My Rancilio Silvia finally arrived last week. The Mrs. and I had done without espresso (me) and cappuccino (her) in our lives for a few too many weeks, since my old Saeco machine died of daily use after only a couple of years. While researching what my next machine would be, I pressed an old Capresso into service, only to have it die rather explosively after about 10 days. Seems most home machines really are not meant for daily use for very long.
Anyway, I did my homework, and committed to Miss Silvia, complete with her precise boiler temperature control add-on. Having an after-factory modification added to the wait time a bit, but my research made it look worth it.
So, she arrives! Shiny and new, I eagerly unwrapped her, and started putting her through her paces, per the manual and associated tip sheets gleaned from on-line sources.
Hoo boy! I thought I knew a little something about espresso making! Well, I had much to unlearn before Miss Silvia would consent to produce what I considered a decent shot! First, I had to lose all my pre-conceived notions about what the proper amount of bean was per shot! Seems she would do much better with much less! Then, fiddling with the precise grind became paramount, to manage to extract the right amount of espresso in the right time frame. Finely ground is her byword! Miss those marks, and disappointment was my only certainty. Shot after shot got tossed out after only a sip or two, and even then I had to limit myself to about 10 attempts per night, or risk staying up with the jitters.
And the tamping! I thought that was a slam-dunk skill! But nooooo, now I have my bathroom scale on the kitchen counter, to ensure I tamp with at least 27 pounds, but not more than 30 pounds of pressure! At least my former stainless steel tamper fits my new baskets. Even so, I’ve ordered a new tamper, one that’s spring loaded, which clicks when I hit the 30 lb mark, so I can get the bathroom scale back in the bathroom.
I’ve had to adjust the temperature, too. So far it seems anything between 220 and 223 at the boilerhead makes for a nice shot, but above or below that, things may get hinky.
But finally my new sweetheart is regularly putting out for me! 9 out of 10 shots are now better than I ever made on my old machines, and light-years ahead of anything I’ve ever gotten at Starbucks, Seattle’s Best (what a joke), Caribou, or that horrible, horrible coffee bean debasing firm, Gloria Jean’s. Sadly, I still can’t equal what I get from Alterra’s, but perhaps they’ll agree to take me on as an unpaid espresso intern, and finally I can learn their secrets.
She gives me ample crema, caramel-colored, with tiger striping! And a full body, without bitterness or sour notes! As tasty at the last few drops as with the first.
And every once in a while, I can coax her into making a ristretto to die for! Just up the fineness of the grind a bit, whisper paeons of praise and prayer into her frothing wand, and I may be truly transported!
Life is good…