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Saeco Via Venezia beginner

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  • Saeco Via Venezia beginner

    Hi guys,

    I posted a thread here about tossing up between a Silvia and EM7000 purchase. While thinking about it - a friend gave me his old Via Venezia which I thought i'd use to gauge my interest and learn a little about homemade coffee first.

    Today I went out and purchased a Breville Smart Grinder Pro (BCG820). I figured that no matter what machine I end up using, i'll need to be able to grind beans. So I also grabbed some beans from the cafe up the road (love their coffee ).

    As for the machine - it seems to be in good condition. I stumbled on this video yesterday which went on about how good the pressurised grouphandle is but, the top comment pushed strongly in the opposite direction. To quote:
    WRONG WRONG WRONG... The pressurized portafilter using "table salt grain" ground coffee without tamping will never make anything but hot strong coffee, NOT anything approximating "real espresso". Making good barista quality espresso shots with plenty of crema even with budget brand Saeco machines is well within reach of anyone that owns a good quality bur grinder, (like the Rancilio Rocky). All you have to do is this:

    1. Remove the pressurized valve from this portafilter (throw it away).
    2. Turn on your machine with the portafilter installed (basket removed) to let the boiler and portafilter warm up for about 15-20 minutes.
    3. Put your espresso cups or shot glasses on top of the machine to let them warm up too.
    4. Grind your whole espresso roast beans to a flour like consistency.
    5. Fill the portafilter basket with ground coffee so that it is rounded slightly higher than the rim.
    6. Using a 52-53 millimeter tamper press down firmly and twist to make a well packed coffee "puck" in the basket.
    7. Remove the portafilter from the machine, installed the basket with the coffee being careful not to burn your fingers, and re-install the portafilter into the machine.
    8. Put a warmed espresso cup under the portafilter, turn on the machine, and start counting out 25 seconds from the moment the coffee begins to come out of the spouts.
    So I opened up the pressurised group handle only to find that the valve was wrecked anyway - so i just ripped it out and cleaned everything up and attempted to make my first coffee. It was rubbish. Second one - better but still pretty average.

    I followed the method above as close as i could but I still have to work out how much coffee to grind into the grouphead and how fine. Currently the grinder is set to 6 and 18 seconds. I don't have a proper sized tamper, the one i got with the machine is far too small so I have to tamper 3 or 4 times around the basket to flatten it. I'll look into buying a correctly sized one asap.

    Also - from what I read, the steam heads on these machines are "Panarello" and make the milk far too foamy. I'm considering swapping it out for a steam wand as this thread suggests. What are peoples thoughts on this? Is there a way to reduce the foam by modifying the stock steamer wand or is it best to simply swap it out?

    Mainly - I'm just wondering where I should start in fine tuning my extraction method? I was thinking I could film it and stick it on youtube for the experts on here to critique? Once I get the coffee extraction method, I'll move onto the milk steaming.

    Anyway - any tips or advice would be awesome.


  • #2
    Hello jztilly, and welcome to CS. There are people here who are much better qualified to answer these questions, but since none have responded yet, here's my two cents worth.

    One of my machines, which I did most of my learning on, is a Gaggia Classic, not too much different from a Via Venezia. It came with a panarello, and one of the best things I did was to replace it. They are supposed to make it easy for beginners to froth the milk - and they do that. But we don't want just froth and bubbles on top of the milk, we want well textured milk and micro-foam, and for that you need a plain wand with a simple tip.

    Pressurised portafilters are made to cover up problems with stale supermarket beans, cheap and nasty grinders, or people who can't or won't bother to learn how to pull good shots without them. But they only hide the symptoms, they don't fix the problems, so the coffee is still crap. Because they hide issues with beans, grinds, and technique, you will not learn or improve much while using one.

    Before getting into extraction, I suggest that if you have both a single and a double basket, you should put the single in the back of a drawer, and leave it there, at least until you have mastered the double. If you don't have a double basket - get one.

    Extraction depends on a many factors, but with a no-frills machine like the Via Venezia, there are four main ones you can control. The first is good, freshly ground beans, then there is dose, grind, and tamp. The last three must be considered together. When I first started my coffee learning curve, it took me a while to fully grasp this.

    The dose (depth) of coffee in the basket will affect the extraction time/flow as much as the grind. A few grams more in the basket will reduce the flow and have the same effect as a finer grind. A few grams less will have the same effect as a coarser grind. So if you increase or decrease the dose, you have to grind a little finer or coarser to compensate. When you get the dose/grind combination right, you still need to tamp well, but it becomes less critical. For consistent results, you need to be able to measure your dose accurately - near enough is not good enough. Filling the basket, leveling and tamping can work, if you use the exact same routine each time. Then you need to find the right grind to match that dose.

    A good extraction is usually defined as 50 to 60 mils of espresso delivered in 25 to 30 seconds, with the shot stopped just before it starts to blonde (turn pale). I can only achieve this with a triple basket and 17 - 18 grams of beans. With a double basket and 14 - 16 grams I only get about 45 to 50 mils before it pales, usually nearer to 25 seconds than 30. A finer grind will slow it down a bit, but doesn't increase the volume before it starts to look pale & weak. Maybe I'm still missing something here, but I like the coffee I'm making, so it doesn't bother me.

    As you have mentioned, you should get a better tamper. For starters, it doesn't need to be expensive or super flash looking, but it does need to fit neatly it in the basket.

    Hope this helps - deegee.


    • #3
      Hi Jztilly,

      The Panarello is a waste of time. You cannot create microfoam with it. I highly recommend you upgrade to a Breville 800es steam wand.
      Not sure where you are located but I found a pretty good, inexpensive, 53mm tamper at Gigante Coffee in Melbourne. I posted a pic in this forum.

      Cheers, tayal01.


      • #4
        If you're thinking of getting a Silvia or something else anyway, then I wouldn't bother with buying or doing much more for your current machine. I would be just using it for a short while to see if the amount of time and effort it takes to make the coffee is something that you are happy to fit into your day. It would be different if you planned to keep using the Via Venezia until it broke. But a better machine will be easier to get good results from, and you would need to buy a different tamper etc. when you upgrade anyway


        • #5
          thanks guys. ive been working hard at it for the past couple weeks but have still had no luck getting tasty coffee out of this thing. i think it's not going to work in our household and we'll continue to buy coffees from up the road. thanks again though