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Espresso geeks out there? [Feb. 7th, 2009|10:23 pm]
I've been considering upgrading my pretty-old espresso machine. I have a Gaggia Carezza, a model Gaggia put out to compete in the "just about $200" espresso machine business. It's pretty nice, for the price, but I've often thought of upgrading, and I'm thinking of doing it with my tax return. I've narrowed it down to two:

The Rancilio Silvia, or the Saeco Aroma

The difference? Well the Saeco uses a pressurized portafilter. It's a lot easier to use. Normally, you need to use a combination of grind and packing of coffee to push back against the hot water, to draw two shots of espresso in 20-25 seconds. (One shot is 1-1.25 ounces.) The Saeco is supposed to take care of that for you.

But, there's two questions in my mind. First, is it as good as the "old fashioned" method of using grind and tamping? Hey, maybe it is... technology marches on, and sometimes it ends up making things easier and better. But, maybe I want to think about grind and tamping. I've gotten better at drawing espresso as time goes on.

The other issue is, the Saeco has a steaming wand that's intended to help froth milk. The Rancilio doesn't. I could end up wasting a lot of milk learning to froth it the old fashioned way. But, again, maybe I want to waste a little milk, and learn to do it 'right', without mechanical assistance.

Hah. Does anyone else find it funny that I'm trying to decide if I want to spend twice as much money so I can face a bigger challenge and do more work getting my espresso just right?

Anyway, does anyone out there have any advice, ideas, encouragement?

[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-02-08 02:44 pm (UTC)
Strong black coffee is your friend, and can be brewed in a $10 coffee maker.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-02-08 04:53 pm (UTC)
Hm. I wish we lived next door to each other. I'm having a hard time getting my shots pulled from my machine, but I managed to pull about a teaspoon of pure crema this morning. If you tasted that, you would understand that you just can't compare it to plain coffee. If you handed it to someone and asked them what it tasted like, they might say it was "coffee flavored, but creamy, with no bitterness". Looking at it, caramel brown and frothy, if they didn't know good espresso, they might guess that I did something weird with regular coffee, and wonder why it was such a small quantity.

(I also got a full double shot, but the seal around the portafilter was leaking so it wasn't as good - one of the reasons I want to upgrade.)
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-02-08 04:55 pm (UTC)

I consider your obsession with espresso a symbol of everything that's wrong with our economy!
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-02-08 05:34 pm (UTC)
I guess I don't understand that kind of objection.

Imagine an island. There are 100 people on it. Ten people farm, and provide sufficient food for 150 people.

Thirty people make necessary things, each with spare capacity to make things for 150 people. Shelter, furniture, household goods, etc..

Another 20 provide various services, enough for an island with 150 people on it.

Assuming 30 are children, this leaves ten people today who have no work to do... unless they invent new good or services. Not necessities - necessities are already covered. So they need to find something that makes people happy, that people will trade for. And they'd better get cracking; those 30 children are growing up, and they'll need something to do, too. And it's going to take a good many years before they can get jobs as farmers or manufacturers of necessities.

At some point in time, on this island we call the earth, we're going to run into similar problems, unless we overpopulate to the point that we *can't* produce food and necessities for everyone (a real possibility, though it's hard to say what the Malthusian limit is; as wcg has pointed out, each person born is not just another mouth to feed, but another brain working to figure out better ways of feeding, clothing, housing, etc., everyone.)

The more new and interesting products that are invented, the bigger the overall economy is, and the more money flows. If there weren't espresso machines, and people who wanted to buy them, the overall economy would be smaller; there'd be less money flowing, and fewer jobs for those who wanted them. (Unless some other new product filled the gap.)

Just as important, the market for these things makes life more interesting. You have been known to go to opera; if there was not a market for that, you would never have the opportunity to do so, and no one would have the opportunity to learn of a new-to-them, wonderful thing. Similarly, without espresso machines, no one would ever be astounded at this tiny miracle of physics and chemistry that turns ordinary coffee beans into something that they hadn't ever imagined before.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-02-08 06:04 pm (UTC)
It was just a Sunday morning snark. Espresso and the scaling up of folks' desires, like with his 'n' hers jacuzzis in the master bath, is a hobby horse of mine. You're welcome to delete the comment if you like.

Think of all the lunches for poor children you could buy with the price of an espresso machine!

[ducks and runs]
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2009-02-08 06:31 pm (UTC)
I've deleted my last response, because I don't want anyone else to see it. But I believe you have my e-mail address - my user name, newsguy, and the top level domain is com.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-02-08 09:36 pm (UTC)
I owe you an apology -- it was intended to be teasing, hence the [ducks and runs], but I can see it comes off as needling.

I must also apologize for having visited an ill-formed and inapplicable snark on your LJ. I have a screed brewing about the folks who have overextended themselves on credit, especially by taking out home equity loans on the bloated and bubblacious appreciation on their houses, to buy luxury goods but that doesn't apply to you. When the screed is fully formed I'll post it on my own LJ where it belongs. The espresso machine gets my special ire because of the Bad Old Days at the newfangled coffee shops when I'd have to stand in line for 20 minutes to get my lousy cup of black coffee while the baristas made two or three frangipani double-shot bullwinkle whatsits for the folks in front of me (she says with the fine disdain of someone who pines for watered-down Maxwell House in a Buffalo china mug).

There's almost certainly a branch of Boys and Girls Clubs in Seattle if you want to pursue the topic of your last comment.

Edited at 2009-02-08 09:51 pm (UTC)
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