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Thread: Newbie struggling

  1. #1
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    Newbie struggling

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi a newbie struggling with my first machine and grinder.

    Hi have just brought a Kitchen Aid Artisan Espresso machine and matching grinder. I am really enjoying the machines but I am really struggling getting a decent creama.

    Where should I start to problem solve my set-up? Is it my setup or am I just rubbish at making coffee?

    I have followed the instruction manual to the letter and can only at best get a small creama happening, most of the time I get no cream at all just watery coffee.

    I have tried all the settings on my grinder and found the best being the finer grind. I have pressed the coffee into my handle so hard at one point I had my entire body weight involve (BFB that is saying something) and still can not achieve a decent creama.

    Any and all suggestions appreciated.

    Regards Duncan

  2. #2
    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Welcome to Coffee Snobs, Duncan.

    In reading your post, I was wondering what you were using in the way of beans? Are you purchasing from a roaster or buying from the supermarket. My point being that the fresher your beans the better. Buying beans from the supermarket is not always the best as they are not as fresh as purchasing from a local roaster.

  3. #3
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Dont give up Duncan,
    It takes a while to get the hang of it. Where are you living? If you are in Melbourne there are some good Barista courses offered for beginners that you can take your machine too, one these being a site sponsor. If you are able go and have a chat with one of these guys. They will always have time for you.

    From what you describe, it sounds to me like you are tamping too hard. You dont need your whole body weight. Tamping too hard can make things worse.

    Have you considered it may be your machine ? Have a read here http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1161683944 which discusses crema too. I am not familiar with the kitchenaid so I cannot help you there. I am sure there are people here who may have some experience with them though.

    CoffeeGeek may have some info on the machine if nobody here does. http://www.coffeegeek.com/forums

    Whatever you do, just relax and dont get too worked up about it all. You are at the beginning of a fantastic journey which will at times be frustrating and when those brekthroughs come it will be worth it.

    In the end a lot of it is practice practice practice. And FWIW I dont think the problem is you.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Hi Duncan and welcome to CS

    Im more than happy to run an in-home training session with you so that you can get the best from your machine.

    The Angliss Coffee academy no longer allows people to bring in their own machinery unless it has been tested and tagged.

    In the meantime, make sure youre not underdosing and buy freshly roasted (i.e. not from the supermarket) beans...

    regards

    Chris


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    Re: Newbie struggling

    The KA machine looks pretty much like it is two gaggia-type boilers in one body. If it is similar to the gaggia machines, you should have no trouble getting crema if you use freshly roasted beans. Getting the best flavour out of them will take rather more effort.

    You mentioned watery coffee ... it would be helpful if you could tell us how much coffee you are extracting and what time it takes to do it. You should be aiming for about 50mL in 30 seconds from the double basket. You can add more coffee to the filter basket and grind finer to slow the pour down.

    It sounds like the problem is stale beans, not equipment.

    There is a relatively in-depth review of your grinder here. If you check out the comments, one of the guys talks about modifying it to allow for finer adjustment for espresso.

    Cheers,

    Luca

  6. #6
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    come on people, *if you do things right youl always geta crema of f coffee no matter how stale it is. It might be yellow and it might not taste any good, but generally you still get a crema off stale coffee even really old stuff, if you do it right.

    More likely young duncans got his hands full with a brand new concept (for him) called espresso, never had one before Il bet hehe.

    and if thats thhe case whats the point in confusing him with talk about how long his pour is and his mils are, and mate, *sending him off to read a link to modify his grinder? Come on people. you buy an espresos mahcine and get told you need to pull it apart straioght away to make it work right? Most espresso prpoblems are in the technique no matter how good or bad the quality of the equipment is.

    Duncan , watery coffee no crema, 2 things mate:
    before anything else check correct grind and
    correct dose.

    and thats the stuf thats never covered in your instriuctions.

    heres somethingi wrtote in the "rancilio audrey" topic a few days ago:

    undoubtedly the best way for u to work it out is to get a demo or take a lesson so suggest you cut to the chase or youll be at it forever:

    1) *go back to your retailer and ask for above;

    2) failing that find out of any snobs live close by and spend a saturday arvo with them...could be a great possibility for a little meet n greet or get together hehe...

    3) failing that find a trainer and pay for a lesson.

    A picture (or a practical session) is worth a thousand words, particularly when the words are typed on a little green screen like this..............................

    see ya,
    G.


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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Thanks to everyone who replied.

    Ok answering questions as I saw them.

    I am an expat living in London - Joined this site as the UKs coffee forums here are Starbucks and Costa coffees talking about their shops.

    Coffee is not a popular drink here, there are plenty of coffee shops but a decent cup is hard to find, until I brought my machine I was taking a 20 minute train journey out of my way (on way to work) to this little place I stumbled across once when I was visiting a client.

    Any way, I tried looking for a barristerís course here but they are for pros only and a bit expensive. I take Gs point that a good deal of my problems will be because I am a novice.

    I do buy my beans at the super market, but we have a very good farmers market close by I can visit on a Saturday, I am sure I saw a roaster there once. Ill check it out.

    My machine is as you pointed out a double boiler. While living in Sydney a good friend of mine who is mad on coffee showed me his setup and gave me a few buying tips for when I brought my machine. He made particular points about a decent grinder. So the kit I have is not cheap although it is very much a home use setup, and yes there is a bit of Bling involved (sorry a boy thing). See attached picture.

    Returning to the shop I brought the machines from is not really an option. Customer service in most of the UK is non existent; Ive a better chance of pressing the bell at No10 and having tea and biscuits with Tony B.

    If a hands on Demo is what I need I think a weekend with the wife in Italy or France might be the trick (not as exotic as it sounds, cheapy airline £20 return. 4am bus trip to airport then midnight return home on Sunday) they are close by, a lot closer than Melbourne.

    Ill let you know how I get go regards

    Duncan





  8. #8
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Id be willing to bet that that tamper doesnt quite fit the portafiller either, Duncan. If you have read anything around here, it would be about tamping! Definitely look at how much coffee you are putting into the portafiller. There is a topic on grind vs tamp vs taste where 2mcm has put in some quite good instructions on filling and tamping the coffee in the portafiller. Might be useful to you, Duncan, to read. But I will stand by fresh beans are best and if you can get your hands on them, theyre a much better choice to supermarket beans (though in London they probably turn them over a bit quicker than they would out in the bush here!)



    Gonzo, some of your points are quite valid but a little harshly said, IMO. ;)

  9. #9
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Hi DuncG,

    Helped a bloke out recently with the same machine combo that youve got there Duncan, and he was having similar troubles to yourself. Before I get started though, there is no substitute for training and if you live in a major centre, chances are there will be a Home Barista course on offer from a major vendor, or even from one of our sponsors ;). It is about the best thing you could do to bring yourself up to speed in the shortest possible time-frame. This site is a great location for sourcing info on the basics and advanced methods for getting the best out of your equipment. I can highly recommend it as good read.

    Anyway, first things first, you need to get hold of freshly roasted coffee, either from a boutique roaster close by, from one of many online suppliers and maybe in the future you could try your hand at home roasting, but thats another story. Turn your espresso machine on with the PortaFilter locked "lightly" in place and allow the Group and PF time to heat up properly, say half-an-hour to an hour. After this time it should be up to temperature and ready to get started.

    Ok, once youve got some fresh coffee on hand, put a few scoops of beans into the grinder hopper and keep adjusting the grind setting until the grounds feel about the same texture and size as castor sugar. Make sure you have the Double Basket fitted into your PortaFilter and then grind enough into the basket such that you end up with a heaped mound of ground coffee filling the basket. Tap the PF on the bench two or three times to settle the coffee.
    Refill the basket again so that the coffee is slightly mounded above the lip of the basket and tap on the bench a couple more times. After that, either using a finger or the handle of the plastic coffee scoop that came with your grinder, strike the coffee level with the lip of the basket making sure there are no hollows or voids.

    It pays to have a good quality and nicely fitted tamper but if you havent, just use the plastic one that came with the machine, making sure you use a steady 10-15 Kgs of force applied (no more) and that the coffee is tamped right up to the edge of the basket all the way around. If you dont do this, it is possible that you will get channelling and end up with a bitter over-extracted brew with little or very poor crema. A good quality, properly fitted tamper is almost essential to achieving consistent, properly tamped pucks and considering how relatively inexpensive these are compared to rest of the machinery you have just bought, it is money well spent. All of our site sponsors sell good quality tampers for reasonable sums and if you really want an extra special tamper, then one of our sponsors "Greg Pullman Tampers" can make you a superb quality custom made tamper that is a thing of beauty in both form and function.

    Rightio, time to get on with the next step. As an aside, all of the steps outlined here need to be completed in a smooth non-stop sequence as the shorter the time from grinding the bean to pulling the actual shot, the better will be the quality in the cup.
    With the coffee puck properly tamped into the basket, lock the PF into position in the Group so that it is firmly locked in. You dont need to apply a Samson like degree of force to achieve this, just a firm solid action that ensures the PF basket is properly sealed against the Group Gasket. As soon as the PF is locked in place, hit the Brew Switch and start the shot..

    After a few seconds, you should notice some dark viscous liquid slowly start dripping from the PF spout(s) and gradually increase into a steady, reddish golden but still viscous stream. At some point you will notice that the stream starts to change from a golden colour into a pale blond colour. If everything was perfectly done, this point is reached about 28-30 seconds after hitting the brew switch, and a stop-watch kept handy for this purpose will be an aid to getting this timing aspect into the ballpark.

    If the shot starts "blonding" before 20 seconds are up, then the grind setting will need to be set one position finer at a time until it ends up in the 28-30 second region. Naturally, if the blonding starts to occur on the wrong side of 35-40 seconds, then you will need to increase the grind setting one position coarser at a time until youre back with that 28-30 second region again. Once youve got the shot pouring within the correct time envelope, you need to STOP the shot before the blonding actually starts, say around the 25 second mark. By close observation you will start to recognise when the coffee stream is going to start blonding and the need for a stop-watch will go by the wayside. Until then though, it is a handy tool to stick with until your shots are consistently pouring the way you want them to.

    Youll discover as time goes on, that youll get all this down pat so that it all becomes second nature. Also, youll notice that you will still need to adjust the grind setting from time to time as the beans get a bit older, you change to a different blend or even if the ambient weather conditions change, especially the relative humidity. Like the rest of us though, Im sure youll become more involved with the whole process and treat it more as a hobby, even an obsession... It is such an interesting pastime. All the best :),

    Mal.

  10. #10
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by scoota gal link=1164655981/0#7 date=1164701918
    Gonzo, some of your points are quite valid but a little harshly said, IMO. ;)
    I agree Scoots....

    A friendlier more constructive approach to assisting other members goes a long way around here Gonzo :),

    Mal.

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    DuncG,

    Welcome to the world of CoffeeSnobs (down under)...

    Ill bet it is hard to get good coffee or coffee expertise over there - and the trainers here would line up to give you training (but the cost of the airfare added to the course cost would be a killer! :()

    To add to Mals excellent suggestions above - get yourself a set of bathroom scales and tamp on those - 15 Kg (or if still imperial over there 30 lbs ;))...

    And a decent tamper will also make the world of difference. The closer it fits your basket the better will be the results and the easier to tamp as well.

    Hope you enjoy your journey.

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    If you need a source of good coffee in the UK, these guys have a good reputation:

    http://www.hasbean.co.uk/
    http://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/

    They might be able to hook you up with some training or whatever.

    Your local national barista champion has a fantastic blog with some reviews of local cafes that you might be interested in:

    http://www.jimseven.com

    whats the point in confusing him with talk about how long his pour is and his mils are, and mate, sending him off to read a link to modify his grinder?
    Volume and time is the essence of espresso and is the fastest way convey a surprising amount of information. One might as well as whats the point in specifying grind levels and doses if one does not describe what the results should be. Fortunately, Mal has provided an excellent and comprehensive response that might well be worthy of printing out and including with all new machines.

    I linked to a review of the grinder. I pointed out that the comments had information on how to modify the grinder.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    hi all,

    /\/ to Scoota and Mal (and Duncan), it doesnt seem to me like dunc took any offence to my reply to the problem at hand and, i can assure you and him there wasnt any intended. was just tryin to genuinely helpful, put a genuine poitnof view, and I cant really see where any offence could be taken.

    as to others./ *u can tell people to buy the best of this that and the other and start measring and timing and tamping to an accuracy of 1 kilo on scales and reading articles containing info on modifying equipoemnt til your socks rot off but my point is theres no point in filling a newbies head with all this stuff if he dosnt know how to use it. *some *of u lot make the business of brewing espresso seem like it can only be done by some kind of phd elitist coffee god that ownsa sceince lab in MIT or harvard university or something.

    geez people i started on a eraly seco vip domestic machine with a sdimple plastic tamper that didnt fit ands a single white espresso cup *and a spinning blade grinder.......it wasnt hard to work out how to make good espreso with that, it had depth and body and yea h, plenty of crema.

    stop setting newbies up to fail by seeming to make the process unachievable except if you can write a heap of big words & sceintific sounding stuff on a computer screen

    Mal, sincerely, a great post but way too long for me to gert to the end, had to speed read hehe.. Duncan ought to print it off so he can keeop gong back to reread. Ofcourse the degree of length and the amount of explanation is exactly why its such a good post and more imprtamntly for a newby, any figures mentioned have been properly explained not just thrown up on the screen to confuse without the required backup info. an explanationm of technique, not a rattling off of useless figures!

    yeah, that was the post of the topic probably woudlnt be a bad idea to save it somewewhere where it can be posted straoight into future enquiries...maytbe coffesnobs ought to have asection devoted to templates on stuff lkike this so it all dosnst need to go round and round in circles (like a rissole eh) and getwritten up from sctatch again evry time theres a nerw enquiry.

    all of this is my genuine and sincere opinion and if calling a spade a spade offendss, then so be it because Im not the other kindof person only this one.,

    see ys Im singning off to bed now gotta finish a book nothing to do with coffee.
    G.


  14. #14
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Hi again Gonzo,

    Yep, we all try to do our best around here and coming from a background that involved many years of training in several fields, I know enough not to bandy around a lot of useless, if well intentioned, information. On the other side of the coin though, short, terse and "shell be right mate" style of instruction is probably ok if you are in a position to give one on one practical demonstration at the same time. If all one has is words, then a more descriptive and possibly longer than usual post is the end result.

    Agree with you about the FAQ section for the forum.... We are working on that right now so hopefully in the not too distant future it will become a reality, maybe in the early new year ;). All the best mate and catch you in the forum again soon,

    Cheers,
    Mal.

  15. #15
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Hey there,

    Try tackling one issue at a time, and keep chipping away until you get results!

    Sometimes trial and errors the only way to get to the bottom of what works best for your machine.

    Having said that, you cant beat hands-on instruction, from somebody who knows what theyre doing.

    In Oz, some manufactures offer free training with a purchase of one of their machines.

    Also, many coffee roasters offer training which doesnt cost the earth.

    Surely, there would be a similar set-up in the UK?

    Otherwise, coffeegeek offers a list of coffee jams (a get together and play around behind the machine, usually in some uber-cool location), local to each region.

    Dont stop till you get enough!

    Pat

  16. #16
    Senior Member askthecoffeeguy's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Opps... typo: make that "barista jam" not "coffee jam"

    Actually, while I am at it, would anybody care to try my home-made whisky marmalade?

    Its made to my grandmothers secret recipe!

    Cheers,

    Pat


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    Re: Newbie struggling

    JavB - Fantastic Idea about the scales: I will whip out and get some this weekend. I was enjoying Malís very fine explanation (Thanks Mal I will follow these instructions and report back) but as I read I was wondering what 15Kgs was like. I am a big guy so (as in over weight, not as in anything else really, just fat) 15kgs of pressure could be anything.

    Mal Cheers again for the explanation this is a great help. I will source a good tamper and read the thread you suggest.

    Regarding your explanation of time, my poor only drips out if I really press the coffee into the PF (when I say really press, I weigh just over 100kgs, and I am talking full on shoulder into action type press) and even then the pour turns blond after about 20 seconds. My grinder is set as fine as I can get it on the dial which in this case is setting 8.

    I have been heating the boiler with out the PF in place as I normally clean it after use and leave it as pictured. The two pressure gauges seem to go all the way to one side before use (after and about 10 minutes or so). My routine has been to get up wonder down stairs turn the boiler on and head up for a shower and general faff about before work. I would say a good 40 minutes or so before I appear back in the kitchen to make a brew.

    The grinder: I have been grinding once every two or three days. When I first got this grinder I discovered it retains a lot of coffee around the grinding head, even though it looks empty. To get a completely fresh amount of coffee every time you grind requires you to dismantle the front section and remove the residue coffee, which is quite a lot.

    Amount of coffee into the PF: I do not think I have been filling it enough. I guess I need to read the tamping thread. But I have been filling the PF about 3/4s then tamping then adding a bit more and so one till it seems ok to me. I tried filling it right up once and tamping level with the top and found I just could not get it to fit in the boiler housing.

    I do end up with a nice biscuit thing at the end when the PF is banged on the sink. If I have really put the shoulder in it will not wash away and requires to be broken up first. Other wise it just disintegrates when water hits it.

    Luca thank you for the UK sites Ill check them out.

    G - Absolutely no offence taken, I am after a great cup of coffee that is it. So as I stated in my first message any and all comments welcome to achieve that.

    I have lots of really good ideas to try now thank you all so very much.



    Regards Duncan




  18. #18
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by DuncG link=1164655981/15#16 date=1164743780

    the pour turns blond after about 20 seconds. My grinder is set as fine as I can get it on the dial which in this case is setting 8.
    This = Stale coffee beans IMHO (provided youre dosing correctly)... I know coffeegeek did a article on this grinder and was reasonably positive if I remember correctly...

    Keep plugging away mate, youll get there. We all started out in a similar way. Perfection comes with Practice AND knowledge.

    For Milk foaming, remove the enhancer device and use the exposed tip. You wont get "Dense" microfoam with that device attached. It looks identical to the Gaggia one, Makes sense since the boilers are Gaggia.

  19. #19
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    DuncG,

    Another tip. Make sure the cups or glasses you are extracting into are pre walmed and dry. (I think there is a walming tray on the top of your machine).

    Moisture in the cup/glass or if it is cold that will really reduce the crema. A espresso glass is usually the best device to use whilst setting up - these hold about 90ml... aim for an extraction of 30 ml (60ml if a double basket) and that includes the crema.

    Sounds like you are getting there.

  20. #20
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Duncan Im about your size and have already tried the scale thing.
    Putting your shoulder into it will definitely be too much.
    I find that 15kg is about where I just start the feel the weight at my shoulder.
    Hopefully that will do you for now until you get some scales.

    As for the dosing. Id recommend for now trying to fill as much as possible to just before that point where its too tight to lock in. If you can judge that consistantly that will be one less variable for now.

    I also think the coffee probably isnt fresh. Hopefully the farmers market will solve that problem or you could ask at the place youve found on the way to work.

    The leftover coffee in the grinder - maybe you can force it out with air.
    If the lid is a tight enough fit, a quick push into place may force enough air through to force the last bit of grounds through.
    Otherwise, I have a small foot pump I paid $2 for that I pulled apart to use, from an idea I got from one of our top baristas.
    You may be able to do something similar.
    See this thread: http://coffeesnobs.com.au/YaBB.pl?num=1161559534/12#12

  21. #21
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Hello Duncan, and welcome,

    You said early in the thread: "I am an expat living in London - Joined
    this site as the UKs coffee forums here are Starbucks and Costa
    coffees talking about their shops. "

    Did you try *http://www.toomuchcoffee.com/? *Quite a few
    knowledgeable people post there, and there is at least one
    expat living in London contributing. *With a bit of luck youll
    find someone just around the corner :)

    If you do join, might be an idea to leave talking about the cricket
    for at least a few posts :)

    As has been said, its all about technique and practice. One site that
    I have found useful in the ongoing process is
    http://www.home-barista.com/resources.html
    as wellas the wealth of information to be found here on CS.

    Keep practicing ...


  22. #22
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Ok - Success of sorts.

    What did I do?

    First I pulled my grinder to bits and calibrated it by the book. This had a major effect. Now on setting 8 the coffee will not pour at all out of the PF, after about 3 minutes just starts to drip.

    I then started to back off the grind with the dial until I got the pour running and turning on or about the 30 second mark.

    Next I left the PF in the boiler housing while it heated up, now the PF is quite warm when adding coffee to it.

    Next I followed Mals instructions to the letter (which required much running back and forth between my office and kitchen as I do not have printer at home). The Tamping required when using this method to fill is hardly any amount of weight at all.

    And last of all I changed the vessels I was pouring into. From 2 x 200mL cups to 2 x 90mL coffee glasses (well not sure if they were actually meant to be coffee glasses but they are now).

    Three full bags of beans, twelve grinds just as any tamps and enough coffee drunk to kill and small horse but the result speaks for it self, my first born shown below.

    Hazbean: Thanks for the local forum, I found that last night while searching for the Pullman tampers (which is now on my Xmas list), I will definitely check them out.

    Thanks again to everyone that suggested things, I obviously still have some way to go but am enjoying the journey.

    Regards Duncan



  23. #23
    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Aww, aint they cute! ;)

    Good on you Duncan! Glad to hear you are making great progress.

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Duncan,

    Looking good there mate!

    Now its just practice, practice and if you get bored..... more practice!

    Only a small horse? .....Try killing a clidesdale...... ;)

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by DuncG link=1164655981/15#21 date=1164787902
    First I pulled my grinder to bits and calibrated it by the book. *This had a major effect. Now on setting 8 the coffee will not pour at all out of the PF, after about 3 minutes just starts to drip.
    I would probably avoid letting your machine struggle for 3 minutes. Is not going to help with the longevity of your machine. I wouldnt like to hold my breath for 3 minutes, something is going to blow somewhere along the way.
    Good to see you are getting some good results now though. Better to drink lots of espresso that you made at home that could kill a small horse than a single cup of instant that could do the same thing ;)

    Next stop Latte art?

  26. #26
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by scoota gal link=1164655981/15#22 date=1164788332
    Aww, aint they cute! ;)

    Good on you Duncan! Glad to hear you are making great progress.
    Which one looks like you?

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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Now that you mention it Thundergod....thew one one the left bears an uncanny rememblance to you!

    Great work Duncan, you have made it!

  28. #28
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    It wasnt me I swear.
    I havent been in England for over 3 years.

  29. #29
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    hi ya mal, :-[

    i recently got a gaggia cubika and am having lots of trouble with it....

    i was soo glad to read your instructions and wondered if there were any other words of wizdom you could relate?

    i have had no luck with crema and it seems that i cant fill the basket all the way to the rim as the handle wont fit in to the head.

    i got fresh ground coffee from a local store that i used befor in my old machine with sucess...

    ta

  30. #30
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Welcome torrindorre.

    The freshest coffee is ground just before you are ready to pull a shot.
    So you will need to get a good grinder eventually.

    The ground coffee you are buying, if it waas good in your old machine may be the wrong grind size for your new machine.

    You should describe exactly what problems you are having.

  31. #31
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Congratulations Duncan! Your first success.

  32. #32
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by DuncG link=1164655981/15#21 date=1164787902
    Thanks again to everyone that suggested things, I obviously still have some way to go but am enjoying the journey.
    Great to see that progress is happening there Duncan, top job mate [smiley=thumbsup.gif]. Dont forget to get back in touch from time to time to relate your experiences along the journey.

    All the best,
    Mal.

  33. #33
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by torrindorre link=1164655981/15#28 date=1164838945
    hi ya mal, :-[

    i recently got a gaggia cubika and am having lots of trouble with it....
    i was soo glad to read your instructions and wondered if there were any other words of wizdom you could relate?
    i have had no luck with crema and it seems that i cant fill the basket all the way to the rim as the handle wont fit in to the head.
    i got fresh ground coffee from a local store that i used befor in my old machine with sucess...
    Gday TD,

    Nice to hear from you and Welcome to CoffeeSnobs [smiley=thumbsup.gif]

    What ThunderGod has suggested is a great place to start, i.e. trying to pull consistently high quality espresso without a good quality grinder is harder than trying to walk a tightrope uphill with bars of soap for shoes ;).

    That being said though, and until such time as you can get yourself a grinder, you should be able to get your coffee ground by your friends in the store in such a way as to try to find a "middle-ground" grind setting that will do the job for you most of the time. Of course, each time you change blends you will need to have the grind setting dialled in to suit.

    The best method, if your friends dont mind, would be to take your Cubika along with you to their store and with the blend of your choosing, dial your grind in to suit the Cubika for that blend, then get the whole batch ground to the same setting. If possible, make a note of which grinder they use and the setting on that machine. That way, you can just ask them each time you buy some coffee from them that you would like it ground on machine x at setting y. Coffee bought in this way really needs to be stored well though, as it will go stale really, really quickly. One-way valve bags would be the go, and try to squeeze out as much air as possible before resealing each time you make a brew. If I was in your position, Id probably limit the coffee quantities I purchased to amounts that I could consume within 2-3 days otherwise the staleness is going to overtake any fresh coffee flavours that were there.

    Regarding dosing, its just a matter of practice as it is with most things to do with making consistently great quality brews. In essence, you want to load up your PF basket to the stage where the top of the coffee puck makes contact with the shower-screen when the PF handle is locked-in to its normal position. That is, you dont want to use a Tarzan amount of effort to get to this position, but you also dont want it to be so easy that you can close it with one of your pinkies. Just a firm, smooth single action that when unlocked immediately, reveals a light impression of the shower-screen and/or the water dispersion nut/screw. Just use the dosing method I described earlier until such time as you can achieve the above consistently (theres that word again).

    You dont mention what sort of tamper you use but to make it easier on you, a tamper that has some heft to it and is a neat fit in the basket(s) will make things much simpler and a lot easier to develop a consistent tamping action and weight. The Golden Rule states that this force must be 30lb (13.5Kg) but as with everything to do with starting out in the world of espresso, this is intended to be a starting point or a guide to help you get into the ballpark. For myself, a tamping force of about 10Kg is the easiest for me to apply consistently, you just have to find a comfortable mean that suits you. Naturally, the grind setting used to grind your coffee will be effected by the tamping force you use, so when you get your coffee ground it would be a good idea if you applied the tamp yourself until the pours are working for that particular blend.

    Thats about it mate, it all comes down to practice and consistency with each of the steps towards the ultimate goal of hitting the brew switch and enjoying that wonderful brew. You know what they say, if it was easy to do, it wouldnt be worth doing ;). Let us know how you go TD and all the best with your practising :P,

    Cheers,
    Mal.

  34. #34
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    hi mal,

    well here goes attempt 4... so will see..

    will start looking for my own grinder...cause i want this bebe to work properly and dont want to be beaten! :-[ i never would have guessed that it would be such a challenge..

    as for the tamper i am just using what came with the machine. the plastic one...

  35. #35
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    TD, the cubika is a great little machine, I have a classic - just keep in mind the grinder is all important. I get a 3mm crema at present using a crapola blade grinder. Cant wait to get the MDF off layby and be able to see what the baby really pulls.

  36. #36
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    I was going to post this before but thought I would give it a bit more of a trial run before I said anything.

    TD, you seem to have the same issue with your basket that I have with mine, it must be a gaggia thing. With my classic, I fill the basket with ground coffee to the lip, then knock it down a little (either by tapping it on the bench or against your hand) to even out the grinds.

    I then tamp it, the grounds tamp down about 3-4mm from the top of the lip of the basket. I then put the portafilter back in the Group head - it should be firm but you should still be able to get it firmly back into the grouphead.

    I do not get a perfect puck, due to my crappy grinder, but it does come out dry. I hope this helps.

  37. #37
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Quote Originally Posted by torrindorre link=1164655981/30#33 date=1164918997
    i never would have guessed that it would be such a challenge..
    Hi again TD,

    Its not so much that its a challenge really, its more related to trying something that youve never done before, like riding a horse because it looks easy, until you climb onto the saddle for the first time and cant find the accelerator and brake pedals ;). Once you know and understand the basics behind what constitutes pulling consistently high quality espresso, then it really is just a matter of practice. In fact, the best thing you can do is to attend a Home Barista course, if possible, such as the various ones on offer from some of our sponsors.... Simply worth its weight in gold 8-).

    If you cant get close to a centre where courses are run, maybe you can suss out a few specialist coffee shops and sample the quality of coffee on offer from them. When you find one that seems to be the best of the heap, get talking to the owner/barista(s) and see if they wouldnt mind showing you the basics first hand using your own machine. At least that way, you should learn enough to get you started on the right track and with a bit of fine tuning here and there, youll start to pull some really terrific espresso.

    As Cindy has pointed out though, a good quality grinder is essential to enabling you to produce consistently good shots, as is the availability of freshly roasted coffee that you like to drink. You cant really progress very far until you have those two items...... And a good quality tamper :).

    Quote Originally Posted by torrindorre link=1164655981/30#33 date=1164918997
    as for the tamper i am just using what came with the machine. the plastic one...
    As mentioned above, you need a good tamper that is both hefty and fits the baskets neatly with little or no sideplay. Keep at it mate, youll get there.... we all do eventually ;). All the best,

    Cheers,
    Mal.

  38. #38
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    Re: Newbie struggling

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    hello all,

    well things have progressed some since my last post!!

    I didnt get a perfect crema but at least i got abit. tho some of you may cringe i was practicing with the stuff i got from my local. its called seven star. the pour came out more like i was used to with my old breville. so all is not lost!! tho as the grounds were old the taste was not so great but i was after crema... so it worked! i proudly showd my other half but well shes off coffee at the mo. 8-)

    i am even considering having friends round for coffee tomorrow morning. ;)

    i will definatly be heading to the roaster first for freshness... :)

    thanks for your advice with the basket lucinda.. i thought something was strange with that.

    does anyone have feed back about crave coffee in alexandria?

    ta
    ant



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