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  • Newbie struggling

    Hi a newbie struggling with my first machine and grinder.

    Hi have just brought a Kitchen Aid Artisan Espresso machine and matching grinder. I am really enjoying the machines but I am really struggling getting a decent creama.

    Where should I start to problem solve my set-up? Is it my setup or am I just rubbish at making coffee?

    I have followed the instruction manual to the letter and can only at best get a small creama happening, most of the time I get no cream at all just watery coffee.

    I have tried all the settings on my grinder and found the best being the finer grind. I have pressed the coffee into my handle so hard at one point I had my entire body weight involve (BFB that is saying something) and still can not achieve a decent creama.

    Any and all suggestions appreciated.

    Regards Duncan

  • #2
    Re: Newbie struggling

    Welcome to Coffee Snobs, Duncan.

    In reading your post, I was wondering what you were using in the way of beans? Are you purchasing from a roaster or buying from the supermarket. My point being that the fresher your beans the better. Buying beans from the supermarket is not always the best as they are not as fresh as purchasing from a local roaster.


    • #3
      Re: Newbie struggling

      Dont give up Duncan,
      It takes a while to get the hang of it. Where are you living? If you are in Melbourne there are some good Barista courses offered for beginners that you can take your machine too, one these being a site sponsor. If you are able go and have a chat with one of these guys. They will always have time for you.

      From what you describe, it sounds to me like you are tamping too hard. You dont need your whole body weight. Tamping too hard can make things worse.

      Have you considered it may be your machine ? Have a read here which discusses crema too. I am not familiar with the kitchenaid so I cannot help you there. I am sure there are people here who may have some experience with them though.

      CoffeeGeek may have some info on the machine if nobody here does.

      Whatever you do, just relax and dont get too worked up about it all. You are at the beginning of a fantastic journey which will at times be frustrating and when those brekthroughs come it will be worth it.

      In the end a lot of it is practice practice practice. And FWIW I dont think the problem is you.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        Re: Newbie struggling

        Hi Duncan and welcome to CS

        Im more than happy to run an in-home training session with you so that you can get the best from your machine.

        The Angliss Coffee academy no longer allows people to bring in their own machinery unless it has been tested and tagged.

        In the meantime, make sure youre not underdosing and buy freshly roasted (i.e. not from the supermarket) beans...




        • #5
          Re: Newbie struggling

          The KA machine looks pretty much like it is two gaggia-type boilers in one body. If it is similar to the gaggia machines, you should have no trouble getting crema if you use freshly roasted beans. Getting the best flavour out of them will take rather more effort.

          You mentioned watery coffee ... it would be helpful if you could tell us how much coffee you are extracting and what time it takes to do it. You should be aiming for about 50mL in 30 seconds from the double basket. You can add more coffee to the filter basket and grind finer to slow the pour down.

          It sounds like the problem is stale beans, not equipment.

          There is a relatively in-depth review of your grinder here. If you check out the comments, one of the guys talks about modifying it to allow for finer adjustment for espresso.




          • #6
            Re: Newbie struggling

            come on people,  if you do things right youl always geta crema of f coffee no matter how stale it is. It might be yellow and it might not taste any good, but generally you still get a crema off stale coffee even really old stuff, if you do it right.

            More likely young duncans got his hands full with a brand new concept (for him) called espresso, never had one before Il bet hehe.

            and if thats thhe case whats the point in confusing him with talk about how long his pour is and his mils are, and mate,  sending him off to read a link to modify his grinder? Come on people. you buy an espresos mahcine and get told you need to pull it apart straioght away to make it work right? Most espresso prpoblems are in the technique no matter how good or bad the quality of the equipment is.

            Duncan , watery coffee no crema, 2 things mate:
            before anything else check correct grind and
            correct dose.

            and thats the stuf thats never covered in your instriuctions.

            heres somethingi wrtote in the "rancilio audrey" topic a few days ago:

            undoubtedly the best way for u to work it out is to get a demo or take a lesson so suggest you cut to the chase or youll be at it forever:

            1)  go back to your retailer and ask for above;

            2) failing that find out of any snobs live close by and spend a saturday arvo with them...could be a great possibility for a little meet n greet or get together hehe...

            3) failing that find a trainer and pay for a lesson.

            A picture (or a practical session) is worth a thousand words, particularly when the words are typed on a little green screen like this..............................

            see ya,


            • #7
              Re: Newbie struggling

              Thanks to everyone who replied.

              Ok answering questions as I saw them.

              I am an expat living in London - Joined this site as the UKs coffee forums here are Starbucks and Costa coffees talking about their shops.

              Coffee is not a popular drink here, there are plenty of coffee shops but a decent cup is hard to find, until I brought my machine I was taking a 20 minute train journey out of my way (on way to work) to this little place I stumbled across once when I was visiting a client.

              Any way, I tried looking for a barrister’s course here but they are for pros only and a bit expensive. I take Gs point that a good deal of my problems will be because I am a novice.

              I do buy my beans at the super market, but we have a very good farmers market close by I can visit on a Saturday, I am sure I saw a roaster there once. Ill check it out.

              My machine is as you pointed out a double boiler. While living in Sydney a good friend of mine who is mad on coffee showed me his setup and gave me a few buying tips for when I brought my machine. He made particular points about a decent grinder. So the kit I have is not cheap although it is very much a home use setup, and yes there is a bit of Bling involved (sorry a boy thing). See attached picture.

              Returning to the shop I brought the machines from is not really an option. Customer service in most of the UK is non existent; Ive a better chance of pressing the bell at No10 and having tea and biscuits with Tony B.

              If a hands on Demo is what I need I think a weekend with the wife in Italy or France might be the trick (not as exotic as it sounds, cheapy airline £20 return. 4am bus trip to airport then midnight return home on Sunday) they are close by, a lot closer than Melbourne.

              Ill let you know how I get go regards



              • #8
                Re: Newbie struggling

                Id be willing to bet that that tamper doesnt quite fit the portafiller either, Duncan. If you have read anything around here, it would be about tamping! Definitely look at how much coffee you are putting into the portafiller. There is a topic on grind vs tamp vs taste where 2mcm has put in some quite good instructions on filling and tamping the coffee in the portafiller. Might be useful to you, Duncan, to read. But I will stand by fresh beans are best and if you can get your hands on them, theyre a much better choice to supermarket beans (though in London they probably turn them over a bit quicker than they would out in the bush here!)

                Gonzo, some of your points are quite valid but a little harshly said, IMO.


                • #9
                  Re: Newbie struggling

                  Hi DuncG,

                  Helped a bloke out recently with the same machine combo that youve got there Duncan, and he was having similar troubles to yourself. Before I get started though, there is no substitute for training and if you live in a major centre, chances are there will be a Home Barista course on offer from a major vendor, or even from one of our sponsors . It is about the best thing you could do to bring yourself up to speed in the shortest possible time-frame. This site is a great location for sourcing info on the basics and advanced methods for getting the best out of your equipment. I can highly recommend it as good read.

                  Anyway, first things first, you need to get hold of freshly roasted coffee, either from a boutique roaster close by, from one of many online suppliers and maybe in the future you could try your hand at home roasting, but thats another story. Turn your espresso machine on with the PortaFilter locked "lightly" in place and allow the Group and PF time to heat up properly, say half-an-hour to an hour. After this time it should be up to temperature and ready to get started.

                  Ok, once youve got some fresh coffee on hand, put a few scoops of beans into the grinder hopper and keep adjusting the grind setting until the grounds feel about the same texture and size as castor sugar. Make sure you have the Double Basket fitted into your PortaFilter and then grind enough into the basket such that you end up with a heaped mound of ground coffee filling the basket. Tap the PF on the bench two or three times to settle the coffee.
                  Refill the basket again so that the coffee is slightly mounded above the lip of the basket and tap on the bench a couple more times. After that, either using a finger or the handle of the plastic coffee scoop that came with your grinder, strike the coffee level with the lip of the basket making sure there are no hollows or voids.

                  It pays to have a good quality and nicely fitted tamper but if you havent, just use the plastic one that came with the machine, making sure you use a steady 10-15 Kgs of force applied (no more) and that the coffee is tamped right up to the edge of the basket all the way around. If you dont do this, it is possible that you will get channelling and end up with a bitter over-extracted brew with little or very poor crema. A good quality, properly fitted tamper is almost essential to achieving consistent, properly tamped pucks and considering how relatively inexpensive these are compared to rest of the machinery you have just bought, it is money well spent. All of our site sponsors sell good quality tampers for reasonable sums and if you really want an extra special tamper, then one of our sponsors "Greg Pullman Tampers" can make you a superb quality custom made tamper that is a thing of beauty in both form and function.

                  Rightio, time to get on with the next step. As an aside, all of the steps outlined here need to be completed in a smooth non-stop sequence as the shorter the time from grinding the bean to pulling the actual shot, the better will be the quality in the cup.
                  With the coffee puck properly tamped into the basket, lock the PF into position in the Group so that it is firmly locked in. You dont need to apply a Samson like degree of force to achieve this, just a firm solid action that ensures the PF basket is properly sealed against the Group Gasket. As soon as the PF is locked in place, hit the Brew Switch and start the shot..

                  After a few seconds, you should notice some dark viscous liquid slowly start dripping from the PF spout(s) and gradually increase into a steady, reddish golden but still viscous stream. At some point you will notice that the stream starts to change from a golden colour into a pale blond colour. If everything was perfectly done, this point is reached about 28-30 seconds after hitting the brew switch, and a stop-watch kept handy for this purpose will be an aid to getting this timing aspect into the ballpark.

                  If the shot starts "blonding" before 20 seconds are up, then the grind setting will need to be set one position finer at a time until it ends up in the 28-30 second region. Naturally, if the blonding starts to occur on the wrong side of 35-40 seconds, then you will need to increase the grind setting one position coarser at a time until youre back with that 28-30 second region again. Once youve got the shot pouring within the correct time envelope, you need to STOP the shot before the blonding actually starts, say around the 25 second mark. By close observation you will start to recognise when the coffee stream is going to start blonding and the need for a stop-watch will go by the wayside. Until then though, it is a handy tool to stick with until your shots are consistently pouring the way you want them to.

                  Youll discover as time goes on, that youll get all this down pat so that it all becomes second nature. Also, youll notice that you will still need to adjust the grind setting from time to time as the beans get a bit older, you change to a different blend or even if the ambient weather conditions change, especially the relative humidity. Like the rest of us though, Im sure youll become more involved with the whole process and treat it more as a hobby, even an obsession... It is such an interesting pastime. All the best ,



                  • #10
                    Re: Newbie struggling

                    Originally posted by scoota gal link=1164655981/0#7 date=1164701918
                    Gonzo, some of your points are quite valid but a little harshly said, IMO.
                    I agree Scoots....

                    A friendlier more constructive approach to assisting other members goes a long way around here Gonzo ,



                    • #11
                      Re: Newbie struggling


                      Welcome to the world of CoffeeSnobs (down under)...

                      Ill bet it is hard to get good coffee or coffee expertise over there - and the trainers here would line up to give you training (but the cost of the airfare added to the course cost would be a killer! )

                      To add to Mals excellent suggestions above - get yourself a set of bathroom scales and tamp on those - 15 Kg (or if still imperial over there 30 lbs )...

                      And a decent tamper will also make the world of difference. The closer it fits your basket the better will be the results and the easier to tamp as well.

                      Hope you enjoy your journey.


                      • #12
                        Re: Newbie struggling

                        If you need a source of good coffee in the UK, these guys have a good reputation:


                        They might be able to hook you up with some training or whatever.

                        Your local national barista champion has a fantastic blog with some reviews of local cafes that you might be interested in:


                        whats the point in confusing him with talk about how long his pour is and his mils are, and mate, sending him off to read a link to modify his grinder?
                        Volume and time is the essence of espresso and is the fastest way convey a surprising amount of information. One might as well as whats the point in specifying grind levels and doses if one does not describe what the results should be. Fortunately, Mal has provided an excellent and comprehensive response that might well be worthy of printing out and including with all new machines.

                        I linked to a review of the grinder. I pointed out that the comments had information on how to modify the grinder.




                        • #13
                          Re: Newbie struggling

                          hi all,

                          /\/ to Scoota and Mal (and Duncan), it doesnt seem to me like dunc took any offence to my reply to the problem at hand and, i can assure you and him there wasnt any intended. was just tryin to genuinely helpful, put a genuine poitnof view, and I cant really see where any offence could be taken.

                          as to others./  u can tell people to buy the best of this that and the other and start measring and timing and tamping to an accuracy of 1 kilo on scales and reading articles containing info on modifying equipoemnt til your socks rot off but my point is theres no point in filling a newbies head with all this stuff if he dosnt know how to use it.  some  of u lot make the business of brewing espresso seem like it can only be done by some kind of phd elitist coffee god that ownsa sceince lab in MIT or harvard university or something.

                          geez people i started on a eraly seco vip domestic machine with a sdimple plastic tamper that didnt fit ands a single white espresso cup  and a spinning blade wasnt hard to work out how to make good espreso with that, it had depth and body and yea h, plenty of crema.

                          stop setting newbies up to fail by seeming to make the process unachievable except if you can write a heap of big words & sceintific sounding stuff on a computer screen

                          Mal, sincerely, a great post but way too long for me to gert to the end, had to speed read hehe.. Duncan ought to print it off so he can keeop gong back to reread. Ofcourse the degree of length and the amount of explanation is exactly why its such a good post and more imprtamntly for a newby, any figures mentioned have been properly explained not just thrown up on the screen to confuse without the required backup info. an explanationm of technique, not a rattling off of useless figures!

                          yeah, that was the post of the topic probably woudlnt be a bad idea to save it somewewhere where it can be posted straoight into future enquiries...maytbe coffesnobs ought to have asection devoted to templates on stuff lkike this so it all dosnst need to go round and round in circles (like a rissole eh) and getwritten up from sctatch again evry time theres a nerw enquiry.

                          all of this is my genuine and sincere opinion and if calling a spade a spade offendss, then so be it because Im not the other kindof person only this one.,

                          see ys Im singning off to bed now gotta finish a book nothing to do with coffee.


                          • #14
                            Re: Newbie struggling

                            Hi again Gonzo,

                            Yep, we all try to do our best around here and coming from a background that involved many years of training in several fields, I know enough not to bandy around a lot of useless, if well intentioned, information. On the other side of the coin though, short, terse and "shell be right mate" style of instruction is probably ok if you are in a position to give one on one practical demonstration at the same time. If all one has is words, then a more descriptive and possibly longer than usual post is the end result.

                            Agree with you about the FAQ section for the forum.... We are working on that right now so hopefully in the not too distant future it will become a reality, maybe in the early new year . All the best mate and catch you in the forum again soon,



                            • #15
                              Re: Newbie struggling

                              Hey there,

                              Try tackling one issue at a time, and keep chipping away until you get results!

                              Sometimes trial and errors the only way to get to the bottom of what works best for your machine.

                              Having said that, you cant beat hands-on instruction, from somebody who knows what theyre doing.

                              In Oz, some manufactures offer free training with a purchase of one of their machines.

                              Also, many coffee roasters offer training which doesnt cost the earth.

                              Surely, there would be a similar set-up in the UK?

                              Otherwise, coffeegeek offers a list of coffee jams (a get together and play around behind the machine, usually in some uber-cool location), local to each region.

                              Dont stop till you get enough!