David's Blog

The Naked Truth-reading your pour

The bottomless, or naked, port-filter is especially well named.  Because there is no hiding: the entire integrity of the espresso program, from grinder burr sharpness, barista technique, coffee freshness and roast, and machine calibration is on display.  There is no hiding using this porta-filter.  And of course the closed, or traditional port-filter, is a huge metal surface contributing rancidity to your cup if it is dirty.   So the naked porta-filter is the only choice for truly great espresso.




Above is an extraction on Nuova Simonelli’s T3 of our Vita blend.  The grinder is the DRM mixed burr. The color density can be read and offers 100% fidelity to the actual flavor and strength of the shot. I have never seen a pour without some lighter spoking in it, but here it is very faint. ( Good luck getting an extraction to look like this).  But the less whitish color and the more rich brown showing, the more flavor you have extracted from the ground coffee.




Whitish colors indicate this extraction was about 5o% efficient.  Shot timing is OK, about 26 seconds for the one ounce shot.  However, light color means about 1/2 the flavor potential of the ground coffee was destroyed during brewing or grinding the coffee. This color indicates a weak extraction but does not pin point the problem.  It could be dull grinder burrs, stale coffee, or temperature drift during extraction.





This pour is timed at 20 seconds for one ounce, a fast pour.  Lighter color may in this case accompanies a very sour flavor which I think is citric acid.




This pour timed out at over 30 seconds, a slow pour.  Dark color overall indicated burned coffee compounds and the flavor might be hollow, bitter, or sometimes sour, but not citric-acid sour. Stream is favoring the right-hand side as we look at it, which is generally not good.





This pour times out at 27 seconds for the one ounce shot but is off balance.  Offset stream indicates a crooked pack, or bad distribution of ground coffee before packing.  On the left is blacking, indicating water flowing too slowly on that side and “burning” the essential flavor compounds, , on the right it is lighter indicating water flow is too fast on that side of the extraction.




Novmber Pro Barista Class

Hello expert baristi…we are planning our next Pro Barista class for mid November.  Contact Jes at trainer@espressovivace.com to get a spot.  We are limited to eight students, as always.   Here is a picture of the last class to graduate, with students from New Zealand and Korea.   IMG_0564

Home Grinder- Baratza Sette, a review

Baratza Sette


Kyle Anderson and engineer Christian Etzinger have made an on-demand grinder so revolutionary that I predict it will influence grinders made to grind per-order for espresso  for years into the future.

The two design elements that are allow this teeny machine to brew great espresso are both known, and I admit a bit of a mystery to me.  I do know this produces a beautiful full flavor extraction but I don’t know why…but of course I have a theory.

In the past I have tested many conical grinders and formed the opinion that if you grind the coffee too quickly, say 20g in less than 8 or 9 seconds, you get a thin, watery extraction much like a flat burr machine produces turning the burrs at 900 rpm.  The effect was very consistent looking at Mazzre Kold machines, turning large conical burrs that would grind the 20g shot in about 4 seconds.  Always thin espresso…Compak grinding a little slower made espresso that was a little thicker and more flavorful.  And my choice at Vivace, the DRM mixed burr system grinds 20g in about 14 seconds and produces the thickest most flavorful shots I have ever encountered.  You can “read” the shot under the basket of a naked port filter.  Take a look at the Sette shot made on a Breville Dual Boiler:

Sette pour an a Breville home machine


This is a damn good pour.  Ok ready? The Sette turns a 40mm steel conical burr (made by Etzinger) at 1100rpm and grinds the 20g shot in six seconds!  It should be thin and watery and it is not.  (I love it when a “sacred cow” is slain and my theory is out the window). The only difference I can point to for this very superior performance is that the design drives the upper, or female, part of the burr set with the motor and all other grinders that I am familiar with drive the lower, or male burr.  I honestly have no idea why this would make such a huge, huge difference in viscosity and flavor intensity but it is the only real difference I can point to. (Or maybe the Etzinger burr is extremely superior but I lean towards the former explanation).

OK, what is the other innovation I am so excited about?  As you know if you have made more than one shot on a PID espresso machine and can taste at all, flow rate is the Holy Grail.  To control flow rate you must control the dosage to +/- 0.1g of ground coffee in the basket and you must have a uniform particle distribution in the powder coming into the port-filter.  In all grinders on the market today the powder is exposed to static electricity on the way to the PF, and they all have trapped, pre-ground coffee in the stuck in the machine between shots.  The static pulls the fine particles out of position in the powder to a greater degree than it affects larger, heavier particles, resulting in uneven fidelity to the original particle compositional matrix.  You cannot move the powder through any apparatus without screwing up the particle distribution.  When the fines are moved out of the mix, and stick to the cone or whatever they are traveling in, the shot speeds up.  Flow rate cannot be controlled if the powder is constantly affected by static.

The other enemy of flow rate control is the pre-ground chambered coffee.  Any ground coffee stuck in the machine between shots changes it’s moisture content immediately as it sits.  It desiccates due to motor heat, or it becomes more saturated in environments with very high humidity.  Either way pre-ground coffee will have a different flow rate than fresh ground.  I cannot tell you how vexing this is on the bar.  Controlling the fines, and accounting for the gawd-damn chambered ground coffee makes my baristi crazy.  They end up throwing out shots and doing an elaborate dance featuring cling brushes and chain gates to try to manage the powder. Any time we have a few minutes between customers, or they change the grind, they must purge out the approximately 6g of ground coffee sitting in the machine.  It is wasteful.

This design features a bare minimum of pre-ground chambered coffee, maybe 1% of a 20g shot (0.2g) so its negligible.  Also it has an impeller that turns at 1100rpm and the ground coffee makes a jet column, passing out of the grinder so fast the fines are not affected by static on the way to the PF.  The speed means very little time that the coffee is exposed to the air and no particle migration. Here is the view peeking up into the impeller and burr set. Showing the bottom of the burr with a thin coat of ground coffee.

Peeking up into the burr set and impeller of the Sette



I have never in my life has such perfect control over flow rate as the Sette gives me, and it makes wicked good espresso. By far it is the best home grinder I have ever used.

The machine features infinite, stepless grinder adjustment and will deliver the same powder at the same setting perfectly due to the features I described above.  It can be set for drip to French Press easily.One caveat, the fine control ring migrates slowly to a more coarse setting when you operate it.  I am thinking Kyle and Christian will fix this asap but for now I put a little piece of tape on the ring to hold it.

Also, this machine is loud.  I mean loud, if you have a cat it will bolt out the door and it will never come home again.  I hate noise but I still love this little grinder for the shots I can make.


Vivace Pro Barista Training

Finally pro baristi from all over the world can learn the secrets of Vivace extraction techniques and latte art. Nuova Simonelli has supported this program with the installation of a new, modifies T3.

First classes are

June 22, 23, and 24th.
July 27, 28, and 29th

For more information visit espressovivace.com/training or email trainer@espressovivace.com


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….