Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Life is funny

Have you ever been in a situation where you just had too much going on to remember the things you did to maintain your sanity?

It's been like that here in "the life of Jason" lately, so pardon the lack of updates.

A few things have happened. I've been devoting a lot of time to the Texas Coffee People site, including buying the domain name which, by the way, is fully functional as the primary URL for the site. So if you still haven't, drop by and check it out. It's still young, and my fellow contributors seem to be having a difficult time with regular contributions. It's been a one-man show lately.

I took a trip to Austin and visited a few shops... and instead of blogging about it here, it went straight to

I am still planning to compete in the SCRBC in June, and have been trying to promote the hell out of it in any way I can. See, and see the News tab at

Since I have not worked behind a bar in quite some time, figuring out a way to practice has been quite a challenge. I have to buy all of my own coffee. I have to buy all of my own milk. To make matters worse, I am working on a Heat Exchanger home machine. As of now, my odds of making it half way are not too good.

On an up note, I did purchase a kitchen island cart for espresso use, so I at least have a normal height to work with to at least be somewhere in the vicinity of the feel of a competition setting. I like it quite a bit, and it keeps my coffee supplies neatly organized, and right at my fingertips... sans the roaster and green coffee.

My Gaggia Coffee is now for sale. If you are interested in a good starter home espresso machine and have $100 + shipping to spare, you can find some pictures here.

It's by miracle that this blog still has any traffic at all, and it's mostly to read my how-to guide for making the Gaggia MDF stepless. Thanks to a CoffeeSnob(.au) in Australia who did a complete renovation on his MDF to make it far more than it was ever intended to be, who read my how-to, and linked it for the world to see. He later left a link to a PDF of a finer adjustment ring for the number collar for steps. It works beautifully. How many MDF's do you know of that look like this?

While I was transferring everything to my new "shrine", I found my Senseo that was taken apart into a million pieces. I decided to put it back together, and if nothing else, sell it or give it away since good coffee from it was an impossibility and it just wasn't worth my trouble.

I decided to give it another go, seeing that I had it back together and all, and I did. This time, with a slight alteration in technique. When the water reaches temperature, press the brew button, and when you hear the pump start to push some water through, turn the unit off, and then right back on. Once you see it reach temp again, press the brew button and let it go.

MUCH improved. No pre-heating the water before putting it in the reservoir. No pump modifications. It's not ideal, but it's definitely drinkable. I still recommend that you either buy an after market ground coffee adapter, or make your own pods, but please, for the love of good coffee, do NOT buy pre-ground packaged pods for your Senseo.

I also bought a new tamper. "What?", you say. "Jason? A second tamper?". Why yes, actually, why not? By the way, this one is flat. "You're kidding me!.. You? The advocate of the Convex tamper? But why!?" Yes, I know. A million apologies, but I can explain. I like variety. And when I saw this little beauty on e-bay, from a Texas seller, I figured I could spend the green for a new piece of equipment... if for no other reason than for some in-home serious experimentation.
...And experiment I did.

I found the "donut extraction" problem to be much more common from the flat tamper, I suspect, due to the natural tendency for the density of the center of the puck to be slightly higher than at the edges, as well as the tendency for the seal between the puck and the sidewalls of the portafilter to be slightly looser than the packed matrix of coffee granules at the center. A convex tamper has a tendency to not only decrease the distance between the top of the center of the puck and the floor of the filterbasket, but also to put some outward pressure on the coffee particles, thus, helping to fortify the integrity of the side seal.

I did find, however, that scooping a bit from the center of the puck by means of a curved finger during the final leveling off of the puck, the donut extraction is greatly reduced. In fact, I'd call it a non-factor. People have said that the WDT helps to solve the problem.. and it may... but I don't have time for that. I guess I do, but I still consider myself a professional, since I train professionals, and I feel an obligation to keep my skills and technique honed to the application of a commercial setting, even if I do not work behind the bar on a regular basis (or at all, really).

"Is it fast?" Absolutely. Especially when teamed with the Stockfleth's move. "Isn't dosing a factor?" Well, that's not really up to the leveling technique, now is it? If you're a good barista, you'll know how to compensate for any loss of coffee mass in the puck from such a technique.

"Doesn't it waste coffee?" Such a small amount, but isn't it worth it for exceptional espresso?

...I thought so too.

I have much more to write about, but I don't want to clutter up a single post with too much information, so you can look forward to another update in the near future.

Aaaaah... it's good to be back.