Yet More Livia Talk!
Posted October 12, 2000 4:05pm
There's nothing like experience, me old Pappy always said.
I'm finding out, this past week, that Livia is even more finnicky than the Silvia was. Not that I mind, mind you :-). But it's like learning how to ride a bike all over again. I am constantly tinkering with grind settings, tamp variations, grind volumes, brew timing, heck, even learning how to recognize when Miss Livia is ready to pull a good shot. But I can also say that with all my tinkering and tomfoolery, I've had some of the best tasting shots in my life.
I have noticed one thing in the past 10 days, and that is not all perfect shots are created equal. For instance, I have learned that the best shots I've ever poured on the Silvia, when comapred to the best shots I've ever poured on the Livia, look differently. I'll try to explain, and sorry for my convoluted delivery.
The best Silvia shots I ever had showed very distinctive and full crema effects. The colour on those shots was a dark golden brown, though not as dark as Schomer preaches. The guinness effect was quite visible, and the shots would end up with about a cm of crema on a 1.5 ounce double ristretto pull.
On the Livia, I haven't achieved these kinds of shots yet - not visibly, and not consistently. But I've turned out better tasting shots, or so my tastebuds' database tell me. The Livia's shots also tend to be darker than the Silvia's shots, even with the same grind and bean. More intriguing to me however is how the Livia shots actually display a morphing texture when they pour. It's really hard to describe this, so I'm going to attempt to do some quicktime movies of it in a few weeks. Anyway, they display a texture, but the crema tends to start settling long before the shot is done pouring. The crema isn't as thick as the best Silvia shots, but let me tell you, these Livia shots I thought were stinkers by visual clues? They were on par or perhaps even better than the excellent shots I had at Schomer's shop last time I visited.
Problem is, my success rate for those shots is about 1 in 20 so far. That's one out of 20 that I would call "nirvana". About 12 of those twenty are good, even very good shots, about 5 out of that 20 are decent shots, and the rest are lost causes. One weird thing - I dunno why, but it seems all my lost cause shots occur when I want to use that particular shot for an Americano. Coincidence for sure, but still....
Okay, one last Livia note before I move on. I gotsta brag about Sunday. We had 6 guests over for Thanksgiving dinner (Happy belated Thanksgiving to my fellow Canuckians), and wouldn't you know it, 6 of us (myself, Jeanette, and 4 of the guests) wanted cappuccinos after dinner. Time to test out what the Livia could really do - and I haven't even "trained" for high volume shot making yet. But I was game. After bleeding the heat exchanger (HE) of its overheated water, I started grinding, and left the Rocky going. I loaded the first double dose, tamped, locked and loaded, and ran the shot into two cappa cups (preheated with some nicely dry steam from the everready steam wand). While the shots were pouring (and I was counting in my head), I went to the fridge to get the milk, grabbed my big 36 ounce steaming pitcher, and waited till 27 seconds (I was pouring normal espresso, not ristrettos), and killed the brew switch.
Immediately, I started steaming, and also shut off the Rocky, which was grinding almost all this time. 24 seconds later, I had about 15 ounces of milk frothed past the rim of the pitcher. I quickly knocked out the spent grounds from the portafilter, and loaded my second double. Elapsed time about 15 seconds. Brewed the second round of shots, and while doing so, I poured the first of my milk into the already done cappas. Finished the shot, added a bit of milk to the pitcher, and frothed a bit more - about 8 seconds worth. I dumped the spent grinds, reloaded the filter for a third time. I noticed that both the boiler pump was activated during this time and the boiler light switch was on. I waited till it went off (about another 10 seconds) and brewed my final shots. While brewing, I added my milk and foam to the second series of cappas. Finished brewing the shots, then added the remaining amount of milk and froth. Dusted with Ghiradelli's chocolate powder and cinnamon, and voila, less than 3 minutes after I first flipped on the Rocky's grinder switch, I had 6 nicely finished cappas on the serving tray.
Oh. One more thing about that. The two guests who didn't want cappuccinos? They wanted tea. I drew about 15 ounces off the boiler right into a small tea pot right after doing my last shots, added a teabag and grabbed two cups, and I was done - drinks for 8 people in about 3.5 minutes. Not too shabby.
General Musings about things in the Coffee World
I guess the first bit o' news is I finally got my Hearthware Precision back. Actually, I got a new one - a replacement for my other one which was breaking down. I also found out that Hearthware now has a new distributor in Canada who has a great price on the unit for Canadians when you buy direct from him. You may be seeing these HWP machines in The Bay soon, but don't buy it there! wink wink. Contact Brian Swan at Macaw Coffee, tell him you read about it here, and you'll get his special Internet price, which, trust me, is much lower than if you bought from a US source, and lower than the price he lists on his website, which is the MSRP of $179 Cdn. And you get the bonus of no duty, and no PST if you are outside of Ontario. Brian's from Ottawa, good lad. :-)
There's some confusion online about the status of Solis and their 166 grinder. Yes, it is sort of "discontinued" but there are some grinders left in channels, and you should also be able to buy them from a rather famous store (a brick and motar type, not an e-store) for some time. Meanwhile, Solis is bringing in the new Mulino grinder (mistakenly referred to as the 177) very shortly. I'll be getting a unit to test and do a review on. It certainly is not a looker, but it does the job, and if it is like the preproduction model I've been using, it should do the job well. One bit of bad news though - the suggestion I had (after submitting my testing report) that the switch be dual purpose - that is turn one way and it is a timer, turn the other way, and it is "on"... that suggestion was not implemented in the shipping version. But it may be included in a future revision.
Francis! Francis! notes. As you may be aware of, the FF machines really sucked in the past. Poor shot performance and almost non-existent steaming. Sure looked good on the counter though. Well the news recently is that the entire performance issue was the result of a really bad faux pas on the part of the European company that built this thing. Seems the N. American versions were not retuned for the 110 voltage we use here - the innards still expected 220 but the power supply, being 110 only delivered half the juice they expected. Thus, the underpowered aspect. That's what I've been told, anyway - dunno how much truth there is to that, as one engineer told me that was a crock o' crap.
I'm supposed to be sent a new, properly tooled Francis! Francis! X1 machine to do a detailed review on, though the current status of that deal is up in the air. If I do get one, trust me to be honest with my results, brutal or not. But hey, once I'm done, the FF! will be gifted off in some contest on the new site, so stay tuned for that one - at the very least, you could win a nice countertop piece d'arte!
I just gotta say once again that Joe Monaghan from ESI and La Marzocco is just about the coolest guy in the coffee biz. Well, okay, he ties with Kyle Anderson. And Tom from Sweet Marias. Now if only I could convince Joe that there is a market for the Ferraris of the Espresso World (ie, La Marzocco) in the upscale consumer market.... :-)
Tomorrow, I possibly bid my Silvia a fond and sad adieu, as Rick Knowlan drops by to test her out and most likely take her away from me.... sniff....
Well, he did promise visitation rights. :-)
One bit of news I was a bit sad to hear. Best of Italy, a place that sells Gaggia and Pavoni machines offers great prices on these machines... if you're an American. Seems they give some great deals to Americans - free shipping, all duties and taxes paid, the works. But if you're a Canadian? Sorry, out of luck. Pay the shipping. Pay the duties. Pay a fortune. It's cheaper, much cheaper to buy locally. Heck, it's cheaper for us Canucks to buy south of the border.
I don't mean to slam Best of Italy too much here, I hear that most people (er, most Americans) are very happy with their purchases from this company. But come on you Italian dudes. When it comes to Europe, how freaking far off is Canada from your radar, compared to the States? I bet the shipping charges are identical, but you still charge us and not the Americans? I believe the duty rates are almost the same, yet you charge us and give the Americans a free ride? Heck, I'll happily pay the GST (well, no, I won't be happy, but I'll do it), but I'm not going to pay the 12.5% duty. Screw dat, as they say. All I can hope for is that eventually they change this policy. I have a want for a Pavoni Professional Chrome.Wood model, but in my mind's eye, I have a fixed high price I'm willing to pay. Best of Italy is just about at that price.... if I was an American.
Lastly today, I swear to god, if I see one more person spell it "expresso", I'm gonna go postal. It is ESPRESSO. Save the ex for your love life, k? :-)
Till next time, thanks for stopping by!