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 showing internal valve
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).
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….