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Thread: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

  1. #1
    dsc
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    slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Gday everyone,

    its been a while since my last post on these pages. During my pause from posting I tried to achieve constant extractions on my Classic+MDF combo. Sadly it all seems to fall to pieces *:(

    For the last two weeks Ive been using some defrozen Brazil/Bali "fresh" roasted beans. They seemed to work pretty well, I was grinding very near the "0" setting on my MDF, but the extractions were really slow. I got dripping at the start and a small cone with a steady stream. The beans were really oily and it was a dark roast, so it had some more bitterish flavours, but I kind of liked it.

    Last week my batch ended so I ordered some new beans, all pure arabicas, 4 different kinds. It all arrived yesterday and with a big grin on my face I opened one pack to smell some fresh coffee and see how the roast looks like. Currently Im using Sulawesi Toraja beans, its a medium dark roast, mostly brown and light brown beans, roasted on th 21st of June. I poured around 200g to a small SS container and put the rest in the freezer to keep it fresh.

    After measuring 18.5g on my electronic scale I poured it into the grinder, set somewhere around 0.5, which means its a pretty fine grind. Did all the usuall stuff, so grind into a cup, poured it into the basket (double), distributed with my needle tool and tamped. The tamp was fearly light, around 10kg max with a nutating motion to seal the edges, because my Torr is slightly smaller than the basket. Hit the brew button and watched with a stupid look on my face as the pour went into the huge cone phase in around 10s. It also went blond quite fast. I stoped the extraction faster and looked into the cup. The crema had millions of bubbles on top and it disappeared almost entirely within 30s. Thought to myself: "Hmm the grind is probably to course", so I went back to almost 0 and tried it again. The extraction was very similar to the first one, only a bit slower, but still a huge cone and unstable crema. So heres when I ask the question:

    What the hell is going on!!??

    I will just add that recently I lowered the pressure on the basket to around 9.5bars using a manometer. Im using week old coffee, which was stored in a tight sealed bag (with a valve) since the roasting process. Im grinding on a setting of 0,1. Im using 18.5g in a double basket which is still a lot and yet it all seems to fail. I tried split dosing, one tamp methods, nutating motion and other weird techniques and still nothing. I even ordered a set of new burrs and a custom made tamper, but it just feels too hard. This is just coffee not positronic destillation of subatomic particles, is it suppose to be so damn difficult? I think it might be the burrs on my MDF, so theres still some hope, but if the new set works like the old one Im going to throw the MDF out the window. I might be also getting some side channeling, because when I dont do the nutating motion the pours are mostly blond gushers.

    I dont know what to do, Im annoyed and I dont really know whats going on. Gonna grab me a glass of water, because it looks like coffee hates me. Or my Classic is one picky mean machine.

    Cheers,
    dsc.

  2. #2
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    i have the same combo - classic + mdf. Im currently using a blend (no idea what it is) from my local roaster in the blue mountains. Over the past month ive changed beans several times, changed my pressure and my steam wand so ive been re-learning a lot.

    basically, I ignore the weight recommendations - the espresso you produce is far more important than how much coffee you use. Instead i wasted a few hundred grams and timed my grind and compared shots. im currently grinding on 5 for 23.5 seconds and producing consistent, delicious espresso. Ive maintained this consistency by using the same beans for several weeks/kilos, but im sure ill have no problems translating the technique to new beans. tamp is tamp is tamp - do it a hundred times and do it the same way - so long as its suited to the grind size and its producing the right results then dont change.

    i have noticed, after lovering the pressure, that the machine is far happier with fresh beans - the stale fairtrade roasts and the emergency bag of lavazza came out terribly, but the fresher roasts are beautiful.

    so, my recommendations are things you already know - fresh beans, consistent tamp, but dont worry about weighing beans (im sure youve looked inside your machine and seen how much of you grind doesnt actually make it to the doser), instead use grind time as your measuring stick.

    good luck :)

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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Hi dsc,

    Couple of suggestions;

    As I understand it, the problem has occurred since a change of beans?
    And you have other varieties of beans as yet un-tried...

    Incidentally, has there been any dramatic changes in the weather locally,
    that can affect your pours.

    Would be worth trying one or more of the other varieties to see how they behave,
    keeping everything else (grind setting, dose, etc) same.

    Also sounds like you could go even finer with your grind, the optimum grind setting will vary with different beans.

    This weekend I was getting great pours using some home roasted MTC Boomerang that was a nearly 2 weeks old, last night put some 1 week old Bali beans through and it was like a gusher, still very gassy, they will be better in a few days, and probably need a finer grind.


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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Another suggestion is to up dose a bit, as early_morning said some grinds get left in the grinder and will stale before your next coffee.

    Once you have pulled a shot does the coffee puck have an impression of the shower screen or screw?

    If it doesnt or the puck is wet, you need a larger dose.

  5. #5
    dsc
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday again,

    Im using a modified MDF with a removable finger guard, so I can clean the insides of the grinder after each grind (which I do). There are almost no stale grinds in my shots, only the beans that I weigh and throw into the doser. I use a scale to keep the weight constant because its just another variable in the espresso equation, so eliminating it makes things easier. I try to tamp with the same force everytime, but I prefer lighter tamps, max 10kg.

    I already defroze some beans from a different bag and its a different kind, so I will see how it goes. About the weather, hmmm... well it is raining all the time now, and it was rather hot a week ago, so yeah I guess I can say the weather changed rather dramatically.

    I get dry pucks every time, with a nice shower screen impression so the dose seems ok. Besides I tried different dosing and it turned out that using more than 19g touches the screen when locking the PF in the group, so 18.5g that I use now is almost the max that I can use. Im also grinding at a setting when the burrs almost touch each other, so I guess it may be time to change the burrs. Glad I ordered a new set and they are already on the way.

    Today I tried the split dose method, poured some coffee into the basket, tamped with a nutating motion, poured the rest and tamped again also with a nutating motion. This gave a nice slow pour, but still bubbles on the surface of the crema. I talked to my local roaster and he says this is normal with the coffee that Im using. Its a bit strange because when I pour the milk in it mixes really weird, the crema flows on top of the milk in some places like fat on top of water. After the pour the whole thing looks like someone photoshoped a picture of latteart with some strange filter. But thats a totally different story:)

    Anyway it all seems to be better, and I hope it will stay this way especially when I get my new custom made tamper and the new burr set.

    Thanks for the replies:)
    Cheers,
    dsc.

    PS. Boldor: maaaaan thats a huge dog in your avatar;)

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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Quote Originally Posted by dsc link=1183479988/0#4 date=1183548294
    PS. Boldor: maaaaan thats a huge dog in your avatar;)
    Yes, 70Kg of Great Dane that likes to sit on my lap or lay across my chest (can make it hard to breathe at times), and I wouldnt have it any other way. ;D

  7. #7
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    <off topic>

    I had an encounter once with a Great Dane.
    I was delivering a pizza one night many years ago.
    As I approached the front door through the dark garden, I heard thunder.
    It seemed to be getting closer and I thought to myself "strange it didnt look like rain".
    Then it became clearer as it came closer still...."WOOOF......WOOOF".
    I turned to meet the beast face to face.

    <on topic>

    Seems to me like you need a finer grind.

  8. #8
    dsc
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    offtopic: 70kg on your lap? sounds like fun:) its funny when huge dogs get emotional;)

    ontopic: with the current set of burrs I cant grind any finer:| thats way I put all my hope into the new burr set that should arrive soon. Will see if it changes anything.

    Cheers,
    dsc.

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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    I have had a Gaggia Classic with a Sunbeam Grinder for over a year now, and am really happy with the results. The best piece of advice I can give you is always go back to the Golden Rule:

    60mls in 30 seconds through a double basket.

    Everything else is just adding to consistency and fine-tuning. If you can hit the golden rule 9 times out of ten, you will have espresso better than most cafes can make.

    I am at the point now where I know how the coffee is going to taste before I taste it, and am going to do some stuff to up my consistency. First thing on the list is a Pullman Tamper, which should be arriving any day now. You Beauty! :D

    Next is upgrading the Sunbeam to a Rocky, hopefully in about six weeks or so.

    After that, I will hopefully have some time off from work and renovations, and will read through the various threads and complete the pressure mod. Looking forward to seeing the results from the Classic after all the above falls into place! :)

    But I need to stress that it is only in the pursuit of perfect coffee every time, rather than the 85-90% I am getting now.

    I think perhaps you are over-analyzing the process too much. Aim for the golden rule, only adjusting one of the parameters at a time, and you will have more success.


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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    DSC - I think some of your problem is the way your burrs are set on your grinder. There is no way that you should have the grinder set on 0, that seems way too fine to me. When you get the new burrs make sure they are calibrated properly. It is a pity that you did all the mods you did as you could have sent it back to Gaggia under warraty to be fixed, by pulling it apart etc you have probably voided the warranty.

    My other guess is that you are grinding too fine and maybe tamping too hard. What you are describing is what happens to me when I do this. I wont mention the dosing issue as we have previously discussed this ad infinitum.

    My other thought is also your beans.

    First - do not freeze or refrigerate them. This may be part of your crema issues. Freezing does something to upset the oils in the beans and this does something wierd to the crema.

    My other thought is the freshness of the beans. Freezing the beans will not keep them fresh - they will still be stale a few weeks after roasting. I notice - even with home roasted beans that after two weeks they start to deteriorate and by three weeks there is basically no crema at all.

    I do not know how you are accessing your beans in Poland (is that where you are?), but maybe they just are not that great quality wise and you are not going to get a quality crema.

    The only other suggestion I can offer to solve that issue is for you to order green beans online and start roasting. From memory, I think Sweetmarias sends green beans to Europe. Get yourself a cheap popper and you will definitely get great results.

    From what I have seen in your little videos etc you seemed to me to be getting pretty good results. Maybe what you think is not good really is better than you realise?

    If I can find the time (and someone to man the camera) over the next few days I will try to remember to take a wee vid of my Classic and MDF in action and post them.

  11. #11
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Good advice all round,
    I definately agree with Lucinda.
    Do not ever freeze your beans, it does all kinds of strange things to the pour and the taste.

  12. #12
    dsc
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    I talked to my beans distributor and it turns out this coffee likes to bubble, he says he tried it him self a few times and got the same results as I did. Just to check it I used some other coffee that came in the pack and there were no bubbles. Mixed them together in a 50-50 ratio and also got less bubbles. So problem solved:) its a bit weird because when you look at the pour and how the volume rises in the cup its smooth at the beginning and the bubbles appear around the 17-19s of the extraction. Must be some strange chemical reaction going on inside the coffee in the cup.

    As for the MDF problems, yup its true something is not right. And yes its also true that sending it back would be a good idea, although Im not sure if they would see anything wrong. Ive taken the grinder to pieces several times and found nothing wrong inside. It might be the burrs, because I had two accidents with them. Once a hard piece of plastic went into the burr chamber and blocked the grinder completely. The other time a metal staple that was in the coffee pack went in and seriously butchered the burrs. Cant wait for the new burrs set to check out if it changes anything.

    I cant be grinding too fine, because if I dont do the split dose method I get a blond gusher, which means the coffee is really not grind fine enough. I also tamp lightly, usually 5kg max, sometimes 10kg, but thats really rare. Now I do a split dose tamp and mostly nutate the tamper to seal the edges. It works really good and I get a steady small stream of coffee, around 60ml in 25s, although I dont really time my shots, but turn the machine off when I see any signs of blonding. The crema I get from this coffee is huge, but it disappears quite quickly, not sure why, but maybe this is something natural with this kind of coffee?

    Beans: I get them from a friend of mine who has a professional industrial roaster and the coffee is really good. Its always fresh roasted before shipping and a date is put on the pack to show when it was done. He also has green beans in his offer, so if I start roasting I can order some from him:)

    Freezing: Ive been doing this for some time and never noticed any negative effects. My last 4kg batch of coffee was all frozen for a month and it behaved almost the same after 3 weeks as it did at the beginning before freezing. The amount of crema didnt change and there was no noticeable taste change. I also read a lot of articles on freezing coffee and they all stated that it is a safe way of storing coffee and it keeps it fresh for a longer time.

    It maybe true that Im picking holes in the whole process, maybe its better than I think, but who knows?:) Its always better to seek for improvement than to be satisfied with mediocre results.

    Lucinda: it would be great if you could record a short video of your extraction. Maybe I will record mine and we will be able to compare:)

    Thanks for everyones input:)
    Cheers,
    dsc.

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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    It sounds like the coffee is just taking longer to degass than most if the roaster is getting similar findings.

    It would be difficult to make any proper assessment of what is going wrong with burrs in as poor condition as you have described. Im confident that things will be far better (and you wont need as fine a grind setting) once your burrs are replaced.

    Just as an aside, can the lower burrs in an MDF be shimmed up a tiny bit to close the burr gap?

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    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Re: slowly loosing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    DSC, you say you prefer a light tamp of 5 to 10 kg, but conventional wisdom says you should be looking at 14 to 15 kg.

    Im not a fan of freezing beans. I freeze our freshly baked bread. Even use a vacuum pump to remove air from the plastic bag in which its kept. But as we know, moist air condenses on cold surfaces -- coffee and bread being no exception.

    Too oftnen, frozen moisture makes it impossible to seperate out a slice of two. When you remove the beans from the freezer, moist air will also condense on the bean mass, mixing with the oils and no doubt spoiling them as well.

    Food for thought.

    --Robusto

  15. #15
    dsc
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    Yeah I hope that the new burr set is going to make things different. Keeping my fingers crossed:)

    I tried shimming the bottom burr but its harder than I thought. Will see how the new burr set grinds and if it doesnt change much I will try to correct the alignment.

    Because I use the split dose method and tamp twice Im using a lighter tamp not to choke the machine. When I secure the edges with the nutating motion I get pretty nice and consistent results. Besides I think its better to grind finer and tamp lighter, seems to bring more flavours from the coffee.

    As for the freezing Im still not sure. Seems like a good idea, but I feel like doing something very wrong when taking the beans from the freezer. I dont know why, I guess my mind just objects to do it:)

    Cheers,
    dsc.

  16. #16
    dsc
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday again,

    so the new burr set arrived and it works!!!!:) changing the burrs had quite an impact on the quality of the grind. I choked my Classis on the setting of "1" so hard that nothing appeared for at least 15s:) now Im working on the setting of 2.5 and it gives nice dripping, slow ristretto-like extractions.

    Everything seems to be working perfect now, the grinder has new burrs, the machine is set to 9.5bars, my scratchbuild steam wand works perfect and I even managed to draw two rosettas on my morning cappa:) Looks like God has finally forgiven me and decided to give me another chance;)

    Thanks for all the tips and support,
    Cheers,
    dsc.

  17. #17
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Alls well that ends well.

    I would have said that with a comparitively new grinder, the problem had all the hallmarks of stale beans. And I would have been wrong.

    --Robusto

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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Quote Originally Posted by dsc link=1183479988/15#15 date=1184327797
    Gday again,

    so the new burr set arrived and it works!!!!:) changing the burrs had quite an impact on the quality of the grind. I choked my Classis on the setting of "1" so hard that nothing appeared for at least 15s:) now Im working on the setting of 2.5 and it gives nice dripping, slow ristretto-like extractions.

    Everything seems to be working perfect now, the grinder has new burrs, the machine is set to 9.5bars, my scratchbuild steam wand works perfect and I even managed to draw two rosettas on my morning cappa:) Looks like God has finally forgiven me and decided to give me another chance;)

    Thanks for all the tips and support,
    Cheers,
    dsc.
    Great news Tom ;D,

    Sure has been a long time in coming, eh? But worth the wait now I reckon ;),

    Cheers mate,
    Mal.

  19. #19
    dsc
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    thanks guys:) shouldve seen the stupid grin on my face when I choked the machine for the first time with the new burr set installed in the grinder.

    Its been a while since it all went bad, but as Robusto said all is well that ends well. Definitely worth the wait :D

    Cheers,
    dsc.

  20. #20
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Glad the problem is solved.

  21. #21
    dsc
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    Thanks Lucinda:)

    Hows that wee video of your extractions going??

    Cheers,
    dsc.

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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Its not - I tried and got a dreadful recording so I will haveto talk OG or the kid into letting me try their cameras as they are a bit newer then mine.

    Will get to it as soon as I can.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Lizzie's Avatar
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    whoohoo!
    well done, dsc...enjoy your coffee!! youve waited long enough for it... :P

    L

  24. #24
    dsc
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    Re: slowly losing hope - diffcult Gaggia Classic

    Gday,

    a small update and I just wanted to say that everything works well:)

    whoohoo indeed:)

    Thanks Lizzi!:)

    Cheers,
    dsc.



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