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Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

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  • Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

    Hi All,
    I have trolled the forum and did not seem to find any one answer to my questions. A few others have touched on it here and there but, reading the posts has only raised my "consciousness" & curiosity further.... Ignorance was certainly bliss.

    I have an EM6910 and have been more than pleased with it for the 2.5yrs that I have owned it. Made easily 2,500 brews from it and have always (well, nearly always) enjoyed the cup, as too have all my friends. With the exception of the pressure gauge which stopped working within a month of owning the machine, it has been seriously reliable. I also use a EM0480 as my grinder.

    I have always cleaned it, but never back flushed it (didnt see the instructional video until I came across a link on this site). I have always used the pressurised basket as it always gave me a great crema.

    Today I did a full flush (pressing both shot buttons and then the power button with a cleaning tablet in the basket). After the 4th (yes fourth) round the washings were pretty clear.

    I put the unpressurised basket into the portafilter and started experimenting with grind, dose and tamp. After many, many tries I have not yet got it right...... My grind is on the finest setting and I have tried mouse strength all the way right through to a superman strength tamping and no luck. I think that I have got the dose right - it comes up to the shower screen and I feel light pressure when I lock the handle into place but without heavy marking in the puck when I ditch it after the shot. The puck is coming out nice and clean.

    The best I have managed is an average, barely acceptable crema. The best times that I have got are about 10 seconds before anything comes out but it is pouring out like a light black crude and extracting in about another 5 seconds after that. The coffee is cheap and stale (using it for experimenting with the grind and tamp). The taste is strong and bitter (not what it tastes like with the pressurised basket). What is my next move in the learning process??? I am a firm believer in making do with the equipment that I have - be it imperfect or otherwise. Peter Brock once said that when people blamed their weak parts for their racing failures it was a cop out.... he believed that you could still get good times with a weak gearbox etc, you just had to drive more carefully and adjust your style to match the equipment...... I am hoping that I can do the same.

    Any advice/criticism pearls of wisdom or otherwise would be greatly appreciated....

    PS. Damn you coffee snobs for making my quest for coffee now that much more frustrating, obsessive and enjoyable all at once!!!!

    Regards, Frank. (Mariner)

  • #2
    Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

    Im struggling to quote parts on my phone at the moment, but the "cheap and stale" coffee you are using seems to be a large part of the problem.
    Stale coffee doesnt behave in a similar way to fresh coffee, often requiring a much finer grind.
    Also, it might be a good idea to fit some washers to your 0480 in the case that it is not grinding fine enough for espresso anymore.


    • #3
      Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

      Hi Frank, welcome to the journey - I agree, ignorance is bliss, but I do make a much nicer coffee now

      in no particular order of importance:
      where do you get your beans and how old are they? Fresh beans grind differently and taste different - and the supermarket is not fresh. You will get a different flavour out of the pressurised basket, which you may taste as better when the beans are stale.

      Originally posted by 436F7C67606B7C0E0 link=1328056371/0#0 date=1328056371
      My grind is on the finest setting
      If you can choke the machine the grinder is fine enough - so no shims required. Dont choke the machine too much!

      Originally posted by 436F7C67606B7C0E0 link=1328056371/0#0 date=1328056371
      The best times that I have got are about 10 seconds before anything comes out but it is pouring out like a light black crude and extracting in about another 5 seconds after that
      10 seconds is maybe too slow - try backing off a bit on the tamp. What do you mean "Extracting 5 seconds after" - flowing, or finished?

      If you prepared everything the same, and used a stopwatch, how much coffee comes out in 30s? Aim for 60mL with the double basket, but ultimately this number changes with different baskets / machines.

      The other thing to consider is temperature. A thermoblock temperature output is directly related to flow rate - too fast too cold (usu sour), too slow too hot (usu bitter, but dont confuse with acidic). Warm it up for at least 15 -20 mins. Check the water to see if its steamy - if so you need to flush a bit to drop the temperature before extracting.

      Also check for chanelling, where water passes quickly through a "weak" section in the puck. This will burn that part of coffee, & under-extract the rest, while making the total output look right, it wont taste right. Evidence of this is holes or damage in the top of the puck, but it can happen without being detected this way. A good "next step" here is to buy a naked pf and see how the stream develops.

      You can make do with the gear you have, but I dont like the car analogy where all cars will get you over the line. Coffee is more like... (searching for analogy...) a photograph. A cheap camera will still take photos, but not quickly, not blur free all the time, not with the same depth of field, correct exposure, colour, etc. But an expensive camera can still take crap photos in the wrong hands. My coffee machine & grinder costs less than my BILs camera & lenses, but people are surprised by its existence and price... anyhoo enough of that!

      hope Ive helped


      • #4
        Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

        Hi Frank,

        No doubt about it, unless you get freshly roasted coffee (up to around two weeks post-roast) you will never get decent espresso.

        Then get your dose about right (sounds like youre on the right track there, do the 5 cent test).

        Then hold your dose and tamp constant and adjust the grind as described in a million places. Re the tamp, about "leaning on the bench" pressure is a good place to start. Worry about your tamp last, just do it the same every time.

        Also, did you remove the shower screen and give it a good scrub?? If not, I would strongly suggest doing that given how long its gone without a clean.

        Have fun and let us know how you go

        PS, clean the grinder too before you put in the fresh beans.


        • #5
          Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

          Hey mate i spent a few years using my dads sunbeam and your right, with good technique there is no doubt you can make consistantly good coffee, easily better than the average cafe and if youve been happy so far then no need to upgrade yet. My dads sunbeam grinder has needed replacing though after 6 years as it just wasnt grinding fine enough anymore, so i bought him a isomac granmacinino and his old sunbeam is still pulling nice shots comparable to my rancilio silvia/rocky setup. My technique is to use the double basket grind till it just starts to overflow, then colapse lightly, grind again for a few seconds till it starts to over flow then level off the coffee then tamp(watch some good baristas on youtube). Dont be overly concerned about tamping pressure as the pressure from the machine is so much greater than a human can achieve that once it hits the puck your tamping pressure makes almost negligable difference, your tamp should be enough to remove the air pockets between the coffee but not too hard that your straining. Now when your grind is correct - which is the key here, i find that the prefect extraction will initially come out dark chocolate for atleast 5 seconds (this is the sweetest coffee, mainly what a ristretto is made up of) then it will slowly turn caramel for 10-15 seconds then light wheat colour which you should stop the extraction just before this as this is bitter. If your machine is in good nick you should be able to achieve this, my dads is 6 years old and its still capable. Just use fresh beans if you can. I hope that helps in some way?


          • #6
            Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

            Wow! Thank you all for the tips. I pulled the shower screen and have cleaned it thoroughly - it was actually pretty clean.

            As far as the beans go, I had no idea that they would make such a difference to the extraction. I mean, I knew that they would taste flat and not produce a great crema, I was not intending to drink them....they are in the bin.

            20 minutes later......
            OK! EUREKA! WOW! I got (not freshly roasted fresh) fresher beans (still super market for now as I only just got back from sea at 2 this morning - my lazy excuse and I am sticking to it) and backed the grinder off just a little for a start point (#3 setting on the EM0480) and made sure the dose was the same - just some light pressure on the shower screen. My tamp I did a little firmer - not much though. I got about 55mls in 25 seconds. It sort of oozed out like all the other CSers seem to and it was a rich, dark, honey sort of colour. I stopped it at 25 seconds - as it was just starting to lighten up in colour. Tasted a lot heavier, sweeter and richer than ever before - and although fresher they arent great beans I can assure you all of that! Thank you all so much.

            I am off to get some "fresh" (yes fresh) beans in the morning. But, first half a dozen more to see if I can replicate the job.

            I cant believe how long I have secretly thought that I was a coffee snob and really have had NO IDEA..... Cant believe that I have served up the coffee that I have all these years to my friends......ignorance has been bliss for them too I think.


            • #7
              Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

              OK, 2 more double shots exactly the same....... very happy and very caffeinated. One more question to others if I may be so rude..... From what I have read on this forum the grind and dose may need to be adjusted a bit for different beans is this correct??

              Thank you all again so much. One day of work and some great advice - I am a changed man.

              Regards, F.


              • #8
                Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

                hey mariner yes definitely youll have to adjust your grind not only for every different bean you put in there but as the beans get older youll have to adjust. Its funny, very fresh beans will need a pretty fine grind then over a couple of days theyll need to be slightly coarser then as they start to age theyll need to go fine again, its hard work yeh? Hopefully only a click or two either way though. Yeh the journey has just started for you on the coffee snobbery slippery slope..


                • #9
                  Re: Sunbeam EM6910 - where do I start....

                  After doing the sunbeam coffee course they said that if you are consistent in tamping and dosing the only variable should be the grind. If you change too many things too many times you will never work out what you are doing wrong. so only change one! It works for me....most of the time.