A "steam-toy" espresso maker joined the fray. This type of machine has a large screw cap on top. You unscrew it, add the water, screw the top back in place, and flip the power switch. This machine is powered completely by steam -- turn a small knob to use the steam wand to heat milk, or close that valve to let the steam push water through the coffee grounds.
Three main glitches with the steam-toy machines -- the steam pressure doesn't get high enough to steam the milk very well, it doesn't get high enough to brew espresso adequately (9 bar = 9 atmospheres is recommended by experts), the water is too hot (190-195 degrees is recommended). Further, many of these machines do not divert the steam to the steam want, they simply open the valve to provide another route for the pressure, so steam pressure is affected by the fineness of the coffee grind and by how hard the coffee is tamped. Of course, at this stage, I didn't know all these things. I was pleased as punch with my espresso maker, for a while.
Then, I bought the next step in the steam-toy line. This one still had the big wide-mouthed boiler, still did everything with steam power, but actually had a two-way valve so that steam either went to the steam want, or went to the portafilter (the cup which holds the coffee grounds), but not both. Wow, this was a huge improvement in the quality of the "cappuccino" that I made.
Eventually, this wondrous valve began to give problems, and I started thinking about the next step up. This involved giving up on the whirly-blade grinders, too.
Now the price was getting expensive -- $230 for the Briel Vilamoura espresso maker and another $100 for the Briel Java grinder. Wow, I'm in the big league, with a real espresso maker now. (nope, but it was another step in the right direction.) This machine was powered by a pump, instead of steam. It had a heating block, through which the internal water line ran. There were two heat settings, "brew" and "steam." Now, I could really make a fine cappucino (I thought) and could make some really fine, steamed hot chocolate. Well, I did have to stop and let the heating block reheat, in the middle of the steaming process, but I could get there. Of course, this meant I was always dreaming about the next espresso maker. Eventually, something broke, and I broke it even more trying to fix it. Faced with a $50-75 repair bill for the machine with which I had become dissatisfied, I decided to start looking seriously for a new espresso machine.
So, I looked. And looked. And looked. I read. And read. And read. And I surfed, and surfed and surfed. And I found the Usenet newsgroup alt.coffee. These folks brew espresso, not just coffee. Wonder what kind of machines they like? Roasting coffee? What kind of weirdos do that? No way, I'm not that gung-ho. Roast your own coffee. Roast your own coffee at home. Hummm...Sweet Maria's. Home Innovations Precision with 8 half-pound green coffee samples. Well, I could try that, while I'm still looking for an espresso maker...
Copyright © 2002-2005 Terry A. Stockdale