…Back to work!


…And our dear old Ducale/Fiorenzato! To be fair, whilst this can be a cantankerous old BEAST of a machine, it has lots of  ‘charm’ …and I seem to be able to get much thicker, syrupier, sweeter shots from it than from the (lovely) San Remos at the comps… Someone who saw it the other day thought it might be about 40 years old?! It definitely has NO water filtration, and is wildly unstable. Apart from me backflushing, and cleaning the portafilters and screens, it’s not had any sort of deep-clean/service for years – as no engineer will dare touch it, because apparently you can’t get any spares for it. So – how come the nice shots? No doubt, with enough time experimenting with a modern, stable machine, I could exceed what this produces (and exclude its embarrassing failings). But all I know is, as things stand, I couldn’t get my shots tasting as nice at Glasgow with a modern machine as I’m used to them tasting with this, on a good day… And fortunately they still managed to come 4th. What’s that all about?

Some people mentioned that the San Remos, being so stable, and cooler than many older-style machines, perhaps require a lighter dose. The heavier dosing that often makes shots work well with hotter machines won’t necessarily work with these – the acidity can come out too much, and the sweetness can get lost. So things like this could be a factor; every machine has a learning curve, and you know what works best with yours. I liked the San Remos (not surprising really I suppose, given what I work with!), and I’m not advocating old, unstable, dirty, decrepit, furred-up machinery. But it is surprising that, with the right care and techniques, I seem to get nicer, thicker, more satisfying shots (I think) from our ancient machine, than I was able to get from the San Remos, albeit with only a very short time to get acquainted with them: It seems to contradict what you would expect. And I’ve noticed a similar situation occurring when I’ve tried S5s…

Romanticism? Dose levels? Technique? Knowing your machine? My tasting not attuned enough? Not enough time with decent machines to hit the sweet spot? Old machines better?!

I wouldn’t say no to a modern machine though! Sometimes (quite often!) our machine just will not make great coffee, no matter how diligently I follow my techniques.

To say the machine has ‘some issues’ would be something of a euphemism. It has a broken autofill that causes water to spout from the steam wand every 1/2 hour or so until you manually drain the boiler. It suffers from huge pressure surges and drops. Inexplicably, only one of the two groups pours a nice shot (and even that unevenly, with 1.5oz into one shot and .5oz into the other, unless you juggle the cups back-and-forth as it pours, causing you to be glued to the machine during the pour, and for the outside of your cups to be plastered in dribbles). And the pours, whilst usually hanging fairly nice and straight like warm honey to start with, always descend into a rather dribbly, gushy affair towards the end (even when the shots taste good)…

So, not to mention the other aforementioned issues, I’d happy enough to wave a fond farewell to this old dear – thick, sweet shots or not! …Or would I?

When the shots are good, they can be really good (I think), but sadly it can feel like something of a rare triumph when I manage to pour a really good shot with our equipment. Given the quality of the coffee I am now using, the training I give to all the other staff, my own level of ability and experience, and my attentiveness to every shot, I suppose the creation of very good or even great espresso aught to be much more common at the plan than it actually is – and I believe machinery is now the main factor preventing this (whilst it would also be greatly beneficial for the learning of the barista techniques and professionalism to be impressed on all staff more rigorously as a job requirement by the cafe). I think, as a minimum, I may urge for some new grinder blades as a ‘present’ for my winning the Welsh heat, which might help to hone the quality a little, given that they have never been replaced since I’ve been here – so two years at least!

Have no fear though – I take the espresso very seriously at the plan, and if you come in for a coffee, it will be made with fantastic, fresh beans, and I will do my best to ensure that it’s somewhere between good and, potentially, very good!


ducale pfs

ducale pfs2

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