I'm the (self-proclaimed) "Espresso Guy." I created this website to educate the home espresso making newbie and to provide recipes, tips, and troubleshooting steps for those already pulling their own espresso shots. If you're having trouble deciding what to buy, there's guides on buying beans and equipment.
Some people think espresso machines are a luxury item. Personally I think there’s still good values if you’re willing to hunt around. But with the price of some of the machines (and some of the coffee beans) it can be hard to disagree.
The new machines from Espresso Veolce that are shaped like powerful car engines certainly falls into the category of silly luxury items, however. It seems like a novelty item for people who like both cars and espresso.
As Gizmodo points out, the machines do not currently have a price, but (emphasis mine):
given the V12 is going to be limited to just 500 units and is made from such materials as titanium, magnesium, and aluminum, you can safely assume they will cost a small fortune.
Little is known about Espresso Veolce — I’ve certainly never heard of them. For all I know the whole thing could be an early April Fool’s joke. But as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.
Over at the Smithsonian blog, they make a bold statement: there’s no such thing as espresso. The controversy comes from a Popular Science magazine article which questions what counts as espresso:
Surprisingly, there is no real definition of espresso–there are certainly elements that the experts agree on, but there are no codified guidelines, no explicit recipes.
While this is true, I’d argue that it’s equally true of many foods. Recently I had an “apple pie” that was more like an apple cake. I also had a “burrito” that didn’t include cheese and salsa.
All of these foods didn’t meet my definitions, but you know what? That’s fine. Food and beverages never have strict rules. We as humans are inherently bad at describing taste and texture of the things we ingest, making such definitions difficult.
More confusingly, what was considered “espresso” a century ago ago wouldn’t satisfy most of us today. We might even spit it out. (Good thing I’m not a food historian, that’s got to be an impossible job!)
I’d argue that if espresso had a concrete definition, there’d be no room for improvement and no room for different styles and tastes. Who’d want to live in a world without variety?
Is there a line between having high standards for one’s coffee and just being an annoying snob?
The Fork in the Road blog at Village Voice explores the topic of annoying coffee snobs from a barista’s perspective. There’s a difference between an informed customer and an annoying one, and as the article rightfully points out that difference sometimes amounts to a generous tip.
Any good coffee shop will have good coffee. If the place has a good reputation, it’s worth a try — if you don’t like it that’s fine, but it’s a matter of personal preference. Everyone’s entitled to their favorites.
Ever built something cool that stopped working one day out of the blue? Such was the case with my modified espresso machine.
My current machine is a Rancilio Silvia with a custom PID* controller mod. My design is similar to this one. The modified Silvia served me well every day for the past few years until one day recently. Suddenly it didn’t want to make espresso anymore, it only produced steam. The steam switch wasn’t flipped or broken, and the PID light wasn’t flashing with the machine’s boiler light.
So what went wrong? Why had my espresso machine turned into a milk frother?
I unscrewed (and unplugged) the machine to find out. Once it cooled down I went over each wire with the multimeter to see if there were any bad connections or short circuits. In spite of some crumbling plastic connectors there was nothing out of the ordinary. The switches all seemed to work as well.
There’s various wiring diagrams online, so I double checked them and noticed something odd; there was a solid state relay I’d missed. When I modified my machine, I’d hid the relay just behind the front panel.
Turns out the relay was the culprit. A quick replacement and I was back in business!
There’s something to be said for taking the time to fix things yourself. A new espresso machine can cost hundreds of dollars. A new espresso machine with a PID controller is significantly more.
The new relay was forty bucks.
(* For those wondering, PID stands for “Proportional Integral Derivative.” Still lost? It’s a little computer that stabilizes something, in this case boiler temperature. With the Silvia’s stock thermostat boiler temperature varies quite a bit — unless you time it just right, the espresso isn’t great. But with the PID controller it’s a perfect shot just about every time. I highly recommend it.)
Sure, making espresso at home is great and everything, but what if you don’t have time? Could you make espresso in your car?
According to USA Today, the 2013 Fiat 500L will let you do just that. One of the 500L’s options is an espresso machine complete with Lavazza coffee pods. I have to admit, sometimes I like the way Italians think.
Aside from it being a pod machine I wasn’t able to find any technical specs. I’d guess it’s a steam-powered machine given the size.
There’s a chance this is more of a publicity stunt than a real feature given some of the drawbacks:
- Machine this size won’t produce great espresso
- Electric heat draws lots of power
- No mention of milk (sorry cappuccino and latte drinkers!)
- Some safety concerns over at Gizmodo
Personally I’ll stick with sipping my espresso at a relaxing zero miles per hour.