My coffee journey, from pod to home barista, what is next?

Does your day start with a cup of coffee? Or a daily visit to the coffee machine during your work day? And what happened when covid sent us all to home offices?

This is where my coffee journey escalated, maybe a bit different from the usual journey. But the hunt for making this cup of liquid gold better and more tasteful is our common goal right.

Pod machines – first coffee machine

A couple of years prior to covid, we figured start making coffee at home would be much more cost efficient, except from at work where all Norwegian companies provide employees some sort of bean-to-cup coffee machine or smaller companies have a filter machine like the Moccamaster.

We bought a Dolce Gusto pod machine and Nespresso milk steamer. I am all into black coffee, but my better half enjoys milk in her espresso.

I was drinking Dolce Gusto Americano pods which can be purchased in almost every grocery store here in Norway. A 10-pack coming at around 6kr (NOK) a cup.

But after a while we didnt enjoy the Dolce Gusto pods anymore. It was on par with the automatic bean-to-cup machines around offices, but not good compared to a coffee shop like Jacobsen Svart, Tim Wendleboe, Dromedar and other non-global brand of coffee shops we regularly visit.

Nespresso – Trying to up the quality

So we decided trying out the global, but fancy coffee from Nespresso. We bought into the Nespresso Vertuo machine and pods, able to brew larger cup of coffee and not only espresso. Bought a large amount of different pods and started tasting them all.

It was nice to experience other flavors, but they all had this flavor I would describe as harsh. Wasn’t really pleasant to drink and most of them did taste the same. I was quite disappointed, perhaps my expectations where to high. It even gave my wife a specific type of headache, so out the house it went, along all the pods we have purchased.

Sage Bambino Plus – My first setup

Now, we made the leap up to making the espressos at home ourself, not unlike how baristas make coffee in a shop. This was back when Covid first started hitting us in Norway and we where all trying to get cozy in our home office.

After looking around, the choice fell on a Sage Bambino Plus espresso machine. Reviews said it could make good coffee and it had this automated milk steaming feature. Which for me was very welcome technology. My wife and other guests likes steamed milk in their coffee, but I am americano coffee kind of guy. Didn’t really fancy learning how to steam milk, so auto steaming made me want to try the Bambino Plus.

And because I became a crucial part of making the coffee, I sort of went down the rabbit whole deeper. The beans used was just as important as the machine, as well as grinding the beans right before you pull a shot. So I found the Bambino Plus in combined offer with the Sage Dose Control Pro coffee bean grinder, making it inside my budget.

I used this setup for 3-4 months, but felt it kept holding me back from getting the same tasting cup of coffee as the shops made. It was close, but still frustrating even if I was using the same beans.

At this point I was weighing the amount of grinded coffee in my portafilter, which I had changed for a naked portafilter, to see if the shots I pulled was pouring nicely into my cup or spraying everywhere (channels). I also weighed the amount of liquid coffee in my cup after shot was pulled and measured the time it took to pull that amount of coffee from the point I started a brew.

Weigh coffee after grind: 18g
Weigh coffee after shot: 32g (1.8 x of grinded coffee)
Time it took to pour 32g: 25sec (ish)

But these numbers changed from bean to bean, and could also need changes during the time I used to drink a bag of coffee (250g).

I also added a tiny tool called a WDT to break up clumps in the grinded beans, and gently tapping the grinded beans to make the bed of grinded beans smooth and leveled.

Rancilio Silvia – My pro setup

Now at this point I felt ready to enhance my tools, and after consulting with experts within my budget, I bought a second hand Rancilio Silvia with PID and some other common modifications. I also acquired an Rancilio Rocky grinder, mostly because the Sage grinder didn’t like being adjusted between espresso and french press. When adjusting back to espresso, it was never the same setting for espresso anymore. The Rocky is louder, and got stoved away as the french or pour-over grinder.

Its not much of a looker, more industrial, but it weighs up in espresso quality, build quality and the access to buying all parts individually, makes maintenance easy. A Silvia can often brew 4-5 espressos each day for 10-15 years without any changes in quality or fixig if you clean it properly. But should you need to change a gasket, it is available for around 50kr (NOK aka 5$) and anyone with a schrewdriver can swap it. Also a shout out to the very useful Facebook group: Rancilio Silvia espresso machine owners. Great community to learn, get help and be motivated by all the good coffee 🙂

With this Silvia I also use a bottomless portafilter, and I try to change beans now and then, to experience different flavors. But it is still beans consuming to dial in espressos, so I tend to stick with a type of bean for a month or two.

My Silvia was already modified with an Auber PID, which isn’t necessary for the Silvia to make good espresso, but it makes it much more convenient to make espressos. The PID controller is wired into the Silvia, so the PID controls water temperature in the boiler. So I know exactly what the temperature is at all times, rather than timing the temperature using the surfing procedure on stock Silvias. It controls temperature based on being set to brew or steam, so if I where to steam milk it would control the temp up to steaming temperature. Of course this is where a single boiler machine will need time to heat up and cool down between brew and steam.

The PID can also add pre-infusion (or pre-soak) where it lets through a bit of water, and because the first drips are not with fully power, its similar to pre-infusion on stock machines. The goal is to soak the bed, like blooming in pour-over, and when you start to pull with full force (7-8-9 bar) the bed should be stronger, resulting in less channeling. It came with 10 second pause (pre-infusion), but I didn’t get how it could still be the same recipe’s as without. So I turned it off, and haven’t missed it.

Chemex – Inbetween espresso

Christmas 2022 my wife and kids got me a chemex coffee brewer. Its time saving when we have company, unless they really want espresso, and the customer is always right, right? 🙂

Its been close to 6 months, and what can I say, I also enjoy making and drinking coffee from the Chemex. It is filter coffee brewed manually by controling each aspect (grind size, water temp, blooming, pressure, etc). Compared to coffee machines it doesn’t drip water onto your coffee-bed, but we are pouring hot water on top of it.

My recipe for pour-over with Chemex is on the more forgiven side, as my ability to taste the different flavors isn’t really that good, but lets talk about that in a later chapter.

  1. Boil water, and keep it warm on the stove.
  2. Pour hot water on the filter, to soak the filter and get rid of the paper-taste.
  3. Measure about 37g of grinded coffee into the filter.
  4. Clear the scale, start timer and pour about 80g of hot water.
  5. After 40s, pour another 120g, a total of 200g of hot water.
  6. After another 1minute, pour 200g, a total of 400g of hot water.
  7. After another 1minute, pour 200g, a total of 600g of hot water.
  8. Let it brew for a total time of 6minutes

From this I get 3 cups of coffee, and as you can tell from my way of doing it, it isn’t perfect. I do not control the exact temperature of the water, and I am using a regular kitche supply to pour hot water on top of the coffee-bed. Found my favorite around our kitchen, that doesn’t spill hot water all over the kitchen, because we are pouring quite slow, a lot of kitchen stuff tend to make a mess when pouring slowly.

Next Move

The Rancilio has been making 3-4-5 espressos each day for about two years, and my interest in making better coffee is like a rollercoaster. I am not currently looking at any upgrades, but if I where, it would be a grinder better suited for espresso. Preferable a stepless grinder or a grinder with less changes between the steps. Today I need to change the dose of grinded coffee, because its to big of difference between steps on the grinders. I also wish the pump would stop according to the weight on brewed coffee, because my attempt isn’t always that consistent.

Announcement

I am creating a page on my blog, dedicated to my coffee experience. Thought I would let everyone in on my journey, so I will also start updating a table on the page, with my experience from different coffee beans. I am just an average joe, so the reading will be light and hopefully I will learn to better explain my experience down the road. Bear with me please 🙂


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Ehlo!

I am Roy Apalnes, a Microsoft Cloud Evangelist working av Sopra Steria. Main focus in Microsoft Security and Endpoint Management, with a bigger picture in mind.

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