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How I got into espresso and my current questions

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  • How I got into espresso and my current questions

    Hi, I have been drinking espresso for years and finally decided to try making it myself. Actually, part of the reason for this is because I have had so many bad espressos at cafes in Sydney and thought "how can they get it so wrong?" - but since I myself didnt know how to make espresso I felt it maybe an unfair comment to make.

    So after much research on this board, I purchased an EM6910. The coffee... was shocking. Because I used pre-ground coffee (Vittoria in fact). More research ensued, and I learned that pre-ground coffee is a no-no. I bought the EM0480 which is the companion grinder to the Sunbeam machine I have. I also bought beans from a coffee shop called Mecca in Sydney because that is where I get my favourite espresso from.

    Tried again with my new set up... terrible! 5 failed cups later and Im starting to get nervous because in total this is a $900 investment for the two machines, and my beans are running out!

    So I did MORE research, and discovered I made a lot of tiny errors:
    - didnt pre-heat the machine
    - underfilled the filter
    - used the single instead of double basket

    After spending a whole night learning more, I tried again and was amazed at the difference - a really nice espresso! I was overjoyed!

    That was a few weeks ago. Now I find myself with a lot of questions. My biggest problem by far is consistency. Every espresso I make is different. Its usually good, certainly better than a typical cafe, but I feel I am pressing the start button and crossing my fingers, making a small sacrifice to Thor and hoping the result is right. I never know what I am going to get. So here are a few questions that are bugging me, and I know will help me:

    1. My grind setting is at about 5. Sunbeam recommends a good espresso should have a grind setting between 10-14. But when I do that, my result is very watery. Why do I need the grind so fine? The beans typically are roasted half a week before I use them (I am using Campos beans at the moment).

    2. There is a little gauge on the side of the coffee machine with a needle and 6 colours. From left to right they are: white, yellow, sandy, gold, brown, red. Apparently, the needle should hit the brown area. Sometimes I make it to the brown area perfectly. But sometimes, even on a fine grind setting, it only hits the gold or sand area. I actually dont know what I am doing differently, to make this happen. It is luck.

    3. I heard 22-24 seconds is a good espresso. When do I time the extraction from? When I push the button or when I see liquid come out?

    4. My espresso seems to go a blonde colour very quickly. Even so, it still seems thick and creamy. I am stopping my shot at this point but maybe I should leave it longer? I thought blonde = watery. I am finding it hard to tell when to stop the extraction.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post! 

  • #2
    Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

    Gday Mikizee and welcome to CS.

    1. Grind where the grind is correct for you. Forget what any manual says. Every grinder is different - if you got another EMO480 you would find you need a different grind setting again, just to get the same pour as youre getting now. If you get too close to 0 to get an espresso pour I think you can order some shims from Sunbeam to make the grind setting back toward the middle of the adjustment whilst still grinding espresso fine.

    2. Dont know much about the guage as I dont own a 6910, but you will find espresso to be a dark art. It is difficult to replicate shots until you have quite a bit of experience under your belt. Focus on pinning in an exact technique which you can replicate perfectly every time - once you can get close to this you will find that the grind setting is all you need to change to speed/slow pours (and Im assuming get the guage in the same spot each time)

    3. Everyones a little different but we generally advise to aim for a 25-30 sec extraction of 60mL using the double basket to begin with - and then start tweaking from there to suit your tastes. Start timing from when you hit the button.

    4. Yes you want to stop the pour when it blondes. But you also want to get at least close to 60mL using the double before it blondes. If its blonding prior to this, you might be getting channeling in the puck, underdosing, or beans may be getting a little old.

    You seem to have a good grip of the basics you need so far - it will come down to practice, practice, practice. Make sure you devise a routine which you can replicate perfectly every time (i.e. dose, distribution, tamp). If you are playing with one of those variables - make sure it is only one at a time so you can tell what difference that one change made. In the end you want to be able to replicate the technique exactly every time so all you need to change is grind to get to where you want to be on your pour.

    Good luck and enjoy!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

      Originally posted by 46776079787F74796F160 link=1321223941/1#1 date=1321225897
      If you get too close to 0 to get an espresso pour I think you can order some shims from Sunbeam to make the grind setting back toward the middle of the adjustment whilst still grinding espresso fine.
      I can confirm that. All the shims are the same size, but theyre quite thin, so you can add/subtract multiple shims to move the burs closer/further apart. For example, I had to take one out of my 480. But I know others had to add.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

        Gidday Mikizee I run the same setup, well almost, I have the 6900 which is still pulling great shots after 3 and 1/2 years.

        Like Pavoniboy says, the number on the grinder is not important, its the grind that is. You want to try and get it to about the same as castor sugar if you can. For me thats about 11 on the grinder, however if I am using freshly roasted beans I have to go 1 or 2 clicks coarser to get the right pour.

        When extracting I like to get mine just into the red of the pressure gauge (but that could be due to the age of the machine) and look for a 25 second extraction each time

        Also if you are using the preset pours, make sure that they are pouring the right amount. If I recall the factory settings for the 6900 were 35ml and 70ml and I adjusted them to be 30 and 60ml

        Hope that helps

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

          Try and get the distribution and dose right and be consistent with it, try the 5 cent test, and this be the right level post tamping you should aim for all the time. then adjust the grind to suit to get the ~60ml in ~30 secs for a double (starting from when you press the start button).

          Inspect the puck for channeling if you are getting early blonding. In no time you will be pulling shots better than most cafes.

          Cheers

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

            HI Mikizee,

            Good advice from Pavoniboy above. Welcome to joys of the em6910! Ive been using a 6910 for about 2 years now and would suggest the following:

            First, you need to get your dose right. I suggest starting by weighing out 20g of fresh beans, add to empty hopper, grind into PF until empty, firm tamp (leaning on the bench kind of pressure), and do the 5 cent test (search CS site - lots on this). Basically youre aiming for the top surface of the tamped, dry coffee in the PF to end up just (about 0.5mm) below the shower screen. 20g is a good starting point - you might need a bit less or a bit more. The tamping pressure is not that important, as long as you are consistent.

            Once you get the dose right, then adjust the grind to get a 25 - 30s shot. Be aware you will probably need to adjust your dose with big changes in grind, so redo the 5 cent test if youre in doubt.

            I would ignore the pressure gauge and the pre-set shot buttons and concentrate on watching the shot. If you really want to use the gauge, put one of the double-floor filter baskets in (the ones with only one little hole on the bottom) and do an empty run and take note of the pressure gauge (this becomes your reference pressure). Usually if for a normal shot (with the single-floor basket) the pressure is a little higher than the reference pressure things are looking ok. If its much higher (assuming your dose is ok) your grind is too fine - the shot volume will be too small (ie, slow flowing, very thick) shot). If its much lower, your grind is too course and the shot volume will be too big (ie thin, watery shot).

            Good luck, have fun and let us know how you go. More than happy to provide more help if you want it.


            Comment


            • #7
              Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

              Hi everyone

              So much great advice for me in this thread!

              I didnt realise how important of a marker the 60ml amount is when making a double. Ive never measured how much coffee I am getting. At least I know this now and can aim for this amount when doing the extraction.

              An interesting comment is about the 5 cent test and that the coffee should be about 0.5mm below the shower screen, tamped. This is more coffee than I am putting in, but Ill aim for this now and see what it does.

              I guess in the end it comes down to this:

              you will find espresso to be a dark art. It is difficult to replicate shots until you have quite a bit of experience under your belt. Focus on pinning in an exact technique which you can replicate perfectly every time - once you can get close to this you will find that the grind setting is all you need to change to speed/slow pours (and Im assuming get the guage in the same spot each time)
              How to tamp consistently and monitor all these little variables really is a gut instinct type of thing, its going to take lots of practice. Luckily I drink lots of coffee ;D

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                final suggestion is to get a decent timer if you havent got one. one that sits on the bench next to the machine. 30 seconds for a double is my target. playing with the settings is ongoing and fun. you need to readjust for new beans and little changes can affect the taste a lot.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                  Glad the advice is helpful - meant to add if you want clarification dont hesitate to ask (I had to cut my post short to pick up the kids from school).

                  True, it is a bit of a dark art, but it also contains a lot of science - things you can control. A bit of a methodical approach can save a lot of frustration (and good coffee beans) and make the whole process a lot of fun!!

                  Finally, the EM6910 can be very touchy if you dont keep it clean, so I suggest reading some stuff about that as well

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                    Originally posted by 784D5C4D1B11280 link=1321223941/8#8 date=1321260713
                    Finally, the EM6910 can be very touchy if you dont keep it clean, so I suggest reading some stuff about that as well
                    Good to know.. I actually havent cleaned it before, nor would I know how... :-? Ill do some research now 8-)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                      When you buy your coffee speak to the person selling it and ask them what recipe they are using. The trend these days in speciality coffee tends to be updosing and shorter shots. Every machine and coffee is different but I always start with this - 18g (20-21g would be ideal but my basket isnt big enough) of coffee in the basket, 28-30g of espresso extracted in 25-28 seconds. This is a considerably different recipe to the traditional 14g of coffee producing 60g of espresso in 25-30 secs, which is the way I was taught 10 years ago. Try my recipe and I think youll be surprised how good it is.

                      The number one tip I can give you for consistancy is use scales! I have a EM0480 and I find a fair bit of ground coffee gets stuck unless I stick a tooth brush up the spout and give it a good knock. I weigh my beans slightly over my target weight, then grind, weigh again and then remove the little over to get exactly the right amount. It may seem a bit labourious but if youre only making a couple of coffees a day you want them to be as good as possible

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                        When I first started I think I got really fixated on the tamp pressure, but in reality I wasnt being consistent with the dosing, which I find is the #2 variable after grind.

                        Youll eventually find a ritual that works consistently for you.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: How I got into espresso and my current questions

                          I would also suggest that machine maintenance is a big issue - especially for domestic machines as theyre less forgiving than theyre commercial counterparts

                          And I would recommend that - if you are not doing so already - after you extract each shot, knock out the basket, reinsert the handle after giving it a bit of a clean, and flush some water through the basket whilst giggling the handle back and forth

                          and you will be surprised how much dirty water and grind is trapped in the machine - if this is not cleared regularly it

                          a) taints each additional coffee you make, and

                          b) spells trouble down the line for machine maintenance in terms of blocked water lines etc

                          hope this helps somewhat

                          p

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