I Roast Coffee, I Drink Espresso

I have a problem.   A good problem.

I love coffee.

If it didn’t have caffeine in it, I would drink it all day long.

Oddly enough, I had my first taste of coffee in Rome on our honeymoon in 2006.  Never touched the stuff before that.  One morning as I watched a woman steaming milk, while we were having breakfast, I decided I wanted to try a cappuccino.  That resulted in me ordering a second.  The rest they say is history.


“I can’t drink espresso, it is too strong.”   I am still trying to understand why people say things like that.  I suspect it is because the flavor of an espresso is typically more intense.  More importantly, it is probably because they have had an espresso made with burnt coffee.  Crappy coffee.  Crappy, burnt coffee.

Yes, espresso, depending on the “brew ratio” is more concentrated than a typical “drip” coffee.  However, that can be a good thing if you know what you are looking for.

Four years ago, I was fortunate enough to be living here in Austin, and decided to go to a great local eatery called “Frank.”  Most people know it as the “hot dog place” (they hand make all of their food, including many specialty sausages).  Now, I had always noticed they had a really nice espresso machine near the front door and one end of the bar.  So, I sat down and started talking to the barista.  His name was Ethan, and that day they had a coffee from Yirgacheffe in Ethiopia.  He thought I would like it. So, he made me a “double” shot (which in this case meant they were using around 20g of coffee in the portafilter…probably more like a triple).  He placed the espresso cup in front of me and all I could smell was berries.  Blueberries.  Lots of blueberries.

The first thing I did was ask him if this was flavored coffee or something.  He gave a slight laugh and assured me that it was not flavored, but it was a very intense coffee.  I took a sip and it was even more intense than it smelled.  It tasted like sweet, blueberry pie.

I was hooked.

I ended up having three shots that day and walked out of there with a huge smile on my face and shaking like a teenage girl in a Friday the 13th movie.

It was all I could think about.  It was all I could talk about.  I simply didn’t understand what was going on.

You see, I thought I was an espresso drinker.  After all, I was.  I drank a couple of shots each day.  Typically one or two in the morning and maybe another in the afternoon.  I started with a Krups machine (terrible).  Moved to a Nespresso (incredibly convenient, but equally as terrible).  And, finally after I had my epiphany at Frank, I purchased the cult favorite Rancillio Miss Silvia and a Rocky grinder.

Miss Silvia

There have been three discreet versions of this machine…all with the same basic look.  A very well laid out sturdy, stainless body and a few black switches.  The reality is, that she is a fickle beast and if you are not in it to win it she will break you.  Paired with a Rancillio Rocky grinder, it is enough to make your blood pressure boil most days of the week.  This is because the grinder is actually the most important piece of the equation.  More on that later.

I still own Miss Silvia.  She is currently our “travel” machine.  She probably weighs close to 50 pounds, but she is worth her weight in gold once you learn how to smooth talk her and pair her with a decent grinder.  I upgraded her with a PID temperature controller which basically means it has a hot rod thermostat to help get the water temperature the coffee sees close to ideal.  With a machine this small, it is a game of averaging rather than setting the temperature to a number and expecting that is what will come out of the brew head.  The boiler is the size of a double shot of wiskey and the machine simply doesn’t have enough thermal mass to give a flat temperature delivery.

So What?

Good question.

La Spaziale Pre-Infusion Taste Test #1

La Spaziale Pre-Infusion Taste Test #1

I recently installed La Spaziale’s “progressive pre-infusion” chamber on my 2 group New EK.  Since installing the setup, I have not had any bad extractions to speak of.  I have also been paying close attention to quantity of coffee in (18g) and quantity (weight) of liquid out (~18g).  I typically like shorter shots, so anything 9-18g is usually something I enjoy more.

This was the first taste test to see if there is any appreciable difference between a shot with pre-infusion and one without.


Adding Pre-Infusion to the La Spaziale New EK

Adding Pre-Infusion to the La Spaziale New EK

The Goal

  1. Pull more consistent shots.
  2. Test if there are any discernible differences with and without pre-infusion


  1. Most of the crappy extractions I get are probably more of a function of a lazy barista. However, I wonder if a “soft start” might be more forgiving.
  2. When I first bought this machine and before I plumbed it in, I drew water from a large bottle of water.  Those first shots had the best body and balance I have seen on this machine (for the most part).  I have constantly wondered if line pressure, pre-infusion, or some other mythical creature might help me recapture this legend.