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Ever since I got my first lever La Peppina, I have been enchanted by the uniqueness of lever espresso machine. I don't think i have experienced the "zen" thing when using these lever espresso machines, but they’re sure a pleasure to use. In addition, they often have very simple design and is very easy to repair (not that they will fail with so little part). Not to mention the delicious sweet shots that they’re capable of. Hundreds of working vintage levers on ebay is a proof of the statement about durability and demands for these vintage machines is another telling tale of the shot quality. Last month, I’ve stumbled upon yet another lever espresso machine, namely Faema Baby Faemina.
Initially, there is not much information about this machine and definitely not many were floating in the market. I did a quick research and found that actually OrphanEspresso has seals supply for them. And basically, what you will ever need to replace on this Baby Faemina is just the piston seal. No other part that can fail. So there's nothing to lose: I went ahead and pull the trigger.
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The Baby is so simple that it doesn't actually have a heater. So, i would say it’s a little far-fetched to even call it a machine. It is basically just an espresso maker made from durable aluminum. The design is very innovative that the Presso espresso machine actually take from this design and modify into a modern machine. However, in my opinion, Baby Faemina is still superior to the Presso because the Presso are made from plastics and less durable aluminium. I’ve seen a few cases where the arm or the chamber of the Presso broke because of the cheap quality production. Not so with the Baby Faemina. I would want a Presso if they ever decided to make a higher quality one though!
So here’s how you make an espresso from Baby Faemina:
i)Grind your coffee and put it into the long basket. I find 18g works best but I always underdose it to 15g to prevent overcaffeination.
ii) Tamp it with a 57-58mm tamper.
iii) Put on the filter+tamper screen.
iv) Pour hot water, preheat for 20 seconds and dump it.
v) Preheat another 5 minutes if the coffee requires a higher temp. Dump the water.
vi) Pour the water until it’s 0.5cm below the rim.
vii) Put the pf in and press the lever
viii) Syrup flowing out..
As compared to the Cremina, this Baby Faemina is slightly more picky about the grind and dose. Too low and you can’t tamp properly because of the basket design. Too fine of a grind will require a Hercules arm or a long pressing time. It’s probably the same as other pump espresso in the pickiness department, or maybe I am totally spoiled by the forgiveness of Cremina.
What’s important is the cup result. The Baby Faemina definitely produces a very interesting and delicious shot as compared to other machine. It’s very smooth and has almost no bite or edge to it, but the nuances are present all over just as expected. This is probably due to the declining temperature profile and lower brew pressure. Despite the suspected low brew pressure, Baby Faemina is strong enough to generate rich espresso crema. The body is superbly rich even when compared to Cremina, despite the lower brew pressure.
Temperature management is probably the hardest part of this machine. Because of its operating procedure, just like mypressi,handpresso, presso or even Rossa espresso maker, you can’t get a precise temperature. With preheating and my thermometer, I was able to get up to 205F that is probably high than enough for most coffee.
Here’s a preparation of espresso shot from Baby Faemina featuring Pharos, including cleaning up (the coffee wasn't so fresh though):
If you want to read more: here's another detailed write up of mine if you're interested in knowing more: http://www.home-barista.com/levers/baby-faemina-crema-caffe-1960s-pour-over-manual-lever-t20153.html