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my coffee frustration

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  • my coffee frustration

    at the moment, i currently am using a crappy super old sunbeam em3500. i recently bought an Iberital Challenge with the intention of upgrading to a silvia or better in the future. Now since i got the grinder, my coffees have been tasting much better, but NOTHING like I would like. I have tried a range of coffee beans, and even bought some beans from Kafenio cafe in Cronulla (as mentioned in the Sydney cafe thread). I would at least expect my coffees to resemble the cafe flavour, but its not even close!! My grind is correct (and ive tried various fineness) and my milk texturing is fine, but still doesnt taste right > my conclusion - my machine is just too crap to produce a decent flavour. Am i right in saying this, or could it be another factor?

    P.S. when i say my grind is right, i mean its extracted ok. the shots do often have bubbles in them which would lead to me questioning the machine.

    sorry for the rant. please help!


  • #2
    Re: my coffee frustration


    Im not familiar with the exact machine, but.....

    Are you using a double or single basket?

    How much liquid in milliliters are you extracting over 30 seconds (approx. 5 seconds of "preinfusion" while the pump goes but no coffee comes and + 25 seconds of flow)?

    What is "wrong" with the espresso (you should be able to identify this even if you dont really like to drink it)? Does it taste sour (towards the front/tip of the tongue) or does it taste bitter (towards the back and sides of the tongue)? or is it a combination of both?

    A good shot should sort of balance nicely on the palate.

    What does the coffee look and feel like in the basket after you pulled the shot? Are there any channels or wormholes? If you push on it with your finger does it feel firm or does it feel mushy and collapse under the pressure?

    Are you preheating your machine for long enough? Letting it warm up and running a few blank/empty shots to warm everything up?

    The answers to the above might provide some insight into whats going wrong



    • #3
      Re: my coffee frustration

      Gday LG,
      I dont know if the machine is pre-disposed to making crap coffee, provided it is being used properly. I believe that MattyJ was using a Sunbeam machine with a Mazzer grinder and was getting good results.
      When you say there are bubbles in the shot, how big a bubble are you talking about?
      Do you still use the pressurised portafilter? If so, ditch it and get a non-pressurised jobbie.
      As Lachlan said, give some more details and we can narrow down the problem.
      All the best.


      • #4
        Re: my coffee frustration

        Well my coffee making process is quite funny really. here goes:

        -I use single basket
        -pressurised portafiler (i dont even know what that means but i know its the one that came with the machine)
        -my shot dilemma: if i grind even remotely fine, the portafilter will pop itself out of the machine. so now i always have to hold it in. if i pour a shot that would normally take 25 secs to extract, my machine will likely choke before it gets there ie. the pouring rate is good (on track for 30ml in 25 secs), but the machine struggles for the last 1/3 of the shot. its hard to explain.
        -I always run a test shot

        Having said this, i made a much better coffee a minute ago. crema wasnt bubbly at all and tasted decent.

        -when i use the double basket, i do produce better shots, but i dont like using that much coffee. i do try to dose quite high though in the single.


        • #5
          Re: my coffee frustration

          - Single baskets are harder to get a consistent result with compared to a double basket. This is because of the profile of the basket and the way in which water finds a path through the basket.
          - Pressurised portafilters are ususally on these type of machines to give the appearance of a good coffee when using stale, pre-ground coffee, by creating back-pressure when extracting, which gives a bigger crema. Most consumers dont think of a grinder as an important part of the equation, and hence dont bother buying one.
          - The portafilter popping out of the machine when you grind more finely is related to the above point.
          - The bubbly crema is probably related to the pressurised portafilter, otherwise it can indicate a bean that hasnt been allowed to rest long enough after roasting.
          It would appear that the best thing you can do to enhance your shots is to get a non-pressurised portafilter.
          Hope this helps.


          • #6
            Re: my coffee frustration

            Pressurised portafilters are identified most commonly by a rubber ring of some sort when you look down into the basket.

            There are a few things happening from what you have said..


            There is too much pressure for the machine. This is a result of the grind you are using combined with a pressurised portafilter. Basically your machine is pumping away trying to force the water through the coffee and your portafilter is creating extra backpressure, more than the machine and pump can handle.


            Reduce the pressure -- ideally replace the pressurised portafilter with a non-pressurised one and then tune your grind accordingly from there. If you cant replace the portafilter then you will have to grind slightly coarser to relieve it.

            If the machine starts to choke up right around the last 10mL (Lets assume the around 21 to 24 second mark) and you grind a tiny bit coarser, just enough that you still get another 3-5 seconds of flow, you will be pretty much right on the money for the best youll get from the machine.

            Remember that the first part of your shot is all the intense flavor and good stuff and the last third is mostly secondary extraction (and hopefully very little tertiary extraction -- see: bitter brown dishwater).. so if you are forced to cut your shot short and drink something that falls in between a ristretto (18-20mL) and an espresso (25-30mL) youre still playing in the right ballpark for acceptable parameters.

            Can you identify what is "bad" about the shot? Does it seem sour, bitter, or something else you cant put your finger on?



            • #7
              Re: my coffee frustration

              You will LOVE not having a pressurised portafilter. It will be the sort of joy like you see on the face of a a hemorrhoids commercial guy saying "I can ride a bike again."


              • #8
                Re: my coffee frustration

                Having had the same problems with the Sunbeam, i found that a more coarse grind nearly solved the problem. Ditch the single and only use the double, fill it to about 2/\/3 and dont tamp it very hard. I got the best results from pre ground beans,which should stop the portafilter blowing off and spreading grounds all over the kitchen. Also check your seal as if it is even slightly worn it will blow the portafilter off. If it still happens,update your machine,or forget the coffee and drink scotch!


                • #9
                  Re: my coffee frustration

                  I have a cheep Sunbeam and have to say it does its job.

                  1: Non preserised PF ( Krups #0907163 coffee basket )
                  2: I grind as fine as I can on a KG100
                  3: Tamp as hard as I can :-) SS custom tamper from a mate in the USA


                  1: If at all diluted with any milk product I am unable to tell the diference between mine and any other real coffies that I have had.

                  2: espresso - I watch the stream and the way it trickles out and it is amazing that you can pull verry good shots... Not only that they taste great.

                  WORD of WARNING -

                  FRESH BEANS are the only way to go.. Stale or the supermarket ones just do not cut it, as far as I am concerned and you soon know.

                  There are many other little tricks of the barister / avid coffe nutter and I can only suggest you read any number of posts. If I may be so bold, I would suggest you start here "" and there are a number of pages of posts as well as a few a little off topic at times :-)

                  Enjoy the ride...