I haven’t talked about coffee in a while, but I’ve been getting very into better espresso as of late.
First of all, a bit over a month ago I got a Gaggia Classic Pro, which is a huge upgrade from my Flair Classic. It’s a pretty good machine, although it doesn’t come with a decent tamper or a steaming jug. Fortunately, I don’t care about having a steaming jug (the rare times I want a milk drink I just use my automated electric frother), and there’s a wide variety of tampers available.
For now I’ve been using this combination distributor-tamper, although dialing it in has proven to be pretty difficult. It works well enough with the default portafilter on the Gaggia, but to try to up my game I ordered a bottomless portafilter, and that’s been rather difficult for me to dial in, all signs being that I’m just not tamping with the right amount of pressure. So I ended up ordering a calibrated tamper (along with a set of high-end baskets while I was at it).
On the grinder front, I’m still using the Baratza Encore, but I’ve been playing with various upgrades to it. So far the only thing that’s actually proven beneficial is a double-step mod. I also tried out Baratza’s portaholder but I found it way too difficult to actually get all the grinds to fall into my portafilter instead of ending up on my countertop, and if I just spritz the beans before I put them into the hopper then it’s not too difficult to pour from the standard grounds collection bin.
Another thing I did was I finally got a decent scale; this one’s way faster and more precise than my old one, and also didn’t cost too much. It’s also nice and slim so I at least have a chance of fitting it under the cup as I brew (at least with the bottomless portafilter, when I get that dialed in, or I could get a slimline drip tray), and it has some nice features for using it with pourover coffee as well (such as an automated timer mode).
I had also tried a single-dose hopper upgrade but I found that the surface was too rough and so it was difficult to actually get all of the coffee to feed through. I might try sanding the surface down or something, but in the meantime I’ve finally figured out that the default hopper lid makes a perfect container to hold the beans before I pour them into the hopper (and also lets me spritz them with water without making the grounds collection cup sticky).
On the coffee front, right now I’m trying out Decaf Asterisk by Olympia Coffee, which is interesting but it’s a very light roast and I’m finding it very finicky to brew. It’s been a nice change of pace from my usual Vivace Decaf, though.
I’ve also got a crappy tamping mat, a pretty okay dosing funnel, and a reasonably-okay knock box. The tamping mat hasn’t been terribly great, though, so I ended up also ordering a tamping station which will hopefully be even nicer for my shot setup. But that’s mostly a cosmetic thing.
Anyway. This has turned out to be one heck of an expensive, but fun, hobby to throw myself into. I seem to have a lot of those these days.