Sunday, December 2, 2007

May the Force be With You.

Pressure, that is. I've been thinking about buying a lever-actuated espresso machine. There are two kinds, apparently, a spring powered variety, where you essentially cock the espresso machine. After doing that the spring applies the desired pressure to the water as it's forced through the grind. I have tried to figure out which brand to buy, so I went to If it wasn't for the gigantic database of consumer reviews, the site would be useless. In a recent review of the Rancilio Silva, a perennial favorite espresso machine, the reviewer actually brags about not reviewing the product. Well, then, what the hell are you doing? I don't care about anything else you have to say. Review the God damned product for me. Enlighten me. That's what I'm coming to you for.

Regardless, I'm getting tired of my Jura Capresso Z5. Yeah, I sound like some whiny little twit, complaining about my $5,000,000 Über-machine. Still, as far as a super-automatic goes, it's fantastic, but boy howdy does it have some limitations. The lack of a manual steaming nozzle/wand is a big drawback for me, since a cappuccino with heaps of foam is impossible. Don't get me wrong, it produces wonderful foam, but not a lot of it and, importantly, it never seems to get everything hot enough. Oh, and I can't even count the number of times I've clogged it with dark roasts ground too fine. Do not even get me STARTED on flavored roasts, like my nemesis, Irish Cream.

So I'm off and running on trying to find a dedicated espresso machine that will allow me to tamp my own grounds and press however-the-hell much water I want through them for however long. So I'm back to the two kinds of lever presses. I mentioned the spring-loaded one, well the other one is a pure lever-pressure model. This one requires a smooth hand that can deliver constant pressure to the water flow so as to not cause any amount of water to either go too quickly or too slowly through the grinds. Unfortunately, much as with the rest of the world, EVERY model out there seems to have something terribly, horribly wrong with it.

So I hit again, and I noticed that they never seem to dislike any machines. Every machine reviewed gets an 8 or above. That doesn't help me at all. So I poked around until I found the companies that made my desired design, and two brands kept popping up, La Pavoni and Elektra. Both of them make fantastic, fantastically expensive machines, and all have something wrong with them that can be fixed easily and cheaply.

Temperature regulation on these machines is apparently a novel and absurd concept. Many of them have no insulation to speak of and blast off heat from their boilers. Oh yeah. The Green Team will be happy with that one. We already have global warming from CO2, we don't need it from heat. Others, like the La Pavoni, would get so blistering hot as to actually ruin espresso shots. I think I'm going to go with the full lever-actuated one and forgo spring mechanisms. I really want to get a true, barista experience and also get as much control as possible. The constant problems with boiler pressure messing with milk steaming times gives me some serious pause, though. I swear. Am I going to have to buy a fully professional model for ten grand? Because I won't. I'll just go to friggin' Starbucks and leave my soul at home.

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