Warning: this entry has nothing to do with code.
As I blogged earlier (I think!) I have a rather nice espresso machine at home. You can pick one up for yourself at Whole Latte Love (that pun makes my dear friend wince :-) ) but it's a bit big (and expensive) to have one at work as well, so I took advantage of this really cool offer from illy to get a Francis Francis! X5 machine for only $175. (The catch: you have to buy a year's worth of coffee to go with it).
Anyway, the machine itself can use both normal ground coffee and ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods. I've always used ground coffee in the past (the pods are waaaaaaaaay too expensive), but the machine came with a free tin of illy ESE pods so I figured "what the heck -- I'll try them out."
I must say that the pods are very clean and easy to use -- no grinding, no tamping, no mess to clean up afterwards. But boy are they expensive, and I wasted a bunch of money just getting the things to work. Here are a few tips for newcomers to ESE pods, but first the price factor:
Each shot of espresso is supposed to take 7 grams (0.24 ounces) of coffee. You can buy 10 x 4.4 oz cans of illy for $100, which works out at 100 / 10 / (4.4 / 0.24) = $0.55 per shot. At two shots per cup, that's $1.10 a pop. Still cheaper than ordering a double-tall from Starbucks, but let's look at the ground coffee price: You can get 6 x 8.8 oz cans for $66, which works out at 66 / 11 / (8.8 / 0.24) = $0.16 per shot or $0.32 per double. Sure, the time I spend fiddling with real coffee is probably worth far more than the 78 cent saving, but I actually think making coffee is therapeutic and makes a nice break from doing work.
OK, so I unpack my machine (in the lovely baby blue finish!) and find the ESE holder. It's kinda weird-looking, but whatever. I look in the manual and it says to just put the pods in the holder and go for it, making sure the printed side is facing down; the illy can has diagrams that indicate the same thing. Now usually with ground coffee you have a filter in the holder with tiny holes that stop the water just flowing out, but I figure that the whole "printed side down" must have something to do with the magic inside the pod to make it work. So I slap in a pod, hit the "hit me!" button, and watch in horror as dirty brown water pours into my cup; it looks more like tea than coffee. There goes 55 cents.
So I look at the instructions again; nothing there. I look in the box and see there are 5 filters. Two of them are obviously for ground coffee (single- and double-shot), but there are three that look like they might be for the ESE holder. They all look identical, so I pick one at random (assuming the others are "backups") and try again with another couple of pods (I WANT MY COFFEE!). Hmmm, a bit better, but still too watery and it doesn't taste too good. Another $1.10 down the drain.
Finally I find this other bit of paper stuck in the box that tells me there are three different filters shipped with the ESE system -- fine, medium, and coarse. And of course, just my luck, I happened to randomly pick the coarsest one for my test. Grrrr. Later in the day I tried it with the finest filter (another $1.10), but it still doesn't taste as good as real ground coffee. Maybe my Expobar has been spoiling me and the X5 just can't compete; we'll see. I'm going to grind some coffee at home and take it in to work tomorrow to see how the X5 fares the "old fashioned" (and messy) way.