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Going Krups Novo
Home >> Obsessions >> Progression >> Krups Novo

Enter the Krups Novo

Krups and Grinder
Krups Novo Compact
Pictured is my Krups Novo Compact and a Braun KM30 grinder. They did the job.

Flash forward to 1998. I've been on the Internet since 1994, and I've been lurking in the alt.coffee newsgroup for years now, and I even had my own coffee shrine up on my personal site for about a year. But I was still going out to cafes for every espresso or "top notch cappa" I wanted. I was getting tired of it. I wanted my Gaggia back.

I didn't get another Gaggia though because I couldn't find one less than $250 local. I did however find a cool looking pump machine for a decent price... a Krups Novo Compact. I saw it at one of those liquidation, twice a year sales for around $75, so I bought it. My significant other started to question my coffee related expenses.

So 1998 was the year I got back to using a pump driven espresso machine. This time around, I had a lot more knowledge in the coffee and espresso arenas, thanks to copious amounts of information available on the internet, and especially thanks to newsgroups like alt.coffee and its regular contributors - Barry Jarrett, Al from Florida, Don Schoenholt (Specialty Coffee Association of America founder), Chris Schaefer, and countless others. This time, I was here to stay.

Going from the Delonghi to the Krups Novo machine was a serious step up in quality, but it took some time to remember my long lost lessons from my Gaggia days... my espresso shots were okay - not great. I should also note that a Gaggia Baby is capable of producing a much better shot than the Krups ever could, but at this time I did not know that.

Following the advice from the good folks in alt.coffee, I tinkered with my grinds and I varied my tamps. I could get a good layer of crema on my shots maybe 50% of the time. Maybe one out of every ten shots would be really good espresso. I even took apart my little Melitta grinder and tried to modify it to get a better grind.

And in doing so, I blew it up.

Brains and… Braun?

Well, "blew it up" may be wrong. I put the grinding discs too close together and for a short time (until it blew up), I had metal bits in my coffee. For a longer time, I had a seized up machine - kinda hard to grind coffee with a seized machine, you know. So I went out and bought the Braun (pictured above with the Krups). Step up in grind quality and consistency, step down in noise and static. But it did hold a half pound of coffee!

I also did the "mod" thing to my Braun, following instructions I read on the Internet (don't ask me for them, I can't remember what I did or where I found the how to). It did improve my espressos. I was getting maybe a 60% success rate with my crema, and maybe one out of every ten espressos was exceptional. I was finding this success rate unacceptable (to tell you the truth though, my tastebuds were so tuned to "good espresso" by this point in my life, I'm sure I didn't do any worse years ago with the Gaggia but my impressions back then were most of my shots were great... so goes time and experience). I experimented more and more, trying to get better and better shots. Along the way I was spending more time with my machines... which was becoming my hobby. And that brings me back to Jeanette.

Jean (who you'll remember is my partner) was confused and a bit smirky about "Mark's new hobby" (though it wasn't new... I was just spending more time on it lately). She started to make the occasional comment about how I looked like some mad scientist when I tinkered with my "toys". But I don't want to give you the wrong impression. While not overly enthusiastic about espresso as I was, she didn't try to discourage me... she just couldn't figure out what the big deal was all about.... wadda neophyte!!! :-)

The popper roaster
Hot Air Popper... Roaster!
Hey - thanks to the Internet, I discovered something very cool - I could roast coffee at home! And save money!

Home Roasting Lurks

And so I tinkered... and so I experimented. I got up to a what I considered at the time to be a 20% success rate on top quality (how foolish I was :)), and about 70% on good crema. I was spending a lot of money on beans from a local fresh roaster. I was trying different types of roasts. I was trying different types of beans (my fave at the time was Ethiopian Ghimbi and Tanzanian Peaberry, both dark roasted). I also remember reading throughout 1998 the commentary of the "home roasters" in alt.coffee. In 1997 and early 1998, I was thinking, "What a bunch of zealots!" By mid 1998, I was thinking, "Hrmm... I wonder... I really wonder...". By the end of 1998, I was thinking "Maybe this is for me...".

Before I go on, I gotta get something straight here. I'm a cheap bastard. I really am. The first reason I got into home wine and beer making was because of the insane taxes we Canadians pay on booze. Eventually I learned how to make some real quality wine and beer and that was my payoff (to tell you the truth, I still get a small thrill out of "stickin' it to da man" by avoiding the high taxes people pay on commercial wine and beer). But, I still preferred a good draft of Guinness at Dentry's Irish Grill any day.

So my initial interest in home roasting was the money saving aspects. The math was simple. Green beans, when ordered from the US were about half the cost, after conversion to Canadian dollars, than the price I was paying locally. For some beans (JBM), it was about 1/3rd the cost. All the home roasters hyped on the quality of their beans, but I didn't believe it... I'd heard all this stuff in rec.homebrewing, and my own experience proved otherwise (If I had a dollar for everytime someone posted a recipe called "Better than Guinness!", I'd have 50 bucks or so).

I was plain wrong.

Roasting changes me

I mentioned my interest in green beans and home roasting to Jeanette, and bless her heart, come Christmas morning 1998, there was a present under the tree... 3 pounds of fresh green coffee from Sweet Marias, and other assorted implements to roast coffee. I did my first batch which sucked because I screwed it up. I did my second batch and let it rest for half a day, and well... wow. Really. Wow. The first thing I made from the beans was some drip coffee, and at that point in my life and experience with coffee, it was the absolute best cup of coffee I had ever tasted. No hype. No bullshit, no promises. It was the best. I was blown away.

A Buncha Bodums
Bodum Collection Grows
My collection of Bodum press pots continued to grow. Pretty cool stuff. I always have had a soft spot in the heart for Bodum.

And while I'm on the subject of coffee, my progression didn't sit still while I pursued a better espresso. By this time I had amassed a large collection of brewing devices, including several French Presses, several drip methods, and other paraphernalia for making coffee. All of them benefited from my home roasting experiences.

The next thing I tried was, naturally, espresso. First shot? Gobs of crema from the first dribble. Thick. Black. Aromas escaping like crazy. I added my sugar, and boom, espresso heaven.

I thought perhaps it was a fluke, but it wasn't. From that point on, my crema success rate was about 90%, and quality espresso rate was about 50%. 35% of my shots were average or above average tasting, and 15% or so were below average. I thought, hey, this is the end. This is it. I've reached coffee Nirvana. But maybe not...

You have to remember, judging "espresso quality" is inherently subjective and also time sensitive. I judged those Krups shots back then to be superior. But today as I write this (March 2002), I would probably rate them average or below. Espresso is subjective stuff. How subjective?

"And thus came Miss Silvia, and all was good again…."

Other Parts of the Coffee Progression Section.
The Nescafe Beginnings The Gaggia Years
What was good enough for my Dad should be good enough for me, right? I didn't know until I went to Europe... [ more ] I bought a used Baby Gaggia in the local classifieds. How I loved this machine. I mean it. I was intrigued by it. I tinkered with it. I sure do miss it. [ more ]
Hello Miss Silvia! Rockys and Vacuums
I should have been happy with the Novo, I really should have. But no, I wanted more. Enter Miss Silvia, Stage Right. [ more ] Silvia was rocking, but not rocking, if you know what I mean - she needed Rocky. And I needed to get a new old product I saw for the very first time - a vac pot. [ more ]
Livia Kicks Silvia Out of the House  
Soon, I felt the need to upgrade, and one machine seemed the very natural choice: the Pasquini Livia. How was the introduction? [ more ]  

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Quirky Facts

- At one point, I had about 8 different press pots. Seven were made by Bodum

- The Krups Novo was a complete steal of a price. When I mentioned it online, people tried to get me to buy a model for them. I ended up buying 6 of them, and shipping them off to other people around North America. I didn't charge for it, other than shipping. It took about 7 hours total to do (trips to buy, packing, shipping).

- The Braun grinder was okay in its day. I wouldn't buy one these days. Too much dust.

- I've been asked if I place homeroasting or a quality grinder as the single most biggest step in quality for espresso. I'd have to give the nod to home roasting.