When the robot on Lost In Space issued his classic warning to Will Robinson, you knew something bad was about to happen. His verbal signal of pending danger demanded immediate action to avoid catastrophic consequences. When your household smoke alarm begins to shriek in the middle of the night, you better jump out of bed & investigate immediately. When the same smoke alarm sounds while preparing a skillet full of sausages in the kitchen, however, you run over to it & fan it with a towel or plate to clear the unit’s sensor of the offending smoke. To me, it means that the smoke alarm is functioning (a nice thing to know) and that dinner will be on the table soon (also a nice thing to know)!
This evening, my smoke alarm went off while cooking, so the device was sufficiently fanned & dinner’s prep was completed. This smoke alarm sounds 3 A-flats in a row, high, shrill & repeated until the smoke is cleared. My son Peter has perfect pitch, and immediately mentally recorded the tone & pitch of the alarm. Once the smoke was cleared, the alarm kept going off – from the couch, the kitchen, the staircase. It was Peter, singing his newly learned song (all evening)!
It could be worse – I could have a hip-hop smoke alarm installed.
I frequently follow all types of espresso equipment on eBay. On occasion, I will place a bid – one that is laughably low. On very rare occasions, these items receive only a few bids, but my low bids are routinely left at the starting gate. About 2 years ago, I (somehow) won a Cunill “Full Metal” espresso grinder as the lone, low bidder, and lightening struck again recently.
I bid on a Bunn ES-1A Espresso machine. I was not the lone bidder, but I WAS the winning bidder. The ES-1A is no longer made. It carries a Bunn badge, but is actually a Gaggia Espagnol (a.k.a. Futurmat) espresso machine. It sports a single E-61 group with electronic dosing, heat exchanger, 4 liter boiler, 110 volts, and a rotary pump. Water & drain plumbing is required. Wow! This thing is REAL!
I had never touched an HX machine before, and have absolutely no experience in repairing or troubleshooting one. It was perhaps a foolish thing to bid/win this device, but I honestly never expected to win it, and knew that it could simply be too broken or too complicated for me to bring to life in my kitchen. I gambled, and brought a 90 lb. box into my home the next week.
While contemplating bidding, I researched the machine online extensively. One name came up continually – Robert Harmon. Mr. Harmon lives in Texas, and has this exact espresso machine in his home. He bought his on eBay a year prior, and documented his process & progress online. I contacted him via email to see if he would be willing to advise me in my journey, and he was not only willing – he was enthusiastic. We emailed digital photos back and forth, annotated with arrows & circles – all to educate me on my new machine. He is knowledgeable & patient, and has been simply wonderful in his mentoring. I did not know the difference between a thermostat and a pressurestat last month. I do now. I had never used a multimeter before. Mr. Harmon walked me through each process patiently. Thanks to Robert (“Tex” on coffeegeek.com forums), the Bunn ES-1A is running beautifully in my kitchen, and simply makes the best espresso I have ever had, be it from a Seattle, Paris or Florence café.
The machine did not function when I first unpacked it. Once I was able to get the pump to move water through the system, I was unable to get the boiler to “light”. I bought my first digital multimeter, made jumper cords, and successfully isolated the problem thermostat. Valves were soaked & scrubbed, and parts that didn’t mate properly due to corrosion & crud were polished to seat properly. I replaced the group gasket (stone-hard) and will still need to replace the anti-siphon valve, which intermittently still quietly hisses as a minute amount of vapor escapes. The machine is not yet plumbed to water mains or drainage, but is pulling temporarily from a 3 gallon water bottle & drains to my kitchen sink.
This is simply an amazing machine. It is not so large that it will take over a kitchen, but rather seems quite understated in its appearance. It does not look like today’s prosumer gleaming stainless machines, nor does it look like an intimidating full-size café machine. With very good direction (you’re the best, Tex!), I was able to work on this machine myself. It simply makes great espresso & froths milk like a champ.
In this rare photo, George Gershwin sits at the piano while legendary oboists Bruno Labate & Engelbert Brenner (with pipe) observe the conductor/soloist collaboration. Any help in identifying other musicians in this photo would be greatly appreciated!
On July 4th, 2006, I started this blog – oboerista. 72 posts, and more than 11,000 visits later, oboerista is still alive and kicking. Thanks to you – the accidental, the casual and the avid readers. My journey through my musical career, parenting and all-things-coffee continue, and I plan on keeping oboerista going as a way to chronicle my journeys, keep you all close, and – well – it’s cheaper than therapy for me!