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Geeking out on home espresso machines so you can keep it special

by Dom Majdandzic 27 Apr 2016

Breville Basket Challenge Part 1

It’s a pleasure to see so many people enjoying, preparing and serving White Horse Coffee for their family and friends at home. Sometimes keen observers come back to us with questions on how best to use our coffee at home, so we've been geeking out and brewing countless cups to help you, the 'home barista', to get more out of your home espresso setup and the way you like to brew! By the way, it there is anything you would like us to look at please let us know here. Over the next little while we will be running some tests on the standard baskets provided by Breville in their espresso machines, brewed with White Horse Coffee. In this first test we have used the Breville Barista machine and grinder setup, grinding beans fresh for each shot, and testing the two different baskets available for this machine. We compared the double basket (21 grams) with the single basket (14 grams), as well as the double wall variants of each basket.

Breville espresso at home 2
Breville espresso at home 3

Future testing will include

  • Using a refractometer to test the extraction of all these baskets.

A refractometer is a tool which refracts light through brewed coffee whereby giving us an unbiased and objective appraisal of how well a coffee is brewed, the light passes through the coffee and picks up the amount of particulate that is suspended in the sample, we call this the TDS or total dissolved solids. Yeah totally geeky we know but, this is how we keep it special.

  • Using pre-ground coffee and seeing what results can be obtained. Unfortunately not everyone has a grinder, however I think it is still possible to get great results at home with your White Horse Coffee if you choose to pre-grind.

Our first test

To do this test we weighed the amount of coffee grounds we put into the basket, aiming for a 23 gram dose. Contrary to what manufacturers say, the specified capacity of a basket is not the amount the basket can take, and often the coffee will taste better after fiddling around with the dose. Generally, the best results are achieved by adding an average of 2 grams more than the stated basket capacity, in this case 23 grams into a 21 gram basket. We then weighed the liquid espresso resulting from each shot, and measured the time it took to reach the volume we had preset. Here is the raw data from this test.
  • In = the weight in grams of ground coffee in the basket
  • Out = the weight in grams of the espresso shot
  • Time = how long it took the shot to extract into the cup
  • Grind = the size setting on the Breville grinder

Single wall 21g basket

23 52 26 12
23 50 30 12
23 50 29 12
23 52 27 12

Once we were happy with the way the coffee was tasting with the single wall basket, we moved on to the double wall basket in the same size.

Double wall 21g basket

23 44 52 12
23 38 52 12
23 43 55 12
23 40 54 12

Here you can see that the trend is a much longer brew time, as the double wall basket really slows down the extraction, and some of the espresso is trapped in between the walls of the basket. Hence if you are using a double wall basket you may need to lengthen your preset (shot time) in order to get your desired volume. On the other hand, these baskets may be particularly useful if you pre-grind your coffee, or if you can’t get the coffee to extract slow enough.

Single wall 14g basket

14 25 35 12
12 27 23 12
13 24 28 12
13 24 28 12

I’m going to say something that will probably cause me to be the laughing stock of the coffee industry, but I got a really good feeling about these baskets, and the preliminary test results were excellent, from my perspective. The coffee felt right being dosed at 13g into these baskets and the coffee seemed to brew well. I will do further testing here, using a refractometer, but I was very happy with these baskets. If I had this machine at home I’d consider using this basket for brewing my own coffee.

Double wall 14g basket

13 26 20 12
13 26 33 12
13 26 30 12
13 26 32 12

Now, this was interesting, and probably demonstrates why baristas don’t like these single wall baskets. The tapered design of the 14 gram basket compared with the straight wall design of the 21g basket seems to cause channeling, where water forges a single path through the coffee rather than spreading evenly through the coffee cake. Water follows the path of least resistance and hence it seems that because of this basket design the double wall variant makes little to no difference to shot time, as opposed to the larger basket where it almost doubled.

Breville espresso at home 6

Here's the rub ...

I had a great time geeking out with the breville, it brews awesome coffee, and I would happily recommend it to customers. I will be testing further, but I personally can say that the 21g single wall made nice coffee, the 21g double wall could be useful to some users, the single wall 14g basket was a real surprise and brewed nice coffee, and the double wall 14g basket didn’t seem useful at all. But stay tuned, we are going to give the double wall 14g basket another few tests. If you have any comments, please reach out to us and make a comment below. Domtron

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