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JUNE 2004 Newsletter

Overtaken by events is basically what happened to the electronic
version of the May newsletter; no sooner did I write and print
the paper version than it was out of date. First, I had some
espresso machines on special; they went within a day of the first
print versions going out. I now have one further Fenice at
$440.00, but that's it. I've attached the May newsletter below
for reference.

Then, my long awaited shipment of laScala heat exchanger machines
arrived the week after publication. They are now on sale, and are
everything I expected them to be. Distribution will begin this
week. I want to put a lot more work into them (specifically,
write and illustrate a proper manual) but they're ready to go "as

The laScala Butterfly is fundamentally a "mini-commercial"
machine with a 1.8l boiler, 3.0l tank and an E-61 heat exchanger
group, which means you can both brew and steam at once. The
boiler is fully fitted with a vacuum breaker, safety valve,
autofill sensor, pressurestat and front panel manometer.
Even the tank is fitted with removable water level sensors so it
can be lifted out for refilling. In addition, the machine can be
plumbed in for convenience or high use capability. A big plus is
that everything is easily accessible without complete disassembly
or special tools, and most of the parts are "standard item" stuff
for many espresso machine parts suppliers.


laScala Butterfly


The Butterflys have landed!

A neat, simple layout inside.

Best of all is the fact that they landed at VERY reasonable
prices, so that the basic machine with the "Anthracite" powder
coated body is $1800.00 plus $180.00 GST, total $1980.00. The all
stainless steel machine is only $110.00 extra, and a plumb-in kit
another $99.00. There are a couple of caveats. The machines do
NOT come with water softening kits, so if you're outside
Melbourne you'll need to provide your own, and delivery (while it
covers most of Australia's major population centres) is by
courier. You might need to pick up from the nearest capital or
regional city if you live right out in the bush.

I'll be adding my own "extras kit" to each machine, including a
kilo of free beans, a basic 58mm tamper and cleaning gear, just
to get you off to a good start!

This month's special is both new and old. I've been selling the
Organic Timor since before Independence. These days there is a
LOT more Timor coffee available, along with some interesting
claims, such as "Organic non-fumigated." Well, "Duh!" If AQIS decide
fumigation is necessary, the Organic certification is withdrawn.
You can't BUY an "organic" coffee and call it organic after it's
been treated with Methyl Bromide. However, since Methyl Bromide
is a particularly nasty greenhouse gas (as well as being a pretty
deadly poison) AQIS has developed an alternative; keeping the
beans in cold storage for a couple of weeks, which kills off any
insect pests.

Normally I buy the Mt. Aifu Timor, but the recent crop of
Maubesse (grown at a higher altitude) is so good I thought it
deserved "special" status.

Compared to the Mt. Aifu this is a more acid, less bodied coffee
but it has a beautiful flavour. "Nutty" is the only way to
describe it, walnuts tending towards hazelnut is the most
distinctive feature of the aftertaste. It also rates high on the
"feelgood" factor, being Fair Trade approved, organic, shade
grown and almost certainly bird friendly!


The only downside is that it's a bit acid for a straight
espresso, although excellent with milk.

During the month I bought a $70.00 espresso machine from Coles,
more or less as a follow on to the $99.00 machine article. I
was impressed by the quality of the one that worked (the first
one didn't) and the the Chinese copy of an ULKA pump. The
boiler is tiny but made out of stainless steel, and the
portafilter and filter basket is better than the one on the
Black & Decker. Not a bad little unit for the one-or-two cup
a day person.

$70 Espresso Machine

Small stainless steel boiler

The IQ $70.00 pump espresso machine

Teensy SS boiler, 80 - 100ml or so.

Finally, I've just finished the VERY disagreeable process of
cleaning out 2 milk contaminated boilers. This happens when the
steam wand of an espresso machine isn't flushed clean after use;
as the boiler cools a vacuum forms and sucks the milk back into
it. It can happen even with commercial machines, especially when
steam wands are left inside water filled milk jugs to soak off
dried milk. High temperature processing results in something best
described as "Foul Gunk" (think rancid baby poo, in colour,
texture and odour!) Fixing this is such a rotten job that the
next one will cost $66.00 inc. GST, so be warned!

Milk sludge

Sludgy much boiled milk....




May 2004 Newsletter

Getting back from SCAA  was a bit of a shock to the system, I'd
been gone less than a week and suddenly had 2 weeks work waiting
and more coming in by the minute. It was worth it for the
experience though, this year's SCAA had a lot to offer me.

Quite apart from meeting old friends and online acquaintances I
managed to actually learn a lot at the various seminars being
conducted. Some of my highlights were:

"Consumer Cupping" with Lindsay Bolger and Don Schoenholt. I've
been cupping coffees for 20 years and I still picked up some
valuable tips!

Walking the huge exhibition floor, sometimes by myself and
sometimes with friends, I saw the new Hearthware I-Roast domestic
roaster; a "laboratory reference" espresso machine called the
Versalab (which appears to be very different indeed to
conventional machines) and discussed Muralitharan's bowling
action with the guys on the Jamaican Blue Mountain Mavis Bank

I saw a "new" domestic espresso machine called the La Pavoni
Napoletana, which looked exactly like the Imat Napoletana
II/Mokita Combi; Now I've got somewhere to send all those people
from the USA enquiring about the Mokita Combi. Then there was a
new coffee origin (Galapagos Islands), typical island bean, and
another new domestic espresso machine, this one sold by Bodum.
Doesn't look like the sort of thing I'd sell.

Of course there were the barista championships, interesting
educational sessions and quite a bit of after hours conviviality
going on as well. I spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering
around with Coffeegeek reporter Jeanette Chan. Her insights into
the "looks" side of buying coffee equipment for the home gave me
quite a lot to think about, as I tend to worry more about
functionality and service aspects.

On the final morning of the conference there was a "home roaster
shootout" featuring a talk by author Ken Davids and a direct
comparison of beans roasted in the following roasters:
Hearthware I-Roast
Zach & Danis
Imex Caffe Rosto
To my tastebuds, only the Hottop and the Hearthware did justice
to the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans when they were tasted.

Now on to this month's special, which for a change isn't coffee,
it's equipment. I have for sale:
2 NEW Rancilio Silvias with minor panel dents @$682.00 inc. each.
2 "Factory Return" Nemox Fenice @$440.00 inc. each.

All the machines come with a full 12 month warranty, and are
available on a "first come first served" basis. As usual, I'll
give them a complete workout to ensure top performance.

My thanks to all of those people who have sent me their dud
machines. I've only had time to look at a couple of them but my
advice to anyone contemplating buying a machine with an aluminium
thermoblock is "DON'T!" It's pretty obvious that they start
dissolving internally the first time they're used, and the
overall lifetime is quite limited.

My own new machine shipment, which includes the laScala Butterfly
HX machines, should be in port as you read this. With luck I'll
have them available for sale by the end of the month, with a
total internal and external assessment completed and up on the