am

It seems a lot I know, some get there quickly, some get ther eover the long term and in stages, some never bother but it seems that anyone who spends time around coffee can tast the difference sooner or later.

Don't do it, sell the Gaggia, keep the wife, source fresh roast, buy a hand grinder and buy an Aerobie. Oh, if I knew then what I know now...

... I wouldn't have had the educational 15 months I have had after years of blissful ignorance, and I've only just taken the L plates off!
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Postby CakeBoy » Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:15 pm

Top post Paul ...... all so very true ad we can all recognise ourselves in what you say :D
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Postby SimonG » Fri Jun 23, 2006 6:46 am

Hi there,

I would seriously recommend David Schomer's book 'Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques' to really understand what's happening when you brew an espresso. It will really help you. I think Hasbean has it, but a search should find it. A couple of chapters are kinked from his website (which I can't find right now, but I originally found the links from somewhere in CofffeeGeek).

Good Luck. And remember the feeling of smug satisfaction when you realise you can make better coffee than most cafes in town. But try to forget the crushing despair when you then realise you've just paid two quid for the privilige!

Simon
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Postby akallio » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:54 am

Hmm... looks like the journey of discovery has now taken our guest to the world of highly caffeinated robusta blends... maybe some decaf might be in order?

Or is it severe fever caused by upgradeitus?

:) :) :)
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