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New Year's Resolution: Great-Tasting Coffee

Published January 18th, 2012

I've had a superb coffee setup for over 6 months now, but I was still not happy with my results. They were inconsistent and, more often then not, kind of crappy. I was getting better shots at the office with an inferior espresso setup, but with the same beans. Something was up!

So over the Christmas break, I decided to get better at espresso. Since I was at home most days, I was pulling three or four shots within a short timespan. This let me reflect on what I did wrong and make incremental improvements (since by the next day, I had forgotten all the lessons I had learned from yesterday's shot).

In this post, I step through each step of the espresso process, encompassing the 4 M's:

1. Mano dell'operatore (hand of the operator)

2. Macinadosatore (grinder-doser)

3. Miscela (blend)

4. Macchina espresso (espresso machine).

Some of the photos show my machine covered in old backplash. It looks like I don't take care of it, but I do. After cleaning it, it looks great for about two shots. I take meticulous care of the inside of the grouphead and clean it with espresso machine detergent regularly.

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This is the top of my Mazzer Mini espresso grinder. I've never used the hopper, opting instead to dose by weight (18g of beans) and cover the top with an old portafilter basket. far to fine. My shots weren't coming out well - they were hardly coming out at all! I explain below what was stopping me from choking my machine altogether.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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These are the dials on my Quick Mill Anita that indicate boiler pressure (top) and brew pressure (bottom). Both are adjustable. When using a blind portafilter basket, the brew pressure should sit around 9-10 bar. My machine was calibrated to 11 and the higher pressure was getting through my finer grind. Adjusting the pressure and grind setting down to a reasonable level saw an immediate improvement in the consistency of my shots.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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Calibrating shot glass. I should get about 1.5-2.0 ounces in 25-27 seconds if my grind is appropriate and I'm tamping properly.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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My Reg Barber tamper, as always, to tamp the grinds down. Wengewood with a copper base (a sonnofabitch to keep clean, but pretty nonetheless).

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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i've tried the Weiss Distribution Technique, but it's cumbersome and I've found I can get better results my paying more attention and dosing constantly while grinding.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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Tamped to ~30 pounds of pressure. I always clear off the sides, too, to keep my machine clean.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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Beginning of extraction. I'm noticing that it's still uneven in the centre, leading to a poorer cup. Still working on this, but I think an improved distribution technique will fix it.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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Oh, yeah baby!

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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This is almost the end of the poor. Nice tiger-striping! I wish had my iPhone's flash disabled, otherwise this'd look a lot more impressive.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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Nice steamy, dry puck.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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And end result: ~1.5oz of espresso goodness!

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec
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I still need to work on my milk pour, but I've near-perfected my steaming technique.

  • January 15th, 2012
  • Apple iPhone 4
  • 3.85mm / f/2.8 / 1/15 sec

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AshleyKrista
Ashley Krista  over 5 years ago

I love your milk-pouring technique.