Sunday, November 05, 2006

the vibiemme: pump mystery & backflushing

those coming to read bccy for the first time these last few days would be no doubt mystified by what would seem to them as a complete machine focus -- a concentration on learning to use the new vibiemme domobar super electronic (a.k.a. caesar) and on writing applescript for my macbook pro, which seems to this old flash hand so much like the fabled actionscript.

so let me hasten to assure you all that i am in fact still making pizza from scratch, chowing down on my cafe-tasse 77% dark chocolate, doing sun salutations at home around the pizza schedule, and reading the scholarly doctrine of vibration, a philosophical yoga tome filled with exciting sentences so reminiscent of heideigger: "the inner is the domain of pure Being, where the Subject's power of Knowledge [jnanasakti] operates within the Self, while the outer is the domain of the Subject's power of Action [kriyasakti]."

after a few pages of that, is it any wonder that backflushing caesar seems likes a relief?

actually, it sort of matches the philosophy on vibiemme's wepage: "the discretion of a moment requires the total lightness of a non-protaginist actor, as well as the scenary capacity of componing the wider difference in the energy of the particular. simplicity, linearity, monochromy: this is the horizon where the break becomes the opportunity to 'stop to do something,' opening a passage to the possibility of 'being somebody'. . ."

i'm not mocking vibiemme here: i understand they are trying to describe in modern academic terms how the social ritual of coffee allows people to construct a public identity in a safe space. they are talking about how coffeehouse culture is important in the creation of an individual's sense of self and how those selves find space to forge a community.

it's this unique capacity of the coffee ritual that explains why coffeehouses and coffee culture have been such historically important agents of social change. but i digress. . .

aside from the arduous dialing-in process, which entails pulling many shots and so goes through coffee and water like mad, i'm estimating that caesar takes about a gallon of distilled water a week. that gives you 3 cappuccini a day.

please note that because i'm in nyc, with my famous water, i can get away with using the 80/20 mix of distilled and tap. part of owning a quality heat-exchanger espresso machine like caesar is spending a few minutes checking out your local water situation and devising a strategy for it.

another part of moving up to a machine like caesar is backflushing -- that is, cleaning the grouphead and valve. some people who own a silvia do backflush her, even tho' her boiler seals aren?t really made for it.

i've never done it, myself, tho' i was always careful to use cleancaf every month.

and of course the carlos expobar's killer feature was his auto-backflush. to my mind, that should be standard on all machines of that class and above.

i think caesar should have this, frankly. because aged, rancid, burnt-on coffee oils at the grouphead will ruin your shots.

since vibiemme has taken all this effort to make caesar programmable, there's no reason in my mind not to automate this important care component too. that would encourage people to do it regularly, which will result in a better coffee experience for the buyer and contribute to proper maintenance of the machine.

caesar comes with a blind filter basket, so my husband deftly used the church key to pry out the single basket from one of caesar's 3 portafilters, and i popped in the blind filter. it?s called "blind" because it has no holes.

here's where last summer's care package from long-time bccy pal terry z. at espresso parts came in so handy. long-time readers will recall those kind folks sent a pallo grouphead brush and some joeglo backflush detergent.

the grouphead brush, which looks like a giant mutant toothbrush, has a little scoop on one end for measuring out your backflush detergent. so all you have to do is drop a scoop of joeglo into the blind portafilter.

then you fit the portafilter on the machine and press caesar's manual pour button for 3 seconds. then release. do this 5 times.

each time you release, you'll notice a spurt of sudsy ugly-dirty-dishwater-looking stuff fall into the drip tray from the column under caesar's grouphead. that's good! because otherwise that nastiness is in your cup.

after your 5th time, remove the blind portafilter and look at it. woog. don't be surprised at the brownish mix of sludge and dishwater you see there.

now mix up some more joeglo in a pitcher of water, dip the grouphead brush in it, and scrub away. scrub the dispersion screen, the gasket, all around.

then press the manual pour button for 5 seconds to let water run freely out the group to help rinse.

clean out the blind portafilter and reattach it to caesar. now backflush with plain water to rinse -- try 5 3-second bursts again.

remove the blind portafilter. using either the rinsed grouphead brush or -- with care -- a wet towel, wipe the gasket all around and the dispersion screen to make sure all the soap is gone.

now switch back to a regular portafilter basket and pull a normal shot. you?re done.

this entire process doesn?t take but 5 minutes, honestly. but i?m fabulously lazy, so my thinking is: why should i do this at all when i know perfectly well caesar can be programmed by the factory to do it himself?

and yes, this is a hint to the nice italians at vibiemme for future models. to my mind this is far more important than the nitpicks other reviewers have made about the kind of rubber on the feet. . .

anyway, after having had the vibiemme for about a week now, i really have to comment on the mystery of the pump gauge. i've noticed that every time the heating lamp next to caesar's "left eye" boiler pressure gauge goes on -- that is, whenever caesar turns on his heating element to maintain his brewing temperature -- the pump gauge instantly falls by 1.5 bar.

why? this remains something about caesar i don't fundamentally understand. . .still researching this. . .

i also have to get more distilled water today and on monday order more dancing goat from jessica, since i spent so much on the dial-in. luckily i have the gillies to drink thru the week!

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posted by fortune | 8:54 AM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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