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Thread: Improving my Cappucinos - Newbie Help

  1. #1
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    Improving my Cappucinos - Newbie Help

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi Everyone,

    I found CS recently and have been checking out a few threads. I am very impressed! Seems to be a lot of very knowledgable and helpful people here. So, I have decided to attempt to better my beverage and I am hoping someone can help.

    I've been using an em6910 and a 4080 grinder for around 3 years. The only coffees I make are Cappucinos with the occasional Short Black with Amaretto. I can't really comment on whether I am doing it properly or not, and being that I reside in a very remote area, have little opportunity to see how other people do it. I have prepared a few cappucinos for visitors and they all seem to like it, but I am not sure that's anything to go by. I have ordered a sample pack from BeanBay and I am very excited to try them out. I don't think I have ever tried freshly roasted beans as I primarily purchase them from the supermarket. I do supply a cafe in the nearest city with olive oil+table olives (live on an olive grove) and sometimes get their beans which he says are mixed to his spec though I have never talked about roasting or anything like that.

    So, last night I fully cleaned the 6910 and 4080 after reading some posts here in prep for the starting pack. Lots of build up under the shower which I was shocked to see, it looked wrank. And the grinder is now nice and shiny. So basically everything cleaned and ready to go. However, while cleaning I noticed the shower plates had lots of blocked holes and it looked as though it was a manufacturing issue. This was evident on the outer and inner plates. Can these be replaced with aftermarket parts? Also, after reading through Journeymans thread I am wondering whether I should get a different portafilter and basket? Being that mainly do Cappucinos would this help at all? As far as the procedure to making my capps goes, I don't really follow any, and generally have to adjust my grind and tamp with different beans. Though usually grind at 11-12. Not sure about tamp pressure, but will test to see if I am getting ~15kg when my starter pack arrives.

    Also, I don't believe my capps are running for 30 seconds to get 30ml, is this correct? I think it's shorter but I have never timed it. From memory if I load the basket up heavily and tamp really hard the pressure goes far to high and the coffee only dribbles out, and tastes a bit horrid, but would run for 30sec to get 30ml. So I guess what is the go with a general procedure with cappucinos?

    Sorry for being long winded but I felt if I could include as much info as possible I would get a better answer and please feel free to throw any questions my way.

    Thanks
    Andrew

  2. #2
    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    It comes back to grind/dose/tamp. If you grind finer you need to dose less. There's no particular need for naked PF or VST baskets; the VST's are nice to have once you get things sorted so you're producing good coffee and understand what the process is and can repeat it, but they might be a tough ask for anyone who hasn't got to that yet.

    The naked PF is a good diagnostic tool so if you can get hold of one it can help you learn to produce consistent and good coffee.

    Don't pack your basket too full - in the SB's I pack to about 3mm or 4mm from the top so I can grind a bit finer. This gives a fuller flavour but doesn't choke the pour. What I've seen recommended is to grind fine so you choke things, then step it back a bit until you just gets the stream of coffee coming out. But that means you have to have your dose and tamp down pat - any variation in them might change what's happening and so you don't learn as much as you could.

    I use stock SB for my wife's decaf. It gives nice coffee on about 23, with the 2mm below rim and hulk-smash tamp, but it gives excellent coffee at 20 with 3mm - 4mm and gentle progressive tamp. I had to shim the EM0450 I use for decaf to get it above 1, but it has been stable now for weeks with the beans I get for her.

    The 30 secs if a touch longer than most recommend (think its 25 - 27) and if you're using a double filter you should be getting 60ml in that time, not 30ml. But it is what is in the cup that matters most - I've had a few 35sec pours as I tried to reduce my grind in the 480 that were just lovely to drink.

    If you're not used to drinking espresso, try looking at the crema before you add the milk for the capps. It should be thick and dark tan; if you have lighter patches in it, that's blonding, and that occurs at the end of the useful part of the pour - try to avoid getting that far along.

    Then it is just practice. Try to get each step as consistent as you can.

    Hope that gives some assistance...

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    Thanks Journeyman, will give all suggestions a go, looking forward to it.

    Have a good NYE and good luck for the NY.

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    OK, so I couldn't wait for the starter pack to arrive and jumped into it with a bag of Harris espresso strong 4/5 beans. I did have issues with the grinder being too coarse which my mechanically minded brother was able to solve pretty quickly. Everything was prewarmed, and I removed the plastic insert from the PF. Against your recommendations I decided to stick with grinding at 11. Tamped at ~15kg once which left around 4-5ml clearance from the top of the ridge on the basket that I presume is a single floor two cup as it has no description on it, but looks similar in shape to the double floor two cup basket. When I started it at first I thought it was choking but around 3-4 seconds in it started dribbling out and was peaking at ~2 ml into the red on the pressure gauge, after ~6-7 seconds it was a slight stream. This went on for a 33 second count at which point I stopped it and resulted in ~30ml. The crema looked dark tan with slightly lighter hues and a small amount of much lighter blonde colour in the middle. After adding milk and tasting I was surprised it did taste nice, though I have never tasted the beans before or cleaned the machine so I guess that would account for a lot of it.

    If this sounds like the way it's meant to be done please let me know. I had been doing it very similar to this around 1.5 years into using the machine though my sister who says she did a barista course suggested that I was burning it, where I was taking it slightly into the red on the pressure gauge. Personally, I like the taste much better than having it at say 12, 1 or 2 o clock on the gauge.

    Anyways, I only drink 1 coffee a day otherwise I ping like a teenager at a rave so I'll give your suggestions a go when I can.

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    A single floor two cup basket has lots of holes in the bottom - at least a 50c coin in area. A one-cup has between 10c and 20c in area. A double floor basket has <5c in area (usually only one or two holes).

    You might want to go 1 step coarser on the grinder - the 6910 uses a thermoblock without PID and so if you run slower the water may be hotter.

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    I found with mine that 3 - 4mm below the rim seems to be a sweet spot. But as others have advised, it depends on the grind. When I went from a 10 to a 9 (which may not be your 10 and 9) I had to have less in the basket or I got long term dropples (numerous drops but falling straight, not splattering, for more than 15 secs) then maybe a stream of dark tan for another 20 secs or so until it started to blonde. Lowering the dose level by a mm meant I got a good pour.

    I don't think the pressure gauge on a 6910 can tell you if you're burning things - that depends on temperature and length of time the hot water is in contact with the grind. On the 6910 the gauge seems more a relative thing - I get much better coffee in the cup from the top of the good range than I do from the supposed perfect spot in the middle of it.

    If your coffee tastes good you're doing something right. Don't change it by what you supposed to do, just learn to do the same thing consistently, so when something does change you can remedy it.

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    I tried grinding at 20 and tamped 3 times while adding to the basket, prob like 7kg twice then a good 15kg at the end, was around 3mm clearance from top of the ridge. The pour was very quick and resulted in little crema to result in around 30-40ml in about 15 seconds. Was quite watery. I guess I need to lower grind. At work at the moment so I'll post with some other details later.

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    1 step coarser means grind at 12 - these grinders only have a usable range, for espresso, of 3-4 clicks.

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    Thanks Hildy,
    Will try that. I was just having a go at some of Journeymans suggestions. i.e. grinding at 20 and 23. Will give 12 a go tomorrow. Something that occurred to me was that I am using quite a large mug when making my capps. I think it takes around 350ml. And I have been using the single floor 2 cup basket to make a lot of coffee to supplement the milk. So, I guess what you are saying is right, in that I should be getting 60ml in ~30sec with the 2 cup basket, wheras I have been getting 30ml in ~30sec, and therefore should increase grind size. Looking forward to trying it tomorrow.

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    Yes that's right, with the two cup basket you should be aiming for ~60ml in 25 to 30 seconds.

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    Hi foana, and welcome to CS.

    When you're working to get your shots 'in the zone' make sure you taste the shot before you add any milk.

    This will help you determine whether or not your shot is sour, bitter or balanced (or to your personal liking).

    Formula and proscribed 'correctness' is one thing but ultimately it's what is in the cup and your palate that must rule!

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    Hi Chokkidog,

    Thanks, I do feel welcomed and it has been very informative, I certainly appreciate the time taken in helping me out.

    Ok I will start trying my shots before adding milk. I agree, at the end of the day I have no aspirations to be an excellent barista though if I can find a few pointers and tips to change what I am doing it can't hurt and if I end up liking it then that's great. I am really looking forward to trying some freshly roasted beans, I have a feeling it's going to be a massive step up to what I have been using.

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    foana, no two sunbeams are the same - because the position of the lower burr carrier on the motor is not a tightly controlled spec. this is why the shims exist.

    my sunbeam had an espresso range of 5-8. so never listen to anyone else's absolute numbers; 60ml in 25-30s is a rough guide for newbies starting out, and then you can go 2 clicks finer and maybe 1 click coarser in the traditional espresso range.

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    So I think I miscalculated my measurements in previous posts in regard to amount of pour over time. Details below all done with a double cup basket single floor as this is how I will be doing my capps.

    Hildy,
    I've had a bit of a mess about and I found that grinding at 12 packing ~15kg and leaving 3-4mm clearance from top of basket with pour of 30 sec gave exactly 60ml. Attached an image below in cup. Anything lower than that choked it so that it was maybe producing 30ml in 30 secs. I did run one at higher I think 13 or 14 grind with similar tamp but it produced 60ml in around 24 sec, images attached of that in plastic 30ml shot cups. They both tasted the same amount of bitterness with no sourness at all. Though the one in the cup did taste stronger though I can't really describe how.

    Chokkidog,
    Tasted each attempt. Found them all to taste a bit bitter. I rarely drink coffee this way though. It wasn't a burnt bitter taste, I think the beans are meant to taste that way, which is the Harris Espresso 4/5 beans strong.

    I will try this out again tomorrow morning and see how it tastes with milk.

    IMG_0004[1].jpgIMG_0002[1].jpgIMG_0003[1].jpg

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    You'll have to adjust this for real beans when you get them. They might be making a 'strong' taste through adding bitterness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by foana View Post
    Thanks Hildy,
    Will try that. I was just having a go at some of Journeymans suggestions. i.e. grinding at 20 and 23. Will give 12 a go tomorrow. Something that occurred to me was that I am using quite a large mug when making my capps. I think it takes around 350ml. And I have been using the single floor 2 cup basket to make a lot of coffee to supplement the milk. So, I guess what you are saying is right, in that I should be getting 60ml in ~30sec with the 2 cup basket, wheras I have been getting 30ml in ~30sec, and therefore should increase grind size. Looking forward to trying it tomorrow.
    A couple of points... the 20 and 23 were on an EM0450, shimmed, and for decaf. If you are doing a heavy progressive tamp ( 2x7kg plus a 15kg to finish and you get 30ml in 15secs your grind is WAY TOO coarse. At that level I'd go to maybe a 5 and try to choke the machine.

    My EM0480 is shimmed and for most fresh beans, running between 14 and 11 for reasonable coffee and (with my VST basket) 9 for very good coffee.

    Also, increasing grind size WILL give you more coffee in the cup in >30secs but you are not going to like it. Increasing grind size means the water flows through the basket FASTER - it will give you 60ml or more in the time but it is not going to give you flavour.

    My experience says the reduction in dose size (your 3mm) is not going to help your coffee until you get the grind approx right and currently you are nowhere near fine enough... i.e less on the number scale not more.

    And a progressive tamp means VERY light tamps - your 7kg is already more than twice recommended for any stage of progressive. Getting gushers (15secs) with those tamps says your grind is like sand. To quote a meme... lighten up man...

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    Yeah ok, I'll try tamping with less pressure and grinding at a lower setting and see how it goes. tbh iv always tamped quite hard ever since iv had the machine so I guess its something I can work on. Thanks for pointing that out.

  18. #18
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Wait 'til you have some 'real' beans foana ;-D
    Then do the taste test.

    In the meantime, spend some time checking out bits and pieces on Youtube, like this:

    Tamping - YouTube

    By the look of the video my guess is about 15kgs of tamp pressure.

    Keep it simple. Stay grounded.

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    [QUOTE=Journeyman;519249the 20 and 23 were on an EM0450, shimmed, and for decaf.At that level I'd go to maybe a 5 and try to choke the machine.
    [/QUOTE]

    I wouldn't do this either.

    (Well, you could, and then do a binary search, but I don't think that buys you more than moving 4 clicks in the right direction until you get close, then go down to 1 click steps.)

    Proper beans, probably go to 13 (fresh beans often need one click coarser in my experience) and take it from there.
    foana likes this.

  20. #20
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    So I've been doing a lot of trial and error and think I have a good idea on reproducing shots with minimal variation. I have to say that I do believe that my capps are tasting better. Before getting on CS I was definitely running my shots for too long, and not dosing enough. This has all resulted in a 'stronger' taste which is great in my large 350ml mug. This is similar to how I used to do it maybe 1 year ago.

    I have finished the Harris beans and tbh I thought they were quite poor. This morning I ran with some of the beans I had stored away, which was another supermarket Italian blend product, and using the same process the coffee was much better.

    Now I am just waiting for the freshly roasted beans from Beanbay, and thought I would ask if there's anything special I should do to prepare them? Other than possibly grinding on a higher level?

    Thanks

  21. #21
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    Got starter pack today and tried the India Elephant Hills Peaberry. Best coffee I've ever had.

    And spot on Hildy, grinded at 13, excellent. Thanks a lot.



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