Following on the Pragmatic Coffee journey, Miha joins to discuss every detail behind the Espresso coffee and how to make the best shot you can.
Welcome to Pragmatic Pragmatic is a discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. By exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is brought to you by Clubhouse, the first project management platform for software development that brings everyone on every team together to build better products. Visit this URL, clubhouse, or oneword.io/10theword for more information. We'll talk more about them during the show. Pragmatic is part of the Engineer Network. To support our shows including this one, head over to our Patreon page, and for other great shows, visit engineer.network today. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and today I'm joined by Miha Rekha and oh my god I mangled that didn't I? Hello no it's fine it's fine it's not fine okay happy to be here well thanks for coming on the show this is a little bit of um I came on your show and we talked about coffee and I'm like oh my god I have to get you on this show and talk about coffee some more um yeah so the deal with that was like we started talking about coffee and I was like oh I have to edit this out otherwise people will just never listen - No, no, no, no, no, no. They loved it. Did they love it? Actually, I have no idea if they did or didn't, but in any case, we scratched the surface. We barely scratched the surface. And a long time ago, a long time ago, and I mean like several years ago, I had Marco Arment on the show on episode 30 and I got him back for a follow-up, which went for over an hour and a half. Hmm, it was a very long follow-up on coffee. And since then in my coffee journey, a lot has changed and a lot has happened and you know as you evolve and tastes change and so on. So, I thought it would be a really good time to circle back and basically cover something that's become a bit more dear to my heart in recent years and that specifically is espresso. And in the original episodes I did way back a few years ago, I listened back to them before I did the show notes for this one because you know I don't want to go over the same ground twice. So, a couple of things that have happened since then is that back then I had a Baratza Virtuoso grinder and because at that point I'd sort of... Which is a great grinder, by the way. It is a great grinder. It was very, very good. I don't have it anymore. I sold it, but I got another one. I've now got a Breville Smart grinder, which I'll talk a little bit more about later. But in the very first episode, I was still using a hand grinder, but anyway, and I think Mark, I found that absolutely hilarious. Yeah, yeah, it is. - I can see that. - Hey, it's quaint and therapeutic, but nevermind that. And it's in the back of the cupboard for absolute dire emergencies. And I actually had a case where I had my Baratzo was actually the Virtuoso was on the blink and I had to go and get a replacement. The DC motor burned out and I had to get a replacement under warranty, which was fortunate 'cause it still had two weeks of warranty left at that point. So I ended up getting a replacement shipped over. So that was good. But during that time I was hand grinding And I was just remembering, yeah, I think Marco was saying there is no upside. Yes, he's right. (Marco laughs) Anyway. - No, I think it's fine if you're traveling or something like that and you want to have freshly ground coffee, then in that case, I guess it makes sense. But for home, if you drink a lot of coffee, especially espresso, which is I guess topic of today, it will be a living hell. - Yep, yeah, pretty much. And so I felt like it's very happy at the back of the cupboard and that's where it's staying for until an emergency. Or I feel like a bit of punishment. Never mind. All right. Some of the other little bits and pieces I picked up along the way is I've also invested in a Hario V60 pour over, a ceramic, the white ceramic one. And I still don't have a gooseneck kettle to avoid disturbing the grounds but that remains the only way I can actually have a black coffee. So, I do sometimes have a black coffee. That's another thing that's happened in the last few years that I've actually gotten quite... I don't mind having one as sort of like a special treat. And I say it's a special treat simply because it takes so long to make it that if I have that time, then I'm happy to make one. And spoiler alert, I practically never have time. So, I find espresso is much faster and it's just as nice, just in a different way. So, anyhow. Yeah, I wish I could say the same. For me, espresso takes a lot of time as well. - Okay. - We'll get there. - Yes, we will. And so the AeroPress I keep for when I go away, I take my AeroPress with me to make a nice coffee when I'm on the road and I pre-grind that coffee and it works reasonably well. But anyway, that's enough of the non-espresso talk because I'll be perfectly honest that 95%, or probably more than that actually, of the coffee that I have these days is actually is espresso. So if I'm gonna start talking about espresso, I've gotta start at the beginning. And I didn't actually cover any of this in the previous episode. So this is all sort of fresh ground for me to cover, at least anyway. So a little bit of history then. So in 1884 was sort of the first, what we think of as an espresso machine was patented by Angelo Moriondo. And he had a shop in Turin in Northern Italy. And the patent was for a new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage, method A Moriondo, which is not really a title that rolls off the tongue, but oh, well, it's a patent, what are you gonna do? The machine itself was actually built by a mechanic by the name of Martina. And the funny thing is that the mechanic actually did all the work and Moriondo just sort of like told them what to do. So it was fun, it'd be a little bit annoying, but anyway. So they didn't actually make a heck of a lot of these, apparently, so it was never mass produced. So the ones that they used, they were used for Moriondo's business, that was pretty much it. And the thing that's different about this compared to what we think of as an espresso machine is it was a bulk brewer. So, it made batches of espresso, not for individuals. So, you didn't like pull one shot or two shots and that was it. It was a bulk brewer. So, not really genuine espresso, but the concept was the same, which was, you know, high pressure steam forced through the coffee grinds. So, 1901, Luigi Bezzera from Milano patented an improved espresso machine. but his machine had a boiler and four groups. And each of those groups had a different size filter in it. And each filter contained the ground coffee and that was called a Tipo Gigante. And the Bezzera patent was purchased by, oh geez, I hope I'm doing my Italian pronunciations okay, but anyway, Desidero Pavoni, two years later. And then two years after that, they started manufacturing those machines based on its design. And that was more or less the state of the art for espresso until just before the second world war. So in 1938, sort of up until that point they were forcing steam and boiling water through the coffee grounds. So the problem with that obviously is that the water steam was hot. So you get that burnt sort of taste, but most importantly to me at least there was no crema. So all of those early machines didn't produce a crema. And it was annoying. - To be fair, the Italian coffee is still taste like that, - Like very burned and very dark. - Yeah, that's true. - The weathered machine they use. - Yeah, that's true. But I suppose the thing was that they learned in the next few decades that by pressurizing it and maintaining that pressure, you can actually extract that crema that I've come to love. And it's sort of like, it started in 1938 when it's interesting, I like it when stuff like this happens is there was a guy who was working in a factory. the factory technician who was building coffee grinders. So, you know, obviously wanted to do more than just build coffee grinders. I struggled to find this gentleman's first name, just M. Cremonesi. So, anyhow. It's a fitting name. Yes. Funny, hey, Crema Cremonesi. Maybe that's it. So, maybe that's why they call it Crema. I'm pretty- I know, I'm pretty sure it's because it's- Probably not. the Italian word for cream or something anyway. So Cremonesi, he modified the design of the machine to include a piston pump that then pressurized the water. And yeah, since you can't pump steam, the pump used water at just below the boiling point of water. So his machine eliminated that burnt sort of aftertaste and it extracted that creamy sort of finish on top that we've come to know as the crema. So, that was then the state of the art. And around about that time, it sort of migrated across to the United States. It was firmly entrenched in Italian culture by that point and was spreading around the world. But the funny thing is that all of that was still not quite what we consider like modern espresso. And that actually started in 1961. And that was when- Again, struggling to find the first name. Anyway, M. Faehmer. F-A-E-H-M-E-R. I hope I pronounced that right. They produced one with an electric pump rather than a mechanical pump that was a lot easier to control. But it wasn't just that, their design, it pulled fresh water from the reservoir, pumped it through a heat exchanger, and that ensured the water was delivered freshly heated to a more precise temperature before it was delivered to the head. And the operation of the head was fantastic. It was basically, it was so good that pretty much every espresso machine since then has been based on that design. But yeah, it was more about the pre-infusion chamber and how it worked in the group head that was sort of, I guess, more important in many ways than the actual group head connection. Because the year was 1961. They called the E61 head. Yep. Yeah. And the funny thing is, I have that group head in my fairly recently new espresso machine. And it's still like, yeah, like you said, most of the medium to like high end espresso machines now use the exact same design of the group head from 1961 which is sort of bizarre. I think it's just amazing because when I was reading through the development of this it was fascinating because they really did try all sorts of different pressures and all different ways of pre-infusion like how large the chamber was and everything. They really did a lot of research to make this, to get this as good as possible, to get the best possible result. It's a testament to how good that design was that it's still in use and it's what, 50, 60 years later nearly, it's pretty impressive. So the funny thing is that these days in domestic machines, you know, like you and I have got, you know, it pretty much they all use the E61, but subtle variants, some better variants than others. Yours I think is far more purist, more close to the original. - Mine is exactly the same. Like the group head is exactly from E61. I can go to Fiema and buy it and put it on mine. It's gonna work just fine. - Cool. I can't say that with mine, mine's a modified E61. It's close, but it's not quite exactly the same. And the thing that I also found out is that the larger commercial models, like I think some of the larger Wager ones, like the really big ones they use in coffee shops and so on, they use a quite a heavily modified version. It's kind of a stretch to call them an E61 group head, but the point is that there are too many differences in the inner workings of them. Don't necessarily want to go into all the detail behind that but to be perfectly honest, I just find it fascinating that that basic core design is still more or less in use. And the other thing about that group head design and the name E61. Now, I don't know, it sounds a little bit like it, I don't know, like it's a bit of an urban legend or something, but according to my research, the E stands for Eclipse. And I thought, that's odd. I mean, sure. I'd never heard that before. Yeah, but the thing is, if you do your research, you find out that on the 15th of February 1961, there was a full solar eclipse that passed right over the top of Italy. So, maybe there is something to that. So, E61, eclipse 1961, group head, pretty neat anyway. It's, yeah, I'm going to go on with that. It sounds cool. All right. So. Yeah, no, no, it definitely does. And it also looks cool, even now. I mean, it's a very distinguished look. If you look at these machines, they come from various manufacturers, but they all look very similar because the group head is exactly the same. - Yes, exactly. All right, so that's essentially brought us up to modern espresso machines. I think the next place to stop is to just let's take it apart and consider all the different parts of an espresso machine, just quickly cover what all the key components are. Probably the most boring part is the reservoir. Yeah, it holds the water. It doesn't really do much else. I think most of them got like a water filter in there just to make sure that any of the no gunky stuff gets sucked in through the pumps or mechanisms or boilers. And when I have had, like just in the last few weeks, we've had some really dry weather and then some wet weather. And depending upon which folklore you choose to believe, the ants seek refuge and some of them seek refuge inside your espresso machine. Seriously? Seriously. Yeah. That's like living in Australia. And I'm like, really guys? Come on, there's a perfectly good sink just over there. You can set up home in there, but no, no, no, no, no. You're going to invade my reservoir in my espresso machine. So, I was a bit cranky there because I had to clean out my espresso machine and scoop out a whole bunch of hundreds of dead ants that had been drowned in the reservoir. And I'm like, guys, really? Come on. That sounds horrible. Well, yes, it was frustrating because I wasn't going to- I flushed it out, I cleaned it out, and then I put down a bunch of, like, surface spray around that area, around the machine. I created a, call it an invisible barrier, so if the ants crawled across, that was the mistake. Anyway, yes, but now it's been ant-free for about two weeks and that's good. Anyway, never mind. Strange problems. - Yes, also, reservoir is not strictly necessary. You can plug in directly to the water delivery system. - Yes, that's true. I guess most of the domestic machines, does your machine have that capability or is it just-- - Yes, it does, but there's a huge problem if you do that. You have to have some sort of filters to basically clear out your water, if nothing else, lime scale. So that's just more complex if you want to do that and probably more expensive as well. I know that the larger ones are definitely plumbed in. I wasn't aware of too many domestic ones that you could do that. That is pretty interesting. There are also, I suppose, it's not unheard of in domestic appliances. I mean, you can also get fridges is probably the best example because you can get fridges with ice makers and ice cube makers, sorry, and cold water chillers and such. I've often thought about doing that, but they seem like such a pain in the neck. So, I kind of, I haven't yet. Mind you, I was also eyeing off a $5,000 smart fridge the other day and just thinking, that's not a fridge. It's like a computer with cameras in it and it's bizarre. And then I realized how old I was and I just kept on moving. Nevermind, all right. - Anyway. - Yes. Next thing, we just talked about the group head. Well, I'm not sure what else there is to say about the group head, but you know, it's essentially the head of the, it's connected on the underneath side or protruding from the front of the espresso machine. And we attach into that underneath a portafilter. And the portafilter's got a handle on it and it has a matching round bracket with some slots on it that allows you to lift it up into the group head and twist it 45 to 90 degrees, depending upon the model to lock it in position. And inside the portafilter, we put a filter basket. Some people just call it a portafilter basket or a basket. And the sizes you can get, well, I think you can get multiple sizes, but I have filter baskets for a single and a double with two different sizes of perforations at the bottom. Not sure what else there is to say about portafilters, to be honest. And at the bottom of the portafilter, you've got- - No, they're just, yeah. you're going to have one or two spouts. I think it's interesting. I've noticed that the coffee shops typically will have a single pour and I use single pour a lot, whereas I tend to go with a double. I don't ever, but I could have got a portafilter with a single pour on it, but I don't see the point. I always make a double shot anyway. - Yes, as you should, because the baskets for single are not great because of the pressure that gets dispersed everywhere. But that's another topic again. But you can also have the, what is called a naked portafilter, which basically has no spouts. It's just, you see directly the basket. Oh, that's right. So it goes directly through the bottom and that is the ones that pour at the bottom like a... Yeah, they are the ones that look very pretty when everything is correct. And it can get very, very messy when you just slightly misadjust something. Cool. So, they don't actually have a spout on the bottom. So, when the espresso shot comes out, it just literally goes straight down. So, if your shot's not the right pressure, then it goes all over the place, is what you're saying. Yeah. And even if you have like uneven grounds and there is like a channeling happening, that thing can spray all over your kitchen, for example. I'm sticking with mine. Not fine. I'll stick with mine, I think. Oh my goodness. All right. Fair enough. So, there's a couple of little parts of the group head that I thought were worth calling out. there's the group gasket or the group head gasket gasket depends on how you pronounce it anyway that seals the portafilter against the group head so that it can maintain pressure and a key part of the group head is the group screen some people call it the shower screen or the dispersion screen and it's just designed to stop the well to stop the filter grounds from I guess pushing it's what the filter that the grounds are pushing up against when they're under pressure, the water will come through that screen. Every so often, you got to unscrew and take that screen off and clean out any grounds that have gone back up inside them. It also has another function that the water goes as evenly as possible on your coffee puck with that. It tries to distribute it evenly. Cool. That makes sense. Cool. All righty. Moving away from the group head to thinking like I'm group head obsessed or something, We have the steaming wand. Are you a groupie? I'm a groupie. That's funny. Oh dear. No. So, anyway, so steaming wands. They figured out, hey, we're making steam, we can use steam to do stuff like heat the milk up. So, steaming wand, sometimes called a steam wand or a frothing wand, not much to say about that, just taps off the top of the boiler and high pressure steam goes out there and we can use that for frothing the milk. We'll talk a lot more about that in a minute. Then of course a lot of the models will come with a pressure gauge or just a gauge or a shot gauge. Just trying to remember if your particular one is you've got an Alex Duetta have you? I think yes. It has a gauge on it as well doesn't it? Yeah it has two for two boilers. One for the steam pressure and one for the the pressure of the shot pressure pump. - Yeah. - Yeah. All right, cool. Last but not least, the sight glass, which is really not that thrilling, but it just tells you how much water is in the reservoir. That's what I'll throw it in there 'cause, well, you know, it's important not to run out of water when you're in the middle of a shot. - Yeah, I don't have that. I have a very nasty alarm sound when the water level is low. - Oh, okay. Fair enough. - That's Italians for you. (laughing) - Now, now. Okay then. So, the other thing is there's, I guess you could say two broad types of espresso machine in terms of the boiler. You can have a single boiler machine or a dual boiler and my- And the heat exchanger, I guess is the- Yeah, I suppose that's true. Third one. Yeah, okay. So, on the single boiler, I actually did have a single boiler there for a little while. I had a Garcia Classic and that was a single boiler. I used it for about a year and then I got a bit tired of it because the boiler on it was so you flick a switch for pulling a shot and it warms it up to the shot temperature and then when you want to do steam you have to flick the switch to a different position and it heats it up to a higher heating set point at which point then the steaming wand will actually work and the problem with that was I found that the boiler was too small when it came to actually steaming milk for just a regular size latte it would take like multiple minutes and you'd get halfway through and it would just peter out to nothing and And yeah, it was very, very frustrating. You had to wait for it to reboil again before you could finish frothing the milk. It's ridiculous. So anyway, I say ridiculous. It's a first world problem right there, but still. So I ended up selling it and getting a dual boiler. So I got a Breville BES920 is the one I've got at the moment. I've had that now for two and a bit years and it's been fantastic. And the difference of the dual boiler is you have two different boilers, one for the steam and one for your shot. And yes. And the heat exchanger basically works that you have a steam boiler basically and then the channeling of the pipes is such that you can do basically both. So it tries to act as a dual boiler with a single boiler. So you can still have a consistent temperature sort of and also steam at roughly the same time or almost immediately after. So I meant to ask actually before you're Alex DeWiter, What did you have before that? - I didn't have an espresso machine before that. 'Cause yeah, I guess, okay, let's, maybe we lost all the listeners that weren't into espresso, but like, I will quote, sorry, I will quote James Hoffman, who said that like whenever people ask him what kind of espresso machine they should get for home, he asked them back like, "Do you want a new hobby?" Because having an espresso machine at home and doing what we're doing, it's a hobby. It will take time. You will actually have to appreciate good coffee to pay attention to it, to actually get good espresso out. Otherwise, you'll just be frustrated and you will spend a ton of money before and you will just give up on everything and, I don't know, go to Starbucks or whatever. No, don't go to Starbucks. It's a last resort, not the first. Yeah, I understand. I agree. And I think that it's the sort of thing that I just probably should have opened with this actually. But the reality is I came to like the taste of espresso for more from the fact that when I was out and about everything's based on the espresso shot. And so I got used to the taste of a latte based on espresso, as opposed to essentially mixing milk and coffee from an AeroPress. And I've had the most bizarre journey really with coffee compared to most people. And honestly, at least that's my perception. Ultimately though, I found that the, I preferred the espresso taste over most other forms of brewing coffee. I do still like the AeroPress quite a bit, but I just like espresso more better. And I do like, as I said before, black coffee, which is a pour over done on the Hario. And it's really nice as well. So, it's different ways of enjoying the same thing. But I guess my- The ultimate thing that I liked is I just feel like espresso has more potential to be nice, really nice, if you can get it right. And I still think that making- I can make a better coffee than 95% of the coffee shops, you know, that I would go to. The specialist, specialist roasters are the only exception. So, if I want a really nice cup of coffee, don't expect that at, you know, Gloria Jean's, Starbucks, Zaraffa's, any of the, you know, the name- any of the chain stores, you can just forget it. You know, you'll never get a decent- I've never had a really nice cup of coffee from any of them. You know, you go to your specialty roasters, yes, you can. And there are some really nice ones for sure, but they're usually hard find or too far to go and you end up having, you know, crummy coffee because it's convenient when you're at work. So, I tend to make myself a nice cup of espresso that I have on the way to work in the car and, you know, and on the weekends, you know, whenever I want to. Or like right now, just before an episode about espresso, I'm having a latte because, well, you know. Yeah, I have a flat. I'm having a flat white as well. So, at what point did you want to get into espresso? So, yeah, I'm from Slovenia, which is next to Italy. So naturally, espresso is very common here. Like it's a we grew up, we we were sort of brought up with espresso culture all around us. Filter coffee wasn't really a thing. So people at home drink cheese, their coffee is called Ibric. You might also know it by which is like this very, very finely grind and you put it in some in like a vessel and then you you boil it up and then this is like very very strong flavor even I would say espresso like strong flavor so we are used to that and I yeah I started with AeroPress because it was the simplest and it's still like what I recommend to people when they say I want to get into into coffee I recommend them like the setup that you had basically Virtuoso or Anchor grinder and just Aeropress and start brewing. And this was me for like two years. But then eventually, yeah, because I guess espresso was all around me and I was frustrated by how bad coffee was everywhere I went. Because we at the time did not have specialty coffee anywhere. We also don't have Starbucks, but like not that I miss it or whatever. But yeah, so I was like, okay, I want to make espresso at at home, so how hard can it be? And then I started the research about all of this that we just talked about, so single boiler, dual boiler, heat exchangers, grinders, all of that. And I was like, okay, if I'm seriously into this, then I will invest a lot of money and just get the dual boiler. 'Cause I know I much prefer latte drinks, Flat white is my favorite, which is roughly equal amount of coffee and soft milk, micro-foamed milk. And this is like double espresso. And I was like, I want to do both, and I also want to make several at a time, because my girlfriend also enjoys same kind of drinks. And, girlfriend at the time, maybe I should say, I should add. (laughing) - So yeah, and if you wanna make coffee and milk drinks at the same time, multiple, then single boiler is completely out of the picture. And I was like, okay, so I guess dual boiler is where it's at, and it was a lot of money, so then I was researching for a really, really long time before I settled on the E61 group hat, which is nice because, like you said, It's been in existence since 1961, which means basically all the parts are available and are really cheap. So if anything breaks, you can repair it yourself. I can just open up the machine and everything is really accessible. Everything is simple. Like it's literally just four things in there. There's two large boilers, there's a pump, there's a PID and there's a group head. And that just like a bunch of stuff connecting everything together and that's it. So yeah, I decided for that. And then I just looked at various companies that were making them. I sent a bunch of emails and EZO responded with the best offer back. So I bought the Alex Duetto for, they just gave me like 35% discount, no questions asked. - Nice. - I was like, okay, that's a nice discount. I'm gonna get that. Yes, thank you. - It's like that. - Yeah, absolutely. And the whole, so we were talking about the dual boiler thing and that's a really key point is that when I got the Breville, the BES920, it was, it also is a dual boiler. And that secondary boiler, you know, the, okay. So you see the primary boiler will heat up the steam to a steaming temperature and there'll be a set water level. The steam will be at the top and that's siphoned off for the steaming wand. And the second boiler is, you know, can be like you said, a heat exchanger model. Alternatively, it could be a second independent boiler for pulling the shots. And the idea is that the flow rate is very precisely controlled and the shot temperature is precisely controlled to make sure that it's as consistent as possible. And there's a whole bunch of other things that some machines will have, like large stainless steel blocks or cast iron blocks. The idea is that, you know, to heat that up to a set temperature so that it maintains that temperature during the duration of the shot. And so when you do start the machines and they're all pretty much all electric pump now, so you'll hear that pump and it'll pump water from the reservoir into the primary boiler and I suppose heat exchanger if you've got the heat exchanger in there. And once it reached that set level, it'll cut out. And then once the temperature is set, the pump won't actually put pumping more water in until you either pull a few shots or you use some of the steam and you drop pressure in there. So I always find that I'll make a cup of coffee. When I turn it on, you hear the pump go for a little while to pump some water in and then it'll stop. And just as I'm done ready to clean up and turn it off, the pump will start up again. I'm like, okay, I'm about to turn you off. You don't need to worry about it, but all right. So anyway, all right. So that's probably about enough about the machines for the minute. I think we should probably talk a bit about the grinder because the grinder is a big deal when you're trying to get espresso right, I think. - Yeah. - Yeah, so yeah, like with espresso, the most important things are, I guess, consistency. and this is like consistency of temperature, consistency of pressure, consistency of grinds, uniformity of grinds, everything has to be as consistent as possible and only then can you get like a really good espresso, which is why it can be so frustrating 'cause every little thing, every little adjustment can just make havoc on the whole setup. - Absolutely right and that's why the grinder is so important because that's part of making sure that you've got a good consistent grind. Otherwise, before you even put it in the machine, you're basically stuffed. You're not gonna get a good shot out of it if you've got a crummy grinder. 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The offer is only available to Engineer Network listeners for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. Thank you once again to Clubhouse for sponsoring the Engineer Network. Okay, so about grinders. Now, I did talk about grinders briefly on episode 30, and I just want to simply start by saying, just get a burr grinder. Like, only get a burr grinder. I don't think there's any debate. Oh, yeah. I mean, for Espresso, you don't even have a choice. So, there are some minor variations. You can get a stainless steel one, stainless steel burrs, or you can get the ceramic burrs. And some people would swear by the ceramic ones because they say ceramic generates less heat and that gives you a more consistent grind than stainless steel. I don't know. You also have the difference between conical and flat burrs, which then again, some people will say, "Oh, flat burrs are way better." And then other will say, "Conical are way better." But there was some podcast that I will try to find later where the CEO of Baratza was talking about that like really it just comes down to geometry of the bars and you can make any like no matter if it's conical or flat or if it's ceramic steel or whatever other material you can make a different flavor profile simply by geometry. is insane to me, like everything that they can do. But yeah, apparently. Yeah, I know that there are a lot of debates over conical versus flat, but I think the vast majority of the domestic ones are conical and the flat burr seem to be more popular in the larger scale. But I'm not entirely sure that, I don't think it seems to make much of a difference, really. The consistency seems to be more about the precision of the actual burrs, whether they're flat or conical. As long as they're precise and they've been well made, then either is probably just as good. At least that's been based on my research anyway. Yeah, it also depends on how clean you keep it, how adjusted it is. Especially with the small burrs like for example the Baratza has, like even a slight misalignment on like a on off axis can produce a very non-uniform grind because on one side it's grinding very fine while on the other it's like more coarse and in espresso that's not good because then you have like yeah your coffee is going all over the place. Yeah exactly right. One of the other interesting things that is the effect of grinder retention it's something that you know I sort of didn't be I wasn't aware of in the early days and in any case it's like the idea is that an amount of the grounds will not exit the shoot after grinding and it seems to be mainly driven by electrostatic attraction and I guess one of the problems I have is because I live in a quite a humid climate it's less of an issue for me but if you're a dry climate it actually does it can be quite an issue and that electrostatic attraction will cause those fine coffee particles to actually cling to the insides of the shoot and the burrs following a grind. And it's interesting, some people would even go to the extent of spraying water onto the beans before you grind them. Yeah, I have to do that. Oh, do you really? I have to do that. Wow. Yeah, because the particular grinder I have produces an extreme amount of electrostaticity. I don't know how to pronounce that, but you know what I mean. - Electrostatic. - Yes, and if I don't do that, the coffee grinds basically stick to all the surfaces around the grinder. So the fridge, the grinder itself, the espresso machine, they're just like everywhere. So I have to do either like, the simple way is to have a drop of water on your, like a spoon, and then you just go through coffee with it. and it's really like a tiny, tiny, tiny amount of water, but it makes a huge difference. - Okay, fair enough. So you put that on the beans before they go in the hopper or you put it in the? - Yes. - Yeah, okay. - Before they go in the hopper, yep. - Okay, cool. So you, all right, interesting. So I, that's not just, that's not something that I actually, I guess I don't need to do it exactly. I- - Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn't need to do it on my previous grinders. - Ah, okay, interesting. So I, in mine, I've got, 'cause the Breville, the BS920 came as a set. So you got the smart grinder, as well as the espresso machine in the one deal. And so mine, the great thing about mine, well, I say great thing about it, is that it's got a mostly airtight sort of bean hopper. So I can actually put those, the entire, like I can fit 500 grams, you know, of coffee, roast a coffee in there and it'll keep it pretty relatively fresh you know not like it's probably not quite as good as a genuine airtight sealed container but it's pretty close it's close enough anyway so wetting those is probably not really practical I think it would work if you wet them and you only put in roughly the amount you intended to grind in which case that would be fine is that what you do? Yeah in your case that that wouldn't work out but yeah it all - It all depends on the grinder and what kind of, how it's designed and how it works. - Sure. - For example, the grinder I had before this is also from Baratza Sete, which is just designed to do espresso and it weights by dose, which is great. You can just set it to 18 grams and then you press play and there's no electrostatic, nothing. It's just really nice, fluffy grinds. You just do a simple distribution, tamp it down and it's perfect. - Okay. But with this one, it's more work. But I brought this on myself. - Okay, interesting. So what I do is I only find that the whole retention is a problem when I'm changing beans. Like if I've got some, I've done a grind and they're almost, they're past due, it's time for me to move on. I'll do a final grind. And what I don't want is when I get fresh beans in there to have a couple of puffs of the old stuff in there mixed in with the new stuff, because that'll ruin the first shot. And so all I do is, the way I get around any retention is I just wait 15, 20, 30 seconds, whatever, after I've done the last grind, I just give that a bit of a decent tap on the side and then they just fall out. And that's good enough for me. But as you say, maybe it's just the fact that my grinder doesn't have as much of that issue. It's probably also the humidity. That's what I've always put it down to. But- - Yeah, it depends a lot on the grinder. There are some grinder designs that have like chambers and everything and coffee just stays in there longer. And there are other designs where there's like no retention whatsoever. So it all depends on the particular grinder you have. - So the other thing you mentioned before is the dosing on yours. And that's good because that's the next thing I wanted to mention is a separate doser. And I guess on an individual machine for domestic use, it's probably less common to have a, like a multi-dose doser. So I'm used to seeing in the coffee shops, so usually Mazzer grinders are quite popular and the larger Mazzer grinders will have this doser at the front and the first time I went in I saw one I'm like "what are they flicking?" because there's this, it's a black handle and they go "flick, flick, flick" and it goes, you know, it makes like a decent noise, a decent loud noise every time they flick it and each time you flick the doser, an adjusted amount is dropped into the portafilter and... - Yeah, it's not really... Well, it's slightly adjusted. It depends on how grinds are there. But the problem with those is that you're always getting pre-ground coffee. So, if they have a grinder like that, it's usually not going to be a very high quality coffee. It's like a rule of thumb. Okay, I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm not disagreeing with you at all. But just about how they work firstly is the idea is that the doser starts out empty. The main grinder will fill that up to a set level. maybe 10 or 12 doses worth, something like that. And as I said, when you flick the dose, an adjusted amount will drop into the portafilter. But the problem is that most of the, well, most of the doses will really only dose based on an approximate volume. So as you do a flick, it will open up an aperture for a period of time, and it'll let an amount sort of like drop through from one chamber to the next. Sometimes they'll have a few metal strands in there that's designed to declump that coffee because like you said it may not be freshly ground it may have actually ground an hour or two before so if you're getting a good turnover in the coffee shop then it's probably pretty fresh but then again if it's gone and ground 12 cups worth and you're the last person had a coffee for the half an hour that there's 11 whatever cups worth of coffee sitting there just packing down and whatever so that can be a problem there Obviously, I think most coffee shops don't really care if it's just by volume because it's quick and time is money. So, flick, flick, flick, fill up the portafilter, tamp, tamp, swipe off the rest. And I tell you, every time I see one of these doses in a coffee shop, there's always a mess of coffee grounds over them, like in the surrounding area. It's just like there's this... It's like coffee ground mountains, you know, almost above the end of the day. It's quite incredible how much they waste. At least that's been my observation anyway. Oh yeah, no, definitely. They waste a lot of coffee and also, like you said, in coffee shops like that, it's all about speed. And when it's about speed, also the coffee they have probably is not that expensive, otherwise they wouldn't be wasting it like that. So that like, all of that is to say that probably they don't have the best, you probably won't get the best espresso shop in a coffee place like that. I would agree with that assessment. I guess that leads into what you've got in yours. Because see, for mine, mine's a time-based grinder. You set a time and a grind setting, and it will simply grind away until the timer expires. Of course, that's all well and good for, I suppose you could call it like shot to shot. You can take a shot, see if you need to go a little bit longer. and you can adjust the timer so that the next shot is likely to be okay. But if it's days between shots, then there's a lot of variables. So you'll find that, you know, what was right one day will be wrong the next day. So you're forever tuning the time and you're tuning the grind setting as the beans age, which we'll get to in a minute. But I guess the point is that if you really want to do it properly, you should be dosing it by weight. And some of the more expensive machines have that sort of feature built into them. Other ones, other people simply say, I don't trust the machine to weigh it and they'll have their own weigher that'll actually weigh the coffee grounds for them and they'll only put the precise amount in there. Sounds like that's what you've got. Yeah that's what I have to do but I've always done this even before I had the previous grinder because I just wanted to have the precise amount because as we discussed every little thing, every little disturbance in espresso really makes a difference in the end shot and how the coffee flows and everything. But that said, most good coffee shops have timer-based grinders, but they do spend a lot of time every day, every morning, and even during the day to adjust the times so they get a consistent amount of coffee. Absolutely. And I remember going into a coffee shop once a while ago and he said, "Here, try this fresh Colombian whatever." I said, "I've just dialed it in." That's what I mean. Yes. Yes. That's the expression. Yes. Because the problem with grinding by weight is that it's really not commercially available yet because too many factors can affect it. Like if you tap on the counter or whatever, it will throw that scale just off sync. And also a problem is that if scale has to predict when it's gonna be enough coffee, 'cause at the moment, like if you imagine you're grinding coffee and you just cut the engine, there is still amount of coffee falling down and also still in the burst as you cut the engine. So it has to predict that, which means none of them is good enough for commercial use really. So, when we last spoke, you had a Bratzer SETI 270, I think, is that right? Yes. So, what do you have now? You've got another... 270W, you've got actually, because the W is the one that grinds by weight, but it's exactly the same as the one without the W. Right, okay, fair enough. Cool, all right, very good. So, I don't actually weigh my coffee, it's a long way around for me explaining that, I don't. Oh, wait, did you ask me what I have now? - Yes, I did. - I sort of skipped that. - Yeah, yeah. - Oh yeah, no, no. What I was trying to say is that I had 270W, which is the one that grinds by weight. And what I have now is a Malkinik AK-43, which is, if you're gonna Google it and go to any specialty coffee shop, is a grinder that you're gonna see there. It's a very, very popular grinder. It was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday. It's a very, very, very expensive grinder, and I do not recommend anyone to get this grinding. It's insane. 'Cause like, yeah, it's not practical, I have to do more. It has a lot of electrostatic issues, like there's a lot of issues with it. But the coffee it produces is, sorry, the grounds it produces are worth it. It is. If you are taking this as a hobby like I do, then it's worth it, otherwise no way in hell This is never gonna be worth it. - Was that the one you were telling me was hand assembled in Germany? Is that the one? - Yes. - Ah, okay. - They supposedly make 300 per month and I had to wait like five months to get mine. - Wow. - And supposedly they could sell over a thousand a month, but they just cannot produce that many. - Wow, okay, fascinating. - Because yeah, they're manually assembling them. And there's a video you can put in the show notes. Friends of mine visited the factory, which is pretty insane to see it, how it works. So yeah. - Alrighty. Well, I think that's enough about grinders for the minute. So I think just to describe, I think we should describe the process of actually making an espresso shot or pulling a shot, whatever you want to call it. So just go through this step-by-step. So we're going to grind our coffee fresh, if at all possible, and at a nice fine grind setting. Now, the problem with that is the definition what a fine grind is hmm we'll cover that in a minute on my grinder that's between a 4 and an 8 on a range of 1 to 60 which really isn't very meaningful it's meaningful on my machine yeah no it's just it's it's very fine and also it changes all the time like if the temperature changes if humidity changes you have to change the grind size that's it and the thing is it's a balance because if it's too fine then when it does undergo that particulate compaction it'll form a near solid layer so that the water can't really easily penetrate it to the point at which nothing will come out. But if it's too coarse then it won't actually compact enough and then the water will just pass straight through it without holding any pressure at all. So that balance is tricky to find and I think most grinders have a portafilter mount so you can grind directly into the portafilter. Others have got an intermediate container or a or a scale insert if you want to do more precise weighing, if you're into that sort of thing, or sometimes they're extra fancy and have a little wire built into it. Anyway, so when you're done weighing, if that's what you're going to do, then you can carefully put it in your portafilter or filter basket, I suppose you should say. So distribute the grounds as evenly as possible in the filter basket. Some people just tap it on a bench, other people actually will twist a, you know, like a, I don't know if you've seen of like a little flat grounds distributing kind of, it's like a flat piece of, well, I've got a flat piece of aluminum designed to sort of make sure that's packed down, that's as even as possible. And you can- - Yeah, a ground distributor, although that doesn't work really well because it only distributes the top layer. - Exactly, I find tapping it sort of helps settle it a bit more before I actually tamp it. And I mean, tamping is basically just, like pressing it down and tamping the coffee grounds in a portafilter with a tamper. And I'll talk about tampers in a minute, but then you clean off the edges around the portafilter basket to make sure there's no grounds that come between the group head gasket and the filter basket. Then you attach it to the machine. When you pull the shot, some machines will have a pre-infusion stage, the good ones do anyway. And if so, for a settable time, mine's set to the default. I've never modified this. I can, but it's set to seven seconds and the set pressure on mine, I'm pretty sure I can't adjust the set pressure unless I hack my machine but never mind. It's set to one bar, which is 14.5 psi and once that pre-infusion phase is over because during which time that the grounds are essentially they're pre-wet or pre-moistened and that's my understanding is that sort of helps pre-compact the coffee letting it swell slightly and it closes the gaps and it allows an easier - Yeah. - under pressure. What's your- - Yeah. - What's your- - That's the idea behind it. - Yeah, that's sort of the idea. And then once that time has expired, then you actually have the main shot pressure. And the main shot pressure that's applied in my case, I have target a pressure of about eight or nine bar, which is 116, 130 PSI. And basically I have an end-to-end time of about 30 seconds. So, it's about a 20, 25 second shot duration, I guess if you think about it under pressure, but if it's not actually holding pressure, so if I've got a bad shot and it's just, it's not pressurizing, then I'll get to, you know, like 17, 18 seconds, I'll just stop it. It'll probably taste like rubbish, but you know, sometimes if I'm desperate for caffeine, I'll just drink it anyway, but you know, there'll be hardly any crammer and it'll just be a bit blah and flat. So anyway, assuming it was a nice, good shot, when you're done, release the portafilter from the group head and you ditch the puck and wash it out. And if it's been a good shot, then it'll be a nice solid puck when you tap it out and wash it out and that's that. Thoughts, comments? - Yeah, that's pretty much it. - Yeah. - Yeah. - All right, cool. So of course, nothing's as simple as it seems. So, you know, some points. - I heard this somewhere. I don't know. - Yeah, I think we heard that. So a few points about the shot itself. And this is the thing that there's a lot of debate over. So, I'm curious what your thoughts are, but the ideal shot temperature range. Now, I used to pull shots at 92 degrees Celsius, which is 197 Fahrenheit. But I found that when I increased that to 94 degrees Celsius, that's about 201 Fahrenheit, I much preferred that taste. But there's one exception. If it's a full city roast coffee, like it's literally roasted to an inch of its existence. It's not quite charcoal, but it's so close to it. In which case- - You have to throw that coffee away. That just, no, don't drink that. - Well, I actually was buying this cheap coffee from Costco that was literally Starbucks roasted to an inch of its life. It was- - Yeah, don't. If you're making espresso at home, just like buy quality coffee. That's like number one. - Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. But I mean, I just, I actually did drop the temperature and it came out drinkable, but I hardly make espresso out of that anymore. What I do do is I do a coarse grind on that and I use that for making a cold brew because I find that in a cold brew that actually helps give it a little bit more flavour. And I do do cold brews from time to time, especially in the summer like it is now. It's- Yeah, it's nice to have a nice coffee made with a cold brew because it's just got a- It's not as harsh of a take- It's harsh of a taste when you're having a cold coffee, but yeah, generally speaking I don't either, no. I actually go to a specialty roaster and grab my coffee from there, it's much nicer. So, yeah. Yeah, I think if you're in this world already, like if you're making quality coffee at home, like yeah, don't skimp on your coffee, like buy quality locally roasted coffee. Yeah, totally agree. Or roast your own, maybe. Yeah. Maybe, I'm not doing that. No, me not, not yet. - Yeah, that's what I said to Marco last time, but he said, yeah, don't start. Don't start. I'm like, yeah, I'm just ironing off this machine. It's only, it's like $495. I could probably make it work. I'll save money in the long term on green beans. Anyway, not doing it yet. Okay, so when I say a shot, that's another thing that's interesting. A shot is sort of in terms of volume, I think generally it's accepted that it's about 30ml for a single shot and maybe about 60 mils for a double shot. Yeah, there's so many definitions for this and then you have the espresso and ristretto and lungo and all that and every coffee place has a different definition. Also there's a huge difference between cultures, like what Italians call lungo or ristretto is completely different from what specialty coffee shops call espresso or same goes for for cappuccino and latte and all that. Like drinks in Italy, if you order by the same name you'll get something different. - Yeah, no, that's true. That's a good point. I guess I, when I'm making a latte, it's generally based on, you know, a standard shot but ultimately it kind of, it is what it is. I used to, I actually way back when bought a pair of measuring glasses. And the idea was that I put one under each side of the spout underneath the portafilter. And that way I could measure more precisely how much coffee was in each shot. And it was good because if you got the mix right, you could say, right, well, it's all dialed in nicely. So I'm getting almost exactly 30 mils in each side. And these little measuring glasses. - So yeah, for me, way more precise and also a way to do it better, I guess, to get a higher consistency, which again will get you higher quality in the long run, is to just get some good scales. And technically you, well, for like the basic recipe is like one to two. So for every one amount of coffee you get, so of coffee grounds, you get two amount of coffee liquid out. So for example, what I do for a double shot is roughly 18 grams of coffee in, so coffee grounds, and roughly 36 grams of liquid coming out. and I want to have that in like 20 to 25 seconds window. So that's for me a recipe for a double, for example. And I think in Italy, it's quite common to have like nine grams for a single shot. And yeah, they usually go for like 30 mils or something like that. But yeah, again, it all depends. And it's also like the way why I prefer to do it by weight is because it depends so much on your coffee, on your actual coffee grounds. It depends on if it's lightly roasted, if it's darkly roasted, where it comes from. It can significantly affect the amount of water or liquid that's coming out, which is weird to me, but yeah, it has a huge effect. Like, it's not always going to be 30 ml, it's going to vary quite a lot, even by the same weight. Yeah, absolutely right. And I guess I just mentioned it because for me, that was my rough rule of thumb. but the reality is that I bought these little measuring glasses, they were $4 each and I stopped using them pretty much for measuring shots because I sort of reached that point where I actually just watched the pressure, the back pressure gauge when I'm pulling the shot and I can tell by the color of the espresso coming out of the machine, if it's that nice sort of golden rich color if that as it's coming out if it's giving that nice sort of waving wavy sort of pulsing bubble kind of you know you can tell how much is in the bottom roughly of the cup because I always use the same cup either well one of two cups anyway so I don't actually care so much about the volume anymore and if I get the shot dialed in nicely it really doesn't matter but in any case bottom line is that when it comes to dialing it in all I'll do is if I see that as the shots passing through, if it's just not getting up to pressure, so it'll get to like maybe one, two, three bar, and then just not go any higher, then I'll reduce the grind one step. And if the shot pressure does, if it does actually get up to pressure, but it won't maintain that pressure during the shot, if it just sinks backwards, then I'll increase the grind time in like 0.2 second increments, depending upon how much each subsequent shot takes. So what I've found is that when I get fresh coffee, if it's coffee I've never had before, like specialist roaster, I get something that I haven't tried before. It could take two or three shots to get it drinkable. And it kind of sounds crazy, but if I'm in a fussy mood, I'll even tip the dodgy ones out. I won't actually try and drink them. Depending on how snobbish I feel at the time. - Oh no, I completely understand. Two to three is actually, is fast, is good. I sometimes go through more coffee to get something nice. Yeah, other mornings I'm just so desperate for caffeine, it doesn't matter. I'll just drink it, okay. It's like, oh, straight through, no, too bad. That doesn't matter, caffeine. Okay, all right, cool. So, got to talk about Tampa briefly. I know we talked about this briefly last time, I still haven't invested in one because you mentioned the barista hustle Tampa. You're still using that one? Yeah, I love it. It's an Australian company. And yeah, it's great. So yeah, the way it works is that it tries to not disturb the ground when you pull it out. Yeah. So the thing that I like about it is that there's a few things I like about it. First of all, it's quite light, it's a lot lighter than mine. It eliminates that vacuum effect, like you say, when you actually remove the tamper, where it won't actually draw the grounds back out of the basket as you're removing it, which is awesome. And the other thing I like about it is the bass is replaceable. So, if it ever gets damaged, you can just replace the bass. And anyway, for the moment, I'm still using the standard tamper that comes with the Breville, but I've been eyeing that one off and I'm one decent paycheck away from just like caving in and buying it. Well, it's not compared to other tempers, 'cause like another thing, everything in espresso is more expensive than you think. And there's a lot of companies that make even more expensive versions of that stuff. Very true, very true. Number one thing. And there are tempers that are like $300, which is absolutely insane, but there are companies producing them, there are baristas buying them. Exactly. So when I was in Melbourne, I ran out like a few months ago, I ran out of time to visit these guys. They were a little bit too far away for me to get to at the time, but I almost went out of my way. I almost got an Uber and went there, but I just, you know. Anyhow. Yeah, they're cool guys. Matt Berger is also a person I look up to because he complicates when he needs to and he tries to keep it simple where it has to be simple. His V60 recipe is the one I always recommend to people because it's very simple, it's very easy to replicate, it will give you good results every time. And yeah, so yeah, he's I think founder of the company, but they do a couple of products now. And yeah. So, speaking of Barista Hustle some more is that they actually had a really great blog post, actually had a couple, but one in particular about particle sizes and grind size. One of the things that you mentioned before is exactly what I want to talk about now and that is different levels of roasting, different kinds of coffee beans from different parts of the world and the differences that it makes when you're actually trying to grind them and the results you get as a result. I had for the longest time sort of scratched my head and said, "Oh, it's a bit of humidity. It's the beans aging and so on," but I never really fully appreciated why until I found this article I was reading through it and I'm like aha that makes sense. So just let's talk about just grind sizes real quick and the definition of grind sizes is a bit you know vague yeah but I did find a good reference site which is there'll be a link in the show notes so we'll start with an actual bean and work our way down. So an average whole bean diameter roughly six millimeters a cracked bean about three millimeters diameter coarse grind 1.5mm, a regular grind 1mm, a drip grind 0.75mm, a fine grind 0.38mm and an espresso grind 0.2mm. I do know that there are other even more fine grinds depending upon certain things but for the purposes of we've reached espresso, stop in there. I don't actually have any specific information or a micrometer to test the particle size of my grinder so I can't tell you what a four five six seven whatever is I mean I say micrometer that's not actually how they measure it when they get the particles down that size but you know hey whatever. It's also difficult because even the best grinders like the most expensive grinders will not produce a completely uniform grind like you have grind sizes all over the place. Oh yeah absolutely so it's you're gonna have a mixture of particle sizes and it's the consistency of those sizes that is the issue. Like you said way back early in the episode, it's all about consistency. And so, the funny thing that I found ultimately, though, is it's all about a relative adjustment based on the first shot you pull on a fresh batch and how you tweak it from there. So, we're dealing more in relatives than absolutes. So, it maybe doesn't matter quite so much if setting four on my grinder is 0.21 millimetre diameter or something, you know. Yeah. - So, okay. So this Bristol Hustle article is amazingly technically detailed and I won't try and replicate all of it. I just wanted to pick out some of the key points. So one of the things I mentioned is that affects the consistency of the grind starting off is moisture content. And this is going back to when the beans are actually dried. So water quench beans, for example, they're generally softer than air cooled ones. And in the end, the air cooled beans will dry more evenly and then that will produce a more consistent grind. So that's the first step. The second thing is the roasting level. And you mentioned this, that lighter beans as in lighter roast, they'll grind more evenly because ultimately they are less brittle. If you think about a cellular structure, a cellular is like a chemical structure, like chemicals, like a lattice structure, like a crystal. And as you grind more, you drive that moisture out. And as that happens, then the structures become more brittle and they will fracture. And when they fracture, that's when you're going to get a whole bunch of smaller particles that aren't intended to be released, being released as part of that fracturing. So- - Also called fines. - Yes, the fines, exactly, yes. And so those darker beans, as they get darker and darker roast, they get more and more brittle and they'll produce a much larger number of those fines, the fine particles, and that'll lead to inconsistencies in your grind. So that's why a lot of the specialty roasters will tend to err on the side of not going down a full city roast. They'll go down and they'll stop at a, so like a light brown to a darker brown, but it will not be black. In fact, I can't remember ever going to a specialty roaster that pushes it that far. - Yeah, that's one reason. The other is also that the taste is more pronounced. So specific taste of origin is more pronounced when you don't go as dark. Like the darker you go, the more everything tastes like dark coffee roast. Yeah, you're tasting charcoal more than you're tasting coffee Yeah, exactly Yeah, that's it Which, don't get me wrong, sometimes I want to have a slap in the face coffee like that but just not as often as you think Okay Yeah, well, like it has no more caffeine if it's darker roast No, it just tastes darker No, that's exactly right and in fact, darker roast coffee, it's a common fallacy It's not how dark it is doesn't affect the caffeine content, it's the contact time with water the most caffeine extraction out of your coffee go the cold brew. Yeah, that's how you get real caffeine. Same thing with teas, like people think that black teas have more caffeine than white or green but nope, exactly the same tea leaves just different procedure so caffeine is the same. Yeah, that's it Alrighty, so brittleness. Talking more about brittleness and then the brittleness of the beans based on their density. And this is the one that I hadn't learned until recently. So, ultimately, we hear about different breeds of coffee. I say breeds, you know what I mean? Varieties. Varieties, yes. That's the better word, varieties of coffee. So, like a Robusta, for example, can grow closer to sea level, whereas your Arabicas will grow better at higher altitudes. So, the interesting thing is that the higher the altitude, the denser the beans are as they form, as they grow, and that's due to the air pressure and the oxygen concentration at higher altitudes. And that higher density, that higher density in the cell structure, and hence those denser structures will produce less fine particles when you're grinding, and that leads to a more consistent grind. So, that's interesting. The age as well. So the age of the bean, the older it is, a lot of it comes back to moisture, the more brittle it becomes. And that'll lead to more fines and ultimately a less consistent grind. And in terms of greens in beans, like green beans will last for six months or so if you store them well. Roasted beans will last two to three weeks before you can consider they're kind of past due. But I found the two weeks is kind of the line, in my experience anyway. Yeah. - If you keep it in the hopper, then I think even two weeks is pushing it, but if you keep it dry and in the bag that they came with, usually three weeks is okay. - Yeah. - It's still going to be fine. - Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree. The last part of it I found interesting as well, which I'd heard about, is the temperature of the beans when you actually grind them. One of the conclusions that that Barista Hustle article reaches is that it says that if you're getting inconsistent grinds after you've done a lot of grinding, like you've made multiple cups of coffee, they suggest that one of the reasons that you get that inconsistency is that the beans are actually soaking up heat from inside the grinder, from the burrs itself and the grinding action before, such that that heat will actually make them less brittle and more pliable, and then you'll get a coarser grind than you intended to even if you haven't changed the grind setting. That was interesting. Yeah, I also know of some grinders, like really, really high-end grinders, where you can control the chamber temperature of the coffee coming in. Maybe that's the reasoning behind it. I always thought it was a fad, but apparently there might be something to it. Nice. Time for an upgrade to my grinder. That's it. Or not. But yes, so fascinating, fascinating. Okay, so in general, articles on barista hustle and they're like, if you, I recommend if you're into, actually, if you've listened this far, you're apparently into coffee. So I recommend following them on Instagram and on like also their blog. They write really, really good technical articles and they try to verify everything like in the lab or at least try to make a makeshift equipment to verify it. They are not those people who just say, oh, like do this, this will always produce better results no matter what. Like they try to back up everything they say. - Oh yeah. - And that's what I like about. - What I like about them is that the way they approach coffee is a little bit the way I approach things as well, which is to say, you know, they get excited about like the detail. And one of the articles I've got linked in there, they actually say, okay, so we'll put this through a spectrometer to measure the average particle density and we use these laser refractions of these wavelengths to do the calculation. And now we get some fantastic data. Look at this. And they've got chart after chart after chart, different blends, different particles, size consistencies, statistical plots. And I'm like, oh yeah, these guys are hardcore. So, if you're finding this sort of thing fascinating, then yeah, definitely check it out. It's really, really interesting. - Yeah, there's another Australian company called Socratic Coffee who does the same thing. a lot of analysis of different grinders and they're comparing the grind distribution, how many finds, what kind of particles each grinder produces. And they try like different, so the same grinder, but different burrs. And it's just, it's fascinating. It really is. And also again, a lot of data, a lot of charts. - Cool. All right, well, we'll try and put a link to that in the show notes as well, actually. I haven't come across that one, but that sounds like it could be worth checking out. So, all right, we've talked a lot about pulling espresso shots. We've talked a lot about the machines, the history, but there's one part of this that, you know, you have, you prefer a flat white. I actually prefer, I prefer a latte, but you know, the differences between them are subtle enough, but the fact is that the foam, the microfoam and latte art, it's a thing. And I almost, I still thought to myself, oh, should I, should I not? 'Cause you can argue that latte art sort of not really about espresso, but it kind of is enough. And I think that it's interesting because as soon as you do actually have a crema, then it's sort of possible you can mix that with the milk and make artwork. And you know, to get good at doing latte art, which I personally suck at, but that's okay, you need a few things. And the thing that I learned early on is I tried a bunch of different milks, like I had Cream milk, light milk, almond milk, different ones I've tried, soy and so on and starting off with the right milk is crucial and so ultimately you know good old-fashioned dairy like lactose whole milk is basically your best bet. But even then there is a huge variety of different dairy. Yeah. Like you wouldn't believe it's insane like once you get in this world and start experimenting, you have so different results and everything says milk 3.2 fat on it but it's completely different. That is absolutely spot on, you're right, but for the purposes of this let's not go into that because obviously different parts of the world, even different cows it's all slightly different. So I actually have found that a lot of the nicer milk is also some some of the more expensive milk comes from some of the private farms up in the mountains up in behind where I live, like Malaney Dairies, for example. Their full cream milk is fantastic for latte art, but it's also quite expensive. It's like three times the price of the generic brands. But in any case, nevermind that. So, not wishing to- Nothing is as simple as it seems. No, it isn't. That is true. So, anyhow, okay. So talking about how else to get good latte art, so what I've learned through now having two different machines is that having a steam boiler that can give you consistent pressure and a well regulated steam flow, that makes a big difference. Like I said before I had a Garcia Classic single boiler, steam would run out part way through, it was all just horrific. So anyhow, never mind that, the Breville is a heck of a lot better, it only takes about 45 seconds now for me to heat up enough for a regular coffee. That may sound like a lot to some people, but that's like three times quicker than the Gartier was. How long does it take you to heat up enough for your flat whites? It's less than that. I don't know. The temperature coming out of my steam wand is 125 degrees Celsius which is pretty hot and it all depends on that like the higher the temperature the quicker it's gonna be done because the pressure is also gonna be like higher. Sure. Everything matters but I don't know like yeah 30 seconds something like that I don't I don't know. I never timed it to be honest. I hadn't timed it until more recently but yeah let's just say that it's quicker than two and a bit minutes that's what it used to be on the gosh it was in it Oh, yeah, that was horrific. That was just horrific. Okay, so the next thing that I learned in my frothing journey is that the steam tip, the actual end tip that the steam comes out of can make a huge difference. It kind of sounds a bit weird. The Gargia only had a single hole in its tip, and it sort of did okay, but it wasn't a very good foam. It was kind of large, lots of big bubbles in it. It was a bit, you know, clumsy. The Breville's got three. And the interesting thing is that there's two slightly larger and one slightly smaller and they come out at different angles. So, it makes a much more consistent micro foam is what I found. But you can get obviously models of two or three. Yeah, well, with mine, I actually got four steam one tips. Wow. And I could pick and choose, but I just choose the default one and never looked back because even with milk, there were so many varieties that it was hard to find which one suited me best. - Okay. - But yeah. - Well, I've really enjoyed the one on the Breville, but then again, maybe it's because I was coming from the Gaggian, it was so terrible, so anything would be better. But anyhow, never mind that. Okay, the other thing that's interesting is the temperature of the milk when you start, and I found this out by accident. and then I did my research and I'm like, "Oh, okay, that makes sense." One time, I had left the milk out. I just poured it into the jug or the pitcher, whatever you want to call it, and I'd gone off and been distracted. Kids, wife, family, life happens and you come back an hour later and the milk's at room temperature. I went to froth the milk and obviously, it took less time because it was warmer to start with. I'm like, "Oh, that sounds like an economical way of doing things." Anyhow, the foam was terrible. Nothing like the rest of it. And that's when I learned that, oh, you actually, if you start frothing the milk between five degrees Celsius and 10 degrees Celsius, you will actually get a far better microfoam. And the reason is that the proteins in the milk are more tightly bound at lower temperatures. And so, yeah. And so, when you introduce steam and you force that air into the milk in the first few seconds, that's the key moment really that creates- That has the biggest impact into how much foam you get. - Yeah, there are two phases of making the milk. The first one is just aeration, which is introducing air to the milk and forming those bubbles. And the second one is just letting it twirl around and mix everything together and warm it up. And even if you do this in a different way, so if you first twirl it around and then for the second step you introduce bubbles, you're gonna have horrible, horrible milk. just like huge bubbles and then at the bottom, just like flat milk. So, yes, everything could be. - Everything matters. - Yes, it does. So, once- exactly. And once you cross that 37 degrees Celsius, roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit or whatever, it's pretty much over if you're going to try to introduce foam, it's just not going to work. You're just mixing it and bringing it up to temperature. Like you said, that's like the second stage, bringing it up to temperature. And yeah, so once I learned that, I realized, right, I've got to get the right milk and I've got to start it off from the fridge, so it's cool. And I'll do the aeration bit at the beginning and then I'll just get a nice swirl going. So let's button that bit up then, the milk technique. So first of all, we're going to fill our steaming jug or pitcher, I mean, some people call it a pitcher, I think it's a North American thing anyway, with milk. I give the steaming wand a bit of a blast onto the counter just to get rid of any water that may have built up in there, a liquid so it's all steam. Sometimes I'll blast that onto the counter top or just the dishwasher rag, whatever. Lower the wand into the jug while it's off and then just open the lever as the tip is just under the surface and then open that lever up to full steam, full flow. And I'd leave the tip in just below the surface to inject a lot of that air into the milk and then Obviously the longer you leave it in the more foam you're going to get and then once you're happy with how much foam you want Maybe I don't know three or four seconds depends then put the wand in Deeper into the milk to the middle or the bottom of the jug and that's sort of at that point We've got to get that angle either the angle of the jug or the angle of the wand or both And that'll to create a swirling sort of vortex to mix it together and circulate that milk nicely to ensure any bubbles You've got in there are nice and evenly distributed the heating is nice and even Now I cheat I say I cheat I I don't if it's cheating or not I think a barista would call it cheating, but me I just say I'm precise I use a milk thermometer because I'd I'd want to be precise to remind me when it's up to temperature What's the delay on that? Oh the legs not too bad. It's probably No, maybe one or two degrees out. So when I when I turn the steam off It'll rise another one or two degrees afterwards. No, that's pretty good. Yeah, it's not too bad The one I had was too slow so when I tried it like I had to turn it off way sooner and then I was just like No, I can I can just do it by hand. It's gonna be fine. Was it a digital or an analog one? Analog, yeah, okay. Yeah, cuz that's what I've got. I thought about getting a digital one, too But I did one because it looked more precise, but then I'm like well lag is lag and it's probably not It's not gonna be worth the investors like four times the price. It's like Yeah, if you're gonna invest just buy some digital scales, this will make a bigger difference than how warm your milk is. Yeah, truth. Absolutely right. So, in any case, I don't like a stupidly hot latte, to be honest with you. I tend to stop between 60 and 65 degrees Celsius, that's 140, 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people have it even as much as 10 degrees hotter than that. I can't. I just, I'll burn my tongue. Also the foam and you can smell it differently if you ever go above that you can smell that it like it smells differently and also the foam is not as nice and consistent. Yeah it also sounds different like when the steaming under the yeah you can actually hear that transition as you go past about 65 you can hear this sort of like a deeper rumbling sound almost you know it's interesting. Yeah because it's starting to sort of I guess boil or approaching boil. Yeah exactly and something inside there's tearing apart I'm like don't don't hurt the milk. Anyway, but the funny thing is baristas, they won't do that. They'll just use their hands and they'll say, yep, it feels hot. And I'm like, have they got heat calluses or have they lost feeling in their hands because I swear I tried that and ow, that gets hot on my hand. Oh, no, you don't hold it. You touch it and I guess it's just with experience, you sort of learn when it's around the point that you want it. Yeah. Well, I've watched baristas do it a a few times and some of them will literally hold because it's a stainless steel jug there's no insulation on this thing and they'll hold their hand on the outside of that jug and it gets up to it must be up to like 60-70 degrees Celsius they'll turn off the wand and they're still holding it I'm like how are you holding that? No, that has to be colder otherwise their skin will get burned Like I said I don't know if heat calluses are a thing but they seem to have them anyway I don't know. Anyway, so when you're done, when you're up to temperature or you're trying to predict if you're about 60 and you want to hit about 65 when you're a couple of degrees ahead of that, close off the wand, remove the jug, and then just give the wand a quick blast to clear out any of the milk that may have stuck in the nozzle and then wipe that one down as quick as you can with a wet cloth and clean off that milk residue because it will set like concrete. And I have scraped that off. Clean it immediately and clean it well. Yeah, that's it. Absolutely. Because a couple of extra seconds cleaning it now will save you hours of scraping that off later. Yep. I've learned that the hard way. Anyway. So anyway, I mean, I just bought some, like it was $3 for a pack of three dishwasher cloths. And they're just like a like a cotton dishwashing cloth, you know, it's like three bucks for a pack of them. and I know I bought it on AliExpress, some like microfibers meant to like for glasses maybe, like they're really small but they're perfect for this. - That's super. - And I had like five pack for a dollar or something. - Okay, you got the microfiber, that's like super fancy. Okay. - Yeah, well, you know, it looks fancier. - Oh dear, so anyhow, so finally, so we've now we've got our milk, we've got our espresso shot, so finally to make the artwork. So first things first, you swirl the espresso shot. That's something that I I've learned just by watching baristas and so on. And the idea is that you get a nice, consistent sheen on it and it gets rid of any bubbles that you may have had in the espresso shot before you even pour the milk in. So then switching to the milk in the milk jug, if you've got larger bubbles, you can kind of tap the jug lightly on the counter. I've seen some people whack it too hard on the counter and then it splashes up and gets them in the face. And when I say some people, I may be referring to other like maybe myself. Anyhow, don't do that. - I know exactly what you mean. Let's leave it at that. - Yes, don't do that. And anyway, so then you can swirl it around as well. Same kind of thing, but you could probably do a little bit more vigorously because if you got more froth in there, then you've got crema. It's a little bit more effort on there, but that's okay. And once you've done that, you're then ready to pour. Then you just pour the milk in slowly at first. You can sort of like not break the surface as much as you can and just like give it as pristine as possible. And then towards the end, slow down. You can start making pretty patterns with the foamiest stuff. Foamiest? That's not really a word anyway. The most foamy part at the end. Or, you know, if you can make pretty patterns, that's great. Or if you're like me, you can make horrifically bad patterns and pretend that it's art because even crap is considered art. And that's fine. So anyhow. - Well, I sent you a picture of what I'm drinking right now. So maybe you can put it in the show notes, but like I try to make some art. - Cool. - But I think a lot of this would come better in video form rather than podcast. So if you find this interesting, just yeah, there's a ton of YouTube clips on how to steam milk and how to pour latte art. Very true. So, I guess a couple of points on the latte art, just final points on it to wrap that up is latte art doesn't change how it tastes. And yes, that's a beautiful sort of flower latte art you've got there. So, very nice. Thank you. Better than mine. I'm not going to show you a photo of mine. I couldn't anyway, because I've already drank it. So, it's too late. But it was terrible, believe me. Anyway, and I always think it looks very wasteful when it's a takeaway and you just put a lid on it It's like you're hiding the beautiful latte art. The barista's just made this beautiful flower or a heart or yeah, I think actually the They refer to the the fern or the rosette or the rosetta. I think it's called Is it rosetta? Yeah, it's rosetta. Yeah, you have rosetta. You have slow rosetta. You have tulip. You have heart patterns Yes. There are like a couple of standard ones. There's a Swan also, which is really nice. So that's some of the more popular ones. Another ones that I've come across as well are the latte etchings, where usually they'll get like a coffee stirrer and they'll make like a cross hatch pattern sometimes. They'll etch like what looks a bit like a flower. And with cappuccino sometimes I get even more fancy and they'll actually put a stencil over the top And then they'll just tap over the top the chocolate powder and then they take the stencil off and you've basically got whatever artworks you've got a stencil for Yeah, but that's... meh, whatever, I don't care for that I'm not saying that you have to care for it, but some people do Yeah, no, that's cheating, that's legitimate cheating, unlike having a temperature, like to gauge temperature I wouldn't call that cheating, but yeah, that's definitely cheating Okay, well, fair enough. I personally, I think latte art, and the reason I haven't spent time perfecting it is because as an engineer, I'm gonna pull the functional card and say that it tastes the same, whether the art is good or if it's rubbish like mine, it still tastes the same. So, that's it, that's the quality of my result, there you go. So, anyway, it's fine. And one other little quick point about the whole artwork thing. I heard someone say once on an espresso shop they had latte art on it and I'm looking at it, I'm like, hang on, no, no, no, that's espresso art on the crema. It's not latte art. Technically, it's called espresso art. It's only latte art if you add milk. Anyhow, never mind. So, at the end of all of that and as you say, in video form, it's probably a lot better than, well, not a lot better, but certainly, it's more visual, oddly, because it's video anyway. And I made a video of myself making a cup of coffee. A bunch of fans of the show had asked me to do this ages ago, so I did it anyway and I posted on YouTube. It has an enormous number of views. I mean it's I think it's like- Really? Yeah, no, eight I think. No one cares. So, if you are, dear listener, if you care enough to have A, made it this far in this episode and B, want to see me making a cup of coffee- Which is unlikely. Hey, it's possible, it could happen, come on now. Anyhow, stay positive, positive thinking. Anyway, so check it out if you want and if nothing else, you can have at me and tell me everything that I could be doing better. And I'm sure there's plenty, but that's okay, other than the latte art, which I've already accepted that I suck at. So that's okay. Any closing thoughts before we wrap it up? Oh man, I was just getting started. An hour and how much in? Well, yeah, I guess we can go back to what I said in the beginning. With the espresso, it's a lot about consistency of everything. And the more consistent you can get, the better the results. Also cleanliness, not just the steam wand, but everything in your equipment. Keep it as clean as possible. And just as a cautionary tale or something, do not go into home espresso unless you want a new hobby. That's it. - Yeah, that's good advice. And I think that in the end, the other thing to remember is that when you say clean everything, do make sure you keep an eye on descaling it and make sure you do, if your machine does need to be back flushed every now and then. So like my particular model, and I think a lot of them do have this option where you have a chemical cleaning tablet that you basically put in a blind behind the group head so that you basically back flush the, back through the group head and the shower screen to make sure that there's no accumulated buildup, like take the shower screen off from time to time and clean the gunk out of that as well. You know, all stuff like that. If you treat your machine with respect, then it will serve you for a long time. - Yeah. - And faithfully, right? And you can notice the degradation over a period of time. I found my steaming has improved significantly since I descaled my machine a couple of months ago. So it was gradually, gradually, gradually taking a little bit longer and a little bit longer, it adds up and you notice it eventually. So you descale the machine, things will improve, it'll get back to where it was when you got it. And if you take care of it, then you'll get years of good service out of it. So I absolutely agree. - Otherwise, yeah, it's a nice hobby for a technical person, I guess, to have, if you like coffee, obviously. Because you can play around a lot, you can play around with different variables. What I recommend, not just for espresso, but for any coffee, is to try to keep all variables the same and just change one. And this is like, once you have scales, you can, for example, have always the same amount of coffee going in and always the same amount of coffee going out and just change the temperature and do like three, four different shots and like try them out side by side and write down notes, for example. And then you find the perfect temperature. Then you do the same with like grind sizes and time and like whatever. Just, yeah, it's fun to play around if you enjoy this sort of thing, I guess. - Absolutely. Alrighty, well, if you'd like to talk more about this, you can reach me on the Fediverse at email@example.com, or you can follow engineered_net on Twitter to see specific, show specific announcements. And I recently started a YouTube channel. And yeah, if you're interested in that, and you can also have a look at a link in YouTube of me making a cup of coffee, like I said, if you wanna, yeah, a chuckle, it's all good. If you're enjoying Pragmatic and you want to support the show, you can via Patreon at patreon.com/johnchidjy or one word with a thank you to all of our patrons and a special thank you to our silver producers Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow with an extra special thank you to our gold producer known only as R. Patron rewards include a named thank you on the website, a named thank you at the end of episodes, access to raw detailed show notes as well as ad-free high quality releases of every episode, with patron audio now also available via individual breaker audio feeds. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's lots of great rewards and beyond that, it's all really, really appreciated. And beyond that, there's lots of other ways to help like leaving a rating or review on iTunes, favoriting the episode in your podcast player app or sharing the episode or the show with your friends or via social. All those things will help other people to discover the show and can make a huge difference too. like to thank Clubhouse once again for sponsoring the Engineered Network. If you're looking for an easy to use software development project management solution that everyone can use, remember, specifically visit this URL clubhouse or one word.io/10 the word to check it out and give it a try. It'll surprise you just how easy it can be. Pragmatic is part of the Engineered Network and you can find it at engineered.network along with other great shows like Causality. That's a solo podcast I do that looks at the cause and effect of major events and disasters in history, including Bhopal, Deepwater Horizon and the Columbia Space Shuttle, Concorde and lots and lots more. Causality is on track to overtake this show, it keeps growing in popularity, so if you haven't checked it out yet, make sure you do give it a listen. So if you'd like to get in touch with Mija, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you mate? Twitter or Instagram or my podcast Parallel Passion, I guess, if you're interested in this sort of thing. I also had an interview with you, so yeah, I guess. But I think it will be easier if you just follow the link in the show notes because you probably can spell Mija Rekar when I say. Excellent. All right, cool. Thank you very much. And once again, a special thank you to our patrons and a big thank you to everyone for listening this far. Appreciate it. And as always, thank you, Mija, for coming on the show. Well, thank you so much for inviting me. This was fun. Thank you. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [MUSIC PLAYING] [MUSIC PLAYING] ♪ ♪ (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [Music] No but seriously getting scales is really nice. I got to try it. I mean, it's not expensive, hey. I mean, I can- Because the grinder that I've got has actually got a removable- It's like it clips on with a magnet. You can actually remove this tray out of the bottom. I don't think it was specifically designed for weighing, but if you took that out and it was clean and you teared your scale with that on it, you put that back in the the machine, dose out how much you think it is and then put it on the scale, you could then remove a few grounds here and there until it was the right weight. It wouldn't be hard, it's just really the cost of the scale, the rest of it should be straightforward. How many scales you'd particularly recommend? The ones that I have are too expensive, unless you're an idiot. But they look really nice. They're like, okay, I'll place this. It's It's called a Sia Lunar or Akai. I don't know how to pronounce it, but it's like, it looks like an Apple product. Okay. Right. It's definitely an Apple-like product. Okay. Cool. So you have this, but the ones I would recommend you is from Brewista. So this is Brewista Smart Scale. This is one I used to have. Okay. Yeah. And it's great. It has exactly the same functionality as Lunar. I even think it has the same chipset. I'm pretty sure it's exactly the same, only it looks like a cheaper product, even though it's not cheap. - $90. What's the other one you sent me? The Lunar, you said that one's the... - Yeah, Lunar is like 250. - Ooh, that's nice. It looks nice, right? - It looks very nice. Yes, it does. Oh man, my wife would flip if I told her that I spent $225 on a coffee scale. She'd be like, "Seriously? Are you kidding me?" She would go mental. No, but getting good scales, I think, is essential because then you can... Like, then you don't do it by time or by just gouging how much coffee you have, but you keep it consistent and then it's easier to find out just what to do with your grub. - So, how do you tip the- So, you must have a container for putting- for weighing them in and then you have to tip that into the portafilter. How do you tip that into the portafilter? - Yeah, I just- Yeah, I have like an old yogurt cup. - Oh. - It's just plastic cup. - Okay. There is not a $225 funnel or something. I'm just checking. - I'm sure there is. - I'm sure there is too. But yeah, it's just- Okay, cool. I was just checking. I was just checking, you know, because you can never tell. Yeah, no, I just have like a simple plastic cup. I put beans in there, I weigh it out, then I spray it with some water. I put it in the grinder and then I grind it out. Because, you know, also this grinder grinds 90 grams in like a second and a half. Wow. Which tells you it's not a grinder that's meant for home use. - No, that's hardcore, that's hardcore, that's a lot. - It's like it's an industrial grinder. But yeah, I love it. It makes everything more complicated now and it takes like, making espresso takes way longer than it used to take. But I like it a lot.