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Thread: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

  1. #1
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    What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hey guys,

    Im only just starting out with the art of coffee making and trying to get a good pour, but I seem to be having a recurring issue....

    when the machine finishes its pour, I take out the portafilter, but instead of a nice solid puck it comes out as a sludgey mess (pic below).

    Ive also include a pic of the shot that it produces... (approx 30ml / 30 sec). The pic looks very black, but it was a bit more brown in real life.

    Anyway, 2 questions:
    1) what would be causing that puck issue? is it machine related? (Im using a very old Breville Bar Italia boiler machine - only 3.5 bar).
    2) The coffee is pretty sour...is this bean related? i gotta be honest, the only thing I had left was Tobys Estate but they were about a month old sitting in an airtight jar.

    I have an EM0480 as my grinder, which seems to be doing an ok job in terms of fineness...

    Sorry I have no idea what Im doing wrong here!

    Thanks in advance :)




  2. #2
    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Stupid question...

    But you are actually tamping the coffee right?

    If so, is your grind fine enough...

    If so, are you putting enough coffee in the filter...

    Just some initial thoughts from me...

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Thanks for the quick reply Scoota gal

    I think im tamping right? (although to be honest, Im using the bottom of the quad basket as my tamper until I get a proper one online!) - but otherwise its tamping flat and not too much excess stuff around the side...

    I think the grind is ok? the only thing Im basing this off is the 30ml in 30 second rule though....

    Am I putting enough...thats a great question! I havent tried the 5cent test...maybe thats it??

    To be honest though, the first few that I poured didnt have the sludgy puck problem and i was pretty much doing the same thing (dose a decent mound, tap twice, cut and sweep, tamp straight with 90 deg twist)...and if anything the grind was COARSER (started with a spice grinder but have now moved to a proper burr grinder).

  4. #4
    Super Moderator scoota_gal's Avatar
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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Sour notes are usually under roasted, to my palate. Youre probably experiencing not enough heat in the machine perhaps. Make sure that everything is nice and hot.

    Id be guessing, without actually seeing your process, that youre not quite dosing enough. Whilst the process you mention above probably works on most commercial machines - it is not one I ever used but of course it is a recommended method to promote consistency. If you saw my work flow...youd probably be left wondering how I did it! ;D (It worked for me, meanwhile!)

    So, try a little more coffee in your filter...if still no go, give the grinder a tweak and fine it up a tad more. Especially if the coffee is a bit older.

    Was it raining and cold where you are today?

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    thanks for the tips...ill try and tweak things a bit more tomorrow morning.

    Ill start by letting the machine warm up for a good 30mins.
    then Ill dose a bit more
    and if those dont work ill tweak the grind!

    Cheers....
    hmm yeah its pretty cold at my place, otherwise generally a nice day (compared to a very wet week!)...im guessing this affects coffee too ? :P

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Id go with some fresher coffee and a proper tamper with good, consistent technique (yours sounds good though). I doubt whether youre getting enough tamper pressure using your spare basket :o. Lots of other factors of course, but I think those two probably are affecting your results. It does look like an underdosed and/or coarse grind and/or too lightly tamped pf though. Having said that, I have no experience with your machine. Just my second crack.

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Hi,
    Following is the method i teach our customers to dose and tamp, i also do this on my em6910 at home and i use a em480 grinder.

    Fill the filter basket to 3/4 full tap on bench to settle the grind tamp add more coffee tap on the bench again tamp add more coffee tap on the bench again distribute the coffee around the sides of the basket with your finger or a flat edge, tamp and a 1/4 spin of the tamp to smooth the surface. This will take some practice to get the dose right.

    I have taught the method for a few different home machines even had my mother inlaw making good coffee after 1 hour of training.

    This is a completly different method to what i use at my cafe but for the home machines it seems to works really well. You will have to adjust your grinder as you go as more coffee will slow the pour. your photo looks under dosed and the water is churning through the grind and not having enough contact time to extract the coffee oils hence no crema just black water.

    Hope this helps

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    thanks for your second crack snobb :) good tamper and fresh coffee will be arriving this week, cant wait!

    interesting method Goofie, Ill definitely be trying that out, cheers!

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Quote Originally Posted by 79515158575B0F0F3E0 link=1339927476/6#6 date=1339931999
    distribute the coffee around the sides of the basket with your finger or a flat edge
    Havent heard this technique mentioned before :o. Seems a bit risky mucking around with the nicely tamped pf but each to his own. Ive even stopped tapping the side of the pf. Part of the reason is Ive noticed it doesnt dislodge any of the coffee stuck around the inside of the pf anyway (for me).

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    If you dont ditribute the coffee around the sides of the basket before the last tamp then you may get channeling around the coffee puk. The idea of this method is to fill the basket evenly. Watch a youtube video of a barista competion and you will see them distribute the coffe around the basket with thier finger before tamping. I only offer this advise because i know it works on home espresso machines as i have shown a lot of my customers this method and it has improved thier coffee skills


  11. #11
    Member VimFuego's Avatar
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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    You should also probably use some kitchen scales to get an idea of how much coffee is being used. I have my grinder timed to get 16 grams. For those who dont want such a strong coffee I can lower this down to 11 grams and still get really nice crema.

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    just looking at that puck it looks like the grind is a bit coarse for espresso

    I find I end up with similar results when I underdose even with the correct grind

    like everyone else has said try 1 thing at a time, but id start with getting the grind a bit finer once youve got your new tamp and beans

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    Re: What am I doing wrong?! Sludgy puck, sour coffee

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    thanks for the tips everyone...

    I think it was a bit of everything!
    underdosing, grind too coarse...and the machine was rubbish...

    im using an EM6910 with a good grind and tamp....much better pucks :)

    Coffee still tastes a bit "sour"...but maybe my tastebuds are playing up a bit...



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