What’s Brewing: Volcan Azul Natural – Costa Rica

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Image courtesy Wolff Coffee Roasters

One of the many benefits in having close and dear friends in the coffee industry is what follows shortly after the statement: “we’ve got something coming in you’ve gotta try”. Queue something a little special by Wolff Coffee Roasters having made its way to our friends at The Wired Owl Coffee Co in Sandgate.

On this occasion? A naturally processed coffee from Costa Rica, produced by Alejo Castro under the Volcan Azul name, which itself has a long history in the global coffee industry:

At the end of the 19th century, when coffee production was in its early beginnings in America, without knowing it, two pioneers and entrepreneurs, Alejo C. Jiménez in Costa Rica and Wilhelm Kahle in the south of Mexico, shared the same dream: “To produce the best coffee in the world” to satisfy the new demanding European gourmet market.

More than a century has passed and today the fourth and fifth generations of descendants of these visionary farmers still produce coffee within the same ideals of excellency and top quality that inspired their ancestors. They produce one of the best pure coffees of the world with its Brand “F.C.J. Volcan Azul” on the slopes of the Poás Volcano in Costa Rica.

Information courtesy Volcan Azul – Tradition

The coffee inside the brightly labelled Wolff Roasters bag certainly carries such an esteemed tradition with distinction.

This is a seriously tasty coffee, masterfully roasted by the folk at Wolff, and will also be used by competitors at this year’s 2017 QLD Aeropress Championships. I can’t help but think the judges are certainly in for a treat that day.

Upon grinding, there is a brown sugar aroma with a hint of orange and lemon zest. Consumed as espresso, there is a lovely caramelised sweetness, medium body, and a bright citrus zing. A sweet, fresh and delightful cup — think sweet lemon tart.

When prepared as a flat white, the added sweetness and viscosity of the milk really makes this coffee shine. This one is the full lemon meringue pie — that is the honest truth. I’m the first to admit not all of the flavours listed on coffee bags always find their way into my cup, (mostly likely a combination of brewing differences and simply my palate being responsible for that). This one, however, is exactly as it says on the tin:

The pleasantly sweet aftertaste reminds us of meringue with hints of vanilla. With milk, the Volcán Azul is creamy and biscuity, with hints of lemon curd.

I mean it — a lemon meringue pie in a six-ounce cup. Not only that, but a perfect way to sneak in dessert for breakfast. A winner all round I say. I was even tempted to over-aerate my milk just to get that meringue look on top, but hey, this isn’t the 90’s anymore…

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Breakfast is served

Of course I don’t expect you to take my word for it, and if you are on Brisbane’s Northside, pop in and grab a bag from The Wired Owl (227 Rainbow St, Sandgate), or Wolff Roasters (140 Gerler Rd, Hendra). The Wolff online store is also just a click away — wherever you are.

My Pick? Visit Aaron at The Wired Owl, and depending on what is featured as the single origin that day — he might even make you a cup.

Whatever your taste preferences, this is certainly a great one to try. Get some while you can!

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The Coffee Podcast

I’ve been very much enjoying The Coffee Podcast recently, which has served up some very compelling topics and guests from the coffee industry in recent episodes — none more so than the current two-part series featuring James Hoffmann.

Add to that a discussion on the Swiss Water decaf process (Episode 87), another on the relevance and application of genetics in coffee (Episode 88), and the breadth and depth of show content really shines through.

I particularly enjoyed the episode on genetics, given it provided some great follow-up to a little reading I did on the topic a few years ago, which at the time was the stimulus for this post. This episode will provide you with a better understanding of the critical role genetics is playing — and will play — in the sustainability and very survival of speciality coffee as we know it today, along with the great work being done by the folk at World Coffee Research.

Speaking of which, Specialty Coffee Association Executive Director Ric Rhineheart provides his thoughts on what specialty coffee actually is in Episode 81. Then, as you can imagine, I could not go past Episode 85 with US Roasting Champion Mark Michaelson.

Thought provoking, very entertaining, yet educational at the same time, if you enjoy coffee and yearn for a little more insight, The Coffee Podcast is well worth a listen. As the show’s Who We Are page will tell you:

Our Focus is People, our Language is Coffee

Check out the webpage for more information on episodes and topics which may be of interest, hosts Weston Peterson and Jesse Hartman, and download links. Alternatively, search for “The Coffee Podcast” in your podcast client of choice (my preferred being Pocket Casts).

Happy listening (and learning).

A Coffee Appreciation Course – Extraction Artisan Coffee

Crossing the threshold to greater coffee knowledge…

If I am entirely honest, a good few of my Saturday afternoons are spent reading or napping on the couch. Sure, there may be lawn mowing or other activities involved, however external educational opportunities are not the norm. Let’s face it, my favourite segment of the weekend – with all of it’s promise – often finds me in a comfortable chair, utilising the I’ve got all day tomorrow to (insert procrastinated activity here) principle.

That being said, last weekend provided an opportunity too good to pass up, and the chair received a wave goodbye as I headed out the door on my way to Extraction Artisan Coffee’s inaugural Coffee Appreciation Course. It was obviously not too difficult a decision to go and learn from a very passionate and knowledgeable professional in Danny Andrade, whose acquaintance I made several years ago when he worked as a barista in the Brisbane CBD.

Social media and the occasional Bean Brewding Coffee Tour have provided a means with which to follow along as Danny’s coffee career has progressed, and I was over the moon to see the initial teasers a little over a year ago as Extraction Artisan Coffee began to take shape. It looked like my kind of place — and even better — is on my side of town.

Always on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about coffee and refine my home roasting and brewing skills, I enthusiastically ventured to Extraction in the knowledge I’d be leaving far better off in these areas than when I arrived. Really — is there a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

The Course

Theory

The afternoon began in an upstairs meeting room, with Danny taking us through some slides explaining and illustrating many things, including but not limited to: the taxonomy of coffee; how it is grown and produced; processing methods; and world coffee production, farming, and trade relationships (including Extraction’s philosophy and future plans in this area).

Passed around the room were various green bean samples from different countries, growing elevations and processing methods, along with some examples of green bean defects which need to be removed prior to roasting.

A recurring and very important theme throughout this part of the course was the immense amount of resources required, and the inherent difficulty in producing specialty grade coffee. Those working hard to improve the industry — whether back at the farm or at your favourite café — are certainly worthy of our respect and support.

Roasting

Roasting theory

Next it was downstairs to the roasting room adjacent to the café itself, where we observed a washed Colombian coffee go through the sample roaster. Here we learned some more specifics about the phases of roasting, and Danny’s particular approach at Extraction, which aims to preserve and highlight as many of the flavours in the coffee as possible.

After tracking the time, temperature and key points within the roast, we had a look at the resulting curve produced, and compared that with a recently completed roast profile of the 10kg production roaster Danny uses to keep the Extraction grinder hoppers full of either single origin coffee or the signature Gratitude Blend. A quick colour analysis on the sample roast confirmed it was to the required medium-light level, and we then moved onto the sensory stage of the course.

Sensory training and cupping

A few of those aroma samples

With a lot of thought and no shortage of competitive spirit after splitting into two groups, it was time for some aroma analysis and identification using the Le Nez du Café aroma kit. With our olfactory systems doing their best to identify the various samples, we eventually reached a little sensory fatigue on the last few aromas.

Overall I think we did pretty well, and whether I was in the “runner up” group or just the one which had the “harder” of the two series of samples I’ll leave for you to decide. I’ll be sure to make note of that cooked beef aroma next time I’m in the kitchen!

Next up, the familiar slurp of a cupping room, as we compared a washed process Colombian coffee with an Ethiopian natural, assessing and noting the contrast (origin differences aside) and effect different processing methods impart on the resulting cup. Along the way we also learned more about the methods and importance of cupping, and how it relates to what is ultimately served in the café.

Brewing

Espresso theory

Once our taste buds had been awakened, we were keen to move onto espresso and manual brewing, the result of which was always going to be plenty of drinking and tasting. We worked through some espresso brewing and extraction theory, with Danny providing tasting samples from across the extraction (certainly not the usual Extraction) spectrum.

Comparing under, ideal, and over extracted espresso, I must say it is the first time (and what will no doubt be the only one) in about 8 years that I have ever received sub-par espresso passed from Danny across the bar. Jokes aside, the intended lesson was heeded, with a group of twisted faces savouring not one moment of the sour, under extracted cup, with the bitter, over-extracted version not fairing much better.

Check out what I – umm… I mean Danny created

With the knowledge of what we were not aiming to produce, we were then let loose (with close supervision) on the Mythos One grinder and VA388 Black Eagle gravimetric espresso machine (yes — I did notice a couple of differences compared to my Baratza/Sunbeam combo at home). We all managed to produce espresso within Danny’s requisite brew parameters, and with a little further assistance, managed to top them off with some textured milk. I wouldn’t call what was on top any sort of art as such, however they were certainly enjoyable to drink, and it was nice to put a few key principles together and enjoy a successful result in the cup.

Finally, and with Danny giving up a lot more of his valuable time than originally planned, we moved on to manual brewing, looking at the V60, Trinity One, immersion cold brewing and cold drip. Once some preceding theory and brew parameters were discussed, much tasting ensued, with a controlled fermentation processed coffee a very fruity highlight.

The finish

While scouring the internet and reading books are valuable learning methods in their own right — there is nothing quite like having a passionate, knowledgeable, and very successful industry expert graciously passing on some of that knowledge to those enthusiastically seeking a better understanding of the subject at hand. The Coffee Appreciation Course at Extraction was a perfect example of that.

The key concepts, principles and theory are important, as are their practical application, however an opportunity like this goes far beyond a simple learning exercise. It’s about hearing a philosophy. The reasons behind a certain approach — and thinking about those reasons a little more fully. It’s about understanding the meaning of it all in the grand scheme of things, and the people, processes and effects behind the entire chain of a particular coffee.

To me, that is what those few hours were all about. The intangible benefit of hearing about an entire philosophy, and its influence on everything up to, and including making a high quality cup of coffee. Something not able to be conveyed in its entirety on a screen or in print. It is here the value of a course like this really lies.

Extraction’s ‘Class of June 17’ (image courtesy Extraction Artisan Coffee)

Overall, it was a whole lot of fun. A thoroughly enjoyable and informative way to spend an afternoon, and certainly comes highly recommended from me if something like this sounds like it may interest you. My recommendation? Keep a sharp eye on the Extraction Artisan Coffee events page (the next Appreciation Course is being run on Saturday 29 July) and social media (Facebook, Instagram) for what is coming next. The team have plans…

What’s Brewing: Kayon Mountain – Ethiopia (Natural)

In the latter half of 2016, a number of fantastic coffees come through my usual green bean supplier Ministry Grounds. This naturally processed Ethiopian certainly stood out, resulting in a repeat order for an additional couple of kilograms to go into the yearly festive blend given to family and friends at Christmas. There may have also been the expectation a little would be “left-over”, which I would have to take care of myself of course!

The Region

In relation to Shakiso and its surrounds, where the Kayon Mountain farm is located — Wikipedia tells us:

Shakiso is a town in Southern Ethiopia, in the Guji zone of the Oromia region, an area known for gold and titanium mining, along with native forests. Guji is bordered on the south by Borena, on the west by the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, on the north by the Ganale Dorya River which separates it from Bale and on the east by the Somali Region. The highest point in this zone is Mount Dara Tiniro. Cities and major towns in this Zone include its administrative center, Negele.

Sorting station in Ethiopia (Photo by
Sorting station in Ethiopia (Photo Pete Lewis; Wikimedia Commons)

Many outstanding coffees originate in and around Guji, and it is not uncommon to see many pop up in the offerings of speciality roasters as the season comes around each year. Generally, if you are looking for some berry flavours in your cup, just about anything from this region would be a great place to start.

The Coffee

The following information courtesy of Ministry Grounds:

The Kayon Mountain coffee farm is a local family-run enterprise with over 30 years experience in the production of Guji coffees.

The family’s rich experience has included many years of seed selection and nurturing of heirloom local varieties. Two spring fed nurseries are maintained to for the planting of seedlings in the loamy-clay soils of Kayon and coffee is grown in a semi-forest environment under native Acacia trees.

  • Coffee: Kayon Mountain – Ethiopia
  • Region: Guji, Oromia
  • Area: Taro kebele, Odo Shakiso district
  • Altitude: 1900–2200 masl
  • Process: Natural
  • Varieties: Mixed Heirloom
  • Harvest: November-January
  • In the cup: Strawberries & cream, stewed apple, toffee & jam aroma, medium acidity, creamy body with notes of strawberry jam, cherry, blueberry, candied fruits & chocolate with a clean finish

The Brew

Here, things have been many and varied — from tasting and testing both filter and espresso roasts for the festive blend I’ve referred to above, to full immersion cold brewing, pour overs on ice, and the occasional iced latte (given the usual hot summer weather here in Brisbane).

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A little of the annual Festive Blend ready to roll out the door

As I’ve alluded to above, an Ethiopian naturally processed coffee was a good place to start when seeking some berry flavours for the annual festive blend. With this flavour the predominant aim, the Kayon Mountain comprised 60% by weight, with the remaining 40% a washed El Salvador — Finca Patagonia — providing deeper plum notes for the filter roast. For the espresso roast, the remaining 40% was shared equally by the Finca Patagonia, along with Guatemala Ceylan, which added a little more body and chocolate flavours. Overall, the blends were reasonably successful in achieving my aim regarding the overall flavour profiles, and feedback has been positive from those who received some at Christmas.

The Kayon Mountain brewed as a single origin? Equally well received, however I must admit most of the small amount remaining I kept for myself.

When prepared as espresso1, a lovely rich cup resulted, with strawberry and blueberry flavours, followed by a rich chocolate finish. With milk as a latte or flat white, again those berry flavours were at the forefront, and combined with a little chocolate, the overall profile resembled a Cherry Ripe.

Even if purchased with filter brewing in mind, it is certainly worth running through your machine as well, regardless of roast level. I honestly don’t think you would be disappointed.

With filter brewing2, a clean, crisp, full flavoured cup ensued, with flavours of red berries, a hint of blueberry and chocolate with a creamy, medium bodied, lingering finish. Most of my filter brewing was done using a V60, along with kicking off many a December morning in the office with the AeroPress — both providing equally impressive results. As you’d expect, the V60 produced a cleaner, more nuanced cup, however there were no complaints about the AeroPress brew, from either myself, or my office coffee pals Tracey and Andrea, whom I must thank for determining the final ratios for the festive blend.

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Anyone for another?

Last but by no means least cold brewing. Although a couple of 1 litre batches were indeed “cold brewed” using full immersion over 16-18 hours (similar to this method), I’m also partial to hot brewing and flash chilling — using a V60 over a jug of ice. This method simply involves around half of your usual brewing water already in the vessel as ice, with the remaining half off the boil as usual for brewing a V60 (the dose generally being a little higher than what you might otherwise use). If you’re interested and have not yet delved into the world of iced pour over brewing, perhaps use this as a guide.

Depending on your preference, while adding milk to either of these chilled brews is an option, doing so mutes a little of the richer berry flavours. When consumed black (my first preference, with only one test cup consumed with milk), I’d have to say it was definitely one of the more refreshing drinks I consumed over summer. When you have four or five 200ml bottles of cold brew stashed in the fridge, it becomes mighty hard to limit consumption to a reasonable level on those hot days.

The Finish

I think you get the idea.

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Iced latte at the ready

I have been quite taken by this fabulous naturally processed coffee from the Kayon Mountain farm in Ethiopia. Having been put through a wide array of brewing methods over the course of the past few months, it handled all with aplomb.

My preference — despite enjoying it across all forms of brewing is probably by filter, although the bias introduced by these long, hot days of summer probably push the cold brew into first place.

If you are able to get your hands on some, I for one highly recommend it.

  1. For reference, espresso brewing was done on a Sunbeam EM7000, using a 1:2 brew ratio – that is 19-21g dose, yielding 40-44g in the cup. ↩︎
  2. My filter brewing is typically done at a 1:17 ratio. ↩︎

My Home Espresso Set-Up

Recently I began writing a post about the merits of weighing espresso dose and yield, and then realised I haven’t really ever outlined just what my espresso brewing equipment consists of. I’ll warn you now this most certainly is not a post about fancy high-end equipment, however what I do have does a pretty good job at producing tasty espresso.

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Of course you can spend as much as you like on this type of stuff, however I’m also a firm believer in maximising the potential of what you have, regardless of your particular level of investment. Further, I believe some great results can be achieved from what is available in the home appliance segment of the market.

So, as a preface to some more posts I am thinking of writing down the line (most of which admittedly exist only in my mind at the current time), what follows is the machinery and other bits and pieces I use to produce stunning, high quality espresso at home. Haha! If I knew what I was doing with this blogging game, that’s a better post title right there.

Before we move onto what is sitting on my kitchen bench, I think it is worth pointing out that while I may have high praise for the machine I use, your mileage may vary of course, and remember my perspective comes from a firmly narrow field of usage. I mean after all, you buy a machine and if it works well, you use it — for many years. I’ve really had no reason to look around or try others out.

In saying that, there are machines and home enthusiasts who can no doubt churn out better results, however I’m pretty happy with what ultimately ends up in my cup.

Let’s get underway then.

Machinery

Espresso Machine – Sunbeam Cafe Series EM7000

As I mentioned in the opening, with the exception of my filter grinder (more on this below), my equipment remains firmly in the realm of what I’d describe as consumer-level home appliances.

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The espresso machine is a Sunbeam Cafe Series EM7000. This particular one was bought from our local Harvey Norman after seeing an advertised price posted on OzBargain of $399.00. As you can see from the link in the section heading above, the model’s RRP is $849.00, and is routinely listed between around $699.00 and $899.00 in stores (for example at the time of writing, The Good Guys also have an online listing of $679.00).

We purchased the EM7000 fairly hastily, not wanting to miss such a good price, despite being a little wary of the reason for such a large reduction. The decision was made a little easier by the fact we had been using the previous model (EM6910) for about 4 years, and prior to that, the original EM6900 for nearly 7 years (after winning it through a magazine subscription competition). We at least had a certain expectation of reliability and performance through experience.

Although my intention here is not a full product review, suffice to say, in the two and a half years we’ve had the current model, with care and regular cleaning, it performs just about perfectly. Reviews online are mostly positive, and generally when there are issues, they centre around the performance and/or reliability of the steam wand and knob. Admittedly, in recent months I’ve had the steam control knob off and readjusted things slightly, however beyond that I’ve not had any concerns whatsoever. Beyond replacing the O-ring in the group head, that is also about my limit as far as taking things apart and tweaking them.

Why this particular model? As I mentioned, most likely familiarity in the first instance, after owning the two previous models, and the expectation of a few issues being ironed out now that a third generation had been released.

I should mention at this point that from a use perspective, the machine produces two espresso shots, with two (because one is low-fat, and one is not) associated milk steamings each weekday morning, three of each on weekends with an additional two or three more occasionally when visitors call in over the weekend. So although not high volume by any stretch, the machine does see use pretty much 365 days a year.

Other key features include a twin-thermoblock, allowing texturing of milk and extraction of espresso at the same time; relatively rapid heating when switched on; programmable water/steam temperatures and pre-infusion modes; and cleaning cycles for both back-flushing and descaling. A separate hot water arm though not essential, is certainly nice to have, and I do use it to pre-heat the cups.

An aside on the PID controlled twin thermoblock. I’m sure there are purists who prefer a twin boiler to a thermoblock set up, however at the price point we are talking about, the temperature stability is great, and having one thermoblock for espresso and one for steam is a godsend. Although it is of course not essential to simultaneously heat/texture milk and extract the espresso, not having to wait for the machine to alter its temperature before doing so has been a must-have feature for me since that initial EM6900. I don’t think it is something I could now be without.

img_6606The 15 bar pump for producing espresso performs exceptionally well, with a pre-infusion mode to improve evenness of the extraction. Of course every few years the seal needs replacing around the group head, however I have never had any issues with the pump itself.

All in all I’m pretty content with the quality of output from the current machine, and I reiterate here my belief in maximising the little things to create better quality espresso, rather than necessarily spending thousands on a home machine. That being said, like anyone I do dream, and budget permitting I would of course do both — in a heartbeat. Honestly though, my main point is that a machine like this one or others in this category do a great job if you apply a little effort towards the details.

My main gripes? Not many really. The design of the drip tray seems a little short in relation to the group head above it, and sees water splash out onto the bench top when flushing the group head, though flushing into a cup avoids this fairly easily. There is a slight delay in the steam pump shutting off when the switch is closed, however this is easily accounted for after your first couple of uses. I don’t tend to use the milk temperature or espresso pressure gauges in day-to-day use, preferring to use other methods for assessing this information.

img_3752The steam function for heating/texturing milk may be a little slow compared with some other machines (I’m not 100% sure it is), taking on average around 50 seconds for milk to come to temperature for a single beverage, and about half that again for two drinks. Again, in a home setting I believe this is more than acceptable, and I’ve no real complaints about that.

All in all, I’ve been very happy with the Sunbeam line of Cafe Series espresso machines for well over a decade now, and my current model certainly does not disappoint. This is a machine made with commercial touches (Twin thermoblock, brass 58mm group head, sloping portafilter handle etc) rather than commercial components per se (no E61 group head, twin boiler or pressure profiling), however this is what makes it such value for money in this segment of the market.

It’s a great machine I enjoy using each and every day.

Grinder – Sunbeam Cafe Series EM0700

As you can probably tell from the above, I’m pretty happy with the espresso machine currently sitting on my kitchen bench, and have no real plans to look around for another. Not so the Sunbeam EM0700 grinder designed and marketed as the partner to the machine I’ve discussed above. I would say it does an admirable job, and a replacement will probably come for reasons other than dissatisfaction entirely.

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Along similar lines to the espresso machines I’ve owned, this is the third in a line of Sunbeam grinders, which have served me well over the years also. The purchase of the current model was made in mid 2014 after an ill-fated, short stint with a Breville Smart Grinder, with which I was unable to adjust the grind fine enough for espresso. I believe the Smart Grinder Pro is the one you want (should Breville be your choice), however at the time I had picked up the particular Breville model at a very discounted sale price.

In any event, it was back to what had been the faithful tried and true Sunbeams again. I say what had been tried and true simply because the EM0700 was a major redesign on its predecessors and I wasn’t entirely sure how the new model stacked up. On the whole I needn’t have worried, as it is more than adequate in coping with the required grind size (read “fineness”) of standard single floor filter baskets along with the aftermarket VST basket I know use.

img_6572The grinder itself contains conical stainless steel burrs, has 30 steps of adjustment (more on this below), 450g bean hopper capacity, and the ability to grind directly into the group handle, with a built-in switch in the portafilter cradle to do so. It is belt driven in an attempt to reduce vibration and noise apparently, however what can I say — a coffee grinder is a coffee grinder — they are noisy beasts.

The main issues I’ve had over the past couple of years relate more to grind retention (grinds left in the chute or adjacent to the burrs), cleaning, and a little inconsistency at times. Add to that the grinds clumping a little has me thinking that if the EM0700 were to give up the ghost tomorrow, I’d probably be looking at an upgrade purchase rather than a direct replacement.

On a side note, in the images I’ve included in this post you’ll notice another grinder — the Baratza Vario, worth far more than the Sunbeam, and a much higher quality grinder in its own right. Why then would I be using the Sunbeam in preference? Simply the fact that every day I grind for espresso as I’ve mentioned above, and also for either AeroPress or my V60 drip filter. I’ve always been apprehensive about constantly adjusting back and forth between coarse and fine settings, preferring to keep one grinder for filter and another for espresso.

Firstly, a rather privileged situation I know, and my intention is to care for the grinders a little more in doing so. Whether this really makes any difference or not I’m not entirely sure, however that is how I roll, and on that basis I will continue. By the way, the Vario was an Instagram competition win through the good folk at Espresso Parts – yes I’ve been very competition-lucky in my coffee journey over the years.

So, the positives I’ve found with the Sunbeam – firstly the price. With RRP at AU$299.00, the grinder can often be found at various sales for around $50.00 less. Next, adjustment. The grinder comes with a stepped, 30 increment adjustment collar, which more importantly can be recalibrated at either end to go a little further than the standard 0 or 30.

Depending upon how you may use it, this ability could be a deal breaker. For my espresso grinders, I need to be able to achieve a fine enough grind to ensure my espresso machine is usable. That is, allows me enough flexibility to control the flow at a given dose. When using the standard single floor filter baskets which come with the EM7000 Espresso Machine, or VST baskets, the grind essentially needs to be similar to what you will find in a commercial setting. This is a lot finer than lower end machines which utilise dual floor baskets to accommodate the pre-ground supermarket coffee sold in vacuum sealed bricks.

I’ve recalibrated the grinder finer than the zero setting to the tune of 5-7 additional steps, which is a little over done, however I still like to be able to drop down a couple of steps if I need to, without hitting the zero marker. The user manual will advise if you recalibrate too finely, it will result in “a metallic grinding noise” as the burrs collide. We don’t want that of course, so if you head down this path, go in small increments. Once done, I was (and still am) more than happy with the level of control I have with the flow of espresso, using minor grind adjustments on a day-to-day basis (between settings 3 and 7 approximately).

I tend to think the EM0700 is better as an espresso grinder (once calibrated), as the particle distribution seems a little spread when grinding more coarsely for filter brewing. That is of course simply my opinion based on very unscientific tests (read a little haphazard use of a sieve to check a few times how consistent the particle size was).

img_1346Those few negatives I’ve mentioned above in relation to grind retention and cleaning aren’t massive, however to elaborate a little. For cleaning, the adjustment collar removes and takes with it the outer burr — handy for getting a vacuum hose around the top and sucking out retained grounds. Firstly, removing the adjustment collar is not an easy task, and takes a significant amount of force to rotate it to the unlocked position, and a little less to remove it off the top (I use the handle of a wooden spoon to push on the lug and rotate it, and the flat end of a wooden kitchen spachelor to lift it off).

Once it is finally off, only then will you see how much retention actually occurs in and around the burrs — and it is significant. I do understand this occurs in many grinders, however takes a little dislodging it the dogleg into the chute. Of course the grinder still functions quite well, however this is not an ideal situation, and I suspect is a major contributor to the clumping together of grinds as they pass through the chute.

In summary, the EM0700 grinder from Sunbeam will serve you well, with regular cleaning and perhaps a little calibration adjustment. I don’t grind directly into the portafilter for reasons related to my own dose-weighing workflow, which is a story for another day. For the price, I’d say the output is of a good quality.

Ultimately though, if I had to choose between replacing the espresso machine or the grinder, it is the grinder which would be shown the door.

Other bits and pieces

What else do I use besides the machine and grinder? A set of Hario scales to weigh my dry coffee dose which goes in the portafilter, and the resulting beverage weight or yield produced in the cup. I’m certainly not going to recommend everyone start weighing their espressos, however it is surprisingly quick and simple to do with the right set of scales, and provides a great deal of feedback if you are looking to become more consistent with espresso brewing.

I use the standard Sunbeam supplied tamper, however one day will up the ante on this a little as well. Does it work as expected? Of course. Another point of note is the commercially sized 58mm portafilter of the Sunbeam EM7000 machine, which accommodates commercial tampers and filter baskets. A handy thing to remember when comparing machines if you are considering some aftermarket accessories or tweaks down the track.

img_6596In addition (which relates to my weighing workflow), I grind into a decor small plastic container, which is easy enough to tare on the scales, and then transfer the grind into the portafilter, as the circumference of the container opening is a precise match for the inside of the 58mm filter basket. So, placing an upturned portafilter on the container, flipping the whole lot over and shaking a little provides a mess free transfer, unclumping of grinds, and decent initial distribution in the filter basket all in the same motion. I’ll go into a little more detail in a future post, however to explain the presence of those little plastic containers, there you have it.

As I’ve mentioned, I a VST filter basket, which is the 18g size. After trying a 20g basket, found that I am best dosing 20 – 20.8g (brew ratio approximately 1:1.8-2.0)in the 18g size. There are significant differences when using a VST basket compared with the standard Sunbeam one, and I’ve found the combination of grind, dose and flow achieved with this combination seems to better suit overdosing the 18g basket a little. Perhaps I am wrong on this, however the results seem pretty good to me.

Finally, I dry wipe the basket with a paper towel, tamp on an old rubber mat from the base of a previous (Sunbeam) grinder, and away we go. Once done, the used grinds are then disposed of in a Sunbeam knock box which sits in a corner on the kitchen bench.

To Finish

Boy, this has been a little long-winded compared with what I had in mind at the beginning, and when that happens I’ve probably made things more confusing, rather than simply providing better detail.

Frighteningly, there are a few points I’ve deleted and some I’ve left out, which I think will be best served in future posts I’ll hopefully get around to writing.

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I think the best way to sum my feelings on the current set up is to report that this morning I got up, fired up the machine (which is ready in about a minute), made my wife a 6oz decaf flat white, and myself an espresso and 4.5oz flat white (21.6g dose; 44g beverage weight), and was more than happy I had the equipment to produce exactly what I wanted.

Further, I would be happy using everything I currently have for a number of years yet, and I think that speaks volumes for both the espresso machine and (mostly) the grinder.

Cheers. Like another?