To quote Dan Kehn...

Chris Tacy has been a professional barista for years, but has never owned a home espresso machine. So we thought it would be fun to introduce him to how the "other baristas" sweat the details. He’ll compare a semi-commercial home espresso to the machines he knows best, namely top-end commercial espresso machines. Unfair? You bet! It promises to be an atypical perspective with a couple surprises too.

Check out the review.
It was fun, it was cool and I learned a ton. Hard to complain!


I'm in the final throes of the review process for the Grimac Mia. It's been a great experience, and a lot of work.

Huge thanks to all the folks who helped on this.... Bronwen Serna, Kyle Larson, Tonx, Stephen Vick and all the other tasters and testers. Thanks to Duane Sorenson for sharing thoughts and insight. Thanks to Joel, Jodi, Trey, Mason, Matt, John, Jen, Chris, Andrew and Terry for the coffees. Thanks to all the Home-Barista.com folks who provided guidance, feedback and questions along the way. Big huge thanks to Dan and Terry for setting all of this up and making it possible. And most of all, special thanks to the wonderful Valerie Hoecke for providing assistance and support and tolerance in all possible ways.

Here is what happens when you get too many coffee freaks and too much coffee together with a new machine...

That's a couple days worth of spent coffee. Whew...


home espresso blends

people have been asking me about my comments that, in working with the Mia, i've come to the conclusion that some espresso blends are more suitable than others for use at home - and that some espresso blends are simply not suitable for use with the average home machine. obviously, there are machines for home and machines in homes that are exceptions.

it's actually been a pretty amazing experience - and the conclusion is still a bit shocking in my own mind. i talked a bit with Duane about it yesterday. and with Tony the other day. i still don't have my head wrapped around it, and in no way do i have any concrete solutions or even a real understanding of the situation.

none the less... my current thoughts are that espresso blends that have a narrow range of acceptable brew temp are problematic for most home machines. This is not just due to the whole temp surfing and temp stability issues - it's also due to the temp instability during extraction of a shot. in addition, it seems like blends with a huge number of beans complicate the issue. this seems to be particularly problematic with coffees that are on the light roast side, coffees that require very high brew temp and coffees that require specific brew pressure. finally, there are some specific beans that present their very own complications and problems.

As examples...
Commercial Espresso Number One -- this requires a very high brew temp (203.5F) and a slightly low pressure (8.5BAR). If pulled at 202F it tastes shockingly sour and astringent and has a very off "wet cardboard" flavour. if pulled at 204F it becomes ashy. given that even top home machines tend to see intra-shot variance of this sort, the odds of getting a shot that doesn't possess at least one of these negatives is very low. it is possible to get good espresso at home from this blend, but it's very, very challenging and luck starts to play a large part.

Commercial Espresso Number Two -- this seems to produce acceptable (though different in flavour) espresso at brew temps ranging from around 198F to around 202F. At the lower end it is quite sweet and fruity and acidic and at the high end it is spicy and chocolatey.

the above also tend to be compounded by sloppy technique. variance of greater than 0.6gram in dose with many espressos produces dramatic changes in extraction. with most - the results are negative.

in playing around with some coffees over the weekend, Tonx, Bronwen and i came up with a example blend that was, in fact, quite tolerant of many of these faults. it performed well at lower temps and at higher temps. it handled sloppy technique as well as can be expected. the keys were that it was only three beans, it had no "finicky" beans and the base was a coffee that was wonderful as a single origin espresso. in addition, the goals (from the start) were to create a fault tolerant blend that tasted "like Illy but better."

i think many roasters are going to need to think about either creating a home espresso blend or suggesting their blend not be used at home.



we had some visitors over the weekend. Bronwen and Tonx came down from Seattle and Kyle and Stephen came over as well. in part this was just social - but it was also a chance for folks to play around with the home machines.

and we had coffee. coffee galore.

Coffees from Hines and from Victrola and from Intelligensia and Ecco Caffe and from Stumptown.

out of all of this we learned a few things...

1) The Mia can produce really good espresso. Really good espresso.
2) Certain espresso blends are far (far) easier to use with a home espresso machine than others. I have some theories about why this is the case (needless to say) but so far they are mostly if not all unfounded. Tonx and I talked about this a lot. Needless to say, there are some implications here for roasters. If you want to sell espresso to home users - you need to create a blend that works with the realities of home machines. It needs to be incredibly flexible when it comes to brew temp, extraction, etc.
3) Certain espresso blends are difficult if not impossible to work with on a home machine.

it was very very fun.