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Newbie Just Back From Italy Needs Espresso Advice

Q: Try looking at reviews on www.coffeekid.com. Then look at www.1st-line.com, www.wholelattelove.com, or www.thedailygrind.com. Then look to http://netnow.micron.net/~bogiesan/ to see if you really want to get into this. And then read one man's adventure at http://www.quiknet.com/~frcn/Coffee/Coffee.html. Then when you have done all this and decide to ask again, we'll tell ya all about how you will probably never duplicate the Italian experience unless you start roasting your own coffee

A: I don't think Gary was saying that was necessarily true, just that we'd say it. I agree with your statement. I have a local roaster, and I can get the beans the day after they're roasted, and the Espresso is fabulous. However, for reason number 1 above, most of my Espresso is from home roasted beans. Partly agreed, it IS a cool hobby, but: a. It hardly takes much time & you can easily do other things while roasting, eg. cooking, washing the dishes etc. I'd even say it SAVES time - I don't have to go to the store when I enjoy a coffee I don't have roasted. I can just take it green beans from my storage cabinet & dump it in the roaster. b. Inclination? if you prefer to have fresh coffee, that's about enough. c. The way most around here roast beans hardly requires skill - not much harder than boiling an egg. With a HWP, it's prolly easier. d. Backyard? I roast indoors, ventilation comes from an open window (when it's not too cold ). You are right, however, that it is not an imperative to start homeroasting. You're lucky to have a dedicated roaster nearby. Closed roaster in my 'hood is Douwe Egberts. I think I make better 'spressi with my home roasted beans... If you but knew what you're getting into, you'd duplicate the fountain; it'd be cheaper. Seriously, with practice you can get very good results with a very reasonable investment. The secret to doing it cheaply is not to spend too much on things that don't work out. This somewhat mitigates against "buying your way up the chain." It's not exactly a secret, but it's not obvious, either, that the more important piece of equipment is the grinder, rather than the Espresso machine itself. I get very reasonable results from an old Braun pump machine (an E400T I bought off eBAY for $18) and a commercial-grade Faema grinder I bought, used, from a restaurant supply house. The Faema grinder produces a dead-even grind, and can vary the grind in very small steps. This is typical of the big commercial grinders from Mazzer, Rancilio, Milano, La Pavoni, and a zillion other names. The "retail" prices of these grinders hover around the $1,000 mark, but they can be had for much less, even new. Used, especially from a restaurant supply that doesn't specialize in Espresso gear, they can cost less than new consumer-grade grinders. I think that the grinder more than makes up for the inadequacies of the Braun Espresso machine I'm using, although I've fixed some of the Braun's problems with some modifications. While you're at the used restaurant equipment place, it's tempting to contemplate buying a commercial Espresso machine, but most of them expect to be switched on all the time. Otherwise, they take a long time to warm up. An hour or so. A timer can handle having them ready for you in the morning, though. Lots of folks on alt.coffee like the Rancilio Silvia, a mid-range home machine. It's pretty straightforward machine; I think I could handle it in the morning.... Other folks will point you to the many web sites that can quickly raise your knowledge level. Use 'em. You can save yourself a lot of time and money.