Good things about having a home espresso machine:
- being able to make myself a shot whenever I want one
- having good espresso at home
- playing mad scientist

Bad things about having a home espresso machine:
- increased levels of frustration

If I were going to have a home espresso machine, it would absolutely have to be plumbed in (especially the damn drain tray). And it would really need a real steam wand and tip with real pressure. And it would have to have a rotary pump.

The whole not plumbed in thing is really annoying. And I don't think it will ever be less annoying than it is right now.

I don't drink milk drinks - but I have to make them for other people. And not being able to steam well is very frustrating.

The vibe pump is shockingly loud on these machines. And you can watch the flow and see it pulse. No good.

But the espresso is good. I can see why so many people are into home espresso. Honestly, there are less than a couple dozen places in the US where you're going to get consistently better espresso than I'm making on this machine. I'll see what I can do to improve this, I'm sure there are ways to tweak technique and get even better espresso. I don't think it reasonable to expect I'll be able to produce espresse as consistently good as what I can get out of Mistral (for example). But it's totally drinkable.

Of course... I don't know how much of this is simply that I have over the last few years started to really understand the fundamentals behind espresso and have learned how to manage and manipulate the variables to get the flavours I want. In other words... I don't know how much of the quality of the shots is due to skill rather than the machine.

One thing... I don't know if the whole "multiple flavour profiles from one coffee" thing is going to work on these kind of machine. I don't think I have the level of control that I get from a Mistral or Synesso or the like. The coffee is consistently a bit thin, with a less buttery mouthfeel and without the same complexity and depth of flavours. In addition, it seems like the clarity and definition of the flavours is not quite there.

The student has begun her Ninja training. She pulled a half dozen shots today -- the last of which was really good (i.e. if I were served it in a coffee bar I would have been quite happy). Very cool.


A trip to Olympia

So I went up to visit Terry at Espresso Parts NW today...
The main reason was to pick up the Grimac Mia from him for my Home-Barista.com review.
But when I got there I also got a tour of the whole operation.

I have to say that the place is seriously cool - a total treat for the serious espresso freak. Tons of wicked cool machines and toys. I got to check out a really sweet one-group La Marzocco GS, some seriously tweaked machines of various sorts as well as the first commercial heat-exchanger machine that I've ever been impressed by.

I wish I could say more about the machine but... well... it's a big secret.
Suffice it to say that there is going to be a commercial HX machine that doesn't suck. Seriously. It's got some real serious potential. Seriously.

And now it's time to start learning to be a home barista!


So I'm gearing up to write a whole bunch of home espresso gear reviews.
It's going to be cool - a sort of How the Other Half Lives thing. A Pro's Perspective on Home Espresso or something like that.

This has made me think a lot (for the first time ever) about making espresso at home. I've been doing research and considering what I would like from a home espresso rig.

As a result I have become somewhat obsessed with the Speedster machine made by Kees van der Westen. For those who don't know - Kees is a genius artist, engineer and fabricator who makes incredible machines - the most famous of which are the Mistrals (used by Stumptown among others).

He made a limited run of six Speedster machines. These are based on the La Marzocco GS paddle system and are, in my opinion, the absolute ultimate home machines. I dream of one day discovering one of the six for sale somewhere.

The Speedster in all its glory...




Also, I'm doing some consulting for a couple coffee companies.
I should have thought of this - it was obvious.

I'm really excited - it seems like a totally perfect fit given my background in business and management consulting services and my coffee business and espresso and coffee knowledge.

So, if you have a business that could use some solid, pragmatic and well-grounded assistance with the business practices, strategic planning, business development, vendor and/or equipment selection or your espresso program and barista training - drop me a line at chris_tacy@hotmail.com.
There are some things that are hard about not working for Stumptown anymore.

I really miss cupping. I didn't realize how much it mattered to me. There are new coffees in stock that I've never tasted. It makes me sad. I miss talking about the coffee. I miss the ritual. But most of all, I miss tasting.

I also miss being able to have a direct effect on the coffee. While I had a really lovely shot today (mmm... fruit chocolate caramel bomb) I've had a couple shots that were a bit off, and it's hard to know what's wrong and not be able to do something about it.

But most of all I miss the people. I mean, I still see folks when I go to the cafes, but that's really only once or twice a day now. I don't go to the roastery anymore, so I don't see any of the folks there. And I don't run the employee cuppings anymore... so there are people I haven't seen in weeks.

Then again - there are things I don't miss.

I saw a junkie walk in downtown and didn't have to do more than notice that the employees had see the same. Not my problem.

I saw the line backing up due to some staff issues. Not my problem.

When my cell phone rings it's rarely if ever my problem. When there are screaming kids in the cafe I can just leave. I don't have to stress about the Annex opening date or the status of Sumatran coffees or the effect of the exchange rate on Belgian beer prices or a thousand other things.

I'm finding I sleep better at night.

Still and none the less... I miss a lot.



So physical therapy has been extended for another three weeks. Sigh... But at least there is positive progress. It's just taking a long time.

In the meantime... I had some incredible shots of the El Salvador Las Nubitas. Joel gave me a pound of it the other day and I've been loving it. The more I taste espresso made from this coffee the more impressed I become. It's not just the caramel sweetness. It's not just that lovely lush roasted red apple fruit. There is some really nice sweetened cocoa in there, and a little grapefruit rind acidity. There are amazing aromatics (I get apple skin and more grapefruit rind and some vanilla-like tropical spice). It's rich and complex and wonderful -- everything that a Cup of Excellent coffee should be.

I'm also gearing up to do a bunch more writing. I've got an article coming out in Barista Magazine that I'm quite excited about. Some folks have been blown away by it in draft form (of course, others thought I was insane). I'm also going to be doing some cool stuff for Home-Barista.com. Dan's asked me to participate and we've figured out a way that is going to be really fun and I hope will have some real positive results.

I've become more and more obsessed with the gap that exists between the serious home espresso folks and the serious pros. These two groups are the most natural of allies - and yet there is this huge chasm. This has resulted in the two groups not only losing touch with eachother - but also pursuing solutions to the same problems independently. There has been little to no communication until relatively recently. Instead of helping eachother out and sharing information and progress, there has been suspicion, distrust and a lack of respect.

This seem to (finally) be changing. As with many things in coffee - the changes are due to some thoughful and good individuals working hard on their owns rather than through any effort by the SCAA or the like (go figure). Thanks to folks like Jim Shulman and Barry Jarrett and the people at Counter Culture and the various so-called '3rd wave' baristas we know have some established and growing personal relationships that cross these borders and which are resulting in an explosion of information sharing and respect. It's really good - and it's going to pay huge dividends.

My hope is that I can in my own small way facilitate this.

Stay tuned.