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  • Decaf doing my head in!

    Im a newbie to coffee making and learning heaps from this site. Ive had my VBM Junior for about 3 months. Im managing to produce some pretty delicious espresso with regular coffee beans. But when it comes to Decaf I feel like tearing my hair out!

    I have managed to make some quite drinkable ones when the beans were only a week from roast date. Now 3 weeks down the track its another story. The regular beans I bought at the same time are still producing lovely shots with good crema but the decaf is watery and sour.

    Do decaf beans go stale more quickly, and is this why Im having problems or do I need a different technique with decaf?

    Heres my current routine:

    Grind to half full and tap handle twice
    Grind to full and repeat
    Top up to a slight mound
    Level with edge of a plastic credit card
    Rest tamper on top
    Tamp moderately hard
    Blow off loose grounds around edge
    Flush, lock in, pull

  • #2
    Re: Decaf doing my head in!

    I would firstly try and tighten the grind up. I find that as beans age into the back end of their usable time, a finer grind is needed.

    Your routine is fine and obviously easily repeatable so I wouldnt go messing around with that.

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    • #3
      Re: Decaf doing my head in!

      Thanks CAELBLUE1

      Ive tried grinding finer by one step on the K3. The grinds looked clumpy and I got a slow drip with bitter tasting shot. Thats why Im frustrated. How do you tell when beans have passed their use by date? Are there visible signs?

      Thanks for reassurance on the routine.



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      • #4
        Re: Decaf doing my head in!

        Decaf can often have a tendency of staling faster than non decaf coffee for some reason, I assume due to the processing.

        Try to buy in smaller amounts and use within a shorter time period.

        If your decaf is a single origin, they also have a tendency of staling in a shorter time frame than a decaf blend. You can purchase decaf as a blend, and the taste is far better. I have often used a blend decaf called "Cascadia", which can be bought from some roasters here in Sydney. The flavour is pretty good.

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        • #5
          Re: Decaf doing my head in!

          If the extraction rate (time it takes to pull a shot) is still good but there is little crema being produced then your coffee is undoubtedly stale. If youre finding your shot coming out fast and changing the grind by one stop is making it too slow then try applying a little more pressure to your tamping. I normally aim for between 22 and 25 seconds.

          My girlfriend has been drinking decaf for the past few months and I havent noticed the decaf beans getting stale inside of 3 weeks. How are you storing them? I just keep mine in their bag in an airtight container in a cool dark place.

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          • #6
            Re: Decaf doing my head in!

            I will try tamping harder as you suggest James. Might also try the air tight container although Im currently just storing all my beans in their original one way valve bags and dont have a problem with the regular coffee going stale.

            Just had a decaf flat white at a good cafe Espressorganica at lunch time. My companions all had regular coffee and said it was great but my decaf was (almost) as sour as the ones Im pulling off and just as watery. I think this tells me that its not easy to pull a consistently good decaf and maybe my expectations being unrealistic might be part of the problem.

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            • #7
              Re: Decaf doing my head in!

              ...maybe it wasnt a good decaf to start with!

              Decaf is a tricky beast to roast and those that roast by colour nearly always get it VERY wrong. Decaf beans start a lot darker and if they dont roast them to the right depth they will always be sour.

              Try chewing on a bean, see if you can taste the same sour notes. If so then Im afraid they are under done and nothing you can do on the machine will fix it short of buying a better roasted decaf.

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              • #8
                Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                Originally posted by 1E313B265F0 link=1313028720/6#6 date=1314165848
                Decaf beans start a lot darker and if they dont roast them to the right depth they will always be sour.
                Andy I just scored a little Decaf WOW! from Mono and based on the above should I roast to a rolling second crack?

                Sniff

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                • #9
                  Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                  Originally posted by 113E3429500 link=1313028720/6#6 date=1314165848
                  ...maybe it wasnt a good decaf to start with!
                  I wish that was the explanation Andy but Ive only bought good quality fresh roasted Swiss water process decaf (from three reputable site sponsors as it happens). Im flummoxed.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                    Update:

                    Varied my routine this morning by tamping a bit harder and also tamping twice. The pour was still too fast: 20 secs But it tasted less sour and nicer than the one I had at a cafe yesterday! So thanks Jamesfleming for your suggestion. Ill keep working at it. :

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                    • #11
                      Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                      Originally posted by 3F21393422213A3B550 link=1313028720/7#7 date=1314167983
                      should I roast to a rolling second crack?
                      NO. Decaf is fragile at the end of the roast and rolling second crack will almost certainly be burnt. Start of second crack is about right. I roast to temperature and the beans are just starting to crack as they hit the cooling tray.

                      Originally posted by 023D342134381C313A3C3B323D302730550 link=1313028720/9#9 date=1314231595
                      Ill keep working at it
                      If the coffee is good then (sad to say) it must be your process. Keep trying, change 1 variable at a time and you should find the sweet spot. Try a level basket, the same tamp and then the grind is your only variable that you need to tweek.

                      Good luck!

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                      • #12
                        Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                        Glad I could help

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                        • #13
                          Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                          Nailed it!

                          My Decaf shots have finally achieved consistent drinkability, and even semi regular deliciousity! 

                          I was already grinding a bit finer than for regular beans but THE main missing ingredient definitley was, as suggested:

                          Tamping harder than for regular coffee.

                          Simple though this is, I dont think I would have twigged it.
                          Im also now using an air tight storage container - one of
                          those pump out vacu vins.

                          Its working for me 

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                          • #14
                            Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                            Good job!

                            Its amazing how much better freshly roasted and ground decaf tastes in comparison to the stale pre-ground stuff most cafes seem to think is perfectly acceptable. Im often shocked they still feel justified in charging an extra dollar for it too!

                            I recently made coffee for a heap of my partners friends at her mothers group and several of them brought their coffee back to double check they hadnt been given a regular coffee by mistake

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                            • #15
                              Re: Decaf doing my head in!

                              I would just like to say thanks for all the info on this thread. I found it on a search of CS because I am having similar problems mastering the decaf shot. Once again, CS comes good!

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