Silvia, at last you're putting out properly for me! (espresso thread)

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…


Doesn’t anyone want to discuss home-brewed espresso? :frowning:

I’d love to get a good quality espresso maker. The one I used to have was a gift and never worked right. The Rancilio looks sweet, but that’s a latte money.

Yeah, it is, but it’s one of our few indulgences. Besides, looking at the 3 other machines we burned out in only a few years (okay, 7 years), just by using it an average of 1-2 times a day, we figured it made sense to step up to something that should last over a decade while it makes us the good stuff.

Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t drink coffee of any sort, so I’d have to explain to her why I need such a lavish piece of equipment for myself. Maybe I can get the kids hooked…

I loved my La Signora Caffettiera, but after 10 years the interior got some kind of weird corrosion. I can’t seem to find a replacement…every time I see one on eBay I get outbid. I’ve tried other stove top makers, but it just isn’t the same.

That’s a lovely moka pot. What it makes isn’t espresso (which is brewed under pressure), but it sure makes a nice strong cuppa that beats standard coffee by a mile or three!

Silvia made me the best shot of espresso yet, this evening!

I love my moka pot, but your right…moka pots do not produce espresso. If it doesn’t have a pump, it’s not espresso.

Congrats on hooking up with Silvia…I’m jealous.

And Ristrettos are the only way to go…Damn, I need to get my Gaggia machine and my Zassenhaus grinder back from my nephew.

Struggled with a temperamental Gaggia machine and grinder for year. One in five cups was delicious, the rest was blegh-issimo.

Moving to Italy solved things nicely, and I now just go the bar for my hit…but I really admire any person who can work an proper espresso machine. Congratulations and wishing you years for crema.

I thought this thread was about Silvia Saint. Now if you can get Silvia Saint to put out for you then we can talk.

Ignorance fought! That means all those moki pots marketed as “stovetop espresso makers” have been fooling me into thinking I was hip! :smack:

I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be considered espresso makers. Espresso is made under pressure. A moka pot brews utilizing pressure created by steam to force water through grounds. It’s much different than infusion coffee preparation like drip and french press and much closer in process to espresso machines. The results are also much closer to espresso in strength and flavor than drip or press coffee.

Really? What do you call what comes out of this?

Pump-driven espresso makers are only one type. There are also piston-driven (lever) espresso machines and steam-driven machines. The first machine actually designed (in 1901) to extract coffee under pressure to speed up the process, better known as espresso, was steam driven.

The magic of espresso makers vs. moka pots comes from the fact that the pump allows the espresso maker to make a brew from water that’s under pressure, but lower in temperature than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (when it hits the grounds). This brings through various aromatic compounds that otherwise get left in the bean, or destroyed, by higher temperatures. In addition, this process should result in a shot with minimal bitterness.

The moka pot brews under pressure (not as high as a pump or lever machine), but brews at a temperature higher than 212 degrees. Crema may be present but is much less, and the flavors are not the same. Some of the bitter molecules will still come through. It can make a lovely beverage but it is not the same as espresso.

The early lever machines (I believe) achieved that same effect: brewing under pressure but with temperatures less than 212.

At least that’s my understanding. bdgr can probably enlighten us more.

Yes, I understand how it works, but calling it something other than espresso is functionally incorrect as the first espresso machine (what coined the term) used steam pressure from boiling water. It is functionally espresso. Arguably, it may not be the ideal way to brew espresso, but it most certainly is one way.

So, does this mean I’m kind of hip, after all? :stuck_out_tongue:

You are correct, modern moka products may continue to have a historical link to the name “espresso”, but what they produce no longer fits the technical description of what an espresso is generally accepted to be. The Specialty Coffee Association of America specifically defines espresso as: A 45ml (1.5 ounces) beverage that is prepared from 7-9 grams of coffee through which clean water of 192 - 198 F (88 - 92 C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, where the grind of the coffee has made the brewing “flow” time approximately 22-28 seconds. While brewing, the flow of Espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick dark gold cream foam (“crema”) topping.

Andreas Illy (yes, that Illy) differentiates between espresso and “moka pot” (stovetop espresso) in his book Espresso Coffee: The Chemistry of quality. Clearly they are two very different products.

Now I want a cappuccino. And I’m stuck at home in a blizzard. No way I’m getting that (or the McDouble from this thread). I can’t keep reading food threads when I’m stuck in a blizzard. My appetite is too suggestible.

I just used Silvia to make the Mrs. a nice cappuccino. A vanilla one, nicely frothed. She’d been shoveling snow while I was telecommuting and finishing up a phone conference.

I’m really spoiled now. Silvia makes a damn fine espresso.