Mini Slim Mill & Gaggia Classic – Tips & Tricks

The Gaggia Classic I own is an older model (the IEC power plug doesn’t have a ground) that I bought for less than half price used.  And so far so good, it’s been a good appliance.  I find I can make a couple of espressos a day with it and I’m happy.  The problems come when you want to start comparing those espressos with a what a good barista at a good coffee shop can pull.  I don’t think they’ll ever be the same, but there are few things a Gaggia Classic owner can do to eek out better espresso.

1) be patient.  when I get up in the AM I turn it on. Make sure the portafilter basket is clean and purge about 6 ounces of water out of the brew head, making sure the brew head is clean.  Then do something else for 10-15 minutes.  That’s how long it takes to warm up; 20 minutes is probably even better.

2) grinding with the Hario Mini Slim Mill Ceramic is a little futzy as the grind adjustment doesn’t seem to be particularly fine (i.e. the steps are too coarse and the ceramic burrset is small) but still it works.  For $35 or whatever, it gets you much closer to consistent espresso grounds than anything else that costs less than $100 or more.  Yes, a Mazzer would be nice, or even just a Rocky, but I can’t justify it.  So, with each bag of espresso I buy I have to find that sweet spot in the grind where it doesn’t choke the machine.  And it’s true with hand grinding, the more you do it the more of a “feel” you have for what grind you’re getting.  Grinding a double shot takes less than 3 minutes, by hand.

3) temperature surfing the Gaggia means waiting until the right hand “Brew Ready” light clicks back on (you can hear the relay) and wait about 20 seconds.  From doing tests I found this to be near the highest spot in the temperature of the boiler.  Yes, a PID would help or a bigger dual boiler machine would be nice as well.  But as far as the law of diminishing returns here, I’m sticking with what I have, and so temperature surfing the Gaggia it is.

4) So, you’ve waited about 15 minutes or so, you’ve ground your beans to something you know won’t quite choke the little Gaggia and your brew light has just flicked back on, you count down, and now you flip the brew switch and enjoy some espresso.  Hopefully your shot takes around 30 seconds to pull with a good solid 5-7 seconds at the beginning with infusion, the crema should be heady, rising above your 2oz line.  The best shots I’ve gotten from this machine have no sourness.  For whatever reason, the small boiler and little pressure pump of this machine often has sour shots, but when you pull a good one, it’s not sour – it’s smooth.  Good luck.

Hario Slim Mill - Hand GrinderGaggia Classic - Home Espresso Single Boiler

Brooks B.17 Narrow – Unboxing & Initial Review

Boxed
Top 2/3
Tweed Run, Brooks Advert Mag

Punched

Feels pretty good. Initially a little firm but seems to have broken in a bit already (less than 100 miles riding).  I had ridden a B.17 Standard in Portland for a while but never really loved it, so far the Narrow seems to fit better.  I purchased an Aardvark waterproof saddle cover from VO and some leather proofing.  The rails on the saddle do not run parallel the entire length (for most Brooks, it seems) which means if you require a good deal of saddle setback then there is a chance you may not be able to achieve it without switching to a different seatpost with more offset.

The sad fact is that my Gitane “Le Tour de France” is an older frame with plain straight gauge tubing and as such has a 26.4mm ID for seatposts, which means selection with 30mm offset are very limited.  Kalloy makes an “Uno” model with 30mm, the one pictured above is the “mid-range” Kalloy model that is welded as opposed to bonded, single bolt alloy clamps with 25m offset.  The 30mm offset model appears be a bonded head model.  I’m not a fan of bonded clamp heads.  I had one fail during a cyclo-cross race years ago up in Sea-Tac.

Single piece seatposts, ideally with two bolts, are desirable though few 26.4 posts have what I need.  Most Brooks (in the last 100+ years) were used with non “micro-adjust” clamps, whereby the post and clamp head assembly are separate pieces.  On sportier models like the Swallow, I think the rails run more parallel.  If I had 5mm more of adjustment I’d happy.  Custom made seatposts are not cheap.  Or you could cast or CNC machine a custom clamp that deals with the angle of the rails.  I’m just going to keep riding it and see how it goes.

Stabilizing Spheres & Unflappable Flappers

Sometimes you need to isolate your holographic lasers from vibration or perhaps just your AC transformers and tubes on your home audio equipment.  In either case, these Norborene (“Norsorex“) Stabilizing Spheres, also known as the “Happy Unhappy  Balls“, are a fantastic deal.  For $35 you get a package of 15 and if you cut them in halves that makes 30 hemispherical feet (that’s maths).

Norbornene Stabilizing Spheres

Norbornene Stabilizing Spheres

On a related note, still having to do with polymers and rubber, one of our toilet tanks had a fiddly flapper, I think this is the technical term, where you’d have to jiggle the handle to stop the tank from running. The solution was a “Korky Plus Premium Universal Flapper” and it works like a champion.

Korky Plus Universal Flapper

Korky Plus Universal Flapper