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Thread: Advice on change in coffee flavour

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    Advice on change in coffee flavour

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I am after some advice. I have a rancilio Silvia, about 4 years old, and a sunbeam burr grinder. Have been making excellent coffee for four years and suddenly it seems bitter. Still a great crema, but slight acrid aftertaste. I have cleaned the group head, de scaled, bought new beans, cleaned the grinder, can't work it out. The changes I have noticed: scent of the poured coffee is not great, grounds seem to have flecks (might not be new).

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    Do the grinder burrs need replacing, or re-alignment? Alternatively maybe the boiler temp may need re-adjusting if it hasn't been touched in the 4 years you have owned it.

    I noticed that my Sunbeam EM0480 was changing sounds mid-grind and it appeared the burr was a little loose, wobbling ever so slightly on its axis. This was causing a wide range of particle sizes on finer grind settings and a noticeable amount of the light coloured fibrous material (I'm told that this is caused by beans being torn apart rather than ground). I haven't fixed my Sunbeam yet as I upgraded it recently so I don't know if would be the cause / solution to your issue.

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    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Hi Tizzy,

    Have you taken the shower screen off and cleaned it thoroughly? Also the beans you buy do you prepare them any other way such as plunger or stove top? I ask this as if you do and that has changed in taste also you can then eliminate the machine. However from the info you have told me i'm thinking the machine.

    Regards,

    Chris

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    The increase in fibrous material meaning the beans are being ripped up rather than ground rings true - I have been noticing that, but wasn't sure if it had been happening before.
    I might do a few net searches on fixing the grinder and see if I can find something to fix there.
    I don't know about the temperature of the boiler and haven't gone to the extent of adding a PID because I was getting great coffee with gorgeous crema and lovely taste up until a month ago. I was hoping that I could fix it myself.

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    Hi Coffeechris, yes I have cleaned the screen. I don't grind for any other grind than espresso, But I was given a batch of badly ground coffee that I tried to regrind (a tablespoon) before rethinking the plan. But I also put that through the Silvia.
    too many variables for me!

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    So I bought some freshly ground coffee and pulled a couple of shots - I am still getting a slightly bitter aftertaste and the shots don't smell full and sweet. Is there any way that I can confirm if it is the boiler temperature, and direct me to,where I can findfind out more about that?

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    Yep, bitterness could be caused by temperature being to high. You can try some temperature surfing..
    1. Turn machine on and wait for 30-60 min.
    2. Then press brewing button and wait till light goes on (at this moment temp is too low and heating starts).
    3. Wait till light goes off. At this stage temperature close to the max. This temperature supposed to be always the same on your machine.
    4. Wait for X minutes (longer you wait, lower the temperature) , make coffee. If by waiting long enough before making your coffee you improve the taste - then the problem is due to the temperature.
    5 can vary X and make your judgement. If you can get the good taste by temp surfing - consider fitting PID.

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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    You mention that you have descaled, have you ever back flushed the machine?
    Backflushing... please explain what it is - Tips and Techniques • Home-Barista.com

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    Hi, thanks Yelta and Viktor,
    i have been temperature surfing the Silvia to get a shot, and I have been descaling every three or four months and back flushing regularly.
    and when this flavour change happened I descaled, back flushed, changed the beans, cleaned the group head. Today I reset the thermostat, in case that worked.
    but no, the shots still look gorgeous but don't smell right and have a bitterness.
    Perhaps I have stuffed the thermostat somehow?

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    suddenly it seems bitter. Still a great crema, but slight acrid aftertaste, bought new be,ans grounds seem to have flecks (might not be new).
    [QUOTE=Tizzy;514662] But I was given a batch of badly ground coffee that I tried to regrind (a tablespoon) before rethinking the plan.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    So I bought some freshly ground coffee and pulled a couple of shots - I am still getting a slightly bitter aftertaste Is there any way that I can confirm if it is the boiler temperature, and direct me to,where I can findfind out more about that?
    Hi Tizzy,

    Welcome to CS!

    Online diagnosis is notoriously difficult and the information you have provided doesn't paint a clear picture.

    It would help if you make it to 5 posts and then use the ability to post some pics.

    *pics of the 'flecks' in the grounds. Are they evident in the grinds as well? (grinds.....pre extraction; grounds....post extraction)
    Does the centreline of the beans you are using have remnant chaff?

    *pics of a shot, freshly poured, with crema intact, before it dissipates.

    *Using pre ground coffee to diagnose the issues is problematic.

    *water that is too hot is normally easy to pick if you drink it.

    *Where on your palate are you discerning the 'bitter taste'..... the very front or very back of your mouth?

    *Has the shot time remained constant, has it slowed down or sped up, relative to the previous 4 years?

    *The comments above re backflushing and cleaning are very pertinent. What has your regime been? Has it been regular and frequent?
    You mentioned de-scaling..... did you do this yourself? Is there chemical residue in your machine?

    *Even if you have used the same brand of coffee for 4 years there is no way that the beans are the same. What have you been using? Are they dark or medium roast?
    Are they from a reputable roaster or from the supermarket?

    There are a lot of skilled and very helpful people on the site, I'm sure you will get some help.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Have you noticed a change in temp of your shots?

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    Thanks for your help.
    i have been doing a pseudo scientific study of the problem and think that it has something to do with chemical residue rather than grind or temp.
    The water that comes through tastes tainted - back of mouth, acrid taste.
    So I am thinking that we are descaling badly and suffering from chemical residue?
    i have been using 'clean machine' descaler. I ran 10 litres of water through it last weekend and it is still tasting tainted.
    I am going to keep running water through, but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    Thanks for your help.
    i have been doing a pseudo scientific study of the problem and think that it has something to do with chemical residue rather than grind or temp.
    The water that comes through tastes tainted - back of mouth, acrid taste.
    So I am thinking that we are descaling badly and suffering from chemical residue?
    i have been using 'clean machine' descaler. I ran 10 litres of water through it last weekend and it is still tasting tainted.
    I am going to keep running water through, but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Hi Tizzy

    Please check the Silvia manual before doing this, however it should be OK (haven't owned a Silvia for years, and I cannot recall ever needing to do this to the lady...).

    How I used to get rid of the dreaded "fish oil taint" in a lot of commercial machines when all else failed. Add about two tablespoons of white vinegar per litre of "clean" water. Do the normal backflush thing. Then run at least half a tank of it through as a normal "coffeeless shot". FWIW, I used to run one shot first with rubbish coffee, however I do not think it made any difference.

    You will need to rinse it all out thoroughly afterwards, however I found it not only killed the taint, it was less persistent than most "specialised cleaners".

    Also, I had two 480's until recently. If yours needs shimming, there is no way to escape the bitterness. You may have two problems: water & grinder. Didn't you RTFM page 7 "Note: This coffee grinder is intended to grind whole coffee beans only."? Putting previously ground coffee into the hopper can kill most grinders as they overheat the burrs and destroy the tempering (i.e. need to replace the burrs, but try shimming it first anyway). The good old "white paper test" or the "finger test" (Page 12) can let you know if this is needed. Hopefully not!

    Enjoy your cuppa (soon we hope)

    TampIt
    Last edited by TampIt; 10th January 2014 at 09:35 PM.

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    image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
    Ok, so we have flushed, over 5 tank loads, and the coffee is still bitter, back of mouth acrid taste (sorry, my descriptions aren't too accurate)
    I am wondering whether there are two issues 1. The initial problem with bad taste; 2. Chemical residues from too much descaler.
    I was descaling once every three to four months, with a descaler bought from the company I bought the machine from. It may be too strong, and we may have added chemical reside to our problem. But I think we have rinsed the machine enough!
    The water tastes fine so I made a shot hoping to have a gorgeous coffee.
    but no, bad pour, smells thin, looks too dark and the crema too blonde.
    the shots pour ok, in a thin stream over 20 secs, the biscuit is a bit too damp, tastes terrible.
    the shots are around 78degrees, don't seem to have got hotter or colder.
    image.jpgI did test the grinds and they seem consistent, feel like salt grounds. a month ago I did buy preground coffee to check, but it didn't seem to make any difference to the flavour.
    any way I can check whether it is a thermostat or pressure issue?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    The water tastes fine so I made a shot hoping to have a gorgeous coffee.
    but no, bad pour, smells thin, looks too dark and the crema too blonde.
    the shots pour ok, in a thin stream over 20 secs, the biscuit is a bit too damp, tastes terrible.
    the shots are around 78degrees, don't seem to have got hotter or colder.
    image.jpgI did test the grinds and they seem consistent, feel like salt grounds. a month ago I did buy preground coffee to check, but it didn't seem to make any difference to the flavour.
    any way I can check whether it is a thermostat or pressure issue?
    Hi Tizzy

    78 is far too low to pour a decent shot. 92 is usually regarded as a minimum. My first priority would be to check that in a hurry! From your comments plus the photo, the pour is way off. The grind looks OK (bit of minor clumping), and with that dosing it should pour a little long if anything. Clear evidence of a machine problem somewhere. The pump is actually overdelivering if anything so the control system must be skewed. Sensor failure? Did you do the white vinegar thing? If so, read on...

    If you are not into tinkering, the Silvia is probably at the "take it to experts" stage.

    Also, I would regard the above photo as a clear fail at the grinder end. Too many fines: it would certainly tend to go bitter early in a (correct) shot. Check http://coffeesnobs.com.au/brewing-eq...w-machine.html for shimming info and further links. I confess to a little puzzle here: usually when a 480 needs shimming it would have a lot more coarse particles as well. This photo doesn't show that. Your "fibre" comments earlier did. Scratching head...

    I hope you can nail it (I hate it when good gear plays up).

    TampIt

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    ...........the shots are around 78degrees, don't seem to have got hotter or colder....................
    I believe this is one of those things where you have to be there to be able to do a proper diagnosis so I think you need to get together with someone else that can go through it all with you, or take it in for service.

    In the meantime I can zero in on the quoted section easily enough. You havent told us how you checked that, but if you did nothing more scientific than to stick something like a milk thermometer into an espresso while it was brewing, its pretty much what I would expect. So in that regard I dont think there is anything wrong with brew temperature / thermostats etc.

    The problem would seem to lie elsewhere but atleast I think you can eliminate brew temp as a possible.....

    Oh and wrt your grinder. If you know someone that can come round with a better grinder for you to try (or that you can take your machine to), then that is something you can check and compare easily yourself. My opinion is the Sunbeams are well below par for Silvia and not really a good "match"....just something that would keep you going until you could afford something better. A comparison using a better grinder might answer all your questions.

    Hope that helps.

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    Can't see anywhere where anyone has questioned the coffee? Without knowing what it is, where it's from, how it's roasted and how old it is, it's definitely a candidate.

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    Not sure if anyone's suggested splitting the shot... Ie; use three cups and collect a third of the shot in each.... This will tell you quickly if the taste is right though the shot or just developing at the 'tail end'

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    Interestingly, I was over at @C-man's place last weekend and comparing flavours using my Pharos /Rossa Portaspresso and his Rancillo S24 and Rossco grinder.

    Using a known bean, the shots from the Rossa were much smoother and highlighted a real Citrus splash. Unfortunately it also highlighted a real 'burnt' taste to the shots from the S24. Being a HX machine it can run hot and that was the ultimate culprit.
    The p-stat was wound back to a measured 93C and most of the burnt flavour has since gone from the shots...

    Good luck....

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    I am getting a new grinder - I took the sunbeam apart (lovely instructions on this site) and am veering towards thinking that might be the problem. It needs a bit of work and it's probably not worth it. So will post the result. Thanks to all

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    Beans were Campos Obama blend or NZ Brazil Cafe coffee - normally excellent.

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    I have a rocky grinder now, but the shots are still not good enough. Bitter or acrid aftertaste at the back of palate.
    The shots look ok, but a bit pale. I have tried splitting the shot, but it all has a bad aftertaste.
    I am wondering if there is any way I Can check pressure or temp without a PID. I used to be able to make as good coffee as any cafe, now I am buying coffee out to get a good cup!

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    Really seems to me Tizzy, that you need to cut your losses and take your kit into a known reputable specialist coffee centre, and have the total system diagnosed in front of you - Really seem to be getting nowhere, to be honest...

    Mal.
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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    I agree with Mal Tizzy, time to get some hands on expert advice.

    Your Silvia/Rocky combo are quite capable of making very good coffee.

    Another aspect to consider is changing taste due to medication, age or some other external factor.

    23 posts over almost 3 months and no solution in sight, time for expert intervention.

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    "It might be a tumour"

    "It's not a tumour!"

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tanethomas View Post
    "It might be a tumour"

    "It's not a tumour!"

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    I thought it was pronounced, hence spelled "Tooma"...

    Mal.

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    Advice on change in coffee flavour

    Hi, yes, took the rancilio off to an expert and paid for the service. The silvia was professionally descaled and pronounced healthy. But no luck today in making a home coffee. Same acrid aftertaste, weak smell. And Yelta, we have though about our own taste buds etc, but the bottom line is that we were able to produce as good a coffee in our house as we could get anywhere, but now we have to leave the house to get a good coffee. Moose and Gibson, using Two seasons coffee, for example.

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    Hi Tizzy, the third photo in post #14 to me looks like stale coffee,get some local fresh roasted and try a little more coffee in your basket and see how you go .

  29. #29
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    Beans were Campos Obama blend or NZ Brazil Cafe coffee - normally excellent.
    How old are the beans (when were they roasted) and how are they stored?

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    What city are you in? When you took your machine in, did you/they actually brew any espresso?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    What city are you in? When you took your machine in, did you/they actually brew any espresso?
    Exactly... That was the whole point I thought...

    Using your grinder, beans and espresso machine in front of you so that YOU could determine any differences in outcomes...

    Mal.

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    I am in Brisbane - the repairers said they made a coffee and it was perfect. Not with our grinder or beans though. But I have gone through two grinders in the two months and a number of different beans. And the shots look ok and are drinkable if you add sugar and milk. But have a nasty aftertaste. I have had this machine for three years or so and for most of it used a sunbeam grinder and was able to make perfectly good shots from a variety of different beans. I can't afford to spend much more on it.

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    If your machine has been looked over I'd be looking at your grinder. That said, the real value would have been hanging around while the tech had a look and poured some shots, so that you could see anything they were doing differently to you as well as taste them to see if what they were producing was perfect to you.

    Do you have any friends who are into coffee? (ie have known-good gear and beans) Perhaps one of the other BNE snobs might be happy for you to bring your machine/grinder/beans over and pour some shots with your and their grinder if you posted up a thread? I'd help you, but I'm in Darwin/Launceston. It's weird, but I had a similar experience to you with my plunger coffee and a Delonghi KG100 grinder. One day, the coffee was suddenly undrinkable and I had no idea why. I thoroughly cleaned the french press, to no improvement. Brushed the grinder out, same deal. Tried the plunger with my K6, all fine, but I have no idea what's wrong with the DeLonghi (besides that it's a cheap grinder). Maybe boned burrs?

    Campos beans are fantastic, in my limited experience, so that shouldn't be your issue if you've bought them fresh, but it might pay to have a friend bring a good grinder over. When you grind for your first shot of the day, what exactly do you do, step by step?
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    Very impressed with your diagnosis process Tizzy.

    Have you tried:
    - using bottled mineral water for a while
    - it is very hot and quite humid here in Brissie so you will find that grind needs adjusting depending time of day. I have been struggling to get very good pour recently (too hot). So maybe try adjusting the grinding to get back to your rough 30ml in 25-30sec.
    - Have you tried to get back to basics in regards to dosage: double basket 14-18g with constant Tamp pressure.
    - Beans storage in hot weather is a challenge especially if you buy beans from coffee shops (if you roast your own it is a little easier to control)
    So are beans stored away from light in airtight container and most importantly here in Brissie in a 'cool' place (bottom pantry).
    - Bitternes can come from too hot brew temp (but you seem to have this under control) or overdosage, can also come from under-extraction (even though it is more sour/acidity you will taste than bitterness). Try putting a little more coffee in basket or/and grinding finer.
    - Don't leave any beans in the grinder. In this heat after a few hours exposed to light/sun and higher temp and you coffee beans could 'cook'

    Anyway I am also learning on all this barista technics, so hope this can help or point you in a new direction for troubleshooting

    Good Luck
    Laurent

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    Advice on change in coffee flavour

    Thank you Drangunov21 and kazlolo! It is a mystery - I am going to take your advise Kazlolo and go back to basics - grinding, tamping and beans. I did change the grinder, thinking that was the problem, and might have created a new problem without realising it! I have been using carton water, but might change that too. It's all part of having a coffee hobby, and habit!

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    I'm no expert (been hanging around these threads for a while though) and was wondering if it is as an earlier poster suggested and could be a problem with the water.

    Many moons ago I use to work for the Water Authority in Perth, and know that at certain times of the year the composition of the water can change. Water supply comes from many places--dams, various groundwater sources, desalination plants--and a change in this COULD cause a change in the pH/impurities/dissolved salts in the water. It could be unnoticeable for most cases, although drinking water here in Perth sure changes noticeably with the season and the suburb.

    It could even be that there has been work done in your area on the supply--new pipes, dirt in the system, etc. It may be worthwhile standardising your water, and at the very worst it would remove another variable

    Stuart
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tizzy View Post
    I am in Brisbane - the repairers said they made a coffee and it was perfect. Not with our grinder or beans though. But I have gone through two grinders in the two months and a number of different beans. And the shots look ok and are drinkable if you add sugar and milk. But have a nasty aftertaste. I have had this machine for three years or so and for most of it used a sunbeam grinder and was able to make perfectly good shots from a variety of different beans. I can't afford to spend much more on it.
    Hi, I'm in Brisbane too and was thinking to get mine serviced. Who did you use?

  38. #38
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    Oh and Tizzy, happy for you to come over if you want with your gear and compare/discuss. I'm at Chapel Hill. PM me of keen.



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