Today is the national holiday, "17 mai", here in Norway. It is a big occasion for many norwegians. People go out in the streets dressed nice and have all their familiy with them. In downtown Oslo there are people everywhere carring flags and cheering. Many do however not participate and chooses to do alternative things like visiting the small music festival at a place called Cuba on the east end. I'm going there too. There are lots of single people in the capital, as well as people just living here to work in periods while their familiy is back home. I think that is why so many choose to not participate in the national holiday celebrations. It's a family thing. 5/17/2003 12:39:00 PM
It has been two months since I got my Euro2000. The switch from Siliva to a prosumer thoroughbred like E2K came a bit earlier than planned. Like any other coffeegeek I knew the moment would come when I had to do the upgrade, but I didn't think it would happen so soon. Even though this feels pretty much as being on top of the food chain as far as espresso machines go, I think there will be some nice machines coming out in the near future, like the LM prosumer that so many talk about.
Well, over to the purpose of this post : to say something about the switch and the benefits of entering the E-61 HX world.
First impression and first days of use
After unwrapping the machine and filling the tank with water I let her heat up for something like 30-45 minutes before making the first cappuccino. I decided to use the professional porfafilter and basket from Silvia since I'm so used to it. Not only for that reason, also because I frequently use other rancilio machines, among them the pros like epoca and classe 10. I don't remember if I had to adjust the grind, but what I do remember is that the first cappuccino was great. I immediately felt the richness in taste that the very best silvia cappas could offer from time to time. I proceeded to make another one, this time concentrating hard on making the milk totally perfect without visible bubbles. I had to throw away some pitchers before I was satisfied. E2K is fast and the tip design makes great microfoam, but one has to be very precise with the placement of the tip to get the best result. The next cappa was just as good as the first one and I was very happy indeed, exclaiming "oh my god ... mmmmmmm!" or something like that for the second time around
I have to agree with other E-61 HX users. The espresso is very consistent and always very good, often superb. No more surfing (after letting out the super hot water at the start of the brewing session, which I use to heat the cappuccino cup).
First impression (as a silvia owner) is that the steam is weaker than expected, but it is faster than silvia and the steam tip with two holes is very good at producing microfoam. Still, in my opinion it is not better than the stock siliva. The wand is a bit too short for my liking and I miss being able to move it freely, not just up and down. Being able to move it over the drip tray would be nice as well. Steaming with E2K is great once you have the technique right, and it faster, but don't expect better latte art for instance if you do the switch.
My E2K has black side panels that doesn't need cleaning frequently. The bright front, including the E61 group needs a wipe now and then with a microfiber cloth or the like, but this is as expected. The lower part of the front close to where the group dispenses the used brewing water needs more cleaning, but that is to be expected. Overall I think keeping her clean is easy. I've not removed the dispersion screen yet. Just doing the portafilter wiggle and backflushing with espresso detergent seems to be sufficient so far.
I like the overall look, the E-61 group, the *large* drip tray, the cup holder that slides easily to reveal the water tank. I don't like that neither the steam arm nor the hot water arm moves freely. They can only be moved up and down in a vertical motion.
Love her. No need to switch unless LM releses a prosumer machine that is irresistible.
Btw, I actually used Silvia for a couple of days recently. I quickly noticed the lack of the long preinfusion that the E-61 group gives, the smaller drip tray (I was a millimeter from flooding it!) and work involved in priming, waiting for steam etc. Still, Silvia is an awesome machine.
My latte art has been variable for some time and it has sort of been bugging me. I have however tried to accept the fact that consistency and mastery comes through training, and since I'm only making a cuple of cappas a day, it will take some time :).
Normally I will use a 3dl pitcher for my cappuccino. The small size of the pitcher makes the rolling action quite good and most of the time my milk is spot on. I'm quite used to it now, but I do find that the larger 6 dl pitcher (for 2 cappuccini) makes it slightly easier to do a successfull pour. The momentum of the larger volume of milk seems to aid the development of the pattern.
This morning, after making my usual 3dl-pitcher-cappa I proceeded to make two single cappas with the 6 dl pitcher. Look at the picture. The one on the left is the first I poured. See how it is slightly more diffuse? and how the one to the right has more contrast? I think this is due to the milk at the top of the pitcher is slightly thicker. If you do a large pitcher of milk to pour latte art with, it may be a good idea to pour some of the milk in the sink to get rid of the slightly thicker stuff. This is definitely the case if you let the milk sit a bit before pouring. I do however recommend not letting it sit! brew the espresso first and then steam milk. It is also beneficial to swirl the milk some times and bang the pitcher, even if the milk looks perfect. Most of the time it will get even better after doing this.
My two cappas were by no means perfect, but I am quite happy with the one on the right. 5/11/2003 01:34:00 PM
Thursday, May 08, 2003
The CBS coverage of the WBC is online! You can see it here : http://tinyurl.com/bb1d. Hey Billy, you're on the show. Cool to be able to put a face to your name. 5/08/2003 08:16:00 PM
I did some charity work yesterday. A small group of youths are starting up a youth cafe in a suburb outside of Oslo. They needed someone to teach them basic barista skills. I love to make coffee in any circumstance and to teach, so I volunteered. I really looked forward to it and prepared well. I even wrote a 7 page document covering the basic stuff and I guess lots of coffeegeeky details :)
I arrived half an hour early to give the machine a good cleaning. Someone had told me that it had pretty much never been cleaned so I expected the worst. Sure enough, lots of rancid coffee oils and coffee residue in the group and portafilters, but I pretty quickly got it clean. Helping me was a kid called Steffen. I guess he was something like 13-14 years old. He was in good spirits and followed my cleaning routines intently. I asked him to join in and quickly learned him backflushing and the portafilter wiggle. At the end he got a field promotion to espresso machine cleaning chief :). I would soon find out that little fellow was a natural at brewing espresso.
The other kids/youths arrived and we decided it would be best to train 5 of the 10-15 that had arrived. I told them that the training would probably take something like 2 hours and got some open mouths :). They were very surprised and some of them were a bit reluctant to volunteer. Steffen was already part of my small barista team and I got four more and we were ready to go. They were all pretty young, the youngest maybe 13-14 and the oldest close to 20, so I decided to skip the technical details and focus on the mechanics of brewing and steaming. I didn't know what their attention span would be and I didn't want to make the art of espresso making look to boring and technical. I started by talking a bit about the machine and the grinder, did a slow walk through of the steps involved in brewing a double espresso, all the time explaning the steps. It is very rewarding to be able to teach the correct way of doing things. I even borrowed some moves from the schomer video, like letting the old brewing water out in a white cup to show why it is important to do that flush before inserting the pf :). Later I would find out that this had worked because they complained loudly when they forgot to do it, and even asked me if they had to do it all over again :).
We then moved on to steaming. They were all a bit apprehensive about it, but I took my time and explained it very thoroughly. I then set the kids loose with brewing and steaming, and showed each and every one how to steam by holding on the mug and guiding them a bit in the stretch phase. It is important to teach that the tip must be moved to the surface of the milk pretty quickly so the stretch phase is maximized. In a short time they were all making very good milk indeed, most of it so nice microfoam that it could easily be used to make latte art with. The most common mistake was stretching too little and not heating the milk enough. Other than that, count me impressed! Soon they were assembling cappuccini, lattes, mochas, you name it. I ended the training session by going through all the classics. It went very well and I was happy to see that my latte art was working out fine. Earlier that day I had been practicing on a rancilio C10 to rehearse my technique. I went through a gallon of milk and then it all clicked perfectly. I find it is useful to do that because the commercials are different than my E2K Junior. It goes faster and I have to change the placement of the wand slightly to compensate.
When I arrived I actually thought the machine was ruined because when I turned the steam knob nothing happened. Nada. I called the supplier and he thought the long storage could have caused stuff to block up. Well, since everything else worked perfectly I had a feeling that I was missing somehting obvious, and sure, I hadn't turned the knob enough. Turns out that the old Rancilio Epocas have slightly different steam kobs and they have to be turned quite a lot more, something like 3-4 revolutions or more. Weird.
As mentioned earlier, the yound kid Steffen seemed to be a natural. His espresso flowed beautifully and was consistently a bit better than the others. I praised him a lot (and the others too of course) and he was even more into what he was doing. Add to that the caffeine buzz these kids were getting from sipping mochas and lattes, and you can pretty much imagine how things worked out. They were all steaming and brewin like crazy. We ended up using 3 gallons of milk (12 litres).
Well, it was a great evening. I had lots of fun and got a big round of applause when I left, feeling pretty proud of what I had accomplished in 2-3 hours.
So, I hereby pat myself generously on the shoulder. 5/08/2003 07:53:00 PM
Sunday, May 04, 2003
I've just read the online version of Manfred von Richthofen's book "Der Rote Kampfflieger". Interesting stuff. 5/04/2003 11:58:00 PM
Bad weather today, and feeling a litte bored and depressed I decided to go the announced kobukai martial arts exhibition. Kobukai is a small martial arts club here in Oslo that specializes in japanese martial arts, especially the study of japanese sword techniques and use of other traditional weaponery. The particular school they teach is called katori shinto ryu. They have also got a branch studying and practicing the japanese art of archery called "Kyudo". I actually studied katori shinto ryu in the mid 90s in Halden and sometimes with the same people as I saw in Oslo today. Time has passed and there has been some alterations in the different clubs, but still things are mostly the same.
The head sensei is Eri L. Kusano. She's a strong, determined, yet sort of harmonic and tranquil woman. Her family in Japan appearantly have a long tradition of practicing the budo arts, especially katori shinto ruy. She's currently a 6.dan in katori shinto ryu and a 2.dan in the archery, kyudo. I guess she knows several other arts as well. Impressive woman. The members of the club are so privileged to have a 6.dan like her as their teacher!
She and other members of the club did a fine exhibtion of the different katas (predetermined patterns of movement, cuts, parry and so on) and some very cool iaido by a 3.dan called Arne Morten Hansen. Iaido are short and quite aggressive techniques for defeating an opponent sitting right in front of you. It is like a duel you may say, and the art of drawing the sword. There are also standing iaido techniques for defeating for instance two oppents jumping you from both sides. It is very intense stuff with loud screams (kiai) after each blow.
Iaido is indeed cool stuff, but one should not forget what this was really about : killing one's enemy as swiftly as possible with a razor sharp sword. Here's a quote from a web page about iaido (there's a link to it in the previous paragraph)
"No matter what style was practiced, the procedure always comprised four separate parts: the drawing of the blade to meet a sudden encounter (nukituke), the cut or cuts used to despatch the enemy (kirioroshi), the shaking of the blood from the blade (chiburi), and the re-sheathing of the sword (noto). "
I even think I recall reading somewhere that the part where you get rid of the blood from the blade should be esthetic looking, like in a nice curved pattern of flying blood through the air when the blade is moved swiftly backwards and then sheated. That's some cold shit. I can imagine the samurai period being pretty tough for the common man.
I was a bit curious about the kyudo and spoke afterwards with the instructor. I asked him a bit about training on shooting from horseback (which I recalled reading about) and other things. I just had to ask him why he was doing this. He smiled broadly (and I sort of felt I had been a bit too direct) and said he'd been training for 17(!) years now and found inspiration from many sources, including competitions, students and the pure joy of shooting arrows :). I must say I thought Kyudo seemed very repetitious and a bit boring, but like so many other hobbies and arts there are so many unseen aspects to work on. Our passon for the art of espresso brewing is a good example!
It could be fun to try Kyudo, but I am afraid that I would be bored. I am also somewhat trying to find activities that are not so geared towards doing something perfect and effective. Guess I just want to have fun :)
Kendo or Kung-fu would be more to my liking, or maybe jiu-jitsu which I have also trained before. 5/04/2003 08:29:00 PM
Thursday, May 01, 2003
You just got to hand it to the italians, they really know how to make everyday food and drink an experience. Good coffee, bread, olive oil, wine, cheese, ham, pizza, pasta etc etc. :) 5/01/2003 02:46:00 PM
I had a terrible, terrible nightmare last night. Got to be the worst ever. I won't get into details, but it wasn't pretty. To cheer me up I made some italian style pizza for lunch. I'm really into pizza baking. It is easy, cheap, fast and very rewarding tastewise. My friends love my pizzas too and that makes it especially fun.
What really works for me is to make the pizza crust beforehand and have it always available half-baked in the freezer. I then just take one out, let it thaw for 10-15 minutes while the oven heats up. It works great, best fastfood ever.
My pizza crust recipe
9 dl / 30 fl oz white all-purpose flour
3,5 dl / 10-11 fl oz somewhat hot water (40 celsius / 104 F)
1 package of dry yeast (equals 50 grams fresh)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspon sugar
3 table spoons olive oil
Mix together, knead until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle some flour on top and cover with plastic film or kitchen towel and let it rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Sprinkle some flour on the working surface and knead dough for a few moments, split into 4 pieces. Get a rolling pin ("kjevle" in norwegian) and make the first crust which should be something like 30-35 cm in width, pretty thin. It is easier if you sprinkle flour on both the rolling pin and the surface you are working on.
Preheat oven, go as high as possible. Mine maxes out at 260 degrees celsius / 500 F. Get a baking pan and rub it with butter, oil or the like. Put the crust in the baking pan, even it out with your hands if it curls up while you move it. Bake in oven for 4-5 minutes. Start flattening out the next crust with the rolling pin while the first one is in the oven. Take out the first crust, put number two in. Repeat process until you have four pizza crusts. Let them cool and then put them in the freezer, or even better - make a pizza right away with one of them :)
This is what you are aiming for
This one I forgot to take out of the oven because I found something interesting on the net (surely coffee related, you know me). This is what happens when it is exposed to very high temp, it blows up like a balloon and becomes interesting flat bread. Nice, but not suitable for pizza. :)
Sauce, topping and cheese
The quickest sauce is plain boxed, crushed tomatoes. Just add to crust and spread out evenly. Then sprinkle some olive oil over it, grind some black pepper and add some salt as well. Now add the ingredients you fancy. A nice combo is good quality ham (parma ham rules!), mushrooms and fresh basil leaves. The ham totally transforms when being cooked at such a high temperature. Delicious. Other possible toppings : olives, chicken, beef, garlic, onions etc. etc., I guess you have your favourites :). What may come as a surprise is that the simplest of all pizzas, consisting of only crust, sauce, basil and cheese is very good on its own.
If you have the time you can cook a large amount of pizza sauce and keep it stored in a glass container (be sure to sterilize it first) or freeze it. A well known TV-chef here in Norway, Lars Barmen, has a nice recipe.
2 boxes of crushed tomatoes (2 x 400 grams)
3 chopped onions (preferrably sjalottløk, don't know the english name)
3 chopped pieces of garlic
2 table spoons olive oil
2 table spoons fresh oregano (I've used basil also)
Salt and pepper
Add some olive oil in a pan, quickly fry the garlic and onions. Add tomatoes and the other ingredients. Cook until about half of the volume remains and you have a creamy, thick sauce. Put on pizza, jar or freeze for a rainy day.
Mozzarella rules, especially the fresh kind, but most types work. Experiment and find out what you like the best.
I usually have my pizzas in the oven for 5-8 minutes at 260 degrees celsius / 500 F, but you have to adjust to your preferences and the type of oven you have.