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Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

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  • Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

    Hi all. Ive been tinkering with a Sunbeam EM4800 for a year or two now, and despite typically enjoying the results (from various pre-ground suppliers) I have always been rather disturbed at how quickly the output either a) turns yellow, b) sprays, c) turns frothy-white, or d) jams. Various sources suggested grind granulatity is the culprit, so now Santa deliveryed my shiney new Sunbeam EM0480.

    - The spray problem is now only seen if I set the grind too course - eg. above 18 on its 1-20/25 scale. Problem solved.

    - The jamming now only occurs if I set the grind too fine - eg. below 13 or so. Problem solved.

    - Reading these forums suggested to me that the frothiness (over-processing of the coffee with boiling water?) can be caused by too-fine grind, and sure enough, my espresso shots at 13 have more such froth than at 16. Is this desirable? Some on these forums seem to have preference for it. Regardless, eliminating the froth seems only to expose the final, and presumably most destructive problem...

    - The turning yellow fairly early. >  Yes, Im using the single filter, and pretty much no matter what I do (including running the same test on an inlaws EM4800), the switch from thick syrupy brown liquid to watery yellow liquide tends to happen after about 2-3 seconds - way less than required for andy coffee Ive ever had. Sorry, I dont know the volumes.

    This may be somewhat maskable when adding copious milk, sugar, and cappuccino-stype choc sprinkes (asll as required), but I dread to think what a straight shot of this tastes like for anyone requiring a short black.

    So, what should I be doing with this now? Is it just the machine? As much as I enjoy tinkering with this stuff, I dont want to have to find the needle-in-a-haystack combination of all the relevant variables (more answered below) before getting it close to right.

    Other variables:
    - Im certainly trying different combinations of filter-load and tamping - generally quite firm, and ~ 2mm from the top of the filter.
    - Ive checked that the grinder burrs are positioned properly, and that I can see the distance between then change as I rotate the dial from 1..25 (total variation seems to be about 1mm between burrs).
    - I must admit that Im not using high quality beans - started with purchase of a Vittoria 200g bag from the supermarket. I suppse that if these are near "flat", then that could result in early yellowing of the output.
    - Prior to purchase of the grinder, I had made some attempts with purchase of preferred coffee (I like Dimmatina) pre-ground by those with decent grinders, but I now dont trust them to grind for my machine, since one occasion saw it way too fine, which kept jamming my machine.
    - Ive generally used descaling/cleaner tables in my coffee machine, including checks on these with Sunbeam customer support. Probably 3 times in this 1-2 yr period... with weekend-only use of the machine.
    - One technique Ive not generally been sure about, is whether to leave the loaded filter connected to the machine to "warm it up" prior to use. I usually just ensure that the machine has warmed itself up prior to insertion of the loaded filter.

    Sorry for the ramble... hope it makes sense.

    I can see the total relevance of "snobs" in this websites name - dread to think of the number of machine owners out there who dont get this stuff right, and happily go for years not realising that their machine is producing coffee a fraction of the quality it could/should be.


  • #2
    Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

    1: Use the Double basket
    2: Single floor if at all possible ie. krups basket.
    3: Fresh Beans... No supermarket stuff...

    Your grind setting appear to be about right... But the frothiness etc is suggesting to me that your using a double floor basket, and that is a whole separate process.


    • #3
      Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

      Hi Stu,

      Welcome to the Snobs.

      The first thing you will need to do is get some fresh coffee beans. Supermarket or similar is pre-staled so it doesnt burst the container--you want coffee that is less than 3 weeks from roasting, and has been stored in a sealed container. This is usually a bag with a one-way valve.

      Next, the single basket is VERY picky to use. Try the double basket and go for a pull time of about 25-30 seconds. This should give you a volume of 30-50ml before blonding. The caffeine (bitter) component increases as the pull lengthens so judge your pull by taste.

      The portafilter should definitely be attached to the machine during warm-up----but empty.

      Then grind the beans (best used within 3 minutes of grinding!), pack the basket, re-attach to the machine, and then pull the shot.

      When this is coming out better, then much more detail is available here that will enable you to fine tune your coffee skills.

      Enjoy the trip--if you liked your coffee before--youre in for a real treat!



      • #4
        Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

        Thanks for your thoughts... people...

        - Ill get some fresh beans ASAP.
        • Other than wholesalers who start at a few KG, I only know of Romeos in Balwyn North. Any other eastern suburb suggestions?
        • I know some cafes that have ready-to-go bags of their supplied beans, but they often seem positioned as though theyd been there for months
        • Can I safely assume that ANY dedicated bean supplier will be selling then well within 3 weeks as suggested?

        - can easily have pf attached to machine while the machine warms up.
        - will reluctantly use the double basket - though I kinda resent the fact that the single one seems near useless (according to various on these forums).
        - re number of floors in the basket - yes the single and double baskets for this EM4800 both have two floors - the bottom one with a single hole, and the top one with a mesh of holes. Since my first machine ($70 job received as present) had a single floor, and this more expensive unit has double floors, I presumed that that meant the single floors must be inferior!  :P
        -  re the "blonding"... is it generally true that this is caused by too-fine grains? Maybe from having double floor baskets?



        • #5
          Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

          Blonding that quickly wouldnt be due to fine grinding.

          Id be guessing stale beans.

          The dual walled baskets are designed to foam up stale coffee to give the look of crema that freshl ground coffee produces.

          Dont assume anything regarding the freshness of roasted beans.

          If there is not a "ROASTED ON" date then look elsewhere.


          • #6
            Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

            Hi Stu

            My recommendation, wholeheartedly, is go with Brown BeanBay (link on the left). Andy roasts them as you order them and then posts straight away in an express post bag so, if you order them on Saturday, you will get them on the Tuesday or thereabouts - certainly the roasted beans are only days old when you get them. Also extremely reliable that what you are getting is fresh, as opposed to some cafes who, Im sure, dont necessarily stock the freshest roasted beans and in the most conducive environments. It may cost you $30 or so (including postage) at first but, trust me, as you get more addicted to fresh beans, youll find the 500g bags are just not enough! Also, I recommend starting off with the sample pack, which has up to four different beans to try, so you can see where your tastes lie - Ive done this twice now, and definitely have my favourite!

            Id suggest all your leftover problems stem from the quality of your beans now, rather than the machine or the grinder, although Id definitely recommend, once you get the fresh beans, to switch over to the single wall baskets (either single shot or double, depending on how much of a shot you are making - double shot basket is definitely easier to start with because the single basket is very finicky to tamp correctly).

            And trust me from someone who has found out now that youve got your own grinder, once youve tried fresh beans for the first time, there is no going back - youll never be able to go back to supermarket, GJs or any of that ilk of beans ever again!



            • #7
              Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

              a friend of mine has one of the lower-priced Subeams with pressurised baskets, which she uses with freshly ground coffee, roasted by yours truly.
              until recently the group handle egularly flew off the machine, with all sorts of broken crockery as a result.
              the problem, upon close inspection, was the single hole in the bottom of the baskets (both single /double)... it clogged up readily and no amount of washing/blowing/needling/pinning/drawpinning could keep it open for any length of time.

              enter the husband, a practical farmer/mechanic with his equally tool-minded friend, and before you could say "crema" the hole was opened up... to the point that the extraction simply ran, foamed and sprayed everywhere.
              not to be outdone, my friend put on her thinking cap and came up with... a small round of coffee-filter paper
              it sits in the bottom of the basket, covers the single ( slightly too big ) hole, coffee on top, tamp, lock, pour.
              quite a good, nicely striped extraction as a result, without the crockery-damaging side-effects.

              i suppose this mod would make the basket half-pressurised? :



              • #8
                Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                Hi all. Thanks muchly for all the unseful input. Heres where Im at:
                • Have bought some "roasted-daily" beans from Ciscos in Windsor (is near work). Quite happy with them, though I do wish to buy some from Dimattina when I can next get to one of their stores.
                • It appears that these new/fresh beans do give me a much longer shot before the yellow mix comes through. I can also definitely taste the difference too, though this roast is apparently more of a mocha than regular coffee flavour. Curiously,  I still do get the (brown, rather than yellow) spray sometimes. Presume it to be the quality of grind, so...
                • Ive spoken with Sunbeam, and they are sending the instructions and new ring/spacer to be installed above the lower burr.
                • I also still get blockages, that cause excess pressure, resulting in the basket sometimes blowing crap out the top/side of the filter basket, especially when I release the group handle after a brew. Rather annoying, since the only way to clean the crap from where the group handle locks into the machine is to dismantle the paneling around the water outlet - rather annoying.
                • Sunbeam also suggested cleaning the filter baskets in a 50/50 water/vinegar mix. Being paranoid about too-fine grains being stuck between the two filter panels, Ive done some cycles of soak and then pass-pressurised-water-through-when-fitted-to-the-machine, hoping to clean them out. Dunno if it helps. Lizzi, I like your efforts to "tweak" the lower filter hole - though I think Ill try to best master what I have before making wholesale changes... Im curious to see where your efforts end up.
                • I also find this grinder rather annoying to clean, since the only way to properly clean the lower burr and ground coffee chamber and release chute is to unscrew the lower burr housing, which then releases an electric switch (that needs careful replacement on reassembly) - not something Id want to do after each weeks use.

                Cheers, Stu.


                • #9
                  Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                  Hi Stu,

                  On your last point about cleaning the grinder. I recently cleaned mine (a sunbeam EM0480) by removing the lower burr and housing (My gosh, I had enough stray grinds in there to last a week). I found that afterwards the grinder settings were all wrong. I.e. I used to grind on 11 and now grind on 20ish.

                  Keep that in mind, your grinder will need to be dialled in to your specific machine, and if you go opening it up, it will probably need re-dialling in.

                  Regarding the Ciscos beans. Make sure there is a "roasted on " date rather than a "used by" date. If they cant tell you when they were roasted, Youre best off finding a roaster who can.



                  • #10
                    Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                    Hi ACog... re the grinder... yes, its a rather mysterious arrangement, and Sunbeam seemed to be suggesting that is all rather straight forward and documented.

                    Re Ciscos - yes, they roast that day, or near-enough to.



                    • #11
                      Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                      Stu if you are grinding fresh beans why are you still using a pressurised basket?
                      Have you seached this site to see if there are unpressurised replacements?
                      I think AM said Krups baskets.


                      • #12
                        Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                        Hi Thundergod... Im still on the original Sunbeam filters because... I didnt realise that I could readily interchange with other types. The only types Ive seen in person were some Krups machines in a store, which didnt have any filters visible, and the place where theyd go (in the group handle) seemed rather larger than that one in my EM4800.

                        Ill go make some more enquiries (including those on this site, as you suggest).

                        Thanks, Stu.


                        • #13
                          Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                          If youre still looking for an unpressurised basket, i have just ordered one and it came quite quick. I called Groupe SEB and ordered a 2 cup basket and a new seal (krups) and it came to about $25.
                          They said it would take 6 weeks, but arrived in ten days!
                          (the number on the invoice is 02 9647 8599)

                          hope this helps


                          • #14
                            Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                            Unfortunately, the basic layout of these machines (from a cheap Breville BarVista to the rather gorgeous 800ES and their Sunbeam EM3600-EM5800 equivalents) limits the best espresso that can be obtained to be only OK by this forums standards. They just arent temp stable enough to do better.

                            Ive actually had better espressos from the even cheaper Sunbeam EM2300 Ristretto when carefully temp surfed.

                            That said, what youve done (decent grinder + fresh beans) will get OK espresso if you can also get a depressurised double basket (dont even bother with the single). Cutting the base off with an angle grinder is the easiest option but you need to leave a small rim of metal around the edge of the base so that the pressed in filter base doesnt blow off over time.


                            • #15
                              Re: Need advice re Sunbeam machine output

                              Thanks for the tip RR... Ill go order one myself! How well does it fit your machine?

                              Kaanage... yes Ive pondered it...

                              I actually took that unit back to be replaced at local repair shop (Box Hill), but they had a half-suitable single-floor basket, so Ive been trialling that for the last few weeks. It seems to not be an ideal fit, since clear hot water always drips down the side of the group handle (around the filter), but the flow from through the filter is still good.

                              One thing that hasnt improved is the time before the flow turns yellowish - still barely more than one espresso worth.  :-?

                              Interestingly, that new basket is actually practically identical to the one on my old $80 Breville machine  :-/

                              While Im saddened that fixing numerous drawbacks at once means its harder to determine which made the best difference, Im happy to report that now that I have this new basket and am using freshly roasted beans, its definitely a much richer flavour than Ive had before... even without the choc/mocha additive that I usually have.

                              Thanks all