David's Blog

Home machine-Breville

Breville of Australia has created a home espresso machine they call the Dual Boiler. It makes a fine shot, really fine, and costs about $1300

I have had this in m

I have had this in my kitchen for 6 weeks, shots are amazing.


The company, located in Australia, offered me this machine to check out recently.  I had been using LaMarzocco’s GS3 for years but it is oversized for my teeny place, (and it was very loud in a buzzy, leaf blower way), so I agreed to check this out.  Of course, I was not expecting much for $1700…delightfully I was spectacularly wrong.  This machine makes better shots than the GS3.

To start they have a PID controlled  heating element in the group head and coffee boiler, a feature I had only found in the $20,000 Nuova Simonelli T3 machines. (Which I immediately purchased for Vivace). With that temperature stability comes the unique, super heavy cone of crema hanging off the coffee basket on the naked porta-filter. Espresso is much stronger than extractions without the heated group head.

The machine is very user friendly, operates on 110V power, and is easy to fill with water and empty drain tray.   It runs fairly quietly and heats up quickly.  The steamer woks well with a tip and power balanced perfectly to roll the milk in the 1/3L pitcher. Brewing temperature, pre-infusion time, and steam pressure are fairly easy to program. It even has teeny wheels that  you can project under it with the turn of a knob.  (OMG, really?)

It is possible to make shots as good as the T3 but it is not quite as consistent, and as always, your dependent on a good grinder. Pictured below is their grinder.  It had trouble holding onto a consistent powder in my place, but it is better than any other home grinder I have tested.  The burr turns slowly, grinding 20g in about 23 seconds and if you can keep it consistency dialed in, will produce full flavor shots, comparable to my commercial DRM mixed-burr grinders.





Water Formulation

OK here we go again…Like a moth to the flame I will try once more to introduce a processor controlled water formulator into Espresso Vivace’s system to enhance flavor of our espresso.


Of course you remember the first time I contacted Cirqua company and installed their formulator’s into our shops (2006).  The science was solid because the minerals used by water scientist David Beeman had a fantastic effect on espresso coffee.  Varietal flavors became distinctly stronger, with no metallic edge or astringency, and body and mouth-feel were enhanced. However, the machines they made…not so good.  After months of break downs and no support from Cirqua, I ripped all their crap out in a fury promising never again….


I could not stand it….it is not my way to back off espresso improvements so here is the formulator being installed.  After a week of this coffee it is as good, or better than I remember it to be.

Nuova Simonelli technician Jeff Aruntsen install Global formulator at Vivace Brix last week

What happened was last year I was reading about some nice baristi in Europe getting together with a chemical engineering graduate to try to identify minerals than enhance coffee flavor.  That got me thinking about it again so I tracked down David Beeman who has been working on this continually for 20 years at least. (We worked together on initial formulations sometime in the early ’90’s).  He wisely gave up on his own company, Cirqua, and has been picked up by Global Customized Water as their water scientist while they handle manufacturing, distribution, and maintenance on the machines.  So far, so good….I am on a three month trial to see if the formulator is reliable. The espresso we are serving has never been close to this good.

Latte Art Tutorial

Cruising around YouTube I was reminded that my pioneering course “Caffe Latte Art” was out of date, and had already been ‘jacked and posted for free anyway on the site. We currently have much better information, particularly on milk texturing.  So Teal Allan, Brad Langsdale, myself, and editor Corey Higgins, got together a quick video and posted on YouTube at no charge. The old DVD will be pulled off the market very quickly.

I am very appreciative of the enthusiasm and joy with which latte artists around the world have embraced free poured latte art.  This is my little thank you…


Single Origin Espresso at Vivace

Starting in January of 2015 Vivace will serve single origin espresso at both of our indoor espresso bars.

With the potential of espresso close to perfection, due to advances in equipment, I have decided that Vivace can now begin offering different coffees as straight espresso and Americano. Well… I suppose we would make you a Ugandan Exende macchiato if you wanted one….

espresso coffee 2013 book revision 3

Once again I am forced by progress to revise my original book:” Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques”.  The impetus for this is bottom-less porta-filter techniques and theory, and the absolute perfection of steamed milk texture with Shojiro’s new steam tip, the Foam Knife 1.


What is new:

* Perfect milk foaming tool: Shojiro Saito’s “Foam Knife 1” combined with Vivace technique results in perfect milk foam.

* Technique and theory when using bottomless porta-filters.

* Expanded latte art tutorial section with color plates of our favorite pours over the years at Vivace.

*  New diagram and explanation of roasting for espresso.

The price is $34.95 plus shipping and the book should be on sale at our stores and web site within the month.

For espresso bars employing any other steam tip, and porta-filters with spouts, my book “Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques Updated” is still current and will remain on sale.

Nuova Simonelli Aurelia-machine review

This summer I went to Coffee Fest Seattle to compete in the new espresso contest.  Although I did not place with my sweet Harrar, I found something more valuable.

My visit into the competition arena began with Signor Gianni Cassatini enveloping me with his trademark Sicilian charm, a warmth so overpowering I was convinced it must be a sales put-on, an effective mask for the man within.  Months later I can tell you Gianni is a true peach, what you see is what you get, a warm gentleman that loves espresso and the people that make it.  Anyway… I digress. After introductions and bear hugs…(omg bear hugs)…he said” David we put heating elements in a 14 pound brass group-head and they are PID controlled.  And of course we have PID controlled  boilers for each group as well”. I about died right there…’No way! My dream come true and the final piece to make the temperature perfect… I might have said…not sure because I was absolutely floored . (The diffusion block is the achilles heel of all the new PID machines…it is always under temperature and takes energy from the brewing water to come to temp  in the first few seconds of the shot).  The new machine is called the Aurelia.

Aurelia group head

Aurelia group head showing internal valve

Aurelia group head showing heating element

Aurelia group head showing heating element

Aurelia group head showing mistake: brass brewing surface. They have taken my advice and will use stainless stell here.

Aurelia group head showing mistake: brass brewing surface. They have taken my advice and will use stainless steel here.

I have had an Aurelia on the bar for 8 months or so at my Brix location and the coffee it makes is a whole ‘nother animal.  Simply stated my Vita blend comes out with so much power in the flavor that cappuccino tastes like macchiato prepared on other PID machines.  ( My Synesso still makes sweeter shots however which is interesting.  Perhaps the Aurelia just needs to season.) And the crema is so thick it cannot get out of the coffee basket…yes you read that right. I have been struggling with a flow rate problem on the machine, it is either fast or drips it’s way to the finish with no in-between. After trying everything, pressure variations, changing baskets, and gigluer orifice sizes my tentative conclusion is that the crema produced by the machine and my DRM conical grinders overwhelms the basket itself.  It is just too thick to escape…I’ll take it.

Controls are nice with broad buttons to activate the groups and an illuminated tray to view the shots.  A light blinks above the group to remind you it is on, shot timers for each group, very user friendly.  And if you want to change the temperature you can enter program mode in seconds and adjust with precision in increments of 0.4 degrees F. ..My interest is in the coffee but they have packed in plenty of the latest modern advances, with the notable exception of pressure profiling.   Good job Simonelli, they ignore the latest gimmick in machine design because they actually know how to make this coffee. ( Stable pressure throughout the brewing cycle will give you the best flavor profile. Changing pressure during the extraction is like changing the temperature and will reduce flavor intensity…the two factors are intimately intertwined).

The pour: espresso Dolce 20 seconds in, DRM grinder. Color is deep and uniform comparatively

The pour: espresso Dolce 20 seconds in, DRM grinder. Color is deep and uniform comparatively

And the steam valves….these are the best I have used.  You can squeeze it gently upwards with your thumb for steaming micro-quantities of milk with perfect control, or lock it down for full power.  I asked Roberto, the CEO for Simonelli USA why the steam valves are so good and he replied it is because they have been working on them for 50 years.  It reminded me that this is a company with some serious Italian history and I am amazed they are embracing the new world of artisan coffee with such skill and fidelity to the holy grail: perfect temperature stability. Also they are old-school in regards to the practical reliability of the machine, retaining such simple effective things as the pressure-stat to control the steam boiler and access to an adjustment to change pump pressure without removing panels.

Right now it is boxy…but I am told of sleek low frames to come for this beauty….