Discover more from Matt About Coffee
Coffee is my jam
Well, good espresso is
This morning I was lost in thought, thinking about what to write for my first real article on my Substack. There I was, standing in front of my warm Profitec 500 machine, sipping a just-pulled double shot of La Colombe Winter Toast, when it hit me – Hello?! – what better subject matter to talk about than coffee! Everyone likes coffee, right? If not, well, I certainly do; it’s a bit of a passion of mine.
I take great delight in telling people that I’ve spent lots of time (and a bit of money) searching how to make the best possible coffee drinks at home. In particular, I prefer making espresso drinks. Now, I admit there are other ways to brew delicious cups of coffee, and I’ve tried a few, but I just really like making espresso drinks. Maybe the reason is the superior flavor I get when applying varying degrees of heat and pressure to grounds of coffee vs drip or other forms of mad coffee alchemy. Or maybe it’s the unique set of challenges and skills required to master for making a really good espresso that pulls me in - it’s probably a bit of both.
I started my coffee espresso making journey over 15 years ago, after seeing an espresso machine at my brother’s beach house. I can’t remember what model it was, but it was fire engine red and had retro swoops and curves that made it look more like piece of art than a machine. I spent the week meticulously learning how to use it and after significant trial and error, mostly error, I pulled what I thought were some pretty decent espresso shots. And from that highly caffeinated instant, I was hooked.
Back at home and longing to replicate the experience of my vacation espressos, I started my research. I knew I couldn’t afford the machine I used at the beach house, so I settled on a simple cheap (under $100?) DeLonghi. My experience with it must have been short lived, because I only have faint memories of owning it and it must not have been much to write about then or now. I just remember I had one and it was not great.
Then I took what I thought was a serious dive into the espresso world by buying a more expensive Breville all-in-one grinder and espresso machine: the Barista Express. This was the Big Time now. In hindsight, the dive was more like wadding into the kiddie pool, but I was on my way.
Over the next few years with my Breville, my experience and confidence grew as I soaked up all I could learn about different coffee roast types and the importance of quality beans, even about grinding fresh vs using pre-ground – yeah, seriously newbie stuff. But I was eager and tested and tried everything. After more time, I was attempting brave(!) new things on my Breville I’d read about like pre-infusion hacks(!) and using bottomless portafilters(!). But still, even as I was pulling decent shots, and thinking that I had mastered espresso making, I knew something was missing. Turns out, I was many levels below the joys of espresso still to be had. I would visit local coffee places not called Starbucks and would marvel at their drinks’ quality vs. mine. I knew there was a significant gap and I was determined to figure out why. Well, it’s the equipment, duh. That and even more knowledge and even more practice.
In 2020, the Pandemic hit. I was working from home, flush with time and stimulus cash and decided it was time to figure out how to close my espresso flavor gap. With most specialty coffee shops closed now anyway, it was the perfect time to do it.
First, I ordered a new grinder.
I had read that spending a good chunk of money on a quality grinder is as important as getting a quality espresso machine. Oh, how right that is. I got a beefy beast of a machine: a Ceado E5Pro Espresso Grinder. It’s a tank. I love it. It’s upper-middle-of-the-road price-wise, but a solid investment I haven’t regretted.
Next, I needed a new machine. Budget-wise, I didn’t want to go crazy, but I did want to get something that a step well above my Breville. As much as I loved that machine, I wanted a “real” machine, and by that I mean one with the iconic E61 grouphead. I went with not the least nor most expensive option: I bought a Profitec 500 with PID.
A solidly reviewed machine with a good rep. I splurged and ordered a flow-control device to be installed with it. (Unfortunately (or fortunately), they mistakenly didn't install the flow-control device at the time of shipping, but sent it later for me to install and refunded the cost of it. More on the flow-control later.)
Boy oh boy, was this beast different! I was having to learn espresso skills I thought I’d mastered from scratch all over again. My Breville seemed like a Schwinn bike with training wheels compared to this. This was a 200cc motocross bike and I felt like I barely knew how to steer it, but boy it was fun to zip around with! And, oh my god, the flavors I could get out of it!
I’ll end this now and continue it later. Cheers and sip up!