Category Archives: Mods

My Ritual and the next move

I’ve had a long hiatus since my last post, what with handling a chaotic comic book shop, and trying to move the whole shenanigan to a new place (more on this later), I haven’t even the time to do a roast. But I managed to find some time, what with my poor time management skills, to allocate for Roast Day Sunday last.

Today is Day 3 of SM Italian Espresso Blend. I did a pull yesterday, sorely out of temptation as I haven’t had a “proper” drink in quite a while. Yesterday’s was kinda grassy, too bright for my liking, and well, not well-rested.

Today. Today, on the other hand. What a difference a full day makes!

Assisted by the 2 megapixel camera on my iPhone (has anyone seen the curvaceous MacBook Air?), and my military grade Surefire L2 light, among an entire entourage of devices such as the venerable Eric Svendon Digital Thermometer Device, and not forgetting, the Anita, I sought out to find enlightenment in these dark days. (My, my, this is just after my 2nd drink.) Without further ado, here is the following sequence of my (haphazard, can’t help it – one hand holding the iPhone feels like one hand tied) ritual:

First drops of nectar. I was so sure there wasn’t enough light, so I used a Surefire L2, which provided a 15 lumens flood beam. Overkill. Looks like 10 seconds at this point. The Anita provides a pre-infusion of about 8 to 9.5 seconds at around 3 bars. During these first drops, the pressure climbs to a 9 bar at a steady rate.

Here, you see the Guinness effect (akin to a Guinness Stout pour, non-believers), which happens when you have well rested beans. The colour is really slightly darker, but thanks to the Surefire Overkill, it appears so much lighter.

More of the Guinness pour. This is really looking good. From experience, this looks like 15 seconds into the pour. (Non-believers, this is espresso, no milk added.) On the right, that’s the hot water wand, which I always swing out of the way, to allow easy access to the brew lever. And that’s a Bodum Pavina 2.7 oz, by the way. And why is it kissing the naked portafilter? You will see….

Mmmmmm… The iPhone moves slightly lower to reveal the dark coffee starting to invade the voluminous crema. The tamping was not done well, because, at this point, I noticed that the funnel was not coming from the center, but rather to the right. Another smaller drop was forming to the left, but seemed to be drawing nearer to the main funnel. I could seem the righteous left(no pun intended) dark chocolatey drop forming, and was determined not to stop the flow until they reunite. This is hitting the 20 second mark. Come on, you slow drop!

OK. So, chocolate drop at left field went independent. It didn’t seem that left field was yielding anything more than a drop, and flow is starting to thin. Time to reach for the brew lever. It is now 25 seconds.

And it’s a fumble! Lights out. So, Surefire was needed afterall. Whoops. 28 seconds. Thank God I tamped really hard just now. Seems to be paying off.

So, now you know why Pavina was almost kissing the naked Verna Design portafilter. Have you seen a Verna up close? You have not seen a naked portafilter til you have a Verna. If I were Pavina, I would be kissing the Verna pf too. Remember what I said about the Macbook Air? The Verna portafilter is to all other naked portafilters what the MacBook Air is to all other generic laptops. More on this later in a separate post. OK, back to the main event. Note: colours are really darker than what it looks like here. Everyone? “SUREFIRE OVERKILL ! ! !”

This was taken approximately 10 seconds after the pour. Raised platform sponsored by’s excellent measured shot glass. However, I’ve not had the pleasure of measuring anything with it yet. The 2nd drink was not as good as the first. A slight thinning out as I was fumbling for the brew lever, and careful not to place the iPhone on anything hot.

Here’s another look at the crema laden pour, with espressoparts shot glass trying to edge itself nearer to bask in the limelight. “Hey, Mom! Hey, quit shoving!”

Slight channeling to the left, where the left ear is. It could be from the disengaging of the portafilter from the grouphead, right? But, I think not. Can’t blame anyone, darn! Eric’s Digital Thermometer (EDT), on the left, says hi. The reason you are able to see the colours through the Pavina is because I flushed the Anita with EDT, and heated the Pavina with the ensuing flush. Without the Pavina all heated up, the glass would be more hazed up than it is in the pictures above. The Bodum’s double walled insulation helped a lot here. And that’s why I’m not using the EP shot glass. Besides, the Verna Design pairs up wonderfully with the Pavina.

In summary, I would like to thank the following uhh.. tools that gave these 2 wonderful pours light of day. Quickmill for designing a beauty of a machine, the Anita; Eric Svendson for the digital thermometer to aid in my flushing attempts; Verna Design for making a beautifully crafted and cut portafilter; Bodum for artfully crafting a double walled insulated shot glass; for equally making a flat bottomed shot glass; Surefire for providing adequate flood light. Last but not least, thanks to the tutelage from the people at CoffeeGeek, Home-Barista, and CGSG, without whom I would not have the necessary skills to pull this off.

A small announcement to make. This blog post has taken too much of my time, and a lot feel that time should be better spent at the shop, so put 2 and 2 together, Anita and all the tools mentioned here will be making the exodus to the new place. Stay tuned either here or at my shop blog to figure out where we will all end up next. And if you are a CG, HB, or a CGSG, just mention your affiliations, and I’ll see to it you’ll have a nice welcome drink. More on this in another post. I’m late for work. See you soon. BIG SMILE.

An End to the Hail Mary Flush

I received the kit in the mail 6 days after Eric sent it. I’ve read the instructions several times over even before I received the kit, so I pretty much did a quick effortless installation. The instructions were well written, but for newbs who don’t know a bolt from a nut, it would be helpful if there are photos detailing the name of each part.

The really plus point is that Eric has a Quickmill Anita. So, the charts he has in his instructions are all Anita-friendly. Lucky me.

In his response to this blog entry, Eric stated that “the blue data points represent actual readings of a thermocouple inserted into the grouphead exactly where the digital thermometer is inserted.  The pink represent the Scace thermofilter readings.  A thermocouple and/or digital thermometer typically will always read higher than a Scace thermofilter because the water gets cooled further (by the grouphead) in the additional 1.25 to 1.50 inches it must travel.”

From left to right, the above chart shows the thermocouple reading of a flush til the end of a pour. The thermocouple’s reading is about 5ºF cooler than the actual brew temperature measured with a Scace thermofilter. The peak of the curve at approximately 218ºF shows the start of the flush, which continues until the thermocouple reads 185ºF when the flush is stopped. The upwards spike denotes the thermocouple reading the grouphead temperature instead of the water temperature during the flush. A good 100 seconds pass before 198ºF (marked Eric’s favourite) is reached, and the brew lever is turned on for the pour. The part that denotes the pour is magnified in the chart below:

The 100 seconds lull is more than enough time for me to go about my routine of DLTing my portafilter. I initially wrote that with Eric’s device, I tend to flush more water than I normally would without his device. But then again, without Eric’s device, it was a Hail Mary flush each time, not knowing at what temperature to stop flushing, with me just watching the water dance to gauge.

Eric added that “the chart ALSO represents MY methodology for pulling a shot.  Needless to say, there are a number of ways to execute a shot and every individual would have their own “little” variations.  It is correct to say that this methodology uses up more water but it is not correct to say that the installation of the digital thermometer (in and by itself) uses up more water.  As you can read (and feel free to copy verbatim into your blog) in the adaptor tidbits document, I dose directly into the basket while the PF is in the machine.
It would also be easy to FULLY PREPARE the basket, flush to, say 200, and immediately pull the shot.  You would be flushing less BUT I believe the consistency of the shots would suffer –  I could be wrong.  The temperature dynamics of our espresso machines (all prosumer machines) are very complex.”

While I need to brush up on my routine, I’ll have to note that with the help of Eric’s Digital Thermometer Kit, my pours have improved a lot. At the very least, I KNOW when to end my flush and begin my pour. That’s ending another uncertain variable in the journey towards making a goodshot. This mod is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for E-61 machine owners who don’t know when to stop.

Modding the Grinders

You know you’re a Coffee Geek when …

You think of performing mods to your coffee grinder that you just laid your hands on.

Which was what I, with KS’s help, did this morning. We modded both the new grinder on the block, the Compak K6 and the Gaggia MDF. We performed the Sweep mod on the K6 and removed the finger guard on the MDF. I first read about the sweep mod from Teme’s blog, Espresso Passione when he modded his Compak K10 grinder.
K6 Sweep Mod

The Sweep mod is easily reversible. Disassembling the K6’s dosing chamber also gave it a much needed cleaning. The fabric tape was IMO too thick, I should’ve bought electrical tape instead. I also left out the dosing sector when I reassembled the doser to facilitate easy clean-ups.

The difference was huge. I will post pictures soon. The dosing chamber of the K6 is divided into 6 sectors. By the 6th pull of the doser, the chamber was almost clean of grounds, only leaving behind grounds stuck to the top of the dosing star knob, which can be easily amended by the “inverted cup mod“. 

Gaggia MDF Finger Guard removal

This mod was entirely performed by KS, as I was busy with the taping, and had no prior experience disassembling the MDF. The 2 rubber caps covering the screws on the hopper were first removed. Then, the rest was basically working on slicing off the finger guard with a soldering iron. And then, the edges were smoothed with a file, and the MDF is reassembled.

(Unfortunately, we were busy modding the grinders, so no pictures were taken.)

The finger guard removal is just the first phase.

The next mod project will be the inverted cup mod on the K6 and the Sweep mod on the MDF.

Eric Svendson’s Digital Thermometer Adapter for E-61 Groupheads

This is a must-have mod if you have an exposed E-61 grouphead on your mid to low-end espresso machine. High-end machines would normally have PIDs to measure and control the brew water temperature

This device is “to facilitate the measurement of brew water temperature about 1.25″ away from the puck during a real brew cycle.” In an email, Eric also added that “while it is true that the devices (either thermocouple or digital thermometer) measure the temperature of the brew water 1.25” upstream of the puck, an EQUALLY important function is to provide the user with a “number” that is VERY REPRESENTATIVE of grouphead temperature.” This thermocouple adapter replaces the allen head screw on your exposed E-61 grouphead.  A shortened digital thermometer (also available from Eric) is then inserted into this adapter. While a thermocouple and temperature meter combo would be more accurate and gives faster readings, the digital thermometer kit is a better option if you (like me)

    a)  have limited workspace, and don’t wish to have wires in a mess

    b)  are not too handy with electronics
    c)  want a simple digital display you can read the temperature from

Full details of this device are found here

To place an order, download this word document, Pricing_Inventory_ordering.doc

Discussion and reviews on Eric’s Thermocouple Adapter can be found here on Or do a search on “eric thermocouple”.

The digital thermometer kit with a stainless steel adapter can be had for under S$100 if you buy now when the US$ is at an all-time low against the S$ (US$1:S$1.499). Incidentally, the adapter heading my way in a month’s time will be Eric’s first sale to Singapore.