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Thread: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

  1. #1
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    help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi All, I recently purchased a sunbeam em6900 after doing quite a bit of research concluding that what I can save on a thermoblock i can use to get a half decent grinder. After about three weeks I am yet to produce a decent coffee. I might go as far to say that all I seem to get is swill. Ok perhaps its not that bad but it is certainly not what I expected from this machine even if it is a thermoblocl.

    The shots are sour! Basically thats the prob, I have tried several different beans, I have made sure the timing is right (20-30 sec) by adjusting the grind and tamp but I am at a loss. While I have improved the shots I cannot get rid of the sourness.

    I am beginning to suspect that the temperature is not high enough (calibration out?) but since I am a bit of a newbie (reasonably informed newbie though) I wanted to see if all you snobs ;) out there have any hints/clues before I start wingeing to sunbeam (because i know what they are going to say... you are not using it correctly).

    I am using a Gagia MDF grinder...

    I got the beans from a roaster near Vic Market in Melbourne... cannot remember the name though, they are on elizabeth st. They have made a difference but the sour note is still there, sometimes really bad.

    So any thoughts... apart from I should have got a...<insert boiler/hx machine> ;) Am I just not getting things right? I can understand if I over extract I will get a bitter and somewhat sour shot but even when I under extract it is sour.

  2. #2
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    nicoau:

    Sour is definitely undertemperature. You can measure with a thermocouple to make sure. The temperature would have to be very low, possibly below 80C to give it a bad sour taste.

    Make sure you are following all instructions for the machine regarding warming up and purging (if any is required).

    It is possible that it is faulty. If you can get a thermocouple or thermometer just stick a styrofoam cup under the group without a portafilter in place and run for 10 seconds. The temperature should be about 90C or thereabouts possibly slightly less.

    I think measurement is the only sure way to troubleshoot. If the temperature is too low then you will need to take it in for repair.

    Grant

  3. #3
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Thanks Grant,

    I had my suspicions about the temp so it is great to hear someone back this theory. I will have to find a thermometer or thermocouple and test the temp.

    I have tried letting the machine warm for hours as well as running water though (i think this would be best for the reverse situation of needing to cool though), neither have had any real impact.

    I will report back once I have tested the temp.

    Thanks!

    Nick

  4. #4
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Nick, a very pale, whitish crema can be indicative of cold water if all other factors are correct. Otherwise, maybe your beans may be the culprit.

    --Robusto

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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Hmmmm, the crema does seem fine... certainly not pale. at least i think it isnt.

    I have tried several differents lots of beans now but it still could be the problem. I have lashed out and bought a $60 multimeter so I can test the temp tonight. If the temp is fine then I have a new multimeter, if not then i have solved the problem and i have a new mulitmeter :)

  6. #6
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    I tested the temperature using a thermocouple with the probe sitting in a small plastic cup (medicine cup) which was inturn in an espresso glass. The temperature hit 87C and I guess may be higher if I could test better (i will get a foam cup).

    Could the temp still be the issue? 87C although not hot enough surely wouldnt cause too much of a prob would it?

    I will try other beans but I think it may be something else. Are there any other factors that can cause sourness?

  7. #7
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Nick:

    The temperature is fine.

    Other causes can be under roasted beans although if the beans are from different roasters this is unlikely.

    Underextracted shots can sometimes cause this too where they run through too quickly.

    I think though that what you need is your machine and someone elses beans and taste buds to see whether they concur with you or not.

    Even though espresso is somewhat subjective, someone who is experienced may be able to assist.

    Tell us where you live and some kind CS member may be willing to make a house call...

    For instance, if you live North of Perth I may be able to drop in!
    Grant

  8. #8
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn link=1129521395/0#6 date=1129554591
    Underextracted shots can sometimes cause this too where they run through too quickly.
    That was my experience with a thermoblock.

    You mentioned 20-30 seconds, but not the final volume ... that can help.

    In general (and I havent played with the 6900) I used to get better shots from a sunbeam thermoblock by using more ground coffee, grinding finer etc etc, so that shots were more in the 40-50 second range. It may sound extreme, but with lower brewing temps, I never ever burnt a shot.

  9. #9
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Nick,

    you havent told us what experience you have with electric pump driven espresso machines.

    If this is your first, I strongly suggest you look into taking a formal lesson. They are not expensive, keep you off the streets at night and away from the idiot box *;), and should be really interesting if not a lot of fun for you. You will come away confident of being able to use the new toy to your satisfaction. Tell the course leader what kind of machine you have, or take it in with you...I know I dont mind playing with course participant machines in my own classes as long as it doesnt take up too much time, and generally speaking all other participants with domestic espresso machines get something out of it as well.

    2muchcoffeeman, a member of this site, teaches at one of the reputable coffee schools in Melbourne. Why not send him a PM about it? *

    Also, assume there is nothing wrong with the machine...its new, it works..thats all you need to know at this stage, and anything else will just serve to confuse unnecessarily and lead you off on frustrating tangents.


    Regardz,
    FC.

  10. #10
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Hi All,

    Thank you all for you help. This is a great little community here.

    Regards to my experience well that would be a big fat zero I guess. I must admit I did read about a week ago someone giving similar advice, that when it comes to first-timers it is rarely the machine. So I gave it another crack, I guess it was easier to blame the machine. :(

    I think I should get some professional help ;)

    I will let you know my progress. Thanks again.


  11. #11
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Yeah, it is the easiest thing in the world to blame equipment. The fact is that espresso is ridiculously sensitive to the tiniest changes. I really cant see how someone with no experience is going to be able to manage these sufficiently in the first month. For example, 20 seconds would be way under!

    The advice that I keep on trotting out to people with new equipment is to just buy 250g of beans to throw away and spend a lazy weekend morning learning to get a consistent dose, tamp, etc. If your milk needs improvement, burn through 2L of milk in a morning. It might seem wasteful, but this is essentially what you would be doing in a course. I like to think that the machine and grinder setup are a waste [i]without[x] doing this.

    As for measuring brew temperatures ... go by your tastebuds. It is so easy to get different results to other people through systematic errors. And with a thermoblock machine, the temperature varies with the flow rate, which varies with the coffee in the portafilter, so the styrofoam cup method really gives you almost no useful information. (Or so Im told!)

    Hope that helps,

    Luca

  12. #12
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    Re: help!, my new machine is producing swill.

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    By the sounds of it youve tested the water temp, and it seems ok - 87 is hot enough not to sour things up. You can try the polystyreen cup, but youre likely to see similar results - probably a bit higher if anything, but not by much. The styro cup test is more for "regularity" of heat temprature. (ie. if you run a brew, then straight away try another ,then will it be back up to temprature... or do you have to wait a bit longer) Not sure that it even applies to a thermoblock thou?

    The machine and grinder are both excellent... the MDF has a long track record, and the machine has indeed got some very good reviews. I dont know if you know of Alan Frew at Coffee for Connoissers, but he wrote a review on your machine Im sure youll be very happy reading. He says "once a few niggles are fixed itll be a category killer."
    http://www.coffeeco.com.au/articles/sunbeam.html

    I think after this review youll have a lot more to go with... too much/little coffee, grind etc. But I think Grant was right when he said that the amount of coffee per 25 seconds is important (bout 30ml). I also think what FC said was spot on, and that a course would be a great idea. Ive been to the cupping day with 2MuchCoffee and he REALLY knows his stuff.

    Best of luck and dont forget to report back once youve got a serious head on the brew (crema that is!).

    Also, using freshly roasted coffee is my tip of the day. Once youve gone home roast, youll never go back.



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