November 2005 Newsletter

November 2005 Newsletter

I've had several phone calls from disgruntled Sunbeam EM6900
buyers, complaining that they can't get shots which look like the
ones in my review. Further investigation has always led to the
"well, I bought some pre-ground espresso
Lavazza/Illy/Coffex/Vittoria from the supermarket and there's no
crema and it tastes awful!" There are 2 factors at work here: the
supermarket coffees are invariably stale, and they are in fact
ground to suit Moka Pots or espresso machines with pressurized,
crema producing portafilters.

The only way to get good shots from a non-pressurized machine
like the EM6900 is with freshly roasted correctly ground coffee,
as with any other "real" espresso machine. Which begs the
question, exactly what improvements (if any) do pressurized
portafilters make to a shot?

In the spirit of enquiry I cobbled together a burnt out Saeco
machine using spares from several other duds, and then
experimented with both the pressurized and non-pressurized 53mm
portafilters. My findings were as follows:

1) You HAVE to use a moka pot grind with the pressurized PF; a
proper espresso grind chokes the flow.
2) The espresso produced has a thick, slightly frothy crema but
is underextracted, with a thin body and a sour taste.
3) The same coffee used in the ordinary PF but with a correct
espresso grind has a dense crema, full body and sweet flavour.

My conclusion is that pressurized portafilters give the
appearance of a good shot, although the crema is a bit pale and
foamy, but do not make up for extraction deficiencies caused by
the coarser grind. Throwing caution to the winds, I tried some
brick packed Vittoria, and got a 10 second crema free shot with
the normal PF, and a 28 second crema-laden shot with pressure.

The pressurized shot had a higher level of extraction, due to the
longer brew time, but both shots still tasted pretty foul. My
overall take on pressurized systems is that you can get better
results from poorly ground coffee than from non-pressurized
systems, but there is no substitute for correctly ground coffee.
Of course, correctly ground coffee won't work in the pressurized
PF, so by and large the pressurized, faux crema producing
portafilter is a marketing gadget, not an improvement.

This month's special coffee has a story attached to it; it comes
from one of PNG's rare indigenous economic success stories. The
Sihereni coffee plantation was rehabilitated (after being
abandoned for many years) by David Oromarie and now produces some of the finest coffee in the world. My tasting notes read "
Incredible depth of aroma and flavour, more intense than even
Keyup. Fruity, strawberry mid palate, medium acid and body,
smooth complex sweet finish." This is probably the best PNG
coffee I have ever tasted, which is saying a bit.


Finally, new order pages will probably be up sometime this month.
They will have a higher security level than the current ones, so
that not even I will see your credit card details. Best of all,
you'll get a Tax Invoice with every transaction. The only
downside is that "Fast Orders" will no longer be possible as full
details will be needed for every order. New postage and courier
charges will be included with the new pages.