Sage Barista Express

Before Christmas, we had a bit of a ‘home appliance breakdown’ period chez Bsag. The biggest (and most expensive) casualty was our central heating boiler, but we also had a succession of other things break, including my beloved Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. Not having any heating or hot water is one thing, but no coffee — that’s insupportable. I opened up the machine and found that the boiler had developed a substantial leak through a crack in the boiler wall, so steam was escaping all the time that the machine was on, and the temperature and pressure was not holding.

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Caffè Interruptus

We’ve just caught up with the latest series of Borgen to be shown on BBC Four. We enjoyed the previous series, but for some reason it took us a long time to catch up with our recordings of the current one. Of course, being a drama about politics, there are many little details in it that you can obsess about, but for some reason the thing I became obsessed with was the espresso making.

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New tamper for Miss Silvia

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I’ve been having some fun with my coffee setup recently. I’ve been really enjoying perfecting my technique with my Rancilio Silvia, but even though I have been producing much better espressos than when I started and have also improved my consistency, I was sill having problems with the stream ‘blonding’ too early. I suspected that poor distribution and tamping was part of the problem. My extractions often started off slow and steady, with a lovely stripy colour like dark chocolate and caramel melted together, but well before I had got the right volume collected they would suddenly turn very pale and start gushing.

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Some thoughts about coffee

Coffee is an amazing drink, isn’t it? I can think of few other drinks that can take on such a spectacular range of flavours and change so dramatically in character with tiny changes in preparation method. And that’s before you think about changing the way in which the beans are roasted. I have been steadily learning how to get good espresso from my Rancilio Silvia, but while the coffee has become much more consistent and pretty good, I knew it could be better.

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Miss Silvia is at home

Some introductions Aren’t they a handsome couple? That’s Rocky on the left (all young and shiny and energetic), and Miss Silvia on the right. She’s not in the first flush of youth, as you can see. Her logo is a bit worn, and she doesn’t have the fancy steam knob and drip tray patterns of these newer models. But inside she’s as strong and well-made as any new machine.

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