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July 2006 Newsletter

Travel to Italy to see Rancilio and laScala, and then on to the
USA for the SCAA conference, completed our round the world
odyssey. Italy was fascinating, as much for the espresso as for
the history and culture. I tried espresso shots at cafes in
Milan, Como and Venice, and I have to say I never had a bad
espresso in Italy. However, I never had a spectacular one either,
they were all in the good-to-very-good category, and all strongly
Brazil based.

Hard at work tasting espresso.

This Barista reckoned he had the best!

Rancilio was an interesting visit. Discussions with the people at
Rancilio revealed that they are making incremental improvements
to the Silvia machines all the time. The latest one is the
addition of an adjustable overpressure valve, which allows brew
pressure to be modified. Ex factory the pressure is 11 bar, but
modifying it to 9 bar is quite easy, the only tools needed are a
19mm spanner and a manometer portafilter. Having performed the
modification, though, I was unable to detect any change in the
taste of the espresso.

Display cabinet in the Rancilio Showroom.

Discussing current & future improvements.

The adjustable overpressure valve.

Silvia set at 9 bar.

After Rancilio it was off to laScala, who are based just outside
Venice. To my surprise they do a lot of machine refurbishment,
and I saw 3 single group Faema E61 units in various states of
restoration. After discussions I will be importing a "plumb-in"
version of the Butterfly, with a rotary pump, called the
"Eroica". I will also be testing out their grinders.

Discussing machines with Roberto Canever, laScala Export Manager.

The production floor.

Electric motor and rotary pump in the Eroica.

A fully reconditioned beautiful old Faema E61.

Then it was on to the USA and the SCAA conference at Charlotte,
North Carolina. This year's SCAA was a bit of a disappointment as
far as the "New products" and "Display" aspects were concerned,
but the educational seminars more than made up for it.

The roasting seminar was a highlight, with over a dozen sample
roasters of various sizes and makes all set up to run at once,
and a bunch of expert Roasters Guild members to instruct and
supervise. I got an old mate, Bernie Digman, owner of Milagro
Coffee in Arizona. I copped a bit of stick from him (he reckoned
I should be supervising, not learning!) but I found the whole
experience very enriching.

In the roasting tent at SCAA

Results set up for cupping

On the new products front, things were a lot more bleak. I tasted
coffee from the Clover Coffee Brewer (not as good as my vac pot,
but at US$8000.00 a lot more expensive) and the Aerobie Aeropress
(publicity aside, it's NOT espresso, just the normal weak
American brew.)  There were no notable new beans this year; I
would guess that travel to Charlotte was a lot harder for small,
exotic coffee producers than travel to L.A. A lot of the better
beans are now being sold via Cup of Excellence or similar online
Auctions anyway, and never get displayed at the trade shows.

Speaking of excellent coffees, this month's special is a definite

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Unique lemon blossom aroma with crisp front palate acidity,
medium body and smooth, crisp chocolate and cherries finish.

My Sunbeam EM6900 Espresso machine review from last August still
generates a lot of emails, mostly asking if Sunbeam have changed
or updated the machine. I believe that there have been a number
of changes but don't know the details. The other common question
is which Italian filter baskets I used; they were authentic
Rancilio baskets, which fit the portafilter perfectly. I believe
there may be some variation in EM6900 portafilters though, with
some users unable to get baskets to fit.

Unmodified Sunbeam EM6900 portafilter and Rancilio baskets.

Rancilio double basket inserted.

Rancilio single basket inserted.

Portafilter with double basket locked into EM6900