by Alex Choppin, Baratza Support Specialist.
I’ve worked in coffee for twelve years, and most of that time was spent behind an espresso machine. I remember thwacking away at doser chamber paddles while The Shins played overhead in a dark, wood room with big comfy couches. I remember swiping excess coffee with a gift card back into that doser chamber before smashing a round tamper at –exactly- 30 pounds of pressure into the portafilter and watching for “tiger stripes” and “blonding” in the shot.
I’ve also made espresso on pressure-profiling machines using waterproof scales and temperature controlled grinders. I’ve stumbled through tossing pre-weighed doses into an entirely too tall EK43 hopper to brew light-roasted coffee at big ratios to serve neat but in big glass cups (not without taking a few drops for TDI measurements of course).
On a sunny Tuesday in downtown Bellevue, Washington at the Seattle Coffee Gear showroom, my colleague Colin Francois and I got to play around with a handful of home espresso machines. I’ll admit I was a bit out of my element using machines that cost less than a new car (intended for home use rather than a commercial setting) but I couldn’t say I had a hard time doing what I’ve done for years: dialing in a nice shot of espresso.
I chose the Breville Dual Boiler, a machine used by many of the customers I help every day. Using the Sette 30 with AP burr inside (after seasoning and with one shim inside), I set the grind to setting 11, filled my hopper and opened the gate. After a little dose grooming (no grind by weight on this machine, but the timer gets me as close as I ever got on a commercial grinder), I pulled a shot that took a little longer than I’d like for a 1:2 dose to yield ratio at 36 seconds.
The path ahead was clear, a coarser grind will speed things up! I bumped the grind adjustment over to 12 and went back at it. A nice 30 second extraction came out, but didn’t taste quite as sweet as I would have liked: the shot took a little too long for the coffee I was making, so I decided to move one step coarser to 13. This shot made it through in 25 seconds, and though I was a bit skeptical looking at the numbers, I knew that the best tool in my arsenal is my sense of taste, so I took a sip. It was good –very good – but not…quite…there.
At this point I’m thinking “I wish there was a setting between 12 and 13, it’s just where I need to be!” but this is an entry level machine, and doesn’t have the stepless micro adjustment of the Sette 270. Thankfully, grind adjustment isn’t the only way to affect extraction, so I add a little more coffee to my dose (bringing the ratio down to 1:1.9) and there it was: some yummy espresso.
I was particularly impressed by how easily I was able to dial in this espresso, and by how great it tasted! Coming from commercial grade machines, I honestly assumed I’d have to compromise on quality using this tier of equipment. After dialing in, we started exploring adjustability over other grind settings. I saw a consistent 5-6 second change in shot time per macro adjustment, and had an easy time repeating prior results so long as I stayed within the duty cycle (giving the machine 60 seconds of rest between grinds).