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Thread: help with learning curve on my new silvia

  1. #1
    GCC
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    help with learning curve on my new silvia

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    HI all. First post after several months lurking here - congrats on an awesome community.
    As of the weekend I am the* owner of a refurbished Rancilio Silvia and a new Breville Smart Grinder. Happy to say both were purchased from CS sponsors - and Im very happy to have this combo for the price I paid.*
    Ive ground beans and used a stovetop machine for coffee for as long as i can remember, but until Saturday night had never tried to pull a shot of espresso. Id welcome any tips for how to get some incremental improvement in my output, until I can get to a Barista course in a few weeks. Currently:
    Basket - Rancilio 18 gm double basket*
    Beans - from Forsyth coffee roasted last tuesday
    Grinder - set to second finest setting
    Dose - a mound higher than the rim of the basket. Using a little under 2 does as delivered by the SG.*
    Tamping - so that the* level is below the top of basket.

    It is about 15 - 20 seconds from hitting the button until the shot begins to blonde. Coffee is too bitter and "strong". More worrying is that:
    - on some pulls there is actually a little flow of hot water coming out of the group and over the side of the PF handle
    - often the flow from the two PF channel is different - eg dark on one side, light on the other, fast on one side / slow on the other
    - There is still water on the top of the basket after the pull * contents are "soupy"

    I roughly get from reading here and elsewhere what Im tying to do. Given the above Id appreciate any tips on which of the variables - dose / tamp / grind I should be tackling first.* cheers** ** ** ** ** *
    * ** ** ** *

  2. #2
    Senior Member trentski's Avatar
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    Quote Originally Posted by 454141020 link=1309135978/0#0 date=1309135978
    Beans - from Forsyth coffee ground last tuesday
    Ground last tuesday or roasted last tuesday? If ground then they are stale and throw them out. If roasted then your beans most likely arent your problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by 454141020 link=1309135978/0#0 date=1309135978
    Tamping - so that the level is below the top of basket.
    on some pulls there is actually a little flow of hot water coming out of the group and over the side of the PF handle
    Sounds like you might be filling the basket to the point you cant lock it in properly. If you lock it in and then take it out do you see an impression of the screw in the puck? Or is the puck all smashed up from rubbing on the shower screen?
    The coffee shouldnt be touching the shower screen before you start the extraction, you need to leave room for the coffee to expand.

    How well does your tamper fit your basket? You may have channelling issues caused by an ill fitting tamper or an uneven tamp.

    How close are you to 60mls in 30 seconds at the moment?


  3. #3
    GCC
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    Thanks for the response.
    Beans were roasted last Tuesday not ground - sorry my typo.

    I bought a 58.2mm tamper when I got the machine to fit the rancilio basket so that shouldnt be an issue?* But uneven tamp could well be a culprit.
    I can see the impression of the screw in the top of the puck. After tamping the coffee is about 5 - 8 mm below the top of the basket.*
    Currently getting 60 mls in more like 15 - 20 seconds.* ** *

  4. #4
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    In addition to Trentskis comments,
    - Bitter coffee may be due to group head being too hot, if you dont have a PID or a temp sensor to read the boiler temp, there is plenty of info on this site about ways to temp surf Silvia to get a good brew temp.
    - Early blonding is a common issue with domestic machines at least some of the time, if not a lot.
    - The most common reasons for water flowing over side of the grouphandle is over full basket and/or old or dirty grouphead gasket that is not sealing very well. Try cleaning the gasket thoroughly.
    - Uneven flow from the two spouts has several possible causes,...Uneven tamping is common, depending on your tamper and technique, which can also be made more variable by uneven distribution of the ground coffee, can be helped by tapping the side of the portafilter with your fingers before tamping, to help settle the grounds more evenly, also can tap the portafilter vertically on your bench before tamping, then tamp carefully to get as even as you can.* An unusual cause can be chanelling due to distortion of the basket, happened to me once with a very strong retaining spring in the handle, went back to original weak* spring and all was good again.
    Also if your Silvia has the bolt head protruding into the basket it can cause some chanelling, easiest to replace the bolt with a round head screw.
    - A good puck should be dry after the extraction, however if you pull the handle out immediately after you stop pouring it may still have some wetness on top, but will go dry within a few more seconds, it should not be soupy.* Excessively wet pucks are either underdosing and/or grind is too course.* Dose can be checked by locking in the portafilter then removing it and there should be an impression of the screw/bolt head, (but not the showerscreen as Trentski noted) there needs to be some room for the puck to expand slightly.* Consistent dosing is something that can take practice, and the dose amount or grind setting may need adjusting depending on the time of day and/or weather, typically slightly courser grind or less dose in morning, opposite in afternoon due to less humidity.
    - Finally, try some other beans, it may also be that particular roast or variety.


  5. #5
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    I disagree with the advice to try some other beans as there is absolutely nothing in any of the above to suggest there is anything wrong with them. This is a *grind / dose / tamp, and get to know your new machine* issue not a coffee beans issue* :)

    Also,*
    a) soupy wet puck = grind too fine (rather than too coarse), and / or underdosed;

    b)
    i) Channelling,
    ii) so called "bitterness", and
    iii) so called "blonding"

    are NON issues until proper grind / dose / tamp / get to know your machine stuff have kicked in* :)

    1) Dose:
    for any particlular grind, the right dose height (after settling / tamping) for a silvia is that you must be able to see the top of the circlip groove in the filter. If your dose is above the groove and you cant see it, then you are overdosed and will get leakage over the top of the group handle during brewing....fix that first.

    2) Once you have established what a correct size dose is with no leakage during brewing, you can start timing to see if your extraction comes within a reasonable cooee of a good espresso extraction. I would say, minimum 20 secs and maximum 30 secs just as a rule of thumb, to pour out 2 x 30 ml standard espresso portions.

    Forget about blonding and channeling and uneven tamping and bitterness and sourness and anything else as they are not yet relevant. Just get yourself into the ball park of knowing what you are doing to getting a reasonable espresso, and being able to repeat it time after time so your technique is good.

    If the the 60 ml pour was oustside the 20 to 30 secs mentioned above, then that is when you ADJUST THE GRINDER to either slow down or quicken the pour so that it does fit somewhere within the 20 to 30 secs, using the same principles described.

    When the coffee starts to flow nicely within the times given & tastes like espresso, then you are in the ball park.. ;)

    Note there are different technques to dosing. A simple one for you to start with would (for any given grind and type of beans) be:

    Half fill the filter ("basket" for all you "prosumers" out there* ;)). Settle it once with a lilght tap of the group handle on the edge of the bench (dont damage the bench, use a rubber cover or something). Then overfill the rest of the filter with loose grinds and settle once again. Then use a straight edge to level any left over extra grinds off the top of the filter.
    Now tamp (try to do it evenly) and if you are in luck (ie if your grind setting is close to where it ought to be), the level of the tamped puk should be at the point I mentioned above,* ie so you can still see the top of the circlip groove.

    If it is higher, then the grind may be too coasre, and if it is lower, then the grind may be too fine.

    The dose is paramount and if you dont understand "dose", then you will never set the grinder properly.

    Get that down pat, with a reasonably level tamp, and you will probably find that bitterness/channelling/blonding etc will back themselves out of the equation without you even noticing!* ;)

    Note that "humidity" never came into it....as you are already taking care of that in all you are doing above.

    Note that before ever applying the group handle to the group to brew the espresso, you must first flow (purge) some water from the group to make sure it is not delivering that really hot / steamy / gurgling water at the top of the temperature cycle that will burn your coffee no matter what good technique you have used and developed so far from reading this.....

    Thats enough for now and I hope that helps, the rest is up to you.

    Ok....now somebody please hand me a tall glass of water* ;)

    Rgdz,
    Attilio
    very first CS site sponsor

    PS kindly note, this is all information that a client should get from their retailer....except of course where the client elects to take the cheaper "I want it in the box and dont want to pay for service" price scenario.

  6. #6
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    The above post from Fresh Coffee is enough said but can I just say-

    Silvia needs time to heat up, 20 mins does not really cut it but it will do if your desperate, an hour is good.* I find shots blonde if the machine is not heated properly.*

    Quote Originally Posted by 605443554E79654940404343260 link=1309135978/4#4 date=1309146791
    Note that before ever applying the group handle to the group to brew the espresso, you must first flow (purge) some water from the group to make sure it is not delivering that really hot / steamy / gurgling water at the top of the temperature cycle that will burn your coffee no matter what good technique you have used and
    Temp surf videos for the Silvia are on youtube.

    Dosing has a massive effect on the quality of the shots with the Silvia. Slight overdosing has a more negative effect than a slight underdose in my experience.

    A bottomless portafilter will help in diagnosing some problems but it still requires good technique.* I use bottomless pf with a 21g synesso ridgless basket, and find it a little more forgiving than the standard basket.*


  7. #7
    GCC
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    Re: help with learning curve on my new silvia

    Thanks for the tips. Exactly what I hoping for - back to the drawing board.



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