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Getting the most from the PrimaDonna 6600.
on 2 January 2012
I've had one of these machines for 4 years and have a good knowledge of them... here's how to get the best from it:
1) Selecting 'Double, long Coffee' does not necessarily give a 'double-strength' coffee.
Coffee strength is dictated by a number of factors but the 'Coffee buttons' of which 'Double, Long Coffee' is one, only affect the strength in terms of how much water they're custom programmed (by the user) to deliver.
To explain that a bit better... the 'coffee buttons' ranging from Single to Double, Espresso or Long are programmable in that you can change how much water they deliver to suit taste &/ or the cups you use.
On this point there is an issue which, good as the machines are, is not addressed by DeLonghi and one which almost certainly accounts for some opinions that the coffee delivered falls a little short of a Barista's... I shall explain...
When the user presses the 'Double Long' button the machine grinds the coffee, compresses it and passes water through the patte at 15bar and around 93 degrees centigrade. The amount of water passing through here is dictated by the user's custom preference -not DeLonghi... therein lies the problem and one must understand coffee to know why that's a problem...
This is an espresso machine and all drinks it delivers are based on espresso either straight-up or diluted with water (Americano) or milk (Latte etc).
A perfect Espresso is delivered in or around as follows:
1) Grind (Perfect grinding is essential -fine for a rich crema)
2) Tamping (Compressing of the ground coffee into a little patte)
3) Water pressure (15 bar)
4) Water Temp (93 Degrees C)
5) Duration of extraction (How long the water runs for - about 21 seconds)
One could argue a bar here, a degree there or a slightly longer or shorter extraction but we're in the ball park at those listed above.
It doesn't matter whether your having a single, double or quadruple the same goes... You cannot just double the amount of water... if you do that you extract features of the coffee that give undesirable taste such as bitterness etc.
When I say that DeLonghi have not addressed this I mean that they have not installed what's known in the coffee machine trade as a bypass... that's a feature on commercial machines where the extraction takes place as I've described, then stops... Depending on whether you want a 'Long Coffee' a separate water filler spout delivers fresh hot water, bypassing the coffee patte.
You can still avoid this downside on this machine... but for a long coffee it means having your trusty old kettle and prepare water (just off boiling-93Degrees C) to 'top-up' your espresso shot to form a 'Long Coffee'. Doing it this way you'll notice a huge improvement in taste and into Barista territory!
Finally on this, notice how they make a coffee in Starbucks next time you're there... same thing, they take an espresso 'shot' from the machine and dump it into your cup adding water or milk as per your request... they don't fill your cup with water through the patte for a minute or more just to get volume -the coffee would taste awful...
2) Adjusting coffee strength
Now that I've addressed the misunderstanding on the buttons and water quantity and dilution -here's how one adjusts coffee strength on the Prima Donna:
A) Cycle the 'Coffee Strength' button from extra-mild through to extra-strong
These are factory set running times for the coffee grinder which simply affect the amount of coffee that ends up in the internal 'Group head' in the machine through which the water will flow. More coffee = Stronger flavour.
B) Empty the coffee grinder, allowing it to run until it starts to speed up due to lack of beans. Then, either cancel the extraction by tapping the coffee button or let it run.
C) Add your favourite bean to the hopper
D) With the hopper door open, notice the little black lever to the left above the coffee beans... This adjusts how finely the grinder mills the coffee. The finer the coffee, the greater the surface area of each granule and the more flavour the water can leach out in that precious 21seconds!
E) DO NOT MOVE THE LEVER YET: Pay attention to the direction of travel that the lever moves in -finer grind -push towards rear of machine. Coarse grind, pull towards front of machine
F) Select Extra-strong coffee via coffee strength button
G) Press one of the coffee buttons
H) As the grinder starts, now move the lever slowly. I recommend going finer -so move lever towards rear of machine. Go back one step at a time.
I) Notice the flow & consistency of espresso from machine -is it smooth -flowing not too fast not too slow, creamy and golden? The colour should be just lightening by the time the extraction completes -you've got the best from your coffee and leaving the worst behind! (That's in and around 21 seconds of the main flow of coffee -not since the grinder started running or the pre-extraction) Adjust flow time as described in user manual.
J) That's pretty much it, play around with that setting -I cannot tell you what's best as it depends on the bean you're using and how you like your coffee... An 'oily' coffee is sticky and a tight (fine) grind will make the patte too thick and you'll get no flow or a drippy one... I use 'Zombie' coffee beans from 'Java Republic' -it's a strong coffee but is not oily so my machine runs at the tightest level.
Finally, use that kettle of water to pre-heat the cup... run the machine... dump the warming water, put in fresh hot water and place the cup under the coffee nozzles adjusting the height so the nozzles are as close to the cup as possible -this prevents 'splashing' and the preservation of that lovely crema!
P.s -if you have any questions, post a reply and I'll answer...
I've been asked whether the water spout makes up for the need for a kettle:
Fast answer is No... here's why:
It does indeed have such a water facility... That connector is also used to generate hot and/or frothy milk using the supplied milk-jug accessory, as you may well know. It is ideal for milk as you don't want to 'boil' milk for milk-based coffees.
'Professional' machines come with two water tanks. One is for coffee extraction @ 93 Degrees C and the other is up to boiling, solely for water & steam production.
The PrimaDonna has no hot water tanks at all!
I've previously explained that incorrrect water temp spoils the flavour of the espresso shot.
Cheaper machines use a single tank. Problem is, when you take your initial shot from this tank at 93C and get the pefect 'espresso', then hit the steam/water button, the machine has to heat up to 100 to give you steam/water. This takes a little bit but, in fairness, you do get your frothy milk or americano. There's a downside though, if you need a second coffee immediately (as you often will for householders or guests), your water temp is now at 100 and that'll kill your next espresso... you'd have to wait for it to cool again!
So, DeLonghi addressed the need for two 'water tanks' by using a "Dual Thermoblock" design. This is not unlike the common instant electric shower: Cold water in -instantly heated to required temp by passing it across a super-heated element. It saves on space and electricity as you only heat what you use. There's even a seperate element for the hot water.
However, in the same fashion that an electric shower never compares to a pumped -stored water system, so too does the thermoblock fails to deliver voluminous amounts of water.
I'm conveniently working from home today and my 6600 is on in the kitchen and I popped in and performed a test for you... I gave it the best chance without using a kettle as I normally do...
I had a cup on the warming try since the machine was switched on at 7.30am and it was just about warm to the touch -so I didn't use a cold cup...
Inserted Spout and pressed the water button:
I got just under 150ml of hot water -and it was slow -taking 38 seconds to manage that -before it automatically stopped and had to "Reheat" -according to the display.
It would be quite frustrating if you wanted a proper 'Long Coffee' using the water spout and your coffee wouldn't be quite 'piping hot' either.
Now, all that said, I made fantastic coffee this morning as ever using the kettle, to provide water to both pre-heat the cup while the machine was grinding, then quickly boiling it again for the water poured into cup in time to catch the extraction.
The above sounds 'a bit OCD' when read aloud but it's a methodology perfected over 4 years of ownership that delivers consistently great coffee -that's commented on by visitors, business colleagues and friends alike. To the extent, even, that some would rather meet me at my house than the local coffee shop!
By the way, as a latte, cappuccio, macchiato maker -it does excel as one doesn't want to boil milk and it produces ample steam to deliver a 'Long' latte etc. This may sound incongruous to what I said about water production above but these are the facts and the practical experience of using the machine.
For milk coffees: Set the water temp to 'HIGH' in the basic machine settings.
Use a kettle to preheat the cup.
Rinse the group using the rinse button
Preheat the milk wand by pressing the 'Clean' button on the jug
Double tap the 'Latte' button to trigger the 'Milk Frothing' function
Place cup under the spout and collect hot, frothy milk
When machine auto-stops, quickly press and hold 'Latte' button (before blue light extinguishes)
Continue to hold until required amount of milk is delivered
Now select required 'Coffee' button to obtain your favourite espresso shot
The above will give you a latte to compete with the best at a temperature to satisfy a demanding female latte addict! ;) [In fact, it will need to cool before drinking!]
So, I wholeheartedly recommend the machine but to get the best from it you'll have to resolve to use your kettle for preheating cups & americanos. For espresso or milk coffees -it's fine as is.
To improve on this, absent a kettle... a machine with a proper two-boiler bypass... commercial, probably triple your cost and burning electricity too keeping all that water at the ready -with a longer morning warm-up time. The PrimaDonna is ready in a couple of mins -about as long as your kettle! ;)
Let me know if you need to know anything else...