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  • Upgrade from Iberital Challenge


    Approximately 12 months ago I bought an Iberital Challenge to use with my Silvia (I learnt the hard way - barista (nut at the controls),  grinder, machine - as far as decent equipment goes (been using good beans for a while)) and the Iberital was the best I could afford at the time - it was sold to me with the warning that Id want to replace it at some point in the not so distant future - that time has come!

    Since Ive had the IbC Ive gone from using a mix of locally roasted + home popcorn roasted beans, to pretty much exclusive home roasted and have added the iCoffee to the collection. The quality of the coffee has been much better than 12 months ago, and a damn sight better than I get at cafes in terms of consistency, however Im not happy (with myself) and am looking at things to assist in improving consistency and quality of my shots. About a month ago I got the mother of all shots that Ive tasted - EVAR - it was a straight espresso (single shot, the other went into a cap, and I dont like to waste my coffee): it had balance, a sweetness that I wish to replicate, wonderful mouth feel, fruits leading into a mocha(ey) finish that had no nasty bits anywhere in it. I have not been able to replicate.

    My current issues Im trying to deal with:
    1) Tamping uneven pressure - I just cant seem to consistently get a perfectly even puck first go (1 in 3 is right). I know the side I usually am high and tend to overcorrect and the other side gets left high.

    2) Dose - If I go a relatively coarse grind I need to overdose to buggery which is near impossible to get measured correctly as its over the top of the basket which means sometimes its right, sometimes its wrong. If I dont over dose to all buggery I get thick ropey jelly like crema and what I feel are under extracted shots - in a measured shot glass - 60mL of crema colour which will settle to 22-30mL of black after 2 minutes (still with a little 1-2mm of now darker crema on top).

    3) Grind - If I grind a bit finer so can pull consistent dosing I end up with much higher percentages of channelled shots. Which I assume is too fine of a grind, combined with uneven tamping and distribution within the basket.

    To make it easier to work around these self created issues Im thinking that a new grinder with doser may aid me in my quest for improvement. With the little kidlets running around, I dont really have the time to be measuring out with scales exact grams of ground coffee, not to mention bench space contention - I figure that a doser will aid in dosing consistency at the expense of more wasted coffee.

    I figure that a new grinder will lead to quicker grinding and more even particle sizes this should aid in dialling in the right grind for the beans on any given day and reduce some of the issues related to channelling.

    The last thing is the nut behind all this equipment needs to work on their technique when it comes to tamping. I suspect Im trying to work within a fairly confined space and the elbow making a right angle business is being pushed off course, and I just need to get that nailed out. A bottomless portafilter would assist in diagnosing this.

    I figure if I get family to combine their gifts, raid the coffee general fund (put away a few bucks each week to spend on coffee equipment, gets a better result than spending $4/coffee from a shop) I should be able to spend $800-1200 on a grinder. (If I get cash and wait until after my birthday in Feb, I may be able to increase that out to $1500-2000).

    Space is at a fair premium, and ideally would not like to go too large, or needlessly big. Looks are not so important to me (although neutral colour I suppose would keep the Mrs happier) its performance. I missed out on picking up a refurb commercial grinder (Brezzera BZ/BB something or other) when I got the Iberital due to budget constraints. Its now time where something can be done, but Id like to do it right.

    I think what Im looking for would be:
    Grinder with a doser, relatively quiet motor/operation (make coffee when the little ones are sleeping). Im not particularly concerned with stepless vs stepped the steps on some of those machines are so tiny anyway. I dont think its important if I get planar or conical burrs as Im only going to be grinding enough for a double shot at a time. Im just not sure of which brand or model will cover this requirement.

    ** I will be going to one of the sponsors for this purchase, Id just like some comments and feedback. I think Ive learned enough over the last 12 months to understand the advice Im given here, and potentially the right questions to ask to clarify.


  • #2
    Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

    Hello M,

    not wishing to offend in any way but I think you are over analysing  .... Its a common side issue with reading and digesting the volumes of information that can be found in these forums....

    It doesnt need to be that difficult, and I prefer the KISS approach.

    Come on in and have a chat and we will be albe to help without problem. There is a good range of grinders on the bench, and we can switch on whatever you like and make comparisons. Theyre all good and all it comes down to is what you prefer for your individual needs.

    For the rest of it, here are some tips around the thoughts you annunciated above:

    1) I wouldlnt buy a doser grinder if you are expecting the doser unit to help you with dosing. It wont work unless you grind far more coffee than you need, thereby creating a lot of waste. The best thing a doser does in home use / grind on demand set up is that it fluffs up the grinds as they are delivered out the bottom, eliminating "clumping". After that, they are just as messy as grind on demand (doserless) grinders and.....when you grind on demand using either a doser or doserless set up, you are still in charge of getting the correct dose into your filter.

    2) Tamping....realistically, the question is....who doesnt tamp unevenly? 

    3) Channeling....realistically, sometimes you get it, sometimes you dont, often there is no reason that you can find....the coffee is still good, and life goes on 

    4) The relationship between grind setting, dose and tamp isnt difficult and you already have a grinder with an extremely fine worm grind adjuster. Dont worry so much about the grind setting, instead concentrate on filling (dosing) the filter to the correct level, and tamp lighter or harder for any particular grind setting.  This is one of the reasions I get so agitated by the stepped VS stepless debate in quality grinders. People who say that one grind setting is too coarse and the next one is too fine, are not appreciating that is taken care of by adjusting dose and tamp which is a technique / level of understanding  issue rather than a grinder issue.....

    The size / volume of your dose should be..."volumetric" and not governed by weight. If you are weighing your dose, it will of course vary in the filter resulting in correct, under or over filling depending on the grind setting....finer grinds allow the particles to mesh together better resulting in a smaller dose (also affecting tamp pressure)....ergo, always dose and tamp volumetrically to the level in the filter you know works best for your machine.

    5) just about all commercial grinders small or larger with flat (planar) grinding plates (burrs) in the price and size bracket you will be looking at are high speed grinders. The grinding bursts are relatively short. Generally the noise level is reduced as you get into grinders with larger and larger diameter plates ie, the time of grinding is less as the plates are bigger and deliver more grinds in a shorter period / matter of seconds. Worn grinding burrs result in a much greater level of noise than burrss in good condition. Generally not an issue if you buy new.

    There are of course, purpose designed "silent" grinders that actually employ silencing technology.

    Hope that helps for starters, and anything else you would like to ask us can be demonstrated in our training room.

    very first CS site sponsor.


    • #3
      Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge


      I appreciate the resilience you and your staff have shown to this particular nut (and the willingness to continue to do so). I think the current problem I have is the whole understanding of grind size vs correct dose and tamp. I just cant seem to get it balanced. Ive tried going rather fine and tamping with pretty much no pressure and end up with the finished level being rather low and the coffee coming up a bit under extracted, if I overdose I get a decent shot, but repeatability is shot because the grinds are above the top of the basket.

      I suppose Im looking at finding a shortcut to make things easier for myself - doser to do the fluffing resolve the clumping issues (which seem to be bean dependant). A "better" grinder to make technique count less.

      I think Im viewing the whole grinder issue like the popcorn roasting exercise - it does a decent enough job, but when I got the iCoffee it was like stepping up a level of quality/consistency, with greater ease/less requirement on me being on my game.



      • #4
        Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

        Ive the same combination (Silvia + Challenge), so Id be keen to see the recommendations as Im looking to upgrade my grinder are well.


        • #5
          Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

          for the channeling try stirring the ground coffee with a paper clip or a pin to break up the clumps. I believe its called the Weiss Distribution Technique if you want to google it.


          • #6
            Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

            Wow, that is a lot of analysis!
            If a problem is tamping, how would a different grinder help?
            I doubt tamping is a huge problem, but if you say its uneven (how? Youre not pushing straight down?) is there a way to improve consistency by grinding into a measured container, or grinding a measured scoop of beans at a time?
            To correct unevenness, you could distribute the grinds at the halfway mark, (using your finger or a toothpick)..this breaks the clumps up but also creates a level surface to tamp onto, so youre not trying to push down on an uneven mound.
            Keep the portafilter level by putting it on the bench (wedged firmly into a corner sometimes helps)..use the double spout as its easier to lean on.
            If that doesnt give a level tamp, then youre probably chasing the last 0.1% of refinement.

            As for the grinder, there seem to be plenty of 2nd hand mazzer minis for sale for sub-$400 (in my area at least). A grinder upgrade will definitely help but wont make the entire process much easier, given the silvia is not a very forgiving machine so you really have to watch your grind, dose, tamp and pour time to get the best out of it. If youve got $2k to spend say in 6-9months, whats the best setup long term?


            • #7
              Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

              For most setups, you need to dose the fluffy grounds above the top of the basket to get the right dose. If you are having trouble sighting whether you are at the right dose or not because of the mound piling above the top of the basket - you could try cutting a clear plastic disposable cup to fit in the rim your basket - so that you get a collar on your basket that sits a few cm above the rim. You can then grind to get a mound above the rim of the basket, and level the mound by quickly moving the portafilter back and forth, or by tapping on the bench to settle the grinds (you will need to learn to tap at approximately the same force each time). You will then have a level basket of grinds to determine if your dose is correct, rather than a mound. The plastic collar helps reduce mess as well.

              I have a couple of different techniques for different situations, but one is to use the plastic cup collar, grind to where I think is just a tad too much coffee, tap on the bench (using a standardised tap), remove the collar, and then use a plastic card to level off the basket, which leaves the correct dose for my setup.

              A better grinder will be good for other reasons, but not dosing. I have a doser grinder, but you cannot use it to dose at home unless youre willing to fill the doser with ground coffee, pull out your shot and then throw away an entire doser of coffee. Ive even noticed a lot of people with the Mazzer Es which have electronic dosing are setting the dose to just short of correct dose and then manually topping up to their correct dose - so still doing it by sight of volume.


              • #8
                Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

                I have owned and used the Iberital since I bought my Expobar nearly 6 years ago. Once O learned how to use it was not a problem to get consistent, good shots. Here are some tips:

                1- Only have 4 - 5 shots of coffee beans in the grinder. This will prevent the coffee changing charecteristics as it ages, frustrating you in the process.

                2- Dose above the portafilter. In general I have a mound about an inch over the top before I tamp. I just tap the portafilter lightly as the coffee goes in to ensure that I dont get air pockets.

                3- Use 1 bean until you get the hang of it. Some will use an oily bean, then change to a drier bean and wonder why they are not consistent. The oilier the bean, the less tamp pressure required before you choke your machine when trying to pour a shot.

                4- Weather plays a role. If you have rainy weather and the humidity is high, this will efffect the pour. The higher the humidity, the less tamp pressure required.

                5- This is likely to get some agitated but ignore how long the shot takes initially. Stop when it has gone blonde. This will vary depending on the age of the bean, oiliness etc... Trying to prolong the shot by adjusting tamp pressure, grind and volume at the same time will drive you crazy because there are too many variables being changed at once.

                Good luck. Like I have said, I have not found a reason to replce the Iberital in 6 years. Understanding the process is the key issue.



                • #9
                  Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

                  Cheers for the responses.

                  Still working it all out. Have been continuing to work and play. I think a chunk of my issues is dialling in from week to week and getting correct dose/grind going on. There is no shortcut/bypass for a better understanding of what is going on.

                  Some roasts (mine or anyone elses) will be easier to use, others not so easy and will just have to live with that.


                  • #10
                    Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

                    Can I suggest you try some  dosing tools, I use them with my Giotto and it alows me to dose consistently and distributed the coffee evenly without prematurely compacting any of the coffee so as to allow for an even consistent tamp.

                    Just kind of tap,tap,tap the coffee down and then run it a fews times over the surface and your done.

                    I have the set of 6 dosing tools and I vary between say a no. 2 and 3. Per the new vids on ECA you know your dose is correct when you the spent puck in your potafilter is firm (not hard, nor squishy). Then for grind, well thats just a matter of watching it and seeing how fast it pours.

                    * From memory I used a no.3-4 on my Silvia.


                    • #11
                      Re: Upgrade from Iberital Challenge

                      Originally posted by 2D263C273D2220294E0 link=1321751052/9#9 date=1322534229
                      Can I suggest you try some  dosing tools, I use them with my Giotto and it alows me to dose consistently and distributed the coffee evenly without prematurely compacting any of the coffee so as to allow for an even consistent tamp.

                      Just kind of tap,tap,tap the coffee down and then run it a fews times over the surface and your done.

                      I have the set of 6 dosing tools and I vary between say a no. 2 and 3. Per the new vids on ECA you know your dose is correct when you the spent puck in your potafilter is firm (not hard, nor squishy). Then for grind, well thats just a matter of watching it and seeing how fast it pours.

                      * From memory I used a no.3-4 on my Silvia.
                      Are you referring to Scottie Callaghans tools or are there others on the market?