Sunday, March 24, 2013

Silence your Silvia

Another simple mod for Silvia is to make it a bit more silent ! She does scream a bit the old lady.

It doesn’t take much cash to do this mod, but I do take some time to disassemble the machine.
A lot of material can be used, if its sound or heat proof in any way, it should do. Most I have heard about used floor insulation. It’s a green mat to put under floorboards. It can be bought relatively cheap in the same store you would buy the floor. Just be sure that its non toxic and can hold against the heat.

I have used insulation from a dishwasher; it’s thicker than other materials, and it was free. 

It is very simple; just remove all the plates you would like to soundproof. What is most important is to get insulation around the pump, that’s the noisiest part.

This is what I did:
Remove the top plate and water reservoir.

Remove middle and back plate to expose the pump. 

At this point you can attach your material with double sided tape, to all the disassembled parts. The thicker a layer you get, and the closer you get the joints, the better a result you get in the end. On the back plate there are not much space, my material were too thick, so I just split it with a sharp knife. To finish off I mounted electrician tape around the edge of the top plate, to remove the resonance made when metal vibrates against metal.

Now you can mount material around the pump. I cut different sized pieces to get as much possible in there. I simply closed it in completely.

Now it’s time to put the machine back together. Just bring together the bits in the same order you took it apart. 

Last I mounted more tape to the edge where the grate lays on top, again to remove resonance.

It is a lot less noise now !!

But it is not silent. The noise has come to a much more low frequency humming, instead of the regular metal screaming noise.

I am very happy with the result. I believe it did a big difference.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Impod Tampers From Øristeriet

Impod Tampers

I have tested five different tampers from Øristeriet, for the last couple of   Weeks. All five tampers are from the brand Impod. They all look good but vary a lot in price and quality. 
I have tested all of them by the same criteria - how they fit the hand, the weight, how we'll they are processed, looks and of course how well they tamp, and fit the basket. 

The first I tested was also the one in which I had highest expectations. 
A very beautiful wooden handled tamper designed by the Swedish barista Dan Stenqvist. 

Dan Stenqvist
Weight     318 gr 
Hight       10 cm
Diameter  57,89 mm
Price        47 $

This is a tamper that looks good in every setup, I love the curves and the wooden look,  which should get darker when it's used. 
It has a small curve at the base. 
It is a pretty high tamper, and it doesn't fit my hand very good. I do have a ridiculous small hobbit hand to be fair, but it just doesn't land well in my hand. 
It is exactly 57,89 mm in diameter, and it fits my Silvia basket very well. The weight is on the lighter side in my opinion; I wouldn't like it lighter than that!
I had a friend with a bigger hand to try it, and he had no problems. So if you have a small hand be aware. Besides that it’s a beautiful and well functional tamper. 

ES 4224 blue
Weight    166 gr
Hight       9 cm
Diameter 57, (7/9) uneven
Price       33 $

This tamper is made from aluminum, and is therefore very light, but also a lot cheaper because aluminum is soft and can be processed much faster. 
I think it looks good, I like the bright an shining metal, and the plastic handle looks good even though it’s a cheap tamper. 
As mentioned it is light, way to light. Furthermore its uneven in the base, which is also slight curved, the diameter varies from 57,7 to 57,9 mm. It shows in the brewing to, I had several bad shots in the time I used it. It is meant as a cheap solution instead of the stupid plastic thing that comes with a new machine. I believe it's better to save up and buy proper equipment instead, because you would go bigger at some point anyway. 

    Weight    467,8 gr
    Hight       9,4 cm
    Diameter 58,0 mm
    Price       52$ 

Now we're talking.
This is not a tamper with lots of pretty fancy stuff. It's short, it's round, well fitted and it is heavy !! 
Like the others it has I small curve at the base, the base is even and has a hight that, gives me a good impression of my tamp, the lines is easy to look at, and see if it’s even. 
The big "ball" looking thing on the top, gives a good grip. The weight makes the tamp really easy. All shots came out really great. But it's not pretty, and I think esthetics are important, because mainly all of this equipment takes up much space, therefor it should be nice to look at. 


    Weight    395 gr
    Hight       9 cm
    Diameter 57,9 mm
    Price       46,5 $

This one holds many of the qualities I want from a tamper ! 
I think it looks really good. It's very neutral and simple. It's relatively heavy - the base is even, we'll processed and with a small curve. 
The handle has a shape and height suitable for every type of person. 
Every tamp came out great, and I was left with a feeling of super quality. This is the one which stayed beside the machine after the test. Because of the looks, the qualities and the fact that it is versatile. 

    Weight    240 gr
    Hight       9,3 cm
    Diameter 57,9 mm
    Price       43,5 $

This is a tamper with a handle made of good looking shinny aluminum, and a solid, small curved, stainless steel base. Some of the good things from both worlds. I do like this one very much to, like the Esclamativo it fits my hand well, and the esthetics lives up to what I expect from a tamper. But it still is a little too light weight for me. When a tamper isn't heavy enough, I have to push harder and by that I don't get the consistency I like in my brewing process. Its priced somewhere in the middle and it properly fits very well there too. 

As I said the Esclamativo is the one that I keep in the kitchen for now. It's a great tamper which looks good side by side a stainless machine. 

Luckily tampers are like shoes to me. I like changing it once in a while, making some difference. 

Along with the tampers I got two tamper mats. 
One regular and one with a stainless steel plate, which has one side bend to hold against the counter. 

Tamper mats aren't rocket science. Most things can be used for the purpose, until now I have been using a piece of rubber found in the garage. Others use a cloth, mousepad mat or stands made for the purpose. 
With that said, I actually like the one with steel plate. With the bend edge holding against the counter, I can easily slide the mat and tamper against or away from me. And I do give more stability. The mat costs 26$. 
The regular one costs 10$ so there is a significant difference. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Coffee Collective - Finca Vista Hermosa, Guatemala Raw Bean

The Coffee Collective – Finca Vista Hermosa, Guatemala Raw Bean Review

TCC holds a great deal of fascination for this bean. When reading about it on their blog, and web shop, it’s very clear that they themselves has a history and dedication for the bean and farmer.

They describe it as deep chocolate, sweet, complete body and berry like acidity. Like all of their coffees it is direct trade. They recommend a light roast, but tell that it suits dark roasting as well.

I separated the 500 gr. in two batches. I only roast for espresso.

The first roast I tried as recommended light. I cut it before 2nd crack. Unfortunately my thermometer got lost, so I couldn’t follow the roast other than by sight and listening. 

 It did taste good, but just too bright for me. All the deep notes of chocolate didn’t get thru. But it was a well balanced cup even so. I taste very bright blackcurrant, when it’s settled in the mouth, I can feel the oily chocolaty notes, just not enough for my taste. I used the roast mainly for cappuccinos, and they did well.

Second roast I cut 20 seconds in to 2nd crack, they look pretty dark from the picture, but because of the natural sweetness it turned out really good. 

The berry and acidity didn’t kick thru, but I think that’s because of the dark roast. The first roast didn’t produce the thick crema I really like, the second one did. Very much.

I can defiantly relate to TCC’s description here, very deep intense sweetness, and penetrating chocolate. Extremely rich body, and the shot is very heavy. I made it at brewratio 55%, with 18 gr. coffee, and it didn’t fill very much in the cup.

I am very sad I can’t provide roast temperatures, but the cracks are very clear, and they can’t be mistaken.

Another high-end coffee from The Coffee Collective, my expectations is still fulfilled. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Test - Urnex Cleaning Products

I have wanted to do a review of cleaning products for a while now since the value of cleaning is so important!! 
Searching the web a bit, leaves me with the impression that Urnex is the biggest contender on this particular market. Others provide some products, but not to every single bit of equipment in the home baristas tool kit. At least not supplied in Denmark ! This is in my opinion what Urnex can provide. And there for Urnex products will be the foundation of this test and review. 

This is what Urnex has provided: 

Cafiza - for back flushing and regular cleaning of oils. 

Grindz - for cleaning your burr grinder without taking it apart. 

Wipz - a wet Wipe with a special formula designed to remove coffee oils and milk proteins. 

Dezcal - a powder to descale 

Rinza - tablets to dissolve in water, to clean milk frother system or steamwand. 

Urnex history
“Urnex Brands, Inc, was founded in 1936 to help the roasters and brewers in Manhattan deliver delicious coffee to demanding customers.
Almost immediately, the enemy of true coffee flavor became clear: oily buildup on equipment made fresh coffee taste bitter, and couldn’t be easily cleaned off. The solution was the original Urnex® Urn & Brewer Cleaner™. It came in small, hand-filled envelopes, each printed with the motto Urnex still uses today: “No More Bitter Coffee.”

First look
The products are delivered in plastic cylinders, sealed in the top; they fit easily inside a cabinet. The materiel is robust, and they won’t break if they are dropped or encountered. I have a small son, and I noticed that there is no children safety in any of the lids. That’s a thing to keep in mind. I’m sure it can’t be healthy. 
The instructions on the side are very simple and easy to understand. 
Furthermore Kaffe Mekka provides safety instructions along with the products, in case of contamination and other safety precautions.

It can be a little difficult to get a clear view of how good these products are, when testing on well maintained machines as mine.
Therefore I have taken in my grandmother’s cheap espresso machine, never cleaned or descaled. In three years been running on very hard tap water. This machine is not functional anymore because of the way it has been used.

Before starting project “cheap trashed espresso machine”, I have tested Grindz and Wipz in my every day coffee brewing.

Usually I use parboiled white rice to clean my grinder. They can be a bit hard on the burrs, and the noise is very loud. After trying Grindz I have come to the conclusion that they get thru the grinder a lot easier, and it seems that they are much gentler to the burrs and engine. Grindz doesn’t leave as much left over powder inside the machinery as rice, and what’s left is defiantly easier to vacuum than the rice powder. With that said, I must admit I can’t see a significant difference in the cleaning of the burrs using Grindz instead of rice. The rice option is a much cheaper solution, but I think in time Grindz is more convenient and gentler.

Wipz is a wetwipe with a formula specially designed for removing coffee oils and milk.
The Danish distributor Kaffe Mekka claims that ones you have tried Wipz you can’t get thru your daily coffee routine without them.

I have been using the napkins everyday now, in every way possible. I have tried letting the milk stay on the steamwand, leave the coffee stains on the table, cleaned my hopper and used it instead of a damp cloth for regular cleaning.
The key word here is convenience. There is nothing that any other wet wipe or wet piece of textile can’t do just as good as Wipz. But, Wipz does it faster; my estimation is that Wipz is 50-60% time saver in average. It is really convenient, just take a new napkin from the box, clean and throw out. I have also tried using the same napkin from start to finish with no problem. Especially when doing several AeroPress sessions in a row, Wipz comes in super handy because you don’t have to wash the AeroPress every time, just wipe it over and all oil and bitterness is cleaned of. I would think that Wipz could be essential in a café, but in the home barista setup it might be bit overkill. By all means if you have the money, and like the convenience buy them, they are super handy. Can I live without them now that I have tried? I believe so.

I will review the rest of the products when trying to relive my grandmother’s espresso machine. 

From the pictures shown, it is pretty clear that a thorough cleaning is needed. I tried starting up the machine, it took more than an hour before it was warm, and the steam and hot water tap function  didn’t work, no flow at all.

I started by cleaning the shower screen with regular soap, the result were almost none existing. I put all the pieces I could disassemble from the group in a bowl, soaked it in boiling water and one teaspoon of Cafiza.

 I left it there for ten minutes, and scrubbed it only with a brush. 

The results were very satisfying, I didn’t put much effort in to it, and it came right off. 

A machine like this can’t be backflushed, there for I stuffed the holes in the portafilter, added another teaspoon of Cafiza, mounted the handle and ran just enough water thru, to make the group soak. I left it there for ten minutes. The group and entire surface were clean with only a wipz napkin afterwards.

I removed the steamwand, left in a bowl with one tablet of Rinza and soaked it in boiling water. I left it for ten minutes. The result doesn’t really show in the water, but something has happened. Before I couldn’t blow any air thru, after cleaning I can get a little thru, and after putting a paperclip thru the hole, I got full passage. 

Now its time to descale.

I followed the instructions. After one session, I did another three. It was necessary, and I ran thru Dezcal until the water didn’t look dirty anymore. I also had to remove the steamwand several times while descaling, because all sorts of dirt and scale clogged up the hole.

Second session water

I am amazed how good these products are. No need for rubbing and scrubbing, simply soak the parts and clean with a stiff brush. When backflushing my own machine regularly I can clearly see, the first three flushes are containing lots of oils and color.

 Dezcal seems to do some kind of magic, which no one can compete with; both my grandmother and I tried several descaling products, also some made for coffee machines, but with no luck. Following the instructions left me with a scale free machine. It took some tries though.

Rinza did help a little, but mostly it's my impression, that Dezcal made the biggest difference to the steamwand. I think that soap and a paperclip would do just as good, on a small home machine. But on fully automatic machines and automatic frothers, a product like Rinza would be essential. Unfortunately I haven’t had the possibility to try it out.     

When using Grindz, it only takes a small flush of coffee, after vacuuming to get the grinder up and ready again, with the burrs spotless.  

To be reasonable I haven’t tried many other products made specific for this purpose, but compared to what you have at home there’s a huge difference. If you look aside that this is a poor quality machine, it is as good as new. Heats up in no time, and the steam function is as good, as it can be with the hardware inside.

I can defiantly recommend Urnex products. I know my grandmother can too.