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Thread: making better coffee

  1. #1
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    making better coffee

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    hi guys,
    my setup is Gaggia Classic (with a rancilio silvia frothing wand) and a Rancilio Rocky grinder. the coffees are coming out nicely and are tasting as good as most cafes ive gone to. so far so good.
    my question is, how can i make it better? ie god shot stuff...
    how much better will the coffee be with a pro machine?
    ive heard of some guys changing the pressure in the gaggia classic, how is it done and why?

    thanks in advance,
    tal

  2. #2
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: making better coffee

    Hiya Tal,

    Welcome to the home of CoffeeSnobs and a whole different world of great coffee [smiley=thumbsup.gif].

    I guess its more about getting all the basics right on a consistent basis which is the best road to achieving consistently high quality shots of coffee. The Gaggia Classic is capable of pulling extremely high quality brews so long as the above receives the attention it deserves.

    All that being said, the main issues are.... the Brew Water temperature must be maintained within the ideal range during the pour, nominally 93deg C. The Brew Water Pressure likewise, should be maintained within its ideal range, nominally 9-10 BAR.... and the shot duration within the 25-28 seconds ballpark. Regarding the pressure adjustment you mentioned.... this is in reference to the Pressure Limit Valve that resides in the downstream path from the Pump itself and is intended to protect the Pump from experiencing excessive pressures during the course of pulling a shot.

    In some machines, this valve is easily adjustable and some others, its a fixed valve and Im not sure what type the Classic has fitted. In any case, if you were tempted to adjust this valve without having the appropriate pressure measuring equipment handy, then it would be just like shooting in the dark as to whether you end up with it adjusted properly. Im not a real fan of playing around with these unless you know what you are doing and have access to the appropriate tools and instruments. If the adjustment is carried out too far, then it is not beyond the bounds of reason that you may risk damaging the Pump or something else in the high pressure water circuit.

    Anyway, if all of the aforementioned criteria are being met, then it comes down to the way you grind, dose, distribute and tamp your coffee prior to pulling the first shot. Theres lots of info around on what to do in this aspect of preparing for great coffee, including on this very forum, and this site is always worth a read too.... http://www.home-barista.com/.

    What Ive discovered though, is that most of the gains in achieving really great coffee is to use high quality, freshly roasted beans ground just before filling the PF basket and pulling the shot. I havent been roasting my own coffee for all that long really, about 18 months or so but I have noticed that since I have been paying a lot more attention to achieving repeatable roast profiles for each particular bean variety, the quality in the cup has improved by leaps and bounds.

    If you are not roasting your own beans yet, then it is definitely something you should give a try in the not too distant future..... its easy, almost falling off a log easy and cheap to get started. Failing being able to roast your own, you should always try and buy your beans from an artisan roaster in your vicinity who has a reputation for producing high quality roasts.

    Well, thats about it in a nutshell.... hope there is something in there to help you out. All the best,

    Mal.

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    Re: making better coffee

    hey mal,
    thanks for your reply.
    ive read about the basics and am trying to implement those techniques. at this stage im buying the beans (rathar than roasting them) from a reputable roaster and then grinding them just before pulling the shot.
    i guess im just trying to improve on what i consider a good cup of coffee... ive had some cups of coffee which were soooo good that im trying to replicate them on my setup :)
    thanks for your advice
    tal

  4. #4
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: making better coffee

    No worries Tal,

    I guess when its all said and done, practice, practice and more practice will ultimately allow you to pull great shots at the drop of a hat but like with all things worth doing well, the end result is definitely worth waiting for ;).....

    Happy Brewing Tal,

    Cheers,
    Mal.

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    Re: making better coffee

    it seems to me that the biggest two factors in making better coffee is dosage and distribution.

    dosage obviously is all about getting the right amount of coffee in the basket. Ive been playing with a lower dose lately (with a finer grind), which is resulting in softer, wetter pucks at the end, but still great tasting shots.

    but distribution can change everything: with my naked pf the other day, I pulled two consecutive shots. The first one didnt turn out so well - most of the extraction was happening at the handle end of the basket. It went blonde after about 15 seconds, with the other half of the basket slowly dripping dark brown throughout the shot. The result was an unevenly extracted shot, and it didnt taste all that great.

    the next shot, I really concentrated hard on distributing the coffee evenly in the basket, before tamping evenly and firmly. watching the bottom of the basket, the shot was extracting much more evenly across the puck, almost uniform. the shot was much sweeter, and very pleasant to drink.

    get a naked pf, and work on distribution! getting more even extractions makes a dramatic change in the cup, and in your mouth!

  6. #6
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    Re: making better coffee

    hi mattyj,
    thanks for the tip. one question though, when you talk about a great tasting coffee with a sweeter taste, are you putting sugar in? i know it sounds stupid but im not even sure what a great shot should taste like. ive never had a shot of espresso (my place or anywhere else) that tasted sweet without sugar.
    thanks for your help
    tal

  7. #7
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    Re: making better coffee

    What is a great-tasting coffee?
    Im rather hopeless at wine/coffee taste descriptions. Waxing lyrical about berries, earthy etc is meaningless.

    More meaninfgul to me is texture. To my palatte, a good taste is one where the coffee has body. It should not feel thin in the mouth, but rather have substance. It should also feel noticeably oily -- as opposed to watery.

    A burnt taste is out, and so too is an overly-bitter one.

    Sugar should not swamp the flavour, but--like salt--bring it to the surface where it is readily appreciated.

    I realise this may not help--but I hope it does.

    Like Mal says, practise. When the shot is disappointing, work out why. Was there insufficient coffee in the basket (a watery puck)? Was the water too cold. Did it gush out, giving a thin, boring taste?

    When it tastes great, what different thing did you do from the bad shot?

    Try to eliminate one variable at a time so you know what specific change must be made.


    Robusto

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    Re: making better coffee

    hi robusto,
    thanks for your help. it is hard to describe taste but i think im slowly getting the point.
    ive heard about the god shot that is sweet without adding milk or sugar. ive never had anything close to that (mine or other cafes), and so was interested to see if people have experienced this.
    ive just ordered a naked PF, lets see how it pans out :)
    cheers
    tal

  9. #9
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    Re: making better coffee

    Sweetness is very much in the palatte of the beholder --- if you need to sweeten with sugar, theres nothing wrong with that. I cannot drink coffee without sugar, though I have slowly adapted by drinking lattes without it.

    Even my alleged God-shots will be savoured with at least half a teaspoon of sugar.

    RObusto

  10. #10
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    Re: making better coffee

    Please help - a "naked pf" presumably means a pf without all the claimed crema enhancing features of my Breville 800es? If so, how do I make my pf naked? If thats too difficult/impossible, what about if I got a silvia pf? Would it fit? Would it work?
    Thanks for your views.

  11. #11
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    Re: making better coffee

    Quote Originally Posted by madendorff link=1140593756/0#9 date=1142418327
    Please help - a "naked pf" presumably means a pf without all the claimed crema enhancing features of my Breville 800es? *If so, how do I make my pf naked? *If thats too difficult/impossible, what about if I got a silvia pf? *Would it fit? *Would it work? *
    Thanks for your views.
    googling "naked portafilter" will show you, but no, a naked pf is nothing to do with a crema enhancer.

    the crema enhancer is a feature of the filter, which is what sits inside the PF.

    A naked PF is one with the bottom (spouts, etc) removed to reveal the underside of the filter directly to the cup.

    The purpose is to expose the filter underside to your sight, so you can observe the progress/success of the extraction directly, see channelling etc.

    What you are thinking of is an un-pressurised filter. These can sometimes be bought if you can find a suitable part that will fit, or the pressurising/crema enhancing layer can be machined off in a lathe (see my "work in progress" thread in another forum)

  12. #12
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    Re: making better coffee

    sorry for the late reply... no sugar for me, thanks.

    my problem is, even if I add a 1/4 of a teaspoon of sugar, all I can taste is ... sugar!

    I guess above, I meant relative sweetness. I like the sweetness of dark chocolate, my wife finds it too bitter. I was drinking a honey wheat beer the other night, I could taste honey and wheat ... she just tasted the bitterness of beer (and screwed her face up when she took a sip after me nagging her to just try it).

    But, if you pull a great shot of espresso, blend depending, it should be sweet like fruit. Not necessarily sugary, but fruity sweet. Maybe we aussies are too accustomed to adding sugar to everything.

  13. #13
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    Re: making better coffee

    and no, a rancilio naked pf wont fit your breville. The breville uses a 53mm filter basket (diameter), whereas the rancilio uses a 58mm filter basket.

    and yes, Ive had one or two god shots in the last 3 years. One was a light-roasted kenya ... it was the first shot that I ever really tasted anything other than coffee and fruit. There was a distinct, strong cherry flavour. Another was a blend of brazil yellow bourbon and the same kenya ... triple ristretto, really balanced, really syrupy with that cherry flavour zinging around. Sounds like Im waxing lyrical ... Im just telling you what I tasted. Unfortunately, after pulling that second shot, there was less than a double shot worth of beans left! And another one was an East Timorese that massively over extracted. I thought it would be a garbage shot, but took a sip. Not bad. Made a flat white with the shot ... It tasted so much like nutella that I had to run down to the shops to buy a big jr of nutella to have on toast ... took me back to my childhood! (all without sugar)

  14. #14
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    Re: making better coffee

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by talbashan link=1140593756/0#7 date=1140783423
    .
    ive heard about the god shot that is sweet without adding milk or sugar. ive never had anything close to that (mine or other cafes), and so was interested to see if people have experienced this.
    I guess it has been discussed elsewhere this idea of coffee being sweet with out adding sugar. I agree with this concept as after a roaster showed me how a coffee could taste "sweet" I then stopped adding sugar to my coffee. Its made a big difference to my coffee drinking and I now judge whether a coffee is good or not by an initial tasting for that "sweetness". Good coffee does taste sweet!



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