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Coffee Espresso/Cappuccino Maker

Q: I've brewed my own beer, made my own wine, grind my own coffee beans, etc., so family members looking for the gift "for the guy who has almost everything", decided on a Mr. Coffee Espresso/Cappucinno Maker (model ECMP30/33) Bistra. I opened this up and I am pretty excited to get things rolling. I must admit over the last several years I have either been getting bored with coffee or have inadvertently been sucked into the carmel macchiato, International carmel coffee flavoring and the likes. I can't explain it. Anyways, I now have an Espresso machine and some Espresso beans, airtight containers, two syrups ... I can't wait to break it out. Come Christmas evening, everybody else is goofing around and I figure I might as well get to it. Right off the bat, the instructions CLEARLY state, one 7 oz. scoop of coffee for a 20oz. serving and two 7 oz. scoops for two 20oz. servings. What?????????? I really don't need this confusion factor but at the time I figure it is some error on their part and since the unit came with two coffee cups which are no where near 20oz. I attempt to let intuition drive for a minute. I ran my cheapo Mr. Coffee burr grinder all of the way down to the lowest setting and did the best I could. Then just filled the basket full (for a double). It read "Use the bottom of the scoop to press the coffee grounds so they are flattened and smoothed over". I knew no better so I figured, turn it on and see what comes out. It says for 30 seconds. Whatever, something came out. My brother-in-laws wife and I were the only ones who wanted espresso, everyone else wanted milk drinks. Now I have to froth some milk. Ok, trudge on. Not much worse than putting a large toy together. The paragraph starts out "Do not be discouraged, this takes practice". I don't have time for practice, I am entertaining (to some) and I have offered cappuccinos and/or lattes. Some of those syrups cover up a latte stuff. Things didn't turn out real bad. The machine burped grounds out on the wall once and nobody got hurt but I figured out in short order that the instructions were not comprehensive enough and naturally turned to the internet for HELP. I am in the home appliance industry and I could tell that some options on this machine could be made a little better but all said, not knowing, without taking it apart, I thought it might actually spit out some real Espresso. I am typically a high end to middle end appliance consumer. I like options. I don't like to look back and say I wish I had... So from what I can gather this machine cost under $80. Nice gift. They don't buy the same as I do. I could have taken it back opened but then I would not have anything to play with. After digging a little I found this NG. I found initially that it seems like most everyone likes to classify the cheap machines as steam toys. Ok, this has some steam for the frother but is it a steam toy? Sounds like a pump inside. The illustrious manual refers to a pump. There is a lot of negative info about how it can't work right with steam. Ok, no real pump data in the manual, on the web, etc. I believe there is indeed a pump inside. How big?? I don't know. One article I stumbled upon said, "Well they might have a pump in the machine that goes about 1 bar but you can't excel without 15 bars. Ok. So I read on. A day or so later, we are at Williams Sonoma and I am looking at Capresso autos. These were pretty expensive! I had noticed them before but I didn't really know what an Auto was and really don't know what good Espresso tastes like. I don't know what a pod is, BUT, I do know (already) (thanks to the NG) if the machine I have is going to approach a "real" espresso machine in performance I, along with everyone else on the planet will need to by a better tamper! I did. It's heavy, it's pretty, and it doesn't fit my basket though because it is too small although it is much better than what I had. Now I can tamp the puck down with some authority. It helped, but I am looking at the grind and thinking there is some stuff in there that doesn't look as fine as everything else. So I went to our local grocery store which has an above average coffee section. There they have a good variety of beans and serve all types of coffee. They also have a commercial grinder. I put the grinder on espresso with an appropriate bean and get a half pound. Of course making sure the grinder was a clean as I could get it. I also ordered a double espresso before I left. What crema? They have an array of nice equipment but obviously something is wrong. The grind resembled mine and performed the same. In the meantime, I am trying to get the frothing down for my wife's drinks. I decided to froth first. No good. Thanks to the NG I can tell you that if you froth first this machine, as with some more expensive ones, need to cool down. That was important. Making that change improved the pull significantly. The grinder I am using was given to us 5 years ago because the same brother-in-law didn't want it. It was a wedding gift. It does ok for drip. As I said it is burr grinder. It has to be dull now. It presently sells for $20 after the new model came out. Oddly enough right at Christmas time it sounded like it was going to die on us and we had made the rounds to all of the local businesses in search of an exact replacement. Immediately, I mentioned to my wife that all of these blade grinders can't do anything like our burr grinder not to mention you have to pick most of them up and dump them out. What the wide, wide world of sports is going on here??? Took a Brann burr home out of desperation and in case ours actually quit the next day. It didn't. I turned it over and a lodged bean fell out. We took the Braun back. It was priced at double the price of our existing grinder. I would order a new one on the net. That was then. Now..... After reading about the almighty grind I have ordered a grinder which is 2 1/2 times the price of my machine. WLL is dragging their feet a little (they must be busy) but I thought four days was a little lengthily between order and ship. Of course this is not before ordering and canceling a Maestro Plus. In the meantime I play with 60 lb. tamp because I can't do anything about the grind. I also have time to stop at another exclusive coffee shop in a local mall and order a double. I am trying sample the local shops to see where my toy is stacking up. Again, lots of nice equipment, lots of latte's going out, but my double tastes like crap. Again, lots of nice equipment but my espresso at home is noticeably better. I am still not convinced. I was spending a lot of time reading on the net about all of the variables, firming up my grinder choice (Rocky), thinking "wow" , maybe a Silvia would be my next machine. I thought about that for about a week. Luckily I had to tile the backsplash, retexture and paint the kitchen ceiling to distract me once in awhile. Reading, reading, reading. Gaggia, Rancilio, PID..... After a while I figure out this machine has some of the inherent deficiencies some other machines do. I am watching all of the videos on the WLL sight and everywhere else. All the while I am getting some crema off of this machine and it tastes better than what I am ordering out. So yesterday I ordered a 53mm tamper for this thing because, as I said, the one I have is too small making it very difficult to get an even tamp. Mind you it's not convex or concave just flat! Last night I was driving by an espresso establishment in a neighboring town. I stopped and got a double. Finally I got some crema. It tasted better. Reasonably priced. I wanted the server to taste it and it for me. Maybe next time. So I told my wife I will try to wear this machine out and as of yesterday, I think I have my sights set on an Expobar Lever. So today I get up and decide to make a double right off the bat. Now I have still been struggling here. Exactly how large is a double?? If a single is 1 or1 ½ oz. then can a double be 3 oz.? I measured out three ounces of water in a marked measuring utensil, poured this in my espresso cup and noted that it is very close to being full. That got me worried because I had been using 1 oz. as my standard and noting that I thought my pull was starting to wash out in color near the end. Given that, I figured I needed more tamping pressure "Scotty", tamped pretty firm, polished, ran water through the group to warm everything up real good, pulled 3 oz. in 30 seconds and it is the best thing I have tasted yet. The pull in comparison had a slower pace probably due to the tamp. I then repeated this and I am in somewhat of a shock (caffine) still. Naturally, I would have given anything to get a second opinion. I can't wait to grind a little better and get some more data off of this "toy". I wanted to post this eval on the Mr. Coffee espresso machine for the groups benefit and hopefully dispel some of the misconceptions I believe might be floating around. It might also be because nobody has bothered to post any info on this machine. To the group, thanks for posting all of the information that you have. I can't believe how little espresso is consumed here in northern Ohio. I called two other local coffee shops and asked if they served espresso and they said, "What?". Even finding a tamper in Cleveland is darn near impossible. The grinder and tamper should be here next week. I really didn't know that this was going to be another hobby.

A: Either you need better reading glasses or the instructions got garbled when they were translated from Italian to Chinese to English. The book should have read "one 7 gram scoop for a 2 fluid ounce serving, two 7 gram scoops for two 2 oz. servings." Even that is high. A single (one scoop) should be closer to an ounce, a double 2 oz. of coffee in the cup. You're a brave soul, pulling your first shots for guests! If your machine is a "steam toy" then you add water each time you use it, and there is a tightly sealing screw-on cap for the water reservoir. If it is a pump machine, there will typically be a water reservoir that holds enough water for SEVERAL uses, and the lid to the reservoir does not screw firmly into place. A double shot usually takes 14 to 16 grams of coffee, and produces 2 to 3 ounces of Espresso. There are a lot of factors involved in good crema production. Freshly roasted beans are a key element. To most of us geeks, freshly roasted means 2 days to 2 weeks (I usually compost beans older than a week). To keep fresh beans on hand, you need to find a good local or mail order roaster, or consider roasting your own. (As it's been a full hour since you posted, you may have already moved on to home roasting by now). :) Sounds like you've made a good choice for a grinder. You will be amazed at the effect of grind quality on your shots. A Rocky and an inexpensive pump Espresso machine will likely produce far better shots than a Silvia or Expobar paired with a low-end grinder. It sounds like you are quickly working your way through the learning curve on your machine. My advice to you would be to work with your current machine (if it is a pump machine) for a while, and not jump into a new machine right away. Many of us jumped in at the Silvia level of machine, only to find a year or so down the road that they really need/want a heat exchanger machine, or even a double boiler machine like the Reneka Techno. I would have moved up to my current machine a few years earlier if I hadn't invested in a Silvia as my starter machine. Or you may decide that you really don't want to be a coffee geek after all. I sympathize with your problem of not having a point of comparison with Espresso. Of course, you want to trust your own tastebuds, and what tastes good to you is all that matters, but it really is helpful to know what you're working towards. I wondered for over a year how my shots compared to the serious geeks and pros here, and then I got a chance to visit Espresso Vivace in Seattle, as well as receive tech service training at ESI for LM, Astoria, Swift, and Mazzer equipment. My shots at home were very much in the ball park with the big guys. My shots didn't taste any better for knowing that, but maybe my satisfaction with my shots was greater. I enjoyed reading your post.