Monday, November 21, 2011

Espresso machine part 1 of a long saga

OK... I am just getting started on this project so don't expect it to be done any time soon but figured its time to post some photos, I am still building the Top Speed bike and a bunch of other things for myself not to mention my day to day work so this one will be my lunch time project for a while.

Any one that has met me most likely has met me at a coffee shop, its where I seem to hang out a lot. If your in Oakland and you see someone inside the coffee shop on a bmx bike doing 360s and flat land tricks or maybe a Yeti Mtb crashing in to chairs, I can almost bet 100% that you are seeing yours truly.

Some times I just shut down Actual Cafe and bring in all the bikes for the kids - 
photo J. Suzuki - Actual Cafe - Oakland, CA

Ok besides my bad habits around coffee shops, I do have a true love for coffee and espresso. So anyone that reads my blog knows that only means on thing....

I have to build something......

I decided to build a espresso machine from scratch with about 0 experience in how a machine works, what makes a good shot or really anything about espresso other then I really like to drink it, it makes me type really really fast !!!

I did a ton of drawings trying to figure out what I even wanted it to look like, but one major goal in mind " make it look like a laboratory experiment ", I make them everyday anyways, so it shouldn't be to hard.

I am very inspired by lab experiments and one project came to mind that really stokes me out.

The USA has been working on a project called NIF or National Ignition Facility located not to far from San Francisco.

 In a nut shell the quick way to understand it is - Using basically the most powerful laser in the world, a flash is created and that flash is broken over and over until its become 192 beamlets (small laser beams from the single beam) which are then shot in to a huge sphere, and then at a tiny target the size of a pencil eraser. When all the beamlets hit the target it creates a fusion reaction which means a mini star on earth for researchers to study only arms reach away. CRAZY !! it gets me pumped just writing about it.

YouTube on how NIF works

this drawing doesn't really do good for showing its massive size

This was when they were building it about 10 years ago, getting ready to lower it in to the ground.
Its huge and made of 10cm thick Aluminum plate made in to a sphere!
There is 200+ holes for both inspection and also the beamlets.

This is where I start with my Espresso project and its bits of inspiration from NIF and other projects I have seen at laboratories begins.

My brain had the design already now just to connect the dots with my hands.

I always like to make a quick sketch of what I thought of so I don't forget, having like 50 projects going at one time can cause you to forget good ideas or open you up to some new ones.
Don't judge my quick drawings... this is one of my 10 concepts I did, this one is a side view of the machine with a lot of NIF style to it. 

Next step get some stuff made.
Projects like this I some times draw on Solidworks but other times I just like to go freestyle like the good old days... This one I am going to freestyle!
I heard word on the street of a old man and his son located in the San Francisco Bay Area that were some of the best metal spinners on the west coast, these guys might not know all the crazy details on material specs and tech stuff about the metal they are working on but they have enough experience with every kind of metal, they just know how to feel the metal and know what it needs! Theres a reason theres piles of Aerospace, Government and other precision parts around their shop, because they know how to get the job done right. 
25+ years of metal spinning experience!

This is Roy Sr. spinning the lower half of the boiler out of 14g Copper sheet
Roy Jr. uses heat to help with the bending and soften the copper
The last photo in this post shows the finished spun copper. 

Time for lunch and some lathe work!

This piece of copper will become the 3 viewing windows in to the copper boiler
I will weld them in and then the glass windows drop in, hope they don't fog to much. 
There will be a small stainless ring on the outside that holds the glass in to the copper.

Lunch is done, I didn't get finished in the 45 minutes.
They still need holes drilled and tapped all the way around them for the stainless glass holders. 
Maybe another lunch break would do the trick. 
Remember I am freestylin this, so I am not using the CNC machines or blueprints, rollin dirty!

The other little sphere is Stainless and its 14 gauge because it will become the steam generator and be under pressure up to about 50 PSI, so not risking it due to pressure I decided to make it stainless, also for cleaning. If you know about making espresso shots you will understand having a boiler and a steamer separated is the best. Espresso shots pull the most rich at about 202 deg F. where as steam starts at 213 deg. F and above which makes for a bad tasting shot because of the high heat extracting to much acid.

Keep ya posted and be sure to enjoy


  1. I used to repair espresso machines and a few of your facts are wrong. Boiler pressure is closer to 140 PSI or (9.5 bar) and the temperature is closer to 230 degrees because the steam is under pressure. Also most espresso machine use a pump to make the pressure for the group and the temperature of the cold water is raised to 195 degrees (optimum temp, 202 is a little high) by having it pass through a heat exchanger. I think the best espresso machine ever was the Faema E61. It was the first pump-driven one and the most simplest and elegant. The older piston ones are cool too, but the design is totally different.

  2. This is really interesting to know about Espresso Machines. I recently purchased one and love it. It is so convenient to be able to have cappuccinos and lattes whenever I'd like.

  3. COOL...I'm a home shop machinist & will enjoy watching your progress...Old school, hands on machining I find adventurous, "freestylin","rollin dirty"..Go for