Friday, October 28, 2016

That'll get you up in the morning.

t was August, 2014 when it dawned on me that my coffee was crap. Actually, I knew it was crap for some years by then, so rather it was August 2014 when I decided to do something about it.

My foray into espresso actually started in 1996.  Poor as can be, I acquired a Krups  espresso machine from some store like Williams Sonoma, Target, or whatever you'd find in a New Jersey strip mall at that time.  It wasn't really espresso (like I had remembered from hanging out with friends in high school at the coffee shop) but rather "stronger coffee."  But whatever, in 1996 I felt fancy and with my sleep schedule as awful as it was, I needed the additional kick.

Come 2014, this started to look silly on my counter.  I refused to buy an actual drip coffee machine; they're all junk.  And don't even get me started about pods....coffee doesn't come in pods.  A friend had bought one of those super-automatic ones where you fill it with everything, push a button, and get your beverage.  About a year and a half after he bought that though, it died.  I began exploring semi-automatic machines, watching endless amounts of videos and reading through post after post of geeky coffee machine reviews.  It came time to do something about it.

I got a Rocket!  To me, it was the perfect blend of style, build, and performance.  There's a bunch of models they offer across a (relatively) narrow price point.  I got the Giotto Evoluzione v2, 61.5 pounds of gleaming chrome goodness.  Ability to plumb it so you can lose the water tank.  Insulated copper boiler.  Italian legacy, made in Milan.  To show my gratefulness for their helpful videos on YouTube, I ordered from Seattle Coffee Gear.

Machine arrived about a week after I ordered it.  Getting it up four flights of stairs was not my favorite task, but it made it.  The portafilters are a joy to hold in your hand, with a lot of heft and a nice handle feel.  To accompany this lovely machine, I got the Barazza Forte grinder.  Everything I read everywhere said to get a great grinder, as the machine is only a piece of the equation.  This grinder seemed pretty amazing, with weight-based grinding to the 10th of a gram and 200 more grind settings than you'll ever use.

My experience with Seattle Coffee Gear was less amazing, though.  The machine came with a cracked valve.  I was given the option to either send the whole beast back and get a new one, or they could send the new valve and have me install it.  I opted for the valve, and although I was nervous as hell to take a part a brand new machine, it went fairly well.  The bummer experience came later, when another leak occurred after a subsequent transport.  I identified the issue, and called to get a part.  I was told they could not send me the part unless I looked up the part number, but they would send me the parts catalog.  Really?!?  Ok, so I got the catalog and ordered the part.  Part came; wrong part.  When I called back, the woman wanted to know why it was the wrong part...did I make a mistake?

At this point I was kind of incensed, and asked why the hell that mattered.  "Oh, because if you made the mistake, you would not be reimbursed for shipping."  I don't know what shipping was, but let's call in under $10 and this felt pretty outrageous in terms of support and customer service.  In the end, it turned out they had sent me the wrong parts catalog.  I was also not reimbursed for shipping.  Suffice it to say, subsequent business will not be transacted with them.

Service issues aside, the machine is a champ.  Don't move it if you can help it.  Do descale the machine fairly often to keep it running and happy.  It's a time consuming job, but the coffee a clean machine produces is truly spectacular.  Barring me opening a coffee shop, it is safe to say I will not ever purchase another coffee machine.

--A

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Better than the Election

pdates!  It's been forever since I've updated this blog, and there's oh so much to tell you about.  There's been some fabulous new additions, interesting expeditions, some cool new places to shop.  But I want to start with some simple updates from some of the older posts.  For example:

  • In Sealing the Sleep Deal: Sheets I told you about Thomas Lee, and how (as far as sheets to price ratio goes) they're the best sheets I've ever found.  After using and washing and using and more washing, these are still holding up really well.  I had bought two sets, but remained on the lazy end of swapping them.  They lasted about 3 years of pretty regular use before I bought set #3 to replace set #1.  (Set #2 being the one I still forget to change out.)
  • In Flawless Fidelity - From China?? I introduced you to Jolida Audio.  What I failed to figure out until much later is that the Jolida amp pictured is actually built in Maryland.  I bought the successor to that, the Jolida JD801 Fusion and it's mindblowing.  Two things here:  1) Chinese tube amps are still a great value and an entry into the tube audio market.  2) What I discovered with Jolida though is that the brand was essentially stolen (there's a story there, but I'll save you) and a counterfeit brand (from China) was introduced.  And that's not cool by any measure.  Amp I bought will be reviewed later.
  • In Step Aside, Heinz - Real Ketchup Has Arrived I told you about Sir Kensington's ketchup and how it was not only awesome, but contained real ingredients.  Since then, Heinz has launched a new Organic version, and I have to say that I am impressed.  They replaced all of the junk ingredients with real ones, even taking out the dreaded corn syrup.  One should give credit where credit is due.  Try them both!
Please look forward to new updates; I'm excited to share some new product discoveries as well as some projects!

--A