what beans are you using?
I have tried my best with a Silvia + Rocky doserless for a year now - and it is all too hard! Whilst I get some great shots - I get a high percentage that are simply bitter.
I dont see my grinder / beans as the issue - ~25 sec pulls are easily obtained - some are great - but most are too bitter to have as straight espresso.
Perhaps the shots I get out of the Silvia are sometimes OK for milk drinks (great over ice cream ;-)) - but I am looking specifically for a machine that can produce consistent Espressos.
So - could I expect more consistent results from a HX machine - such as a ECM Giotto or La Scala Butterfly?
what beans are you using?
Are you temperature surfing?
I had quite variable results from my Silvia until I settled into a good routine. If the water is too hot it will over extract the coffee which will make it bitter.
Ive been using mine for about a month now and have achieved very good results. The only bad shots I get are ones that Ive had something to do with ie; bad tamp or too little coffee in the basket etc.
Just a couple of questions... Hows your water source? If its dubious use filtered water. Its possible that residual tastes can come by ordinary tap water sources. General rule if it tastes OK to drink it should make good coffee.
Also make sure to clean your machine on a regular basis. I water backflush once a day and take the dispersion screen out once every 2-3 days and clean it out. Its pretty amazing how many coffee grounds wind up on the other side.
Second what Rich says too... Beans are paramount. If theyre not fresh youre behind the 8-ball right from the word go.
Also as Wired mentioned. Temp. surfing helps greatly too. I wait 35 seconds after the light comes on before pulling the shot. 35-40 sec range seems to give good results. Waiting for the light to go out makes the shot far too hot.
Hope this helps -
Thanks for the replies.
I am using Beans from Alan - water is filtered - and I did a good clean before I gave up (including a descaling).
I have done some temp surfing which is when I get some good shots - albeit the shots are not consistently coming out OK. I make 3 - 4 shots to get one you can drink!
I guess I find the Silvia too hard - you have to go through a ritual to have half a hope - I dont mind the ritual as such - if it produced consistent results.
One of the greatest sins committed by many espresso machine operators is that they follow a "recipe" in trying to produce their espresso.
The recipe calls for a combination of separate variables in the operators technique, all culminating in the magical 18 to 26 second "pour" (the number of seconds differing depending on what "gospel" you read).
A common problem is where operators grind the coffee too finely in trying to slow up the pour to achieve the volume of espresso required at the slowest end of the scale, and this usually manifests itself in a burnt flavour, or over extraction.
After many years of running espresso coffee machines, my honest opinion is that the rules of espresso are only guidelines and they themselves are governed by a mulititude of variables including what side of the bed you get out of in the morning! So what I am getting at, is that for a given type of coffee or blend, for which I have adjusted the grinder in a particular way, and particularly where I may have found that one setting on the grinder is slightly coarse but the very next setting is slightly fine, I personally prefer to run on the slightly coarse setting, and simply tamp harder to achieve my desired brew....or even try and fit a bit of extra grinds inthere with a harder tamp. This is a lot less likely, for a given type of blend, to produce an over strong or burnt flavour, and is MORE LIKELY to produce a smoother and much more more full bodied brew.
In the end what this means in simple terms, is that I personally prefer a slight underextraction and will take steps to correct it as much as possible, to an over extraction!
And even further in the end, this simply goes to show that the rules of espresso are only guidelines and that its all in the enterpretation, which is why so many operators make so many different brews in so many cafes, from very few blends.
Upgrading to a semi commercial / heat exchanger machine is a great idea as they are logistically easier (due to larger size and weight) to use however you will find that exactly the same variables apply. In essence when you get to the "high end" of espresso brewing every small detail is magnified and you get used to having to compensate. This is what makes an understanding, knowledgeable, professional "barista".
With regard to temperature surfing, this is a must no matter what machine you use. From my own point of view it is relatively simple in that my only concern is to make sure the brew water is not steaming / gushing and therefore too hot. Once any steaming / gushing is purged, I make my coffee. I dont make it any more complicated than that.
With regard to machine "cleanliness", backflushing etc.....realistically I dont think its an issue in your case. The production of an espresso requires you get all the little variables just right. If you get them right, you get a very well produced brew with good flavour. You might get a "hint" of something not quite right but an overly burnt flavour cant ONLY be the result of you not having cleaned the group shower or backflushed the group in a few days.
Have you thought about having a get together with other Silvia owners on a sat afternoon, or taking a lesson with a professional outfit?
Hope this helps.
I tend to be a bit of a pragmatist. I agree in part with FC. Set the grinder more on the coarse side and tamp a little harder if necessary.Originally Posted by Fresh_Coffee link=1103461506/0#5 date=1103499251
All that said if the shot winds up a little over-extracted/bitter then I follow the "Mary Poppins Theory" a quarter to half a teaspoon of sugar makes the medicine go down. ;)
OTOH if the shots were bitter/over-extracted all the time then Id be worried. ???
Have a good one everybody.
A quick question to all....under or over extraction, how would it affect the crema?
Since getting my Lux grinder, my shots are improving, but still the crema is nowhere near as much as some pictures Ive seen and most usually dissipate after a while.
I am a little confused. I thought crema equal proper extraction, therefore the beans should be grounded finer and less tamp. My shots are also on the bitter side. ???
Generally speaking, the more under extracted the brew is, the "lighter" the colour of the crema, and depending on other variables, the "thinner" the crema. IE an under extracted crema will be "whiter" or "grey" or even have a grainy appearance, a properly extracted crema will be "golden" and oily and thick, , and an over extracted crema will develop brown and dark brown colouring in a very "tan" coloured or "patchy" crema....generally speaking.
Dont be too worried by crema dissipating over time....ideally the espresso is for drinking immediately it has been brewed so under ideal conditions you would never know how long a crema "should" have lasted before dissipating. This can be a problem in cafes where delivery of an espresso to the table is held up by the operator wanting to wait until all coffess for that table have been brewed. The oldest coffees may lose their crema as well as temperature, and aside from lack of crema at "delivery", the flavour takes a turn for the worst with loss of temp. In addition some coffees contain more oils and these may produce a thicker quantity of crema, a more golden crema, and one that doesnt dissipate as quickly as that produced with other types of coffee, however of they are loaded with some type of robusta, may look good but taste foul.
So all of this is "general", because in real terms the whole let depends on your technique, the coffee used, the time of day, the position of the sun, the type of grinder and machine, how well its all set up, etc etc etc and I had a laugh! It is very satisfying when the whole lot comes together so...
Dont give up!
Now what was the question again??? Oh yeah, overextraction and bitterness (and lack of crema). Generally (there goes that word again), newbies to the espresso machine world get a dosing spoon with their new espresso machine but no where in the instructions does it tell you how much to put in the doser spoon. They just say words to the effect of to use the doser spoon to to put the correct amount of grounds in the filter...WHAT correct amount???? Enter the second lot of confusion, being the artikills (in books and on the internet...sorry guys but this is true) that tell you a particular weight of grinds, eg 7 grams.
This means nothing....particularly as there are a number of different sized filters in the market, holding diff quantities of grounds. Placing 7 grams in a 9 gram filter for instance, results in crap coffee and is simply wrongful advice.
From the small amount of advice you have given us, it sounds like you are not putting enough coffee in the filter. AS a general rule of thumb, fill and tamp the coffee in the filter, apply to the group, dont brew. Remove it. If you can not see the imprint of the shower on the coffee, there is not enough coffee in the filter. If you can see the imprint and it is heavy, there is too much coffee in the filter. The correct amount of grinds are when you just get the slightest "kiss" of an imprint on the coffee. The correct level of tamped grounds in the filter will be found to be around 7mm below (depending on the particular make and model of machine) the top of the rounded rim of the filter.
Make coffee...then worry about over and under extraction, burnt flavours etc. If you still get burnt flavours and dark thin crema, coffee may be too fine OR, you may be using a blend of something with some awful robustas blended into it OR you are not purging hot steamy water from the group before brewing, OR...I give up for now!
I thought the desirable outcome of a brew was the so-called "Tiger Striping" effect that seems to be all the rage from posters on a.c. and CoffeeGeek forums, etc?
I tend to grind pretty fine to feed my Mokita and usually end up with a very tasty, gloriously rich brew almost all the time. It is very rarely bitter but usually bitter-sweet like good quality dark chocolate. I have found that grinding coarser and tamping more heavily usually produces a brew that is thin, not a lot of mouth-feel and in the end not very satisfying.
All my beans are sourced from reputable suppliers and have not had a bad batch yet (touch wood) and then roasted on our back patio in a trusty little Popper that has proven to be able to churn out some most impressive results so far.
With regard to the quantity of coffee used in the PF for each brew...
I dont weigh the ground coffee (I used to though when I first started out) but rather go by volume in the PF - some very good advice received from Alan Frew. Have found this technique to be capable of much more consistent outcomes than anything else Ive tried so far anyway.
1) Using the supplied plastic scoop, measure out two slightly heaped doses of beans (for a double) into your grinder.
2) Collect the ground coffee into your Pre-heated PF. There should be enough in the basket to cause a slight heaping of grounds. Tap the PF on the bench lightly two or three times to settle the grounds into the basket and fill any voids that might be present.
3) Now, using the handle of the plastic scoop, edge down... strike off the excess coffee from the PF ensuring that the coffee is evenly distributed across the surface and that there are no gaps around the edges.
4) Now, tamp the coffee into the PF using whatever force is comfortable for you to apply consistently but not excessive force, ie more than 15Kg is not necessary and between 7.5 and 10Kg should be plenty. Pay particular attention to the edges if your Tamper is not a snug fit. If youre not sure how much force you are applying, use the tried and true bathroom scales method on your benchtop until such time as you feel confident that you can apply a force that falls within the ballpark +/- 2Kg. Practice makes for consistency with this.
5) Wipe the edge of the PF basket with your palm or a finger to ensure that there are no grounds present to foul up the seal between PF and Group gasket. If you are Temp Surfing as described previously, lock the PF into position as soon as you have wiped the edge clean and commence the pour at the appropriate time.
6) For a Double, you should have about 60ml of brew including Crema after about 25 seconds (guidelines) at which time you stop the pour, remove the PF, knock-out and admire your handiwork for a couple of seconds before sampling.
7) As others have already mentioned, if the brew is very bitter and has a small quantity of dark Crema and doesnt measure up to the 60ml quantity expected, then your grind setting is most likely too fine. On the other hand, if the resulting brew is somewhat weak, has a quantity of very light Crema, then your grind is too coarse. Which ever way you need to adjust your grind, only change the setting by one notch at a time until you are achieving the type of brew that you are happy with.
8) As everyone has already intimated, consistency with everything you do when making espresso is the key to learning what goes into making the perfect cup for you. Only change one variable at a time and be as observant as you can be in an effort to identify how this singular change affected the resulting brew. Once you can do this, youll be well on your way to tailoring each and every brew to suit your taste buds. It usually ends up that paying attention to all of the small steps that go into making a brew will pay the most dividends in the end.
Dont give up Col, the rewards at the end of this fairly steep learning curve are worth it and once learnt, will not be forgotten. Just keep trying and keep in touch as everyone here are more than willing to try and help you achieve the utimate goal. Practice, practice, practice... the three most important words there are when it comes to producing consistently excellent espresso. All the best,
OK - great replies - it has given me a new lease of life....
I will pull the Silvia out of the mothballs on Boxing Day - and whilst I watch the Cricket, I will practice, practice, and practice....
Wish me luck!
(Another) Long Post /
Thanks for giving us another point of view on how to dose up the group handle.
Readers might like to note that information like that given in these couple of posts here above is priceless. As simple or as basic as it might seem it is usually the result of many years experience in a very secretive industry where many coffee & machinery & café people would not normally speak to each other & certainly not share information, and where in the past there were no books or internet to rely on. In addition there was no “training” available in this country, so you either “got” espresso as a result of your own interest (please, not the word “passion”), or you didn’t. People had to come to their own conclusions about how to brew esp. properly and if they got it right, their method ended up being basically the same as the next bloke that got it right!
There are a couple of points to be made however, and this is not to be misunderstood as some kind of “my method is better than your method” thing, it’s simply academic and to help others reading this thread.
It is paramount for the espresso machine operator to know how to visually dose up the group handle. The method described a couple of posts above whereby you are looking for that slight “kiss” of the imprint of the shower on top of the coffee, gives the beginner a way to volumetrically judge the correct quantity, and see at what level it comes to in the filter. It actually differs “slightly” from different brand & model machines depending on the individual manufacture of the groups.
Therefore….with regard to point 1 in the post immediately above, there are atleast 2 different types of doser spoons around, they hold diff quantities of coffee…., and to further complicate matters, in point 3, “….strike of excess coffee from the pf etc…” the point is that a beginner does not know what constitutes “excess”…! Once the beginner has sorted out what constitutes a proper dose visually however, he/she is on his/her way!
One other thing. We are all guilty of this, however in point 5 above where it is stated “…wipe off excess with your palm or a finger…”, anyone reading this and who may end up going for accreditation as a “barista”, should note that hygienically this is a “no no” and would result in a technical failure upon examination.
Otherwise, isn’t it great how all roads lead to Rome!
I still reckon Col (and Franjae), that you should see if you can get together with someone else in the group who is prepared to run you through all this, and have a pleasant afternoon’s coffee machine networking session. Don’t forget to follow up with a (good quality) beer, all this talk of coffee is a bit of a “dry argument”.
Thanks for the terrific response guys! I will stock up on some beans and to practise over the Christmas break.
One final question, a double shot will give you approx 60 mls, or 30 mls in each cup in 20-25 sec. Should I be using glasses at this stage with a mark where 30 mls is at this early stage?
I should also be investing in a cow, at the rate milk is being used at present ! ;D
Why not ? :) It will initially help you to achieve consistent results ....and in order to be a coffeesnob, the pre requisite is that you also need to be a brewconsistencysnob, otherwise there is no point!
Being an advocate of "a picture is worth a thousand..."
See how the coffee is in a mound but the edges are no higher than the rim of the basket. Notice there is a little bit of clumping of the coffee which is a good indicator of the right grind based on the relative moisture in the coffee.
I just tap lightly on the bench a couple of times. How lightly? Enough to make it look like this with a couple of taps.
I tamp lightly to flatten the pack, tap lightly on the rim with the handle of my tamper to knock the grinds on the edge of the basket onto the pack (this should in no way disturb the main coffee pack) then tamp 25-30kg with a twist at the finish.
If you dont have a proper metal tamper that fits your basket like a glove, buy one before proceeding any further!
A little quicker than normal as it is surprisingly fiddly to make a cup of coffee and take photos at the same time!
Note that all these pics are much lighter than reality due to the auto light adjustment in my phone camera. The coffee pour should look much darker than this photo suggests (on my monitor anyway).
Great idea "wired". Pictures sure do make it a lot easier to explain. I havent got a digital camera or imaging device as yet, but one day. Still lugging my Nikon F2 kit around Im afraid.
All the best,