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Can't stop channeling!

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  • Can't stop channeling!

    Hey all. Hope you can help out a fellow snob here. I've got my new setup, a Lelit PL41TEMD and a Compak K3 Push. Huge thing for me, I've wanted to pursue this passion properly for years! I'm having a bit of a rough start though. I've had it for a month, and I've hardly had a good shot. I can't seem to consistently stop the channeling.

    Where I've arrived at with my grind setting, I do get clumps. I've gotten to this setting through the normal process of grinding finer to slow the shot, coarser to speed it up, trying to get say 18g in, 36g out, in 25-30s. I've arrived at about 27 on the compak's dial. So I use the WDT. I break up the grounds and distribute the coffee evenly, give it a couple of vertical taps, and then tamp *very* evenly! I watch really carefully and make sure it's level from two angles, and I'm pretty consistent with that.

    Doing the WDT doesn't seem to improve things much. I use a bottomless portafilter and see quite an uneven extraction most of the time. A range of patterns... sometimes there are pockets not seeming to be extracted, sometimes there is a "lean"... other random patterns. Often I get little spurts as well. I do have some shots pour *quite* nicely, though, to me they look like examples on videos of how it should look, even, dark and rich, delicious! I can't seem to do that consistently, even if I try to reproduce what I've done immediately after.

    Unfortunately I've hardly had a single shot taste good. Some are *just* drinkable as espresso (not my usual drink but somehow it's working better as this...), but if I make a flat white (the aim of this whole project!), it tastes very very bad. I've tried really hard to work out if the shots are bitter or sour, but I can't get a clear impression of that, really they just taste bad/weird, which I hear is associated with channeling.

    My dose has been from 18 to 19.5 grams, with plenty of trial along that range. Reason I upped it to 19.5 is that should let me grind courser, maybe avoiding as much tendency for channeling. (Note to self though, I realised I need to check if the puck is touching the shower screen before I brew, by taking the handle back out to check...).

    So... any advice? Could there be a problem with my machine, grinder? I often (or almost always?) get a rise to 9.5bar, then settling just above 9. The coffee almost always puts little spots all around the cup, and I have to hold the cup close to the bottomless PF so catch any spurts.

    Help would be much appreciated, thanks people.

  • #2
    It'll be in your distribution, that's where 90% of it is. The less you interact with the coffee the better. Try not using WDT, just a few palm taps (i.e. 3-4 not 12) side to side to settle things. If it's all at or below the rim of the basket don't do any vertical taps. If it's still above the rim and you need to get it down to do the side taps either do one vertical tap or get a dosing funnel.

    It takes a while to get good at dosing, without knowing it you will be doing little things here and there that will be upsetting the puck. Start simple, practice.

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    • #3
      if you can get your hands on one, grab a ek dosing funnel (less that 20 from coffee parts i believe) , the one that kinda looks like a bowl and dump the grinds into that if you are dosing cup, it makes it alot easier to be consistent, speaking from cafe experience.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8A4hIJmSZE&t=25s heres an example!, i do work there but i am in no way promoting them, but i can a test to the consistency of distribution that dosing method gives. there is really no need to touch the grinds, but there are many different ways of distribution this is simply my preferred way

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      • #4
        What coffee beans are you using?

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        • #5
          As above try a different bean -. Some baskets aren't very forgiving outside their sweetspot- but an 18g should be fine for 19.5 gm. I just recently got a new grinder and had similar hassles - in the end i bought a bag of harris coffee from woolies ( seemingly it was reasonably young if a use by date for a year in advance is their benchmark!!!!) once i was happy with dose, grind and tamp , then i went back to fresh beans... at 2-3 coffees a day plus a little playing it still took a week for me to dial in ( i am sure others do it within a session).
          The other thing i found, and still find, is don't try and chase a good grind/dose after its (the bean)working window is exceeded. ( I recently got some beans that were past their best before getting to me due to mail delays. Finally is your screen , group seal and basket clean of all oil and the odd stray grind.

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          • #6
            level3ninja Hmm, ok then... I'll give that a go. Definitely happy to have a less fiddly way if I can . So you would recommend that, even though I'm getting clumps?

            rRoasted : the funnel looks interesting! The distribution in that video looks really really even... so you've got me intrigued there. I've got a couple of other things to order so I'll see about that next order. I'm considering working in coffee, figured I might as well work with what I love! Do you find the work enjoyable?

            flynnaus I've got Sarah's espresso now. So far I've been through (from the earliest to latest):
            Jetblack espresso
            Veneziano forza (or... a different one maybe, hmm)
            Espresso wow

            FNQ ​​Haha, yeah... I was thinking of using super cheap coffee to learn on, but I read in my grinder's manual not to use beans older than 6 weeks, so I sorta didn't bother trying to sift through woolies for some I could trust. Good to hear 19.5 seems ok. Glad you got it dialed in. Hopefully the new advice ninja from ninja will help. I really want some coffee O_O.

            My current beans are roasted on 5/04, so about 3 weeks. I opted to order 1kg at a time so I could order less often to save on postage, especially since most of the coffee is going down the sink at this stage, so I need enough to play with.

            And yeah, I keep things clean.

            So yeah... the input helps, guys. Looking forward to trying the different distribution method as per ninja's advice tomorrow.

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            • #7
              Oh, and, here are my new friends:

              https://photos.app.goo.gl/NuEfw6rfpQqj64Jm9

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              • #8
                Nice set up. Sounds like you are doing the right things but we haven't seen your shot preparation. Are you able to record a video showing shot preparation and pour?

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                • #9
                  Systemist working in coffee (as a barista) is great and super rewarding i really love doing it, ill admit, its not an easy job or neither is it that lucrative, but it is really great showing up to work in the morning, saying hi to all the customers, making great coffee all day but many home baristas underestimate the amount of other things you'll have to do in a cafe besides making (tonnes and tonnes of cleaning) also depending on how old you are your wrists definitely take a beating after a 13kg+ day, even i feel it and im only 19 hahah. but overall i don't think there are as passionate and supportive people in any other profession there is really no snobbery that goes on with coffee professionals as we are always learning, speaking from experience talking to wbc and brewers cup champs and others that have made it far in the field.

                  (TLDR: its a great field to get into but u gotta really love it)

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                  • #10
                    flynnaus Ah hah! Sure, I can do that . I'll film what I do tomorrow.

                    rRoasted cool to hear it's friendly. I think that works for me. I'm not sure about the wrist thing. Guess I could give it a go.

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                    • #11
                      I think it's worth a go, in guessing it will be better for now despite the clumps

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                      • #12
                        I dont see a tamper in the pic, maybe I missed it, is it well fitted to your basket/s? As Ninja said, beans and all hardware related issues aside, distribution is my go to suspect for pour flow. Static and clumping can be related to so many things including beans and local environment. Some advocate spraying tiny amounts of water on roasteds prior to grinding to help with static and clumping. I tend to just tolerate it until - usually - it resolves itslelf, beans, adverse weather etc go away, I dont reeaallly... consider clumping a biggy, they're so whimpy anyway. As a single doser I find the more evenly (and quickly without fuss or mess) I can distribute the finer grinds from the end of the grind thruout the rest of the puck the better looking and more consistent the pour - all other "things" considered :-) Good Luck.

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                        • #13
                          So I did a few videos, but I'm not sure if I got anything useful so I'll have a better look when I can.

                          TBH I might have to put things on hold for a few days, I'm under the weather, not feeling good at all. I just want to vegitate at the moment.

                          Everyone coming in to help is really appreciated. I'll get some decent videos up when I'm up to the task. Take care and be well.

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                          • #14
                            Alright, I'm back

                            https://photos.app.goo.gl/LguRC64cykFx5JqDA dose, tamp, pour
                            https://photos.app.goo.gl/ammZzhckBczEqV1m8 puck

                            I followed the advice, and skipped WDT, and just did some taps. It didn't end up even after just a few taps and I didn't think it had a chance of brewing evenly so I gave quite a few more taps. Maybe I'll try to purposely let the coffee flow into the basket more evenly next time... or... other advice?

                            Definitely not my best tamp, I'm usually quite level.

                            So... thoughts?

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                            • #15
                              Given that your coffee grinds are extremely clumpy and your shot super fast it's no wonder you're having the troubles you are. The random nature of the clumps will, in my opinion, always lend itself to inconsistent pours. Have you tried sifting the grind (using the same grind setting) then dosing the filter? Use a sifter that will allow all the grinds through but will break up the clumps and homogenise the bed. My guess is that you are chasing a problem only to find that you have amplified it.

                              A little clump or two shouldn't be a bother but that looks like a basket full of rubble and trouble. It's really hard to diagnose and correct problems remotely but I would think that if you sifted the coffee you may well choke your shot in which case you will need to back off your grind setting, maybe then you will begin to see some progress.

                              One of the telltales, to me at least, and not being familiar with particular machine, is how fast your shot starts. Most vibe pumps that I have used or owned have a 'natural' 'preinfusion' of around 8-9 seconds on a well prepared coffee bed. In the video your shot starts to pour in 3 or 4 seconds and starts off as a full pour. Think of a good shot as a 'drip that wants to pour'.. meaning that when the coffee first appears there should be droplets of coffee before they coalesce into a single stream around the 9-12 second mark.

                              It may be helpful if you use a spouted basket so that you eliminate the particular variables that using a naked brings and get your basic shot 'structure' on to a more sound footing. Once you are getting coffee that you are happy with go back to the naked and iron out the details like squirting and doughnuts etc. I would also strongly advise using a distribution tool such as the Ona or Veneziano ones, expensive I know but once you're in the groove these tools are great.

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