Elixir on its way! Feb 2004

Go to Steaming to Perfection (new Oct 2002)

I never ever thought I would spend this much time in the kitchen, hanging over a cup of coffee, and some people think I'm going over the edge. Am I? You be the judge.

We always enjoyed the espresso we drank so much of in Spain, and in October 2001, we finally decided to give ourselves a serious Christmas gift. From motorcycle adventurers to this, I'm sure some of our (former?) readers will be disappointed. If so, I invite you home to taste the result from the machine below. Hold your judgement.:-)




The Rancilio Rocky coffee grinder to the left, the Rancilio Silvia espresso machine to the right, both resting on a base which includes a knock box for knocking out the coffee puck.

The Reg Barber tamper in the front makes packing the coffee a fun game, while the thermometer in the milk jar stops me from burning the milk.

The whole setup rests on a bureau with its drawers almost exclusively used for coffee stuff.




Now for the shot. I used Crescendo beans from Mocca Kaffebrenneri in Oslo, roasted five days before this shot, and ground not too fine.

The basket was filled to the limit and levelled out with the finger, then tamped with about 15-20kg pressure.

This is about 7-8 second into the shot. It's not 100% perfect, as the left side poors slightly thicker than the right.

A few seconds later, it's pure honey.

The crema is awesome, about 20-25 seconds into the shot.

Around 30 seconds, the brew process just stopped.

After sitting for half a minute, the Guinness effect stopped. Another half minute later the crema layer was reduced to almost half of what you see.

Since my early latte art was rather unsuccessful, I've added a shot from a later example, done in November 2002.

The taste of this cup was fantastic!


Morning coffee at Dante Espressobar(our kitchen), Porsgrunn, Norway

The shot was above average for me, but (probably) not a God Shot, and I skipped the temperature control technique discussed on It proves the capability of the Silvia and Rocky, and the Crescendo coffee (I get the same result from the Ottolina Fortissima, which also tastes similar). Also, since I'm a beginner with only a few months of practice, in my humble opinion it proves that making good espresso is not art, but rather craftmanship. The art lies in the presentation, I guess, and I'm absolutely no good in that regard. It's not really important to me either.

If what you've seen ignites a dormant interest, follow the links below for more, and better, information about making espresso and choosing the right equipment: - An excellent place to begin. Both short and in depth information about the espresso history, process, techniques, and equipment.

Espresso! My espresso - An ongoing series of articles from an afficcionado

Schomer's articles - A guru in espresso shares his wisdom

Temperato - Norwegian dealer of high quality espresso machines and the excellent Ottolina Coffee

Newsgroups to visit are, and for Norwegians no.alt.mat.drikke

When scanning through the pages above, you'll get lost from time to time in all the information available and in all the different, and sometimes contradictory, theories and practises that are discussed. You'll probably believe at some point that it's too difficult to make good espresso. Don't loose faith and remember that the process is not an art, it's a craft you can learn within months. I mean, I did - although I have a long way to go!


Porsgrunn, 28th January 2002

A year later, more or less

We've stuck to the Ottolina coffee from Temperato, which has proven to be excellent, and every batch is equally good in quality. From time to time we've used the Malabar as well, but unfortunately the age of the beans vary a lot. If the bean is oily it's old, don't buy it, is a lesson learned.

Steaming to perfection

Learning to make Latte Art takes patience, and after one year with the Silvia, I'm still no maestro. Not surprising though, with all the parameters in the process, you can spend years perfecting your skills. But it's fun and I'm improving. I also learned a technice which helps me steam the milk for two cortados (2,5-3 dl) with success almost every time;
Use cold milk straight from the fridge.
After you've switched on the steam button(right after you pulled the shot), let it heat up all the way until the thermostat turns off the heater (about 1,5 to 2 minutes - with practise you will get a feeling for how to start steaming just before it turns off and hence keep even high pressure throughout - but this is in my opinion not as essential as some claim). Immediately empty the wand for water, stick it shallow into the milk (but deep enough to avoid too much air being sucked in with large bubbles as a result) and open the valve almost all the way. After 10-20 seconds open it up all the way and stick the wand deeper. Keep the wand away from the mug to avoid burning the milk and keep it in an angle so that the milk rotates nicely. The steamer will microfroth your milk in no time, well before the pressure sinks to where the heater is turned on again. The latter will happen around 60ºC. Stop steaming when the temp is around 65-70ºC.


An early morning cortado. You cannot have a better start....

Steaming bigger volumes

If you need to steam more milk than the above example, you should try to get going just before the thermostat turns off the heater. This way the heater will stay on and keep the pressure high throughout the steam process. The reason I choose to let it turn off when steaming for cortados, is because then I know exactly how much pressure is on, and that it's sufficient for the amount of milk. The time for the pressure to build vary slightly, which makes it a bit more of a gamble if you try to start steaming before the heater has turned off. Since I started to let it turn off, the success factor has gone up to near 100%.

Porsgrunn Oktober 2002




© All photos and text on this site is the property of Bente Bråthen and Dag Jenssen. Contact us if interested in publishing or reusing material from us.
URL Main page: Comments, suggestions or problems with the site, contact
mail at