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Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

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  • Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

    Hi everyone,
    After realising I spend about $30 a week (=a small fortune per year) on buying coffees, I invested in my first coffee machine yesterday, a Gaggia Baby and Gaggia MM grinder (both recommended by the sales assistant), and am having trouble using it despite reading the instruction manual over and over.
    1. For example, no matter how I pack the coffee (I bought a pre-grinded one to start off), I cant seem to get that crema on my espresso shots.
    2. Secondly, I have wasted about 3 Litres of milk in an attempt to get nice froth for a cappucino or creamy milk for a latte.
    When using the steaming wand, the steam tends to turn on and off after 10-15 seconds and doesnt deliver a consistent steady flow of steam. I can hear the boiler turning on and off. Is this a fault in my machine or is this normal for a machine in this price range?
    3. Also, how long should the frothing/heating process take place when steaming about 400ml of milk? It takes me forever with all the stops and starts of the steam.
    Hope someone can help me work this baby and tell me I havent bought a crap machine/grinder. But if I have been sucked into buying a dud, please also tell me so I dont waste years of my life trying to perfect the above!
    Thanks so much in advance.
    christina

  • #2
    Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

    Relax Christina! all hopes are not lost...

    1) Crema-less shots are common with stale preground coffee. Get some fresh beans and grind them with the MM. That should improve the shot a touch.

    2) Are yaou letting the boiler come up to temperature for steaming? The boiler has to heat up and create a whole lot of steam before you release it out into your milk. If it hasnt built up enough pressure, you will run out of steam. On the other hand, if it has built up to maximum steam pressure, then ur probably emptying out all the steam from the boiler hence why the boiler is turning on.

    3) For a machine that size, try to limit your milk to no more than 200mls because the steam isnt strong enough to force a whole heap of milk into a vortex. Also, you are probably not able to heat up the milk in time before the boiler runs out of steam because there is way too much milk for a boiler that size.

    Maybe someone with previous gaggia baby experience can help you a little more.

    Hope that helps!!!

    Gav

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

      Been there...3yrs ago.

      1. agreed..fresh roasted bean from local market not pre-packed even if its pre-packed
         whole bean.

      2. Your grinder MM will do a fair job for a beginner. I had the solis maestro plus when
         i first started and now have a rancilio rocky. If i bought the rocky at first i would not
         have a true appreciation of grinders and how important they really are.
         "Gaggias are very finicky with grind settings"

      3. In regards to steam pressure and timing. This worked for me with past gaggias.

         -Make sure you prime the machine on start up. (open steam valve full, turn on  
          brew and steam switch then let at least 2 ounces of water fill up in a cup or
          whatever you have beside your machine. Then once it fills, turn off your steam
          switch and quickly close the steam valve. After doing this water will pour out
          the brew head and into your reservoir. Let at least 1 ounce - 2 ounces then turn
          off your brew switch.

         - leave the machine on for at least 15minutes untouched.  Then pull at least
           1 blank shot. Meaning just let 2-3 ounces fill up in a shot glass after pressing
           brew switch. Then wait another 5minutes or so.

         - Pull your shot and have a timer ready. (25-30sec. from time of hitting brew
           switch)

         - After your shot is done. Pull out Porta clean and then hit the brew button about
           two times to clear out any debris so to speak in the shower screen.

         - Then hit your steam switch. This is tricky. You must crack the valve just a touch
           and try and release any water thats in the wand. When you see very little close
           it fully. Watch your steam boiler light when its on (your element is off-no good)
           vice versa when its off thats good your water is super heating and creating
           super pressure steam buildup. If you have two options now.

           You can wait till the light goes on which is basically saying okay your steam is
           ready now crack the valve. You will get a beginning big rush of steam and it will
           die off in about 15-20 seconds and subsequently be very little. However, if you
           steam your 250ml-300ml max. with the full pressure at the beginning then wait
           and watch for the steam pressure to die off then close your valve fully. Keep your
           frothing tub still in same place. The light will go off and your element will start
           heating again. This is all a timing game which after time you will get a sense of
           when to crack your valve. Now wait roughly 15-30sec. and then crack your valve
           to full open throttle. You will get another round of steam pressure to froth that
           jug.

           The second option...is the timing thing right from the beginning. You can hit the
           steam switch and time it..you want the light off as long as possible...so crack your
           valve a little at the beginning and release some water then wait the same time
           15-45sec.depends...and open the valve fully before the light comes on!...
           You will notice you get way more steam and it lasts much much longer and is more
           powerful and consistent. This is sort of a way of tricking your temperature control
           inside to continue keeping the element heated.

           ***DO not leave your valve open all the time when steaming. The idea is to keep
                 it closed and time the opening so the light does not come on***

        -The reason steam is less powerful and short timed is due to small boiler 3.5oz.
          I believe the max size of boilers in machines under $1000 is 250ml+-.
          The Rancilio is that size....which is one reason to why its such a great deal.

         - Then make sure you have a proper tamper. Not the plastic one. E.auction site  
           has tons of decent priced ones. I use the convex tamper polished metal.

         - I suggest you play around with your grinder settings. You will probably have 2
           settings that will work for you. All beans respond differently as well..keep in mind.

         - This is a fantastic beginner machine and grinder.
            If you wanted something higher end with more performance you can look to
            a rancilio silvia w/PID and rancilio rocky grinder which is not insanely priced but
            requires less fiddling around to get results.

            ps. The PID is also available for gaggias. Just type in PID gaggia in google.
                  or check the site sponsor here for PIDs. PIDs allow you greater temp. control
                  and better steaming timing basically because you can see your actual  
                  temperatures from a digital display added on to your machine.

      pps. Frothing techniques vary between wanting a latte and a cappuccinooooo...Cap being the easier
      of the two to froth milk for. If latte is what your after...and you want microfoam.
      Try and keep the tip just above the milk and listen for the little hiss sounds of air being sucked in
      you dont want big bubbles. You want to create a vortex of spinning milk by having the tip slightly
      submerged under the milk and the tub tilted. etc.etc..more to it..but thats a good start.

      ppps. I almost forgot...get rid of that frothing black plastic nightmare..it is useless.
      just unscrew it......remember old saying "righty tighty"...turn counter clockwise and off.
      Use the metal tip only.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

        Hi again,
        Thanks so much to Gav and Pravspresso for the advice.

        Firstly, I didnt realise preground coffee wouldnt produce crema! I bought it to practice with because it was cheap! Probably would explain why my espresso shots came out in about 5 seconds.

        Anyway, after reading these tips I ground the coffee I bought from the market. After a big explosion of coffee dust I managed to save enough to make a couple of espresso shots.

        As you have both suggested, I also heated the machine up for about twenty minutes as opposed to the six minutes stated in the manual. Then I followed your instructions the best I could.

        The first one was ok. Some crema (woohoo!) but it also had some tiny bubbles like oil on top.
        Second one I made had less crema much to my dismay, but left some coffee residue at the bottom of the shot glass. However, it took about a minute to get a 30ml shot. Coffee sort of dribbled out.
        The third one I made just now had no crema at all!! And had even more coffee residue in the bottom of the glass. Also took ages. After 25 seconds I only had a few drops! What I also noticed this time was that the coffee cake was less wet and stayed in tact when I whacked it out. Is this a good or bad sign? Previously they have all been slightly wet/sloppy.

        Can you tell which part of the process Im getting wrong? I can only assume its the pressure I put on the tamper because everything else is the same (same beans, same setting on grinder (second finest), same length of time heating up the machine etc)

        I will be purchasing a better tamper in the next few days as suggested. Hopefully, that will make a difference too.

        Also I have removed that plastic black thing from the end of my steaming tip and will try the frothing bit this weekend when I have the time (and patience).

        Hope to hear from you and other coffee snobs soon. Good to know there is hope. Thank God for this website (and coffee)!
        Christina

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

          Christina,

          Welcome to CS.

          The main problem at the moment is you are grinding too fine. You will need to set your grinder to a coarser setting so that you get 30ml in 25 secs from a single..... and 60ml from a double also in 25 secs....

          And because your grind is too fine you will get some of the fines through the holes in the basket and into the cup! Too fine a grind will also choke the machine.... taking forever to pour..... if you get a pour at all!!

          Each bean variety needs a different grind.... as the humidity changes you need to change your grind.... as the beans age you have to change your grind..... the only thing which should remain constant is 30ml (or 60ml) in 25 seconds..... and that determines your grind..... when you get that right- with fresh beans you will get your crema!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

            Originally posted by JavaB link=1210503387/0#4 date=1210600667
            Each bean variety needs a different grind.... as the humidity changes you need to change your grind.... as the beans age you have to change your grind..... the only thing which should remain constant is 30ml (or 60ml) in 25 seconds..... and that determines your grind..... when you get that right- with fresh beans you will get your crema!
            So you can see what a difference a grind can make ... Ive had a Silvia for about half a week and progressed from this

            to this

            mainly by adjusting the grind. I inherited a grinder from someone else whod set it right for his machine and coffee but I had to set it significantly finer for my coffee and the Silvia.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

              Hi everyone,
              Thanks again for all your suggestions. After many more attempts as per your instructions regarding how to achieve froth/crema here is the update.

              Crema is achieved 99% of the time! Woohoo!! (I never knew climate also played such a big part in making a coffee!)
              BUT steaming/frothing was still unsuccessful! So took it in for repairs (yes on a one month old machine). Turns out that I had a dud boiler and thermostat which both got replaced! Now it steams like a dream.
              Only problem left is I am not able to achieve a consistent dry puck. Most of the time, it is wet, watery or sloppy. Every now any then I get a dry cake and feel the urge to celebrate by sticking a candle in it.
              Can someone please help me with this one!
              Thanks
              Christina

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

                RE above

                Possibly grind to fine and water cant get through

                KK

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

                  Hi Christina

                  I have the same setup as yours - a Gaggia Baby (Class) and a Gaggia MM grinder. I agree with all the comments made so far.

                  What setting do you have your MM set at? I use have mine set at the third dot on the scale for my old coffee machine but had to turn it one notch coarser for the Gaggia Baby to get a decent crema. I just bought a good tamper and found instructions on the proper tamping method which has made a lot of difference. Still learning and fine tuning to get the 25 second shot.

                  If you still have the old beans, use those to practice with.

                  Steve

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

                    Hi again, and thanks for the suggestions.
                    Steve, I have my grinder set smack bang in the middle (5). It was set at 2nd finest but no coffee was coming through and I got coffee residue as I mentioned in an earlier post, so I tried with coarser settings as suggested by JavaB/PhilipMach until I got the 25 second shot and crema.

                    I bought one of those spring loaded tampers too.. so I was hoping my tamper pressure wasnt the issue.

                    But I have read posts that mention that perhaps I am not letting the machine heat up long enough. At the moment I wait between 15-30 minutes depending on how late for work I am! I havent yet correlated all the data to work out if this is the problem! Such technical stuff!

                    Will keep practising and post the results in case my info can help another member.
                    Christina

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

                      Hi Christina

                      Well after owning mine for a few weeks I still dont get the dry puck either. I have accepted that I have a good entry level machine capable of pouring a good shot. I accept that I need to ditch the pannarello (the steamer frother attachment) and try the naked wand. Anyone know if the Silvia wand mod will work for this machine?.

                      Above all, we both need to invest in a decent grinder. I have decided to persevere with the MM rather than do an upgrade to a sub-$600 grinder (assuming $600 is the divide between entry level and prosumer). Maybe if Mr. Swan gives me a good tax return and if Im a good buy, ooops, boy.. the wife might agree to it.

                      Steve

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Help with Gaggia Baby, no crema, no froth!

                        Just found this.

                        http://youtube.com/watch?v=PVPqSl4kvlY

                        Youtube has a number of videos on the Gaggia Baby machines which you can search for or look at the related links on the right of this page

                        Comment

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