Frank Chen

Frank Chen

espresso starter kit

I've been messing around with espresso lately since we purchased a new machine.

It's nothing crazy, mostly a simple, cost-effective setup that gives me the chance to be a complete beginner at making espresso.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a coffee chat room full of Ethereum enthusiasts who created an org around drinking, sourcing, and producing great coffee. I got an espresso setup recommendation from one of the admins.

For a beginner just getting into espresso, the setup is sub $500 for everything, and it's quite good at getting 90% of the way there compared to my favorite local coffee shop. You will have to nerd out just a little bit to get things dialed in, but if you're a tinkerer like me, it's worth it, especially since high-end machines alone are $1,000+.

The setup:

The Gevi is a simple machine with a milk frother and enough customization to make a great pull. I'm learning that you don't really need 20 bars of pressure to make good espresso - most standard pulled shots come out nicely around 9 bars, so I'm unsure why this was a marketing plus.

The portafilter (the thing you bang on the side of the trash can to release a fun-sized coffee puck) that came with the Gevi was perfectly fine, but there's a bottom (one or two holes that the espresso comes out of). A bottomless portafilter means you can see the whole basket of small little holes, giving you more visual data on how your coffee is extracting while pulling a shot.

The filmsy plastic tamper-spoon combo that comes with the Gevi was completely unacceptable. When you make your coffee puck you want it to be even on top and sufficiently compressed. So a tamper needs a leveling mechanism and sufficient pressure, both of which are provided by the Normcore tamper. The right size is all you need.

I already had an old Baratza Virtuoso that I was using for pour over, so I opted to just use that, but I did break it open and adjust the setting to achieve an overall finer grind. I also ~~broke~~ removed the step-wise function of my grinder. Before, it would click to whole integers, and now, it's just continuous (no more set clicks), so technically, I can achieve more granularity, but I’m discovering it doesn’t hold that setting very well. Keeping it consistent is an absolute headache, which means... new grinder? 🤩

I also had a Jennings scale for pour over that I use for weighing out beans. This thing is a beast, it's been through the wringer and still measures just fine. I haven't needed to calibrate it at all. The audible "beep" noise makes it super annoying in the early mornings though. You can probably open it up and modify the circuit board to get rid of it, but I didn’t really want to break my grinder and scale in one go.

The last couple of items were a milk frothing jug and a coffee distribution tool. I opted for a cute 6.5 ounce frothing pitcher since we'd mainly be making personal coffees and I taped a bunch of sewing needles together to make a weight distribution tool (weight distribution is poking at the ground coffee to make it all even n' shit before tamping it down).

And that's it. Without spending a fortune, I've been making good espresso.

Oh, and frothing milk and making latte art is really fucking hard. "You get a blob" is generally the latte art that I end up doing.