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CoffeeGeek Early Plans, Solis Vs. Rancilio, and More
CoffeeGeek Early Plans, Solis Vs. Rancilio, and More
Posted October 16, 2000 7:10pm
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Dispersion Screen
Check it out!
This is the dispersion screen assembly from the Livia! That brass part surprised the heck out of me when I first took it out. No home machine I've ever inspected before had nearly as beefy a dispersion screen assembly as this. Weighs in at 134 grams.

One thing I promised when I started this whole "coffee talk" thing was I was going to keep you updated on what's going on with me and the coffee things in my life. Other than ranting on about the Livia for the past few weeks, I haven't done it much. So here goes: Update
CoffeeGeek is very much imminent. (ed.note: HA! it took over a year!) The site was pushed to the side because my company became too busy to work on it, but it's a pet project I really want to bring about.

Here's what you will see on the new site, in bullet form.

  • Consumer Reviews: Call it version 2, but the consumer review section is going to get a major overhaul, with everything you currently see in the reviews on this site, and a lot more. New functionality will include quicklinks to places to buy the product direct, the ability for others to rate your review, photos, additional questions, minimum content requirements (that means no more "This product is great!" as the detailed review - people will have to type at least 300 characters), a better rating system, and an interactive comments bulletin board. It should rock.
  • Detailed Reviews: Call this version 2 as well. All the features of the current detailed reviews will be carried over, but new functionality including reader feedback, Q and A, and your ability to rate the review will be added.
  • Weekly Columnists: I've lined up a good number of folks from around the world to write weekly columns for the website. They will be able to do it from any computer, through a web page, so I'm hoping we'll get a constant stream of fresh content. I hope they remember my asking them to participate :-) Each columnist will have their own interactive feedback bulletin board where you can comment on their articles, ask questions, and well, interact!
  • Contests and Giveaways: I've worked out deals with a few distributors and online retailers to have the occasional machines and equipment to have for web site contests. That means you could be in the running for a Saeco Via Venetto or maybe even something as huge as a super automatic or a La Marzocco machine!

Additionally, I'm planning the following sections, though they will come after the above stuff is done.

  • Tips and Tricks Section: A place to find out how to get better roasts, better shots, and learn how to microfroth your cappas.
  • Guest Columnists: Occasionally we'll get some of the real stars of the coffee world to share their thoughts and opinions on anything from the perfect espresso to the history of coffee.
  • Increased Interactivity: I'm looking at new ways to make the intereactivity of this site unique and everywhere.

I'm pretty jazzed about the site. The design is pretty much done, the WIPS backend for controlling it all is currently being worked on, and I'm negotiating some deals with some online marketing companies to handle the advertisements that will help pay the columnists, the site programmers, and pay for some of the promotions and site hosting costs. Originally I was going to do informal advertisement agreements with only coffee related businesses, but upon showing the numbers for this here site to a friend in Internet Advertising, he convinced me I'd be insane to take on that headache when any number of agencies would gladly handle it all for me, and the good news is, I can run as few or as many ads as I want. And guess what? I want minimal advertisements. single big banners for the main sections and front pages, and small side banners for other pages. I never wanted to profit from this site, but I don't want to constantly pay for it either, like I do with this existing site.

Anyway, look for it soon. It will be unleashed as soon as humanly possible.

Solis vs. Rancilio
I was asked the other day about these two machines, since I am one of the few folks online (or at least online and publicly posting) that has owned both. I'm talking about the Solis SL90 vs. the Rancilio Silvia. Which one is better? Which one is the best buy?

That, sir, is a trick question, because each machine has its perks and downfalls. One is an automatic (the Solis), the other is a semi-auto. They appeal to two different micro-markets. But, I was asked my opinion, so here goes. The Rancilio is the definite winner if you are in the class of "espresso purist" (aka anal about espresso). The Silvia is currently the best machine in its class - that class being the single boiler, consumer espresso machine market. Bar none. Don't let anyone fool you on this. Gaggia may sell more, but not even the Classic (a decent machine in its own right) gives you as much as the Silvia does. Silvia has the biggest boiler in its class. A nice commercial portafilter, with industry standard 58 mm baskets. Brass all over. Good automatic temperature controls. Good power usage. Nice, powerhful pump that is well engineered into the machine. The Silvia, with care and patience and self training will give you some of the best shots you'll ever have in your life, and with good maintenance, should last your lifetime too.

The Solis SL-90 isn't as solidly built, and weighs half of what the Silvia does. But like I said above, it is a different breed of machine. First, it is an automatic, meaning it has one button operation for brewing a volume-measured shot. It has very sensitive temperature controls inside that nearly guarantee perfect brewing water temps. The water dispensing system for hot water is first rate and ingenious. The top cup area is actively heated. The microprocessor inside can be factory upgraded. It preinfuses (jury is out on this one). It can brew short, long and "cafe creme" shots, in any number of combinations. I did the calcs once, and I think you can get about 20 different "volumes" in your cup, depending on what button combo you press. And lastly, the steaming ability is kick ass, and very close to that of the Silvia.

Of the two machines, the Silvia is capable of producing the better shot, but the Solis is capable of producing the more consistently good shot. With the new non-pressurized basket inserts available, shot quality should go up even more. So which of the two should you pick? If you are obsessed about good espresso, definitely the Silvia. If you prefer automation, convenience, good quality, and good consistent shots, and first rate warranty and service from the distributor, go for the Solis.

Livia Update
Yeah yeah, you just knew I couldn't do one of these things without mentioning the new bebe in the house. So here goes, and I promise - short:

As I move nearer to one month with the Livia90, she's proving to be a finnicky beast - even more so than the Silvia. Funny thing is, it's all about aesthetics. My shots don't have the luscious crema my Silvia shots had, but they taste, IMO, BETTER than the Silvia, on a shot by shot basis. Does this mean too much emphasis has been on the visuals? Using visuals to judge a good shot? I guess the good news is, my shots look a bit more like Schomer's shots from his books and vids, except my crema settles sooner... I think it's all about me missing my Guinness effect. But still, I hone. I hone.

Shameless Bragging about New Stuff
Hey, one thing a couple of the dudes disliked me for was my bragging, but I never felt I was very outright about it there. But screw that sentiment here - this be my site! :-) I can brag if I want.

And well, here goes. Recently, I've acquired a few things. One is for the benefit of this site, and other for the work I do. I recently bought a Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera. It is replacing my still very useful and excellent Olympus C-2020 digicam. Why did I buy a new one? Well, the price was right (first thing), but also the featureset was important to me. The Oly had a kick ass featureset and produced some gorgeous fotos (evidence of which can be found throughout this website). But the Oly was last generation's technology - and the digicam world moves as fast as notebook computers - about 6 months worth of shelf life.

The Nikon CP990 is current tech, and the creme de la creme of prosumer digicams - just as the CP950 was the last round's yardstick, the CP990 is the current yardstick against which all others are measured. (although there's always something better around the corner in the digicam world). The 3.34 mpixel images are absolutely amazing, and the featureset is totally cutting edge. I especially like the common sense features it has - for instance, if you swivel the lens part into full reverse (ie, the lens is facing you), the camera automatically reverses the image so your picture is right side up, even though the lens is technically upside down at that point.

But the number one reason why I wanted the camera was its macro abilities. Where the Oly C2020 could only focus down to 8 inches (I had some closeup filters that let me get down to 2 inches), the Nikon does .8 of an inch, right out of the box. What does this mean? Speak to any afficionado of still life photography, and they'll tell you how "cool factor" this ability is. The macro shots from the Nikon CP990 are industry leading, and this site (and will see the benefit through some really nifty experimental photography in the months to come.

Hey, did I mention notebooks above? Oh yeah. I guess the other major thing in my life recently (besides Jeanette, the digicam and the Livia) is that I finally got a replacement for my aging and rather painful (at times) Acer Extensa 393T. I picked up one of these bad boys with the ultraslim bay and gobs of accessories including a DVD drive, zip drive, and a second battery. Having a 4 lb ultralight with a huge screen and the Thinkpad's kick ass keyboard sure makes working from the cafes in the afternoons a pure joy.

Okay enough bragging... sorry 'bout that, especially to, well, you dudes know who you are.

Lastly, can I say I'm like totally caffeinated these days? It's scary. I'm drinking a lot more these past three weeks than I ever have, except for maybe my time in Italy and S. France. And I'm busy toolin' around with the Nikon CP990, taking arsty fartsy super macro shots for a new update to another part of this website.

Till next time, thanks for stopping by!

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