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Crema Dilemna!

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  • Crema Dilemna!

    I just bought my first espresso machine, an "Avanti Compact" model, from a private seller. It is a little known manual house brand machine that is made in Italy (by who, I'm not sure), circa 90's perhaps. Having never used an espresso machine before, apart from stovetop moka pots, I find I am unable to make "crema" with this machine. I am now starting to wonder if the machine itself is unable to make crema; either because of some defect I know nothing about, or it just isn't up to par. It is a pump-driven machine with quality parts, ie. heavy brass non-pressurized portafilter, but whether it goes to 9 bar or 15, etc. I don't know. It's a discontinued model, can't get info on it.

    I use a whole bean espresso from Costco called "Moretto" brand. I grind using the Braun KMM30 (aka Type 3045) variable burr grinder, from settings 3 to 5, as suggested by the seller. The shot takes about 25 seconds, a standard time, from the time the button is pressed. I tamp using a plastic tamper, with about as much pressure as I can get on it. (Anyway, it's not the tamper or the grinder. The seller showed me a perfectly fine crema on his Saeco Aroma, with the same tamper and he uses the same grinder). I've tried another brand of coffee as well. The closest I've ever come to crema on this machine is a tiny bit of blond foam that quickly went away. What is wrong here?




  • #2
    Sounds like stale beans to me. Get some fresh roasted beans from your local coffee house/roaster and try them. Also is that basket a single or double walled one? When you hold it up to the light can you see through all the holes? Can you see all the holes looking at the basket from the bottom or is there just one?


    Java "Welcome to the club!" phile
    Toys! I must have new toys!!!

    Comment


    • #3
      Don't buy coffee beans from Costco. Where are you located someone might be able to recommend someone, or there is always beanbay.

      Comment


      • #4
        Welcome Gavalia, your machine reminds me of my first machine, a Krups brand. Any way + 1 for fresh beans, then if you still get no crema then maybe its your technique.

        That's the cool thing about coffee, your all ways learning. Keep going mate, you'll get it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks guys for helping me get to the bottom of this. Well, the espresso beans are fresh, in that it's a new bag, I just bought them from Costco. And the grinding is done just before the brewing. Plus, the seller I bought the machine from uses "Lavazza" pre-ground on his Saeco Aroma, and he made a fine cup for me with plenty crema. So this evening, I tried a bag of pre-ground (bold) espresso coffee, that is a grind for moka pots. I usually use 2T coffee in the portafilter (it's about as much as I feel is safe to drink, per person). With this coffee I fully loaded the portafilter, shaved off the excess, tamped it down not too hard (as suggested by the seller). This time it produced some light crema-like froth. A bit on the first try, and enough to cover the top lightly on the 2nd try. I mean, i don't think this is true crema, but at least it isn't all black!

          What do you guys think about this crema?:

          First shot
          :





          Second shot (the cup was filled with more water)
          :





          This is the basket
          . I "believe" it is single-walled, but I'm not sure how to spot the difference. I know the portafilter is non-pressurized, and I can see light through all the holes that cover the bottom of the basket, from both sides.





          The portafilter:




          In order to test the "technique" theory, what part of that would I need to work on to create a crema?

          Comment


          • #6
            Just because you bought the beans from Costco today does not mean they are fresh. They could be literally over a year old. Both of the images you posted showing the 'crema' are a thin weak anemic looking excuse for crema. Real crema has a dark rich looking appearance and fresh from the portafilter will present as half or even more of the volume of the espresso shot. When you have a lightly colored thin layer of it it says one of two things. Seriously over-extracted coffee and/or old stale beans.

            So again, go to a local roaster and buy freshly roasted beans. Freshly roasted as in the beans were roasted with-in the last few days, a week at the most. If the shop can't say with certainty exactly what day the beans were roasted walk away and find a roaster who can tell you exactly when the beans were roasted. Buy only whole beans. Do not have the beans ground at the point of purchase! Properly stored beans will typically remain fresh for ~3 weeks.

            As to how much coffee should be put in the basket it needs to be filled to the proper level in order to get a good quality espresso shot. Judging from the apparent size of your basket it will most likely take 15-21 grams of ground coffee to fill it to the proper level. To start with with the basket in the portafilter fill it with ground coffee until it is mounded over the top of it. Tap the bottom of the portafilter gently on a pad or towel 2 or 3 times to help settle the grounds and then using a finger, knife or some other straight edge item to scrape it across the top of the basket/portafilter so the coffee is level with the top. Then tamp using 10-15kg's of force. (The exact amount doesn't have to be an exact number, you just need to be able to tamp with the same force consistently. Then lost the portafilter in place on the espresso machine and remove it. You should not be able to see an impression of the machines screen on the top of the puck. Then with the portafilter locked in place start the shot and extract 60ml of espresso, including the crema in the volume. It should take 25-30 seconds to extract the 60ml. If it takes less then you need to make your grind finer. If it takes longer then you grind needs to be coarser.

            Once you can do the above consistently then start adjusting the grind, time, and volume extracted to suit your tastes changing only one variable at a time.

            The number one thing to remember is you have to have fresh beans in order to get a good espresso. If your beans aren't fresh then there's nothing you can do that will make the espresso extracted from them good.

            While you're reading have a look here about how to store your beans.


            Java "Garbage in = garbage out!" phile
            Toys! I must have new toys!!!

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with Java.
              When I started brewing, I learnt to throw away my supermarket beans and get some freshly roasted beans
              I think the most important factors of brewing a good shot (besides the skills of the barista) are fresh beans and a proper grinder, followed by the machine and other factors (water etc).

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks. I understand that using beans that are freshly roasted is ideal, but it's the first I've heard that you cannot produce any decent crema unless the beans are freshly roasted. When the seller produced an espresso with good crema from his little Saeco Aroma, I'm pretty sure those beans were not roasted last week. They were commercially store bought. I also read that the Braun KMM30 burr grinder we both use isn't good enough for espresso. Yet again, he's able to produce nice caramel crema. This is why I thought it is either my beginner barista skills, something I'm missing in the process, or simply, there is something wrong with the machine. Like it isn't producing enough bars of pressure. I'm in Montreal. (Bit of a ways from Australia, I should say....). I'm sure if I look hard enough, I can find a store that sells freshly roasted beans and can tell me when they were roasted, by whom, where the beans came from, and what the name of the farmer was. And his wife. But it's just that even if this turns out to be the solution that produces the magical and elusive crema, I just have no interest in running around town going well out of my way to get this, every time I'm out of coffee. I'd rather buy another, better machine that can produce some real crema with something like Costco espresso beans.

                Comment


                • #9
                  When 4+ longtime CS members answer your question, then take the time to explain to you what's happening, as well as walk you through their past mistakes and you post the above response... I think that you've probably brought the wrong attitude to bring to CS.

                  To summarise -
                  Try with different beans. You won't know til you try. Even if you use a different supermarket/commercial variety. No one is suggesting you track down farmers in Honduras.
                  Newbies looks to blame their equipment first. It's going to be a lot easier to try with a different lot of beans and see what happens. At this point 4+ people have told you the same thing and you're refusing to try and accept this as the problem.
                  Good coffee starts with decent (fresh) beans. Or you can spend more money on better equipment that will make better coffee with not that great beans.

                  Also, welcome to the age of the internet where you can order things over the internet.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Note that the Saeco Aroma has a pressurised portafilter meaning it will aerate and produce froth on a cup of liquid mud.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Good crema is not the be-all and end-all of good coffee making; the ultimate goal is great tasting coffee. I've had many coffees that don't have much crema but still taste good eg plunger and other manually brewed coffee.
                      There are factors other than bean age that come into play to produce crema: bean type, machine quality, grind quality, pressure, technique (dose-distribution-tamp). The advice you have been given so far is good, Sure you can produce good coffee with pre-ground and not freshly roasted beans but when you are struggling to make good coffee, a recommended approach is to start with good quality, freshly roasted beans. If you intend to upgrade your equipment, start with a better grinder.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The second shot is really not that bad an espresso considering what was used to make it. No point making changes if you are content with the taste. Kinda like a Nespresso shot when the machine was not given enough time to warm up.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tashie View Post
                          At this point 4+ people have told you the same thing and you're refusing to try and accept this as the problem.
                          I think you have a serious reading comprehension problem. Not to mention the fact that you're the one with the attitude problem. Let me dumb it down for you, since you obviously need me to do that: What I said was, it doesn't matter if the problem is because I didn't buy beans that were roasted an hour earlier, or whatever. I said that I am not going to go to that much trouble, whether it means driving to some God-forsaken place in the next county that guarantees beans freshly roasted by the shopkeeper's wife every hour on the hour, or waiting 6 weeks for the postman to come and bring me coffee that I had to order on an Internet website at considerable expense, I am not going to change my entire life around, in order to get a decent crema on my espresso. Sorry if that seems strange to you, Coffee Snob #5.

                          Again, if you could understand what you read, you'd see that I already told you I did a test using an (old) pre-ground bag of espresso, and that produced at least some crema, which my newly bought manually-ground whole bean from Costco did not. What I also said, twice in fact, was that the guy who sold me the espresso machine and grinder did not use freshly roasted beans, and did well without. My own daughter made me an espresso last week on her dept. store plasticated Cuisinart machine. it had a crema, and no, she does not even know the concept of recently roasted coffee beans. So I'm pretty sure that plenty of people are able to make an espresso with crema, real OR fake, without going to the extreme of having to find beans that were roasted yesterday. I only wanted to find out why. As another member mentioned, the roast is only one factor - it's not the defining factor in crema production.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            True crema, as understood by most members of this forum, is a sort of emulsion of the fats and oils (and other goodies) from the beans, suspended in tiny bubbles of air and CO2 - or something like that.
                            This is only produced from fresh coffee as it releases CO2.

                            Other faux-crema can be produced by frothing coffee through a pressurised portafilter or double wall basket.
                            You can not produce the
                            faux-crema from your machine because you have a standard single wall basket.

                            You will only get
                            (true) crema with fresh coffee.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gavalia View Post
                              I think you have a serious reading comprehension problem. Not to mention the fact that you're the one with the attitude problem. Let me dumb it down for you, since you obviously need me to do that: What I said was, it doesn't matter if the problem is because I didn't buy beans that were roasted an hour earlier, or whatever. I said that I am not going to go to that much trouble, whether it means driving to some God-forsaken place in the next county that guarantees beans freshly roasted by the shopkeeper's wife every hour on the hour, or waiting 6 weeks for the postman to come and bring me coffee that I had to order on an Internet website at considerable expense, I am not going to change my entire life around, in order to get a decent crema on my espresso. Sorry if that seems strange to you, Coffee Snob #5.

                              Again, if you could understand what you read, you'd see that I already told you I did a test using an (old) pre-ground bag of espresso, and that produced at least some crema, which my newly bought manually-ground whole bean from Costco did not. What I also said, twice in fact, was that the guy who sold me the espresso machine and grinder did not use freshly roasted beans, and did well without. My own daughter made me an espresso last week on her dept. store plasticated Cuisinart machine. it had a crema, and no, she does not even know the concept of recently roasted coffee beans. So I'm pretty sure that plenty of people are able to make an espresso with crema, real OR fake, without going to the extreme of having to find beans that were roasted yesterday. I only wanted to find out why. As another member mentioned, the roast is only one factor - it's not the defining factor in crema production.
                              Hi Gavalia

                              I think the point tashie was making is that many consumer machines use pressurised baskets (like the Saeco, and probably the Cuisinart you mention - and even pod machines to some degree). These machines basically froth the coffee as it comes out. This gives a fake crema of sorts, even from stale coffee. They make them like this for precisely that reason.

                              Your machine however is modeled on a commercial style setup with a non-pressurised basket. This setup will not produce crema with stale beans. It is not designed to froth, but extract coffee properly. And only fresh beans give off the CO2 that creates proper cream. So in reality, if you are unwilling to buy fresh beans which still contain CO2 – you may have to put up with you coffee without a good crema. Or buy a cheaper machine with a pressurised basket that by using smoke and mirrors makes it look like you have a good crema.

                              Your call
                              Cheers Matt


                              BTW If you buy fresh beans online from Beanbay here, you'll more than likely have them within 48 hours - often less … and I'll guarantee crema if it's made properly!

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