Open source espresso machine is one delicious rabbit hole inside another
Awesome stuff but be careful when working with boilers/pressurized containers - these things can result in no joke burns / explosions. Also, if you have mostly done low voltage electronics hacking, you might be missing some safety habits required in working with 120V/220V devices. Don't let this stop you, but don't rush the process :)
Do you have any recommendations for reading up on those safety habits?
This looks really cool! But rather than building from scratch or making extensive hardware modifications, it makes me wonder if anyone has tried developing open-source firmware for existing espresso machines?
I have a Delonghi bean-to-cup machine. It's quite capable of making decent coffee but also has some unfortunate software behaviours that result in inconsistent output. Most annoyingly, it gives extremely limited control over grind time and thus the quantity of grounds in each shot. If the hopper runs out of beans or you switch to a different type of beans, it gets confused and tries to adjust the grind time on it's own, usually overcompensating and resulting in either too much coffee in the shot (pump struggles to express anything) or too little (thin, bitter, over-extracted shot).
If I could control grind time precicely, it would hugely improve the consistency my coffee. I could set up a profile for each type of bean that I use and fine-tune my shots.
Has anyone tried to hack or customise software on Delonghi (or any other) bean-to-cup machine? Any projects out there to do this?
I ripped out the vast majority of the internal wiring and all of the temperature sensors inside the Delonghi EC155 and replaced it with an eBay PID controller, solid state relay (SSR), and thermocouple for $25. It is tuned nearly perfectly with only 1 degree of overshoot most of the time. It works very well. I left the switch for the pump but nothing else. It can make espresso but I only use it for steam these days.
Bean origin and processing matters a lot but most people don't process beans themselves so people generally have to trust others for this step. However, you will have to grind your own beans. Grind fineness is by far the most important variable to control. The correct grind fineness is determined by achieving an appropriate flow rate given a valid pressure profile (typically 9 bars continuous). The performance of any espresso machine is a direct consequence of the fineness and consistency of the grind. No machine can make up for a poor grind. A crappy machine can often make good espresso if the grind is good. Invest heavily in a good grinder. I do not like to extra spend money for electronics that I could never maintain or fix myself, so I opted for a manual grinder with premium conical burrs. I make espresso with an Espresso Forge (https://espressoforge.com/) which effectively has no moving parts, electronics, and only food grade metal. Just a piston that you ram in by hand.
I'm talking about an automatic, bean-to-cup machine here, which has it's own built-in grinder. Specifically the ECAM 350.35.W, but there are many Delonghi models which have very similar hardware inside.
It gives precise control over the grind fineness, but tries to manage the grind time (and thus volume of coffee in the puck) itself. The software that does this isn't very smart and that's where the problems lie...
The juice just ain't worth the squeeze. Go simple and see how much you can improve the flavor of your coffee.
Maybe they want to do it for fun?
That's not what they said though, they were asking about improving the output quality.
If I could control grind time precicely, it would hugely improve the consistency my coffee. I could set up a profile for each type of bean that I use and fine-tune my shots.
Bean to cup espresso machines are good for what they are, but not a good base for making great coffee, and software hacking can't fix the hardware limitations.
To be clear, my bean to cup machine does make great coffee! Could I make even better coffee with a fancy manual espresso machine and investing a lot of my time in learning and using and cleaning it? Sure, probably. But it's not really worth my time. I'd spend half my morning making coffee when all I really want is to be drinking coffee.
Anecdote: at my previous London flat, I had my bean-to-cup machine and one of my flatmates had a fancy manual machine. He knew how to use it, too, having once worked as a barista. But which machine do you think everyone actually used every morning? The manual one ended up getting put away in a cupboard most of the time! (... and my former flatmate still jokes about how much he misses my coffee machine when I see him, haha)
This isn't to say that a manual machine doesn't make better coffee than a bean to cup, in the right hands. But for most people, the difference isn't worth the time and effort required to get there.
> "software hacking can't fix the hardware limitations"
In this case, I believe it would, because the machine does make great coffee when it gets everything right. Specifically the grind time / volume of grinds in the shot. The issue is the consistency, and the software's poor behaviour in wildly changing the grind time when something throws it out of equilibrium (ie: change to different beans, or hopper runs out of beans)
There has been some folks that have hacked on these machines, although not for specifically what you describe. Here’s an example https://medium.com/root-ventures/the-best-office-coffee-youl...
Actually the most loved consumer espresso machines (the gaggia mentioned in the article and the rancilio Silvia) are analog and don't have Firmware. That said there are a number of projects (as also mentioned in the article) to add PID controllers, pressure controllers etc via some microboards.
I love how the coffee enthusiasts scene is more and more looking like the audiophile scene.
True. But as an audio engineer I have to say, that just because audiophiles are naive and gullible, doesn't mean there are no other, real, physical aspects that affect actual sound and reproducability.
Same for Espresso. A PID that keeps the brewing temperature steady is superior to a thermostat where the temperature ramps up and down constantly and your brewing temperature depends on experience or luck (people who know their machine would call this "temperature surfing" because you will have to wait for the thermostat to switch on). To which degree brewing temperature affects the result can be discussed, but this could be tested quite easily.
So if you are a coffee afficionado, the number one reason you would like to have a PID is probably convenience. One variable less to care about if you wanna get reproducably (good) results.
I'd also prefer the faders of my mixing desk to keep their levels where I set them instead of fluctuating around.
I own a vintage hifi setup (NAD3020 + AudioReference HR50) that costed me a few hundred bucks. I own a espresso machine that is a clone of the Lelit PL41 with PID and my grinder is a Barazza Encore with M2 burr.
My comment came from a place of love. I’m happy to see people going the extra mile. Myself, I just want to be chill at home and aim for a balanced providing me joy without headaches.
But I’m weird. Example: I love playing vinyls not because it sounds better but because it lacks dynamics and I find that… relaxing!
> My comment came from a place of love. I’m happy to see people going the extra mile. Myself, I just want to be chill at home and aim for a balanced providing me joy without headaches.
Reasonable, I am similar in those regards.
I just wanted to highlight that the border between reasonable technical features and audiophile snakeoil is at times not totally clear to draw.
There are e.g. quite expensive audio cables in pro audio as well, but there you pay for reliability and not for esoteric materials.
I like playing vinyls because there's something neat about interacting with a physical object representing the music. It gives a satisfaction that digital music, or even CDs, do not. I could not care less about the minutiae of the sound quality coming out of it. And that's okay.
I love the few seconds to minutes of fiduh-fiduh before someone realised and gets up to flip to the B side, or choose the next record. I think that's a nicer, more relaxing transition than any playlist or DJ could muster.
Your comment makes me happy as I strongly believe interacting with analog enriches our senses and gives satisfaction.
What’s the clone? Do you recommend it?
This seems like a bad take.
I have yet to see any assertions in the coffee world that approach the sheer amount of overt dishonesty and grift that characterizes high-end audio.
> I have yet to see any assertions in the coffee world that approach the sheer amount of overt dishonesty and grift that characterizes high-end audio.
Oh this is easy. - Starbucks, as an org, in whole. Brutal dishonesty in much of their marketing, naming, and Brewing methods. Their Coffee flavor is intended to distort your expectations of 'quality coffee'. - The "Roast Date" disappearance on high-end coffee to sell "Quality" rather than freshness. - Keurig's marketing of quality or that they can make 'Espresso' (it can't), their product is designed for lock-in. - Nespresso Vertuo's fake "Froth"
Literally none of those things are part of the fancy coffee world I'm talking about. That's all bog standard mass-market salesdroid lying. Citing them in a discussion of home espresso is like dragging McDonald's and 7-11 into a conversation about fine dining.
Well, yeah but then McDonalds and 7-11 are not pretending to be fine dining while these absolutely are.
No one who cares about coffee enough to have a home espresso machine is fooled.
Nobody who cares enough about coffee to grind their own beans is fooled.
Again, not in the same realm.
Oh I'm on the same page, Gaggia Classic, breville smart grinder pro, and all.
The VAST majority of Americans are "Fooled" and would say "Starbucks" or "Nespresso" is "Luxury Coffee". I would argue that the coffee industry is where the Audiophile headphone industry was at around the mid 2000s (Monster Headphones, Beats, ETC) where the public was so fooled and only those who knew what good sound was like, knew it was way off.
have you seen the $200 espresso baskets?
I don't know if it's a grift but it is absurd
That is most likely grift. There's no reason the basket should cost that much to make.
The difference in coffee is that the fancier geegaws are presented for aesthetic reasons, not improvements to the coffee.
No one is arguing -- or at least I haven't seen it argued -- that a $200 basket, or a $100 distribution tool, or a super-expensive knock box make better coffee that the basic models.
There's just a certain subset of home espresso people who want fancier things, or prettier things, for reasons external to efficacy. How does it look on the counter when I'm not using it? How pleasant is it to hold? Does it tickle that "finely machined object" thing in my brain?
For example, lots of people use the Weiss Distribution Technique on their espresso grounds. Simply put, you stir the coffee in the portafilter using a tool with several fine needles on it to reduce clumping and more evenly distribute the grounds. This has been experimentally proven to produce improvements in the shot.
BUT, critically, it doesn't matter how expensive the tool is. The DIY crowd buys acupuncture needles on Amazon and sticks 'em into a wine cork, which costs almost nothing. That works every bit as well as a $150 fancy one with a hand-tooled wooden handle and matching base, and no one argues differently. It's just that some people value aesthetics enough to pony up for the fancy option.
I mean, there are definitely people who run tests and check whether the $200 baskets result in better coffee — Lance Hendrick  is my favorite YouTuber for that kind of thing.
The question isn't whether it makes a marginally better espresso (it probably does); the question is whether it's the best bang for your buck.
For most people, it probably isn't.
For people who have Weber EG-1s on their coutertops (AFAICT, it was Weber with their Unifilter who started this wave of super-expensive baskets/portafilters?) and La Marzoccos / Decents? It might be!
I've never heard of that YouTube channel, but I loved his work in ALIENS.
(I prefer Hoffmann, and he definitely does the same thing -- ie, point out that some given object might be pretty, and it might do a fine job, but not enough of a BETTER job to justify its premium.)
Lance also accepts more freebies whereas Hoffmann pays for everything. it's because of this impeccable ethic which drove me to be a patron of his for a few years - though i think it's time to move to a smaller channel.
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are they pure copper and forged like katanas an order of magnitude ammount of times
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I blame espresso. The sweet spot between horribly bitter and horribly sour is small even for a non-enthusiast, let alone a connoisseur. Leads to lots of tinkering & tweaking
If you don't already, I recommend roasting your own beans. I never got good consistent results from store bought beans, but now I roast (which is surprisingly easy) I can achieve great results. Store coffee beans are usually way over-roasted for my taste.
But... There is an entire world of "third wave" specialty roasters selling quality light roasts...
i roast my own coffee and besides the roaster cost (which isn't negligible, but can be considered a hobby expense instead of a consumable expense, so not 1-1), it is 50-75% cheaper to roast your own coffee.
i order green coffee from sweetmarias.com and it's $5-8/lb which makes a good deal more than what's in the $15-25+ 10oz bags from 3rd wave roasters.
plus i learn a new skill and can roast to my preference every time!
Or find a local coffee shop that roasts their own. I used to buy from various sources and the roasts were all over the place. Thus, I was changing my grinder settings fairly dramatically with each new bag.
Having switched to a local shop's medium roast, I very rarely have to adjust my grinder after buying a new batch of beans.
90% of 'improving' your average setup is just grinding the beans right before you use them. Even old beans are fine. Brew it how you want to brew it.
Everything else is just chasing the final improvements, which is great but I feel like a lot of people get sold stuff they don't need. A £40 hand grinder might change your life as much as a £700 machine you got because reddit said so.
Espresso is different from other coffee types. There is a tight sweet spot where all the variables are just right, and you get amazing coffee. Espresso equipment is therefore all about making the variables easier to control, because you can’t solve a 12-variable problem if the variables have random values for every iteration.
Lower grade equipment can make great espresso, but maybe you are managing good results only 1/10 instead of 5/10.
>There is a tight sweet spot where all the variables are just right, and you get amazing coffee.
In double blind trials or audiophile I can hear the gold plating sort of way?
I've avoided the espresso gear habit because I don't think I drink/want to waste enough coffee to have a good shot every time. But several years ago I went to a class where the instructor poured a bunch of slightly different shots of the same coffee ground finer/coarser, extracted longer/shorter, and dosed with more/less grounds/water. The variation in the flavors was surprising. But when she described pouring several shots a day to get the beans dialed in as they use different batches of beans. I decided it didn't make sense at a home scale for me. In a cafe setting is one thing, but in a house of 1.5 coffee drinkers not so much.
A friend doesn't mind, but he roasts his own beans as well. I've had great espresso from him, and I like it but I'm content with little filter
No, it's very obvious. There is some audiophile tendencies at the very expensive end of the espresso home setups, but there's a pretty noticeable difference between a good shot and the same shot ground ever so slightly finer. Because espresso is so strong, any off flavors are very strong and noticeable.
Maybe an analogy here is gold plated wires don't make any difference in a home setup (well, they make zero difference in a digital setup), but when you're AC/DC blowing the roof off an arena with your speakers turned up to 11 bad equipment can be pretty noticeable.
> In double blind trials or audiophile I can hear the gold plating sort of way?
I think this type of comparison with espresso is comparing the differences of far different orders of magnitude. i.e. Impact of a bad grinder, poor bean distribution, or tamping force is orders of magnitude larger than the difference cable connectors makes. The difference in the end result is also (and I'm committing audiophile heresy according to some) far more apparent with espresso.
As someone who brews espresso at home, and is a bit of an audiophile (mostly in the home recording domain), this is spot on. If your grind is too coarse for an espresso, it's very very obvious.
Turbo shots  have sort of changed the game here though. Even with the most expensive gear, espresso has typically been inconsistent because the conventional wisdom has been to grind extremely fine and pound high-pressure water over a longer period of time (~30 seconds typically). This often leads to water finding channels through the coffee puck and over/under extraction, except for the rare occasions with perfect prep that you get a perfect extraction, but it's basically unrepeatable.
The new wisdom is grinding coarser, using less coffee, and sending water through at a lower pressure. So instead of an 18g:36g shot dripping out variably in 30 seconds, the aim is something like 15:45g in less than 20 seconds.
90% of 'improving' your average setup is just grinding the beans right before you use them
Roast level is also a big deal. Dark roasts have a much wider sweet spot on the grinding dial. The beans are brittle so they tend to shatter and produce a lot of fines. As long as you don’t grind too fine that the machine chokes during the shot, you’re going to be able to find the sweet spot.
The lighter you go in roast, the more challenging everything becomes. Lighter roasts are less brittle so the grinder tends to cut rather than shatter. This often allows you to grind way finer on the dial. It also makes the coffee much more difficult to extract, requiring higher temperatures and a narrow grind sweet spot. Loads of people complain of sour, weak extractions with no body. This is where you can get into spending loads of money on a high-end flat burr grinder and a pressure profiling machine with PID temperature controls (and even temperature profiling during the shot).
Light roasted single origin coffee beans can smell absolutely amazing, so people know there is potential there for unbelievably good coffee. All of the disappointment in the cup is what leads to the big spending (or giving up and going back to darker roasts).
> "Even old beans are fine."
Fine as in drinkable? Sure. But if you want delicious coffee, with great aroma, crema, etc, there is a big difference between fresh roasted beans and something that has been sitting on a shelf for a few months.
"Fine" as in "worlds better than the pre-ground stuff 95% of people buy off the shelf in the supermarket"
Espresso is a little different. When you grind is important but how you grind is just as important. An inexpensive hand grinder can work but cheap electric grinders generally cannot.
Yes. I was shocked at how much a good grinder improved my coffee. I thought it might be a slight improvement, and I felt potentially stupid spending the money. But it was a 2x or 3x improvement. The only other variable that has a similar impact are the beans themselves. I'm not entirely convinced that the espresso maker itself has a huge impact, but given my (proved-wrong) skepticism about the grinder's impact, it may be worth looking into.
Or, as I see the mountain of stuff required to make high-quality specialty coffee at home, I may do what James Hoffman does and just do drip coffee. There is wisdom in the old, simple ways, and the $4k you can easily spend on a full setup is 1000 espressos made by a professional with bar better, more consistent equipment and tons of practice.
espressos made by a professional with bar better, more consistent equipment and tons of practice.
There are a lot of coffee shops near me. I'm surprised at how bad some of the espressos are, a lot too sour, some too bitter. Prices keep going up. You can count the break even point in terms of money, sure, but in my house, the espresso machine paid for itself almost instantly in terms of satisfaction.
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Cheap electric grinders with spinning blades (ie: spice grinders) make poor espresso coffee because they do not produce consistent sized grounds. You will tend to have a mix of small and big chunks in your grounds.
But for not much more money you can get an affordable electric burr grinder (like the Delonghi KG79) which will give a good, consistent grind with much less effort than a hand grinder.
Isn't that what parent is saying? They (we) spend a lot of money chasing diminishing returns.
Yeah that was my point and sure enough the thread dives deeper and deeper into different elements you have to control.
I guess I should have made it clearer that I really was talking about coffee in general, not just espresso.
My best mate from uni was a massive audiophile, he had the most insane set of home built kit in our house. Now in our mid thirties he's become a massive coffee enthusiast, the attention to detail making coffee is brilliant. It's really good coffee! Immediately sent this post to him, I'm sure his wife won't be pleased to see the inevitable outcome...
I don’t share the same attention to details and I love passionate people spending time on improving their craft / setups. Great vibe :)
Last time I saw someone make this assertion on HN, they summoned a horde of really chill coffeephiles. They were kind enough to tell him how, actually he was wrong and everything about coffee is totally legit and there’s no woo at all.
Honestly it is different. There is a point of diminishing returns. But the fact is you can make great coffee with simple pourovers or aeropress and that is well respected in the coffee community.
Espresso is a lot easier to understand too, it's an entirely physical process, and everyone has had bitter, bad tasting espresso, so it's easier to know what "good" tastes like, vs some arbitrary chart or subjective POV in the audiophile world talking about how your house needs rewired because it puts noise into your setup.
My comment originated from a place of love :)
I though I knew a lot about coffee. Enough to know that the simplest processes work best for me. Then I recently learned about green (unroasted) coffee beans. And down the next rabbit hole I go!
The relatively small amount of money I have put into my espresso setup has made a noticeable difference:
* Breville Bambino
* Niche Zero
* IMS 20mm baskets for Breville portafilters
I can get within spitting distance of most third-wave coffee shops most days.
Still a lot to learn but I can tell I'm nearing the point of rapidly diminishing returns. I'll probably look to upgrade the Bambino when it dies, but I'm not really jonesing for much more at this point.
My flair pro combined with a high end hand grinder has led me to never having a better espresso outside of my house. It's a decent amount of manual effort (start to finish time is about 10-15 minutes) but the only reason is to reduce that effort for the same quality.
Got a flair as well and it pulls some great shots! The process is also kind of fun.
Those are rookie numbers, you gotta pump those numbers... down! After years of honing my flow, the TTE (time to espresso) is 6 minutes on gas, it'd probably be closer to 5 with an electric kettle. (I use a Comandante)
A quicker kettle would help. But triple heating the flair's chamber, then clean up and it's longer than I'd like for TTE.
The trick is getting a kettle that fits the brew chamber on top, so it steams while the water boils, I use a bonavitta with a mesh strainer as it's mouth is a bit too wide, but it seems like the fellow is almost a perfect fit.
Ah, triple heating will take some time. I usually double heat if I'm brewing a bougie light, single otherwise.
Sibling suggested heating the chamber with the kettle, in my experience that has caused the silicon wrapping to deteriorate.
Do the baskets really make that much of a difference compared to stock ones?
The stock baskets for the Bambino are pressured, so yes. From my experience you can't get a "good" shot out of the stock baskets (but even crappy beans with a crappy grind produce something passable as espressso).
They are not sending good baskets with the Bambino? The baskets on the Infuser are reasonably good, just a bit weird as they are a bit narrower on the base.
My Bambino (bought <1yr ago) came with both pressurized and non-pressurized baskets actually.
There's a whole wave of innovation on baskets right now - holes all the way to the edge, hole sizes and cutting methods, reducing the amount of flex under pressure, etc. Check out Lance Hedrick's YouTube channel.
I have but a humble delonghi dedica and the only upgrade I've done so far is with the basket. It's made quite a difference.
similar, picopresso 129usd plus a normcore extra filter for 20 and at 150 with fine grounds from a third wave shop i'm making some crema lovin shots pulled from home
I love my coffee and spend way too much money on espresso equipment - my setup is perfect.
I like these threads a lot, but dream of the open source bread maker for sourdough bread. I’ve been collecting bread makers from junk stores and have a fleet of ESPs. I have no idea what I’m doing but it’s getting dangerously close to having to do it myself.
Fellow baker here - what exactly are your pain points? Because I can't see how it can be improved - modern steam ovens from AEG or Bosch bake kick ass. The sunmix and famag do amazing kneading. And shaping is very hard to make it non manual.
I’m just lazy.
I make add flour and water to the starter at night. Add the rest of the ingredients in the morning. Knead in the evening and put it in a basket then bake.
I’d like a bread-maker that I can use for the daytime bit where it warms a little and stirs at intervals I can choose. It needs a pan that won’t have the coating come off after a few months. Every one I’ve tried and have been careful with has done this. I’ve never baked with any break-maker I’ve owned, just used various dough cycles and only my hands go into it, nothing sharp has scratched them.
They hate the acidity or alcohol or something from long ferments.
I don’t even want to bake it in the bread-maker, just control the knead and heat while keeping it relatively environmentally controlled. What I want is more like a complicated stand mixer with a warming element.
> What I want is more like a complicated stand mixer with a warming element.
I have a Kenwood Cooking Chef (the older Version, has a 6.7L bowl). It kneads really well and has a heating function for up to 180°C (so you can also use it for cooking or continiously heating malt for bread baking). There is a functions where it stirs once every 15s and once every two minutes iirc. So its to frequent for the ripening but im sure there is a way to hack it. Or maybe check the newer versions they have a touch screen and might be configurable from the get go. The newer version also has a built in scale. There is also a "Patissier" version that is a little cheaper and can only heat up to 80°C.
And the bowl is made from stainless steel, so no coating that can come of.
That sounds excellent. I’m going to explore this option.
The best bread maker is an oven. I’ve never had bread out of a bread maker that came anywhere near to the quality of a proper oven-baked loaf.
Bread machines are not to be used for making bread, they are in fact dough machines which mix and knead and pre-rise quit well. Using them this way has the added advantage of being able to bake twice as much in one go since the tin can be filled almost to the top instead of only half. I've been using a knock-off Zojirushi with double paddles - sold in Sweden under the Nordica label, I got it more or less unused from a second-hand shop for peanuts - like this for close to 20 years now. One machine load of dough is enough for two full-size bread tins which I then bake in either the wood-burning oven (in the cold seasons, i.e. autumn-winter-spring) or the electric oven (summer).
Easier in labour cost, though the paddle holes can be frustrating.
No paddle holes when you transfer the dough from the machine into 2 bread tins after the pre-rise, let it rise 'till completion and bake it in a real oven. It is a little bit more work, true, but worth the effort. I do this when the rest of the family has gone to bed, using the waiting periods to hack around a bit. The wood-burning oven heats the house for the night, I put in the bread when it is ready, take it out after ~32 minutes and go to bed. Next morning there are 2 fresh cooled loaves waiting for us in a warm kitchen. I cut them in slices and put them in the freezer. After a day or 3-4 they're finished and I bake again.
my bread machine sourdough recipe:
1. add 500g strong white,2 tbl spoons starter, 300ml water, 10g salt to bread machine
2. start dough mix programme (go for longest duration one available)
3.leave for 24hrs or until has doubled in size
4. bake for 70 mins
Not the best sour dough bread. But I think still quite delicious. And really very low effort.
How much mixing does it do, measured in minutes? When I was making sourdough regularly, most of the work was turn and fold in the bowl every hour or two for the day. Therefore the work of a machine seems like overkill.
I hadn’t really thought about bread machine with sourdough, because it’s “supposed” to be rustic and old world. But having a box that does most of the work and I bake it the next day would probably increase my sourdough production which has averaged zero loaves for the last year or so.
the dough cycle takes a couple of hours, this had rest as well as mix periods though. So I am unsure of the mix duration
That seems like a long bake time for such a firm dough (well it sounds firm). Is the loaf very dark?
not particularly. The bread machine is doing the baking though, so it likely takes time to heat up and does not get too hot.
Maybe you care to share your setup?
For the coffee is a Faema E61 Legend. I was shopping for parts for a ‘64 model and the parts added up to more than a new reproduction one. For finding is Mazzer Robur I restored. It’s massive. I love all their models but I can’t go past the air vents on the side, and maybe one day I’ll need to grind a years coffee in a day. I doubt it. I roast my beans with a Bosch heat gun (my superior Orzito died) in an old colander.
I always thought that roasting beans is it's own science. Isn't 'beans roasted with heat gun' quite a weakest link in this pipeline to great coffee?
Quite possibly. I’d say it’s just how I like it 80% of the time, and amazing 10% and terrible 10% of the time.
My go to is Yirgachefe.
Every so often I buy beans to see what I’m missing and I’m usually very underwhelmed. It’s time I did this again.
New Zealand is lucky as the importers don’t bring in much crap coffee and so the average is good. A large bulk is brought in by just a couple of companies and all seem to have high standards.
The key to home roasting for me is freshness. I like coffee a couple of days after it’s roasted. I can control this and struggled when I was buying beans.
‘Blowing hot air’ is possibly the least technical aspect of the whole process.
Haha but what about "pumping hot water?"
Both of these things are surprisingly difficult to do properly, with enough consistency and control. I believe temperature profile can noticeably affect the roast, and being able to consistently hit a profile (and thus experiment and improve) is really difficult with something like a heat gun.
I did the heat gun thing for a while, and the air popper thing for a while, and even modified the air popper to be able to control fan speed and heating element separately. I got good results but hit a wall and needed more control. I started building an Arduino-controlled air popper to be able to get more consistent results, then decided brewing top-quality coffee coffee was challenging enough when roast quality was delegated to experts. Since then, I've been buying from local roasters.
‘Pumping a precise volume of near-boiling hot water at high pressure’ is orders or magnitude harder than ‘blowing hot air’.
Sounds like you need a popocorn maker :)
As opposed to a hot-air popcorn popper or a skillet on the stovetop?
Try a cheap popcorn popper - more or less a heat gun with an aluminium cup attached. I've used one for roasting coffee with good results. The thing keeps the beans in motion while roasting them, all you have to do is switch it on and off at the right moment.
That’s pretty awesome!
I have a Lelit MaraX and a Niche Zero. I really want to get a lever machine next, but it’ll be awhile before it’s in the budget. Besides, I’m still learning how to use this current setup, having had it for a year and change.
I’d like a lever action too - I’d love a Faema Urania, similar but better styling to what I have.
I love the e61 group head though.
The e61 is pretty sweet.
I think my current dream machine is an Elektra MCAL. I am drawn to the idea of a machine with no machinery. Just a boiler and pressurestat and the spring lever to make coffee. The sweet sound of silence. Only the rush of water and the pouring of coffee to be heard.
You’ve gone a step further.
I nearly got a Linea Mini, then discover the amount of electrics. The plastic, the fake lever. It got me thinking about what would last. I want manual. Prior to engaging the pump (pre infusion) you’re getting line pressure and it’s good.
I need to try a lever, and also a real Linea.
The Electra Belle is a ludicrous machine that looks amazing and is even less practical - saw one in the flesh in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand a while back. Old and tarnished and going strong.
Somewhat surprised to not see any mention of the Flair lineup so far. I’ve had mine for years now and adore it.
My use case is a bit different from most as I don’t often have electricity, but honestly it’s better than most but the highest end coffee shops I’ve been to (across Seattle, Portland, LA).
A cup, a Flair, a hand grinder, and some kind of pot to boil water is definitely all you need to make amazing coffee when you’re out camping. Another one along these lines is a Cafelat Robot. I’m not sure which one is easier to pack or more durable though!
Don't forget quality beans! And Flair packs pretty small and assembles quickly, plus it costs about half as much as the Robot. That said, I do love the Robot's style and color options.
How could I forget the beans! That would be so embarrassing on a real trip!
Yeah the Robot is definitely very stylish but the Flair seems a bit more rugged and practical looking, in a camping way. Excellent to hear that they designed it to pack small and assemble quickly!
Yeah the Belle is the type of machine you’d expect to find in a hotel that costs more per night than even the most lavish home coffee setups.
That machine requires some real TLC to keep in shape, as the clear coat over the brass will get damaged over time if water/coffee splashes are left on it. Once the clear coat is gone, the copper and brass will tarnish and then the machine needs a professional to restore it.
It’s the same story for their home models but on a much smaller scale, so a bit more reasonable for a loving coffee enthusiast to take care of. I’ve heard you can take the machine to some auto paint shops to get a fresh layer of clear coat sprayed on. People have also said you can repair chips/scratches with some touch up tools at home.
Mentioned elsewhere, but the Meticulous Espresso 'automated lever' machine looks really impressive. It finally went live on Kickstarter yesterday. I can't wait. There are a bunch of videos around; the one Brian Quan did  is my favourite.
: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meticulous/meticulous-e... : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-dxaLZTfGc
That is actually cool. Really innovative and it actually doesn’t look too hacky.
> Faema E61 Legend
Pffft... Jackpot! Great machine, especially by the looks!
All the best for your espresso adventure!
Holy cow that machine looks crazy - and expensive! $9,995.00??
It’s a lot less in US dollars, it still the most ludicrous thing I own by 100 miles.
The really good modern espresso machines are all in that price range.
Well, the automated ones. The manual ones like  are just the essence of what makes espresso and hence can in theory produce the exact same thing but at a fraction of the price. Main problem is that most parameters are controlled by the user, not the machine, so consistency is not easy to achieve. Especially temperature control is hard to achieve. On the other hand: want longer preinfusion? Just do it, no buttons needed let alone a manual.
I have such machine and for that price combined with not having to wait for a Faema to heat up, take a rather large amount of space and whatnot, and given that I drink one max two espressos a day, and that those are so close to what a professional automatic machine produces: totally worth it and no regrets yet. I used to dream of an espresso machine producing those super tasty beverages which in my country are really hard to find (compared to Italy of course), now I just have one, and it's maintainance and hassle-free as well and is going to last a very long time (basically only one rubber ring which is replacable). Which cannot exactly be said of automatic machines.
> not having to wait for a Faema to heat up, take a rather large amount of space and whatnot
And whatnot. I started turning it off at night (not recommended by manufacturer) and at the same point in time I started charging an electric car that is used daily.
The power bill has gone down.
The electric car uses less power than the Faema E61. Not good.
"Really good" starts at $400 for the Gaggia Classic Pro.
single boiler, vibratory pump, temperature surfing, bad OPV.
it's definitely good, but needs love to become "really good"
The Mazzer Robur is a grinder?
Yes, and a monster. It weighs 28kgs and is 70+cm tall. It’s pretty quiet by grinder standards and only runs for 3-5 seconds per shot, so that’s nice for others early morning.
Beautiful! Do you make a lot of coffee? It definitely can get through a lot. I have a niche zero. 20s or so to grind a shot but there is no wastage. Ideal for a home setup making 2 a day.
This is paired with a Breville Barista Express. Unlike most espresso people I am not tempted to upgrade this because I am so used to the workflow and it is quite good for a consumer grade machine (except for its grinder). With the niche I can make something 90% of the fidelity of a good cafe.
On weekdays it’s just 2 coffees a day. On weekends it’s probably 6, but various people show up and are supplied their fix, and 10 or 12 is common.
The niche is interesting, and a far saner choice. My ‘70s orange isn’t for everyone, it’s like a traffic cone.
The Niche Zero and the Mazzer Robur have the exact same conical burrs. The Niche is just a bit smaller and meant for home use.
close, but not quite - Niche is using the burrs out of the Mazzer Kony, the Robur's slightly smaller sibling. 63mm for the Niche/Kony vs either 71mm or 83mm depending on which Robur model.
The Niche is seriously well reviewed.
For those interested in the subject, James Hoffmann's video on the ZPM espresso machine may be interesting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKA2COJRt6M
To summarize, the ZPM was sort of a DIY espresso machine that turned into a kickstarter project to deliver a product. It ended up failing, but the effort informed a lot of stuff that came after.
Hoffmann is great. He's the Alton Brown of coffee.
That metaphor popped up for me in another context recently, too, as I found the usual host of the FortNine motorcycle channel, Ryan, to be the Alton Brown of motorcycles. Lots of people watch his videos that don't even ride because of his nerdy enthusiasm and excellent explanations about aspects of motorcycles and motorcycling.
AFAIK John Buckman (who used to head the EFF) bought the rights to the failed ZPM tech when he started Decent Espresso.
It's mentioned in the article, but the Gaggiuino project is a really nice base if you like tinkering with this kind of stuff. You start with the chassis and components of an existing machine, and just add temperature, pressure and/or flow control.
I think it's a great introduction into hacking for people who might not find it otherwise. I love the idea of coffee nerds realizing that this stuff (working with small PCBs, hacking cases, wiring, etc.) isn't really as intimidating as it might seem.
Hopefully tomorrow, someone inspired by this can get more out of a cheaper grinder, then after that, who know what?
My experience with espresso - the machine is less important than the grinder.
certainly there's a point of diminishing returns above, say, $1500 on the machine, but there's a host of fantastic grinders at $500 to $700 that do a GREAT and consistent job with espresso. If you're handy and don't mind fiddling, you can get by at even lower levels (say, $200).
I was lucky enough to get to play with a few coffee grinders recently, and also came to this conclusion. I now have an old commercial on-demand grinder with new burrs and the extraction and crema are a huge leap above my old pro-sumer model.
Which one you have and which one you had?
Sage to Cunill tran? and now a Compak OD. The electronics are a bit faulty (forgets settings) and I had to invent a replacement missing hopper, but very pleased with the shots.
agreed, having bought amazing beans from third waves and use on amazing machines and it pulls like a pool of water with dark flocculation
This is probably a dumb question but what makes plastics or metals food grade?
I ask because I want to know if DIYing kitchen gadgets like this is somehow unsafe or is it possible to build food grade gadgets yourself?
There's an overview here that references the (many) standards involved:
To the best of my knowledge it is less about leaching chemicals out of plastic as safety precautions. There's a bit in there about BPAs (endocrine disruptors) though.
It took us decades of use to understand the harms of bpa, which are still disputed by 'industry science's despite the existing research.
For instance right now we are largely replacing baking plastics and nonstick coatings with silicon because it is known not to leech.. but now we are finding that silicon breaks down after 200-1000 baking cycles. There isn't any conclusive data to say when it becomes unsafe, if it does at all..
All that to say, if a plastic was designed to melt immediately upon contact with a heating element and bind to the first thing it touches... I'm not using it for tea.
> It took us decades of use to understand the harms of bpa, which are still disputed by 'industry science's despite the existing research.
> Yes. Based on FDA's ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging. People are exposed to low levels of BPA because, like many packaging components, very small amounts of BPA may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages. Studies pursued by FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have shown no effects of BPA from low-dose exposure.
FDA isn't "industry", they're the government regulators in charge of food safety of the USA.
So we swapped from one plastic (BPA) with a century of research to other plastics with no research. They're all going to "leach" into our foods because when food comes in contact with molecules, it will absorb those molecules.
If you cook food in an iron pan, the food will have more iron content. If you cook food in a copper pan, the food will have more copper content. Its just how things work. The question of safety is about studying the effects of iron, copper, or... BPA. And as far as I can tell, only low quality alternative-medicine journals seem to ever have anything to say about BPA.
Furthermore, data obtained in human and different cell lines show that BPA interferes with thyroid hormones synthesis, secretion, and signaling. Due to its anti-androgenic action, BPA works as an agonist on estrogen receptors and antagonist on androgen receptors
BPA exerts endocrine disruptor action due to its weak binding affinity for the estrogen receptors ERα and ERβ. BPA exerts other effects by activating the membrane receptor GPER (GPR30) and/or other receptors such as the estrogen-related receptors (ERRs).
In the presence of BPA and DES, the ER-binding region of the HOTAIR promoter was enriched by trimethylation on lysine 4 of histone 3 (H3K4) and by H3K4-specific methyltransferases, which are known to activate transcription73 (Table 2). Moreover, developmental BPA exposure enhances H3K4 trimethylation on genes, which are subsequently more sensitive to regulation by testosterone 
As for your point about FDA not being "industry"
(The same FDA also banned bpa in products for children under 3)
You've copy/pasted a couple of lines from various studies, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. I'm trying to figure out what you're trying to say, but you're not exactly making it easy.
EDIT: I know the stupid "Dihydrogen Monoxide" trick. Just because scary chemical words are used in a paper doesn't mean anything. You're gonna have to make an actual point and argument if you want to convince me of anything.
Hint: What does BPA do, and why are you scared of it? In your own words, supported by the quotes you chose above.
You specifically attacked the publication credibility of bpa studies... So my focus was in providing high quality sources. I assumed you could understand the papers if I linked them.
The summary of those excerpts are "endocrine disruption and hormone modulation"
If that is still jargon to you, the effects of those processes which have been substantially linked to bpa are reproductive problems, developmental delays, and increased risk of certain cancers.
So you should be able to link a study demonstrating these reproductive problems. IE: X people have less exposure to BPA, Y people have more exposure to BPA, and Y people have said problems.
Traditionally, that's the kind of study that's done. For example, X people are non-smokers, Y people are smokers. Y people have Z% more cancer than X people.
A quickie look through the papers you copy/pasted from are not of this traditional style of research. The links are rather... weak.
The reason you will struggle to find data like that is that there is no "non-smoker" group. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4674187/
BPA is in every person, and fetal and childhood exposure is the most critical period, and cancers don't develop until later in life.
> Commercial production of BPA began in the United States in 1957 and then in Europe a year later
A quote from the article you posted. This suggests that older people born before 1957 should have different properties compared to people born after that year, especially if you are alleging that babies are especially sensitive to this plastic.
I know my Grandma is older than 1957. There's probably plenty of people who can participate in such a study of the anti-BPA crowd cared.
You'll find that's consistent with the data, but also that cancer diagnosis techniques have improved, confounding results.
> BPA is in every person
I severely doubt that. Different people have different habits. I go to the grocery store. I can look at my neighbors food choices and see that some people buy cans, other people buy frozen. Any hypothetical BPA-issue will affect the canned people more, and the frozen-buyers less.
It's basically, how cleanable is the surface. The surface should be a material that doesn't retain anything after being wiped and ideally there are no seams for bacteria to fester in. This is why stainless is so popular.
I think that is actually easy to do. Ceramics are food grade, and people have been making those at home for centuries.
For espresso gadgets I think the biggest risk is the heating element.
FWIW, "like this" is taking off-the-shelf, already food safe, parts and tweaking the software that controls them. Maybe this isn't 100% DIY or open source if you're buying a boiler from a coffee supply shop, but doing so removes the question about it being food safe.
Arguably nothing. They all leach chemicals in your food. We just don't know too much about what they do.
Eh, you're better off with an iron pot than a lead pot, for example?
I was expecting this to be about mugsy, the open source coffee maker I kickstarter backed in 2018. Unfortunately the rabbit hole there is the endless stream of very positive enhancement updates to a product that is shipping _in the next few days_ for the last 5 years.
Like, cmon man, just admit defeat.
Rant over. Yes, I’m bitter.
Edit: to be clear, it’s not the product I want anymore. I just need closure.
Brian Stimpson: It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.
Clockwise (1986) - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090852/quotes/qt0177777
I was so excited for mugsy when it was first announced. I check back in every year or so only to be shocked he's still chugging away. I can't imagine there are many people that still expect him to deliver
I build a fully automated 5g reflux still at the outset of the pandemic.
Beyond the initial charge of the boiler, swapping jars and cleanup, everything was automated. I even had a load cell to pause the boiler when either the jar was removed or reached a certain weight so that was ready for a robot arm or belt.
It's an extremely rewarding process to automate a physical plant like that because so many things can go wrong and there are so many edge cases, weird feedback loops and idiosyncracies of equipment that isn't obvious until you try it with another thing. I used nodered on a raspberry pi for all of the brains, mqtt for coordination and a swarm of nodeedu running tasmota for all of the I/O.
The main challenge is not getting too comfortable and starting to take shortcuts with safety. Pressure vessels, high voltage switching, fumes and flammable gases/liquids can ruin your day.
Whenever I stumble on the DIYs for "automatic" Espresso machines, I always wonder if the manual machines (think La Pavoni or Olympia) are not just simpler to use for controlling pressure.
Obviously, then you're still missing temp control. I guess I just like more simple stuff
A lot of the manual stuff lets you control temp too.
Espresso was largely solved without any computers a long time ago.
Completely agree. It feels like as techies we latch on to the problem we know how to solve.
For anyone interested in this sort of thing (like me), the Decent DE1 Espresso machine is a well-engineered, cafe quality, open-source machine that you can buy.
There is a small community working on various software apps around it. The machine is controlled through open BLE comms. All the control software AFAIK is OSS and tinkerable. The machine itself is top notch, and in my espresso-nerd opinion, beats anything on the market except in appearance and "analogeness".
So if you like espresso and hacking on software, check it out.
Is there a better guide than the app source code? I can't seem to wrap my head around the BLE comms aspect (e.g. how it integrates with scales or the Smart Espresso Profiler app).
https://github.com/jeffsf/pyDE1 this is a pretty complete python implementation covering the BLE APIs including scales. It's way more approachable than the TCL Android app.
Some more info on the protocol here: https://3.basecamp.com/3671212/buckets/7351439/documents/499...
I don't think there are any better "formal" docs.
It is not very clear what in the processes of the coffee machine is closed source.
And it is not very clear why disassemble the coffee machine to assemble another coffee machine that is no different from other coffee machines.
It's all definitely funny. But it's not entirely clear why.
Doesn't look like it is actually open source, given:
> Or you could do what Norm Sohl did and build a highly configurable machine out of open source hardware plans and the thermal guts of an Espresso Gaggia.
Where does open source start and end?
You can buy almost all parts for the small Gaggia machines online. A complete group costs around 50 Euro, I think, and you can do with that whatever you want.
Would you prefer CNC milling it by yourself, based on some plans?
Well, open hardware design would have that, but not exactly be the practical one if you can buy actual ready made part for cheaper than CNCing it.
Difference is really that the open design could be repeated way before design based on existing part would go out of produciton.
Hacking together a pressurized steam vessel is like DIY repairing a garage door; you don't.
Does it implement HTCPCP? If not, are patches welcome? :D
Well, that'd be easy! If it's "just" an espresso machine, you wouldn't even need to support the 'Accept-Additions' headers! :D
Best coffee I had was in Hawaii. In two different coffee shops. After spending 30k on an espresso machine, it's the beans that matter the most.
It looks like a 3d printer converted to a coffee maker :D
Seriously now, I appreciate the effort. We need this!!
Comment was deleted :(
this gives me idea you could take a picopresso and mod it for different pressure levels and sort of superize it
What would be even more delicious is if people could be bothered to use the search function on HN prior to posting....
Original post, 120 comments, here ... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35320729 Re-post, 4 comments, here ... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35347638
Exactly.. this submission is just Ars Technica doing a copy-paste of the original source and wrapping it in ads.
Ars has fallen a long, long way since they were bought by Conde Nast. Almost every article they put out is this garbage these days. Most of their original content is them sending someone to auto manufacturers junkets to drive cars and then regurgitate the manufacturer's marketing material.
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