“By eliminating variables, such as uneven tamping, which could potentially influence the consistency of every shot, we are confident that the barista will now be able to take better advantage of the pressure profiling characteristics that are available on the Strada EP,” said Mary Diamond, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for La Marzocco Srl.
“We are pleased to collaborate with La Marzocco, and have our Calibrated Tamper recognized as the tool of choice for one the best espresso machines in cafes around the world” says ESPRO® President, Bruce Constantine.
The Strada EP is a top-of-the-line espresso machine designed for and by baristas to give them more control and the analytical tools to profile the finest coffees. When released in 2011, it was hailed as a major technological advancement and the start of a new generation of espresso machine. The Strada allows the barista, for the first time, to have absolute and direct control of pressure at any point during extraction. The Electronic Paddles (EP) control gear pumps, which provide precise and progressive pressure control during the extraction, so baristas can manipulate how many bars of pressure are used and for how long. Called “pressure profiling,” this feature allows you to discover and enjoy hundreds of different nuances in espresso extraction and identify the perfect “profiles” for particular coffees.
My regular readers will remember my excitement over the Espro Press which was one of the featured items in my review of the 2010 Atlanta SCAA Exhibition here on "Espresso! My Espresso!" The Espro Pressis finally ready, and late last week I received one to review. I could make this a short review by just stating, "Get one and toss out your press pot!" But, for the sake of my ego, let's continue...
The "French Press" or coffee press pot has been around for some time. You could Goggle the history of these devices and find out that they were introduced in the late 1800's. Looking at the exterior of the Espro press you might think that it is just a pretty press pot.... But the history of the French Press is now their one redeeming feature because with the introduction of the Espro Press, the "old-style" press has been made obsolete. Let's take a look at what makes the Espro press special.
We start with the 16 ounce (0.5 l) stainless steel vessel. It will make less than that as you need to leave a bit of room to insert the filter as well as the displacement of the grounds. The vessel is double-walled and vacuum insulated so that it holds in the heat (and the outside stays cool!). Pre-heating it by filling it with hot water assists in temperature control during extraction. The construction shows a hint of a seam inside. The inner wall curves as it meets the bottom so there are no hard-to-clean "corners" to hold coffee residue. The top lip where the inner and outer walls "join" is smooth and clean, without a hint of burr, sharpness, or seam. The heavy, stainless steel handle is brazed on. The "pot" could serve as a weapon to defend your coffee; it has mass and a very sturdy feel.
While the pot itself is an improvement over glass beakers, the crown jewel in the Espro Press is in the filter system. While most press pots have a single-layer screen, the Espro Press uses a proprietary filter basket.
The entire filter assembly comes apart easily.
The filter is comprised of a two-step filter system. You might think that the coffee goes into the basket, but that is not at all the case. Coffee goes into the vessel just as it would in a standard press, and then you add the water. The brewed coffee first goes through the "basket" portion of the filter, then through the top "cover" of the filter.
All of this is well designed and manufactured. The two portions of the filter are sealed together with an O-ring (indicated by the "1" in the image), the the entire assembly seals itself on the inner walls of the vessel with a double-lipped silicone seal ("2").
Espro spent a lot of time experimenting with the correct meshes for the screen. Yes, meshes. The basket's screen is more coarse than the screen on the top filter. The basket "pre-filters" the coffee. The liquid coffee then is forced through the top lid which removes the remaining fines. Espro states that the top filter is so fine that once the coffee beverage is pressed and separated from the coffee grounds, no further extraction is allowed.
Here's how it works
The coffee and water (1) are in the vessel. The filter is inserted.
The silicone seal on the filter (3) insures that all the coffee is first filtered through the basket (2).
As you press down, the liquid is forced through the first filter screen, leaving behind the greatest percentage of the grounds. Indeed, at this point it is already cleaner than regular press coffee.
The liquid now passes through the interior of the basket, then exits the top of the filter (4) leaving behind nearly all the fines.
So, it's a coffee press, and it's different from a French press. "Big deal," you say? When you sip the coffee you will notice the difference is, indeed, a big deal.
To test the Espro Press I roasted a blend of 75% Brazil 25% Ethiopian. I let it rest nearly four hours (ya.. I know, but it is fun to still get excited over simple things). As you can imagine, it bloomed a lot - it looked like the La Brea Tar Pits at first. But even with virtually no rest this coffee made for a delicious cup. While there was some micro-sediment in the cup, it was very fine and only perceptible on the palate because I was looking for it.
The wonderful tastes comes first from the fact that the there are no paper filters as are found on other devices, you get the wonderful, lingering mouth-feel from the oils and other coffee components that paper tends to remove. The Espro Press produces the rich, full flavor that has made the press pot a favorite of so many people. But unlike press pots, the filter system of the Espro press eliminates nearly all the sediment that adds so much bitterness to the taste of press pot coffee. Anyone who has ever made the mistake of taking the last sip of a cup of press pot coffee knows what I am talking about.
TIP: Because of the design of the press there is some room left around the filter assembly even when the plunger is fully depressed. This "void" leaves some liquid coffee at the bottom of the vessel. The coffee the Espro press makes is too good to waste, so I came up with this method to get the last drops out: Pour as much coffee out as will flow normally. When the pour slows to a dribble, and with the press still in the "pouring" position, hold the lid in place and pull the plunger out a few inches, then push it back in. Air is drawn into the press below the filter, and when you depress the plunger the air will be pumped out which pushes nearly all the remaining liquid through the filter and into your cup. The lid will be quite warm, so use care or a towel to hold the lid in place.
The only negatives which come to mind:
- Because of the design of the filter, there can be a bit of coffee left in the bottom of the press after pouring. An easy way to extract the last few drops is this: After the pour seems complete, and while still holding the press over your cup in the pour position, pull the plunger about half way out, then push it back in. The filter will act as a pump and the air will push most of the rest of the liquid coffee into your cup while the excellent filter keeps the grounds in the press.
- Clean up is about the same as a traditional press. You can drain the last of the liquid out in the sink by placing the Espro Press upside down so that dumping the grounds does not create a splattering mess. If the Espro press falls over in the sink, you only need to worry about the sink. The Espro Press is stout.
- The volume of the Espro Press means you get about one full cup (mug) of coffee, and when you start drinking it you will wish there was more. With any luck we will see a larger size in the future. Maybe a drip-style maker built around their research into this device [see NEWS below].
ADDENDUM: After a couple of weeks use the only problems which have arisen:
- I wish it made two cups at a time.
- Use care not to use too much water that would cause the coffee to float too high in the vessel. The upper area inside flares out (widens) and it is easy to get coffee grounds above the filter, and they wind up in the cup when you pour.
This one is easy - the Espro Press has become my favorite in-home brewing method for a "traditional" cup of coffee.
Check the Espro website for a list of retailers.
12/10/2013 - UPDATE: The Espro Press is now available in three sizes:
SMALL- makes 8-oz (1 US cup, 2 EU cups)
MEDIUM- makes 18-oz (1.5-2 US cups, 3-4 EU cups)
LARGE- makes 30-oz (3-4 US cups, 6-8 EU cups)