Post By tailz78
Saeco Via Venezia question
Hi all. I'm playing around with an old machine that was gathering dust at my parents house. It's a Saeco Via Venezia with the black buttons, the newer ones have the white buttons.
Anyway I'm using a crappy grinder (Delonghi KG59) which doesn't grind fine enough for espresso but it's what my folks had so I'm just playing around with it, experimenting.
I bought some beans from the supermarket (bad I know but I've never used an espresso machine before so I didn't want to waste money and practise using expensive fresh beans) and made a few coffees which turned out pretty ordinary as expected. I used a light tamper.
I read about depressurizing the portafilter so I tried that and the shot pulled way too weak and almost looked transparent after about 12-15s. It ended up looking like watered down coke with no crema at all and the ground beans in the portafilter were soaking wet. This was with a normal tamp. I thought something wasn't right so I put the portafilter back together and tried again and it was back to normal.
I assume the shot out of the depressurized portafilter was so weak/crappy because without the extra parts it really exposed my use of old stale beans that were grounded too coarsely. Does this sound accurate? I was just a bit shocked as I thought freshly roasted beans and a good grinder might take you from a 5/10 coffee to a 8/10 coffee but the shot that came out of the depressurized portafilter would have ended up as a 1/10 I'm guessing, from the looks of the shot. Can it make _that_ much difference? I'm going to try with some fresh beans on the weekend but it will be a while before I can afford a decent grinder so I can't test this out for myself yet.
Yea pretty good assumption. The purpose of the pressurised portafilter is to equalise the variables that go into producing a shot such as grind size, bean freshness and tamping pressure. You'll always get pretty much the same quality of coffee from the pressurised portafilter for this reason.
With the pressurisation removed, you will, as you thought, need a better grinder and fresh beans to procure something drinkable. What tamper are you working with? If it's a dodgy plastic one you should ditch it asap and get something a bit more substantial. I bought an ebay tamper for like $30 from China that fits the basket well.
The spend grinds in the basket will always be a wet consistency as the Via Venezia has no 3-way valve.
Saeco Via Venezia question
Thanks for your reply. I picked up a second hand Espro calibrated tamper for cheap. Fits perfectly.
I guess I need to keep saving for the new grinder. In the mean time, hopefully this Via Venezia does a good enough job until I can get a better machine as well. In the mean time do you think I could get decent (7.5/10) coffees out of it if paired with a good grinder and of course fresh beans, or will I have to start saving for a new machine too?
You can get pretty good coffee out of this machine if you're careful enough. As it's only a small, thermostat controlled boiler, you'll need to temperature surf it to get the best tasting shots. You often suffer from a burnt taste as the coffee is extracted at a too high temperature.
Generally, wait a minute or so from when the thermostat clicks off from reaching its set temperature, this will get the boiler down to a better temperature for espresso. Give it some trials with different timing, I haven't used mine in ages so I don't really remember what the best times were.
It's not as easy to get a consistent shot out of this machine as it would be from a thermoblock machine of a similar price/quality and in some ways this can be irritating. As long as you're willing to give it a go and have patience then you'll be fine.
If you decide you like the machine and want to use it long term, I would consider replacing the panarello steam wand with the wand from a Breville 800ES. It's a straight swap and the new wand only costs $12 or so on ebay. It will improve your milk texturing immensely.
For the grinder, the minimum you would want to go is the Sunbeam EM0480 or the Breville BCG800 Smart Grinder. I'd recommend the Smart Grinder, really nice to use and provides a consistent grind.
Awesome thanks for your input.
I picked up a Via Venezia last weekend for $80 off Gumtree. It's stainless steel with black nobs and seems to be just a few years old. I haven't seen any dates on the machine or the instruction manual. Anyone know where to look or how to decode the serial number?
I've used previous generations of these machines a couple of times before; in my first office job back in the '80s and in the US in the late 90's so I was confident that it could do a reasonable job once I had spent some reacquainting myself with its operation. So far it's going well. I've really enjoyed researching on this site and have already ordered the replacement Breville steam arm.
Most of my home coffee for the last 3 decades has been made in a stovetop Bialetti mocha express, which does an acceptable job (in comparison to instant coffee, which I never touch). Because I live in Melbourne, where there seems to be a cafe on every corner, I've never really felt a need to make my own froth at home but recently I got the bug...
I don't have a grinder (yet) so I'm just using pre-ground from my local roasters - Gigante and Espresso Elements. However, doing the research here on CS it seems crazy to spend $500+ on a grinder in comparison to the $80 for the VV. Should I just wait and save up for a better machine/grinder package?
What you can do is go on the Philips website (I think they own Saeco?) and use the online chat thing to talk to a support person. If you give them your model number (can be found on the bottom of you VV) they can tell you what it is and send you a manual for it.
Regarding the grinder, you are correct in saying that a serious grinder will cost around $500ish but in your case it maybe wise to try and find a second hand sunbeam or breville for cheap just to have a play and find out if this game is for you. And when you are ready, you can look at a more serious grinder and espresso machine. From what I have read the grinder is a really part of your setup so keep that in mind.
Thanks pokerstar. From what I've read so far a decent grinder is the single most important factor in good coffee. It allows you to use fresh beans and extract the best results from them.
I think what I'll do is look around for a second hand Mazzer or Macap. I'm going to need it when my Non-Presssurised and Bottomless Portafilters arrive from Seattle Coffee Gear! I just ordered them today and it'll take a couple of weeks to arrive via. BongoUS. When I saw the SCG video of the PFs in action I just had to have them.
The Breville steam arm arrived the other day so I installed it and the quality of my milk frothing improved instantly. There is still plenty of practice needed but that's the fun part.
I'm getting my two teenage kids involved. The older one makes a reasonable coffee and the younger one loves hot chocolates. They're learning a useful, marketable skill for when they're older but also how to clean and maintain a machine and I'm not too fussed if they break something. In maybe about a year's time, when the limit on our barista skills might be equipment not technique, we'll be ready to upgrade to a Vibiemme or a Rocket. No hurry.
I'm enjoying this.
Last edited by tayal01; 19th June 2014 at 10:50 PM.
Non-pressurised VV PF update.
Ok, time for an update. Since my last post I bought a Compak K3 Push grinder - a bit under $500, a reasonable tamper, and the non-pressurised and bottomless portafilters have arrived from Seattle Coffee. Wow! What a difference to the standard pressurised PF.
The bottomless is a hoot. Extremely unforgiving of poor grinding, dosing and tamping, spurting amd spraying everywhere. I've improved a little in this regard but the quality of the coffee meanwhile has soared. The old PF now tastes like instant, or badly made food court coffee.
Another nice side effect of the bottomless is that the puck is less soupy and comes out in a single cake in the knockbox. Almost like a real one.
I'll now need to get a single VV basket (it didn't come with one) as the bottomless delivers into a single cup. Fine if you want a Doppio I suppose but that's too much caffeine for me. Anyone got a spare one they want to sell?
With a bit of help from Uncle Teddy (not my uncle really but a cousin by marriage who has been in the catering business and has owned and run cafes) we managed to tweak the grind, dose, tamp and brew to get a reasonable tasting shot from the VV. I say reasonable because it could not possibly compare to the better coffee places in Melbourne but in a milk drink it's really good. We were using the non-pressurised portafilter but after Teddy left I had a go with the naked portafilter and to my surprise it poured beautifully. No spurting, no swinging from one side of the basket to the other, just pure goodness coming out.
Using Uncle Teddy's well trained nose and palate we identified that my grind had been too coarse and so the coffee tasted a bit watery and weak. We took the grind up to the point where the machine could only barely extract and then backed off a bit.
Getting the dosing right was a bit trickier. I've got a Compak K3 which doses straight into the basket. Teddy says this "fluffs up" the coffee so it needs to be piled a bit higher before tamping. But not too high because then the PF wont fit onto the brew head properly and during brewing the machine will attempt to throw it off. Yes really!
We didn't really adjust the tamping much. Dosing seemed to be the biggest problem to resolve.
Brew time is now about 30 seconds with a 4-5 second lead in time.
A couple of nights ago the kids made themselves a hot chocolate, forgot to prime the boiler afterwards and left it turned on all night. In the morning it was not working, completely dead. I unplugged from the wall and took the back off to see if there was any kind of of fuse or safety switch that I could reset. I couldn't see anything at all.
I Googled for a solution and looked in the Via Venezia user manual but couldn't really find anything useful except that several posts seemed to suggest there was indeed a cut off switch inside. So I disconnected the power again and went back in to look and sure enough there is a reset switch in the middle of the centre terminal on the boiler block which I pressed and it made a very slight click. I replaced the back cover, plugged it in and tried again and we're in business again!
The safety cutoff / reset switch is very small and not easily recognisable if you don't know what to look for so I took a close up shot which I'll post later for future reference.
I think I just saved myself a couple of hundred bucks and the inconvenience of being without a home espresso machine for a week or more.
Location of Saeco Via Venezia (2007 model) safety cut off reset switch.
Good range of machines made by Seaco,from simple manuals to fancy automatic do everything models.
Most espresso machines makers cut costs and simply fit a thermal fuse to the top of the boiler,these generally work in the same way.
It's just a pest having to take the thing apart to either reset tripped breakers or replace the blown fuse.
They could make provision for a probe/button to reset breakers however,the integrity of the case is compromised as well the possibility of someone getting zapped in the resetting attempt.
good luck in future.
Thank you so much! Saved my broken little heart this morning!
Originally Posted by tayal01
Glad it helped. I was stumped when it happened to me and surprised how hard it wad to find this little reset button. It hasnít happened to me since.