1. De’longhi EC702 15 Bar Pump-Driven Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker
This was a gift from my mom two Christmas’s ago in 2012. I did a lot of research before I deciding on this machine, but it didn’t take long for me to grow out of it. The temperature is inconsistent, it has a pressurized basket in the portafilter and comes with a really small steam wand. There are other small things I dislike, but these are my main complaints.
However, to pull good shots and steam good milk on a La Marzocco Strada is one thing, but to be able to do that a piece of equipment that costs only about $200 is a whole other thing. This is the machine that I have now, so I will make the most out of it. I’ve read so many people say that its impossible to make a quality espresso shot/drink with an entry-level home espresso machine, but I wonder if anyone has ever really tried to push this machine to see the limits of its capabilities.
I know there are readers who are like “why even bother?” Frankly at this point, I have no choice because I can’t afford a commercial machine. Here are a few tips for the readers out there who have a home espresso machine and would like to pull shots and steam milk that more closely resembles higher quality, traditional machines.
1. Remove the panerello wand. The wand makes messy large foam bubbles that are miles away from the texture of microfoam. Not only does large bubbly foam has a very unpleasant texture and fails to bring out the best in your milk, microfoam is a must when attempting latte art.
2. Purchase a non-pressurized basket upgrade. Seattle Coffee Gear sells them here. Guide2coffee.com has written an awesome article explaining the differences because pressurized and non-pressurized baskets. The article can be found here.
To summarize the article,
- Pressurized baskets do most the work for the domestic user. It helps to take the variables of espresso making such as grind size, dosing and tamp pressure almost out of the equation. It has a single small exit hole which creates a high pressure environment in the basket. This pressure forces and water to spread more evenly though the basket which results in a more even extraction. The small single hole also prevents water from flowing too quickly just in case the user has a course grind or too light of a tamp. However, the basket takes too much control away from the user. It prevents a rich full-bodied extraction. If the pros don’t use it, why should home coffee enthusiasts use it either?
- Non-pressurized baskets gives more control to the user but requires more skill and experience and thus more time devotion. The grind, dosing and tamp needs to be just right but when it is, the payoff is worth it.
2. Gino Rossi RR45
I bought this from an eBay auction for $169.50. I wish I had taken pictures of it when I first got it and opened up the machine. It was caked in 1/8th to 1/4th inch of espresso goop! Its been through a lot from the looks of it, but its a workhorse from what I’ve read. I get really a really nice, even grind and at the finest end, the grind is like powder.
3. Counter Culture Coffee Beans
I’ve just started using Counter Culture. My first bag was Kona, which I really liked for pour-over. I will be using Rustico for espresso!