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Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

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  • Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

    Hello All,

    I am so happy I took the advice given last year and bought my Rancilio Silvia and Rocky combo. They are going very well and I now feel I can make some really nice coffee and my milk steaming techniques seem really good, well to me at least. Thanks in no small part to the advice I read here.

    It is always rewarding to have others try your coffee and say it is as good as the stuff they get out, I know it probably should be better, but so far I am happy to be par with their favourite coffee shop.

    But I am unsure of a few things. I always use a double basket as I have found it more forgiving, and I use an Espro tamper to ensure I get 30 lbs of pressure when I tamp. When I pull the double shot 30 mL goes into an espresso cup and the other 30 mL goes into a measuring glass to make sure I pull the correct amount. I generally aim for the extraction to take 20-29 seconds. Sometimes it comes out too quick and then I know I have the grind too coarse. But usually I get around 20 seconds.

    I then have an espresso from the cup and make a flat white with the shot from the measuring glass. What puzzles me is the crema. Very rarely do I get crema on my espresso that can hold a spoon of sugar (I know I am a philistine putting sugar in an espresso). Occasionally I will, a couple of times I used the Di Bartoli Signature Blend it did. I have also bought coffee from the Adelaide Hills Roasting Company (Ethiopian Sidamo & Kenya AA) and from time to time that will produce really thick crema.

    When I pull the shot it trickles out black at first then becomes the honey coloured flow then usually blondes just before the 30 mL mark. I know I may be underdosing, for the blonding to occur before the full 60 mL extracts. I usually fill the basket with grinds, level it off with a scraper then tamp. If I fill it much more the portafilter often won’t go in.

    So I guess my garrulous post is ultimately asking, should my shot start with crema, or start black? Is my coffee stale, if so where do people get fresh roasted coffee in Sydney?

    I feel I am only part way to good espresso. The only person who drinks my espressos is my father-in-law, he thinks they are good, but I feel they can be much better. I hope someone can explain what is missing.

    Best wishes to all,

  • #2
    Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

    Hi Paul
    I am waiting for the experts to respond to your  questions as I think I have got a bit lax lately and really I need the answers you ask as a sort of wake up call.
    I wait with interest



    • #3
      Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

      I certainly dont purport to be an expert on the subject but I may be able to answer a couple of your questions.

      1) Using the double basket is a good start - avoid the single

      2) Sugar in espresso is fine if thats how you like it - youre drinking it after all! However it would be good to wean yourself off sugar over time so you can taste the different flavours in the espresso without that mask

      Ive found shots normally start off black right at the beginning as the flow starts but crema develops very quickly, like within a second or two. If the shot is very slow it may take longer than this. Compare (old beans) with (fresh beans). Theyre not the best pours but they give the idea so see if yours are at all similar. The fresh shot had far more crema but it was present in the older shot too. Di Bartoli would be one place to start with fresh local coffee, though Im sure there are other places too. Next time Im at Epic Ill see if I can get some pics of their shots - due to the blend theyre using their shots tend to be slightly on the fast side, but they are absolutely full of crema.

      Good luck


      • #4
        Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia


        To add to Gregs advice, Ive noticed that what makes a difference to me is how far post roast I use the coffee. To exaggerate it; if you use beans that were roasted that day and grind them up and pull a shot, I find you get massive amounts of crema due to the fact (please correct me if Im wrong) that there is more CO2 that the beans are yet to release (degas). Wait a couple of weeks, post-roast, and youll find that the crema may level have dropped.
        The first question I usually ask someone when I buy the beans from them is, "When were these roasted?" Its also a good way of gaining some cred with the local cafe owner who you may buy some beans from occasionally; and they seem to be more meticulous with making your coffee, and reach down behind the counter and give you todays delivery of beans.

        Di Bartoli have been supplying me with beans recently - I tried their signature blend and got great results (crema wise).

        Maybe there is a tad bit of under-extraction happening too? Can you updose anymore? Fine up the grind a bit?


        p.s. Im def. dont consider myself an expert. Im pretty much regurgitating stuff Ive read over the past experiences on CS Forums.


        • #5
          Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

          Also, to add, I think darker roasts have less crema, in general. Bean/roast combo also adds to the variable in crema.


          • #6
            Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia


            I agree with yeeza and Greg and most others will also agree on the beans issue. Fresher is better! So, if you cant get to Di Bartoli, dont hesitate to use Brown Bay here. Andy will roast and then post! (omg, Im a poet...: ) Anyway, youll get beans from Brown Bay within three days of roast and by the time they arrive, youll have them at their optimum. Hey, I live 600 kilometres from anywhere and Andy has got beans to me within 3 days! (A miracle really!)


            I only get a 30ml shot from my double baskets! Shocking I know. But, I would rather 30 great ml and then reload for another 30ml. I actually dare you to put one glass under your spouts, pour your 30ml and then put another under and watch what the next 30ml looks like. Possibly drinkable but certainly not as nice as that first shot.

            So, if youre putting two glasses under your portafiller and getting 60ml from the double, youll be getting a mixture of good and bad.

            Yes, it is typical for you to see blonding well before 60ml and often not long after 30ml, sometimes even before. Even on my machine at work, I dont get 60ml without blonding occuring.

            Something that was said to me once, was that in some states of this country, some consider 25ml to be a shot and others consider 30ml to be a shot. If you were to look real close, youd probably see that your shot does tend to blonde at about the 25ml mark.

            Dont be ashamed to use a double basket to get only 30ml. If youre really bothered by it, capture the other 30ml and use it for iced coffees!

            And, yes. I have a Silvia too.


            • #7
              Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

              Hi Paul, glad your happy with Silvia, Im sure you will get great pleasure and espresso out of her for many years to come. Ive had mine about 7 months now and more than pleased with her performance. Just lately my shots have been all over the place, its been very hot here in Perth and a fair bit of humidity in the air on some days, one day Ill get a nice slow pour and the next on same grind setting it will gush out and blond very quickly, I think the tamp has been consistent as with dosing, I just set the grinder back a notch and this slowed it down again.
              I have noticed if I sample a new roast straight from Corretto the crema is plentiful and very frothy but after a couple of days rest it settles down to a nice thick crema.
              Your comment on dosing, its a very fine line between able to lock in portafilter and having just a little too much in basket, if I underdose I get a faster flow, so its needs to be spot on!!!
              Enjoy Silvia...................cheers


              • #8
                Re: Better crema on espresso? - Rancilio Silvia

                And just to add a little more to all the great advice above....

                If copious quantities of sweet, rich crema is your thing then so long as youre using freshly roasted beans all you need to do is to grind just a little coarser and stop your shot before blonding starts at around the 20-22 seconds mark, instead of the usual 28-30 seconds. All else being equal, you will create sweeter shots with a higher proportion of crema in the glass. Next to a true Ristretto, this is my next favourite way of drinking espresso and will often have another one straight after the first..... Mmmm, really, really nice indeed ,