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Thread: Don't know what I'm doing wrong

  1. #1
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    Don't know what I'm doing wrong

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi all,

    I'm trying to get the best out of my home set up and for the life of me can't seem to produce a great tasting shot.

    Beans are Merlo - espresso blend and Ive also tried Columbian single origin - using them between 3-7 days after roast date.

    My equipment is the Breville Smart Grinder and Breville BES900 dual boiler. Grind consistency seems ok, grinds come out quite warm and clumpy, so I use the WDT once Ive dosed into porta filter.

    Im dosing 19g into the Breville double basket, followed by WDT, then careful levelling and a single 15kg tamp with a slight polish/twist at the end. Portafilter is hot and dry before dosing grounds. Grouphead is flushed immediately prior to portafilter insertion.

    Pre-infusion is default 7 sec and temp is 93C. First coffee comes out at around 11-12 seconds, and total time to fill 2 x 30ml shots is around 35 secs (including the preinfusion of 7 secs). I try and cut the shot when blonding becomes apparent. The pour looks good to my novice eye - not dripping but not rushing out. Kind of about the thickness of a mouse tail. The shot ends up being about 1/4 crema, with nice brown flecking. Pucks come out cleanly and are firm with no cracks or holes visible to the naked eye. There is an impression of the showerscreen and screw on top of the puck and some residual moisture.

    My issue is that I can't get it to taste like the short blacks I've tried from the Merlo cafe - in which I could taste some fruitiness. Mine taste overly bitter and I've never got anything close to "sweetness / caramel / chocolate / nutty" flavours that people seems to refer to.

    They taste okay as caps or lattes but as espresso they make me grimace. Any ideas of what I need to adjust to get a better taste?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaiser View Post
    Hi all,

    I'm trying to get the best out of my home set up and for the life of me can't seem to produce a great tasting shot.

    Beans are Merlo - espresso blend and Ive also tried Columbian single origin - using them between 3-7 days after roast date.

    My equipment is the Breville Smart Grinder and Breville BES900 dual boiler. Grind consistency seems ok, grinds come out quite warm and clumpy, so I use the WDT once Ive dosed into porta filter.

    Im dosing 19g into the Breville double basket, followed by WDT, then careful levelling and a single 15kg tamp with a slight polish/twist at the end. Portafilter is hot and dry before dosing grounds. Grouphead is flushed immediately prior to portafilter insertion.

    Pre-infusion is default 7 sec and temp is 93C. First coffee comes out at around 11-12 seconds, and total time to fill 2 x 30ml shots is around 35 secs (including the preinfusion of 7 secs). I try and cut the shot when blonding becomes apparent. The pour looks good to my novice eye - not dripping but not rushing out. Kind of about the thickness of a mouse tail. The shot ends up being about 1/4 crema, with nice brown flecking. Pucks come out cleanly and are firm with no cracks or holes visible to the naked eye. There is an impression of the showerscreen and screw on top of the puck and some residual moisture.

    My issue is that I can't get it to taste like the short blacks I've tried from the Merlo cafe - in which I could taste some fruitiness. Mine taste overly bitter and I've never got anything close to "sweetness / caramel / chocolate / nutty" flavours that people seems to refer to.

    They taste okay as caps or lattes but as espresso they make me grimace. Any ideas of what I need to adjust to get a better taste?
    Sounds like you are doing everything right. Unfortunately your expectation to reproduce the same results are more than likely being held back by the potential of your grinder. As comparisons with cars here are popular - you're trying to win a Grand Prix with a mini minor.

  3. #3
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    In what area does the Smart Grinder fall short? Is it just the consistency of the grind as I still have a fair way to go on the adjustment scale before I reach the finest setting- I did try to go finer and found that the pour went towards a drip and even further just choked the machine. So i'm assuming from that test that the grinder is able to grind fine enough for espresso. So I'm guessing that you might be referring to the consistency of the grind being inferior to a higher quality burr grinder.

    The grinds look pretty similar to a sample I got from the Merlo shop - although I havent exactly looked under a microscope - just rubbing them between fingers to get a feel for consistency.

  4. #4
    enjoy black coffee JamesM's Avatar
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    Try doing everything you are doing, without any polish/twist of the coffee bed after tamping.... Also, which water are you using in your machine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JamesM View Post
    Try doing everything you are doing, without any polish/twist of the coffee bed after tamping.... Also, which water are you using in your machine?
    Thanks I will give that technique a go. I'm using tap water filtered through one of those Brita water jugs.

  6. #6
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    Try grinding a bit coarser. I get bitter if I grind too fine. Its all part of dialing in the grinder.
    Or drop the dose back a bit at the same grind. Double is usually 14gms.
    My smart grinder works OK. Only got clumping when I ground very fine with stale beans.

  7. #7
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    Kaiser, I see two potential problems. Grinds coming out warm from the grinder....and 11-12 seconds before the first coffee emerges.

    I don't know whether you can do anything to minimise heat gain in the grinder, but it is definitely undesirable.

    I'd aim for about 5 seconds less than your current time before coffee exits the portafiler, with an all up time from beginning the extraction to completing it around 25 seconds, 30 Max. Sounds like you are over-extracting, so a tad coarser grind.

    Volume and tamp pressure seem ok.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    You might want to drop your brew temp down a degree or two as well.

  9. #9
    Senior Member NakiChap's Avatar
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    Hi Kaiser you could try using the beans from day 7 post roast, you might find the flavours develope more to your liking with a bit more age , I find alot of my blends best around day 10-14 post roast


    [QUOTE=kaiser;489070] - using them between 3-7 days after roast date.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    Yes, i was speaking about particle sizes and the range of sizes various grinders produce. Unfortunately correct analysis cant be achieved by eyesight or feel. I spent a lot of time researching this with lab equipment. By all means try all of the above suggestions. You can even spin the tamper anti clockwise if you like.

    In the end, your grinder will not match the flavours that a big conical or likes of mazzer major.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    Kaiser, I see two potential problems. Grinds coming out warm from the grinder....and 11-12 seconds before the first coffee emerges.

    I don't know whether you can do anything to minimise heat gain in the grinder, but it is definitely undesirable.

    I'd aim for about 5 seconds less than your current time before coffee exits the portafiler, with an all up time from beginning the extraction to completing it around 25 seconds, 30 Max. Sounds like you are over-extracting, so a tad coarser grind.

    Volume and tamp pressure seem ok.
    Thanks everyone for the tips so far. In terms of my extraction time- I have been including the 7 secs of preinfusion in the overall time. So it sits around 2-3 bar for that first 7 secs and then the pump ramps up to 9 bar for the actual extraction. So that is why I've been stopping the shot at around 35 secs- (around 28 secs of actual 9 bar pump time. I know I should get too caught up with times and should be concentrating on watching the pour and tasting afterwards.

    I dropped the temp to 92C and I moved the grinder one click courser- which resulted in too fast a pour and a watery tasting shot. I will keep experimenting nonetheless

  12. #12
    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    Hi Kaiser,

    Back to what Dennis first said about the grinder.. I have stepped up from buying ground coffee then to a cheaper Sunbeam grinder and then to a Breville smart grinder. After have the smart grinder for some time I thought i was happy with what I had been able to produce with the grinder and thought things couldnt be any better. A few months back now I came across a deal I couldnt refuse which was a Compak K3. I must admit I had heard alot about these grinders but though nah the coffee im producing now coudlnt be any better. I couldnt be more wrong and even though this grinder is in the lower end of some of the other grinder available on the market it has improved my coffee 10 time over and I still feel I havent reached the potential of the grinder due purely to my lack of experience.

    Cheer,

    Chris

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    Looks like I need to save for a better grinder then.

  14. #14
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaiser View Post
    Looks like I need to save for a better grinder then.
    When I upgraded from a Sunbeam EM0480 to a Compak K3T (rebadged as Wega), the main thing I noticed was an improvement in consistency of both grind and in the cup.

    The big issue I had with the Sunbeam was grind retention due to blockages occurring high up in the chute. As long as I kept an eye on it the results weren't too bad. Maybe have a good look at your Breville to make sure grinds aren't backed up anywhere in the chute and that there is free flow out of the grinding chamber. Backing-up may be causing the heating up of the grinds you mentioned? Can also cause inconsistency in grind size due to "re-processing" when grinds don't drop freely out of the grind chamber.

    The main causes of bitter coffee that I have found are temperature or grinding too fine. Sounds like the volume in you basket is OK if your getting dry solid pucks. Before spending money on a new grinder have a good look at temperature and pre-infusion. Not familiar with the BES900 controls but if possible try switching off pre-infusion and just play with temperature and grind to see if you can get a good result. If this works introduce pre-infusion and see if a satisfactory balance can be struck. Worth a try I guess.

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    hey kaiser perhaps try for a 30ml shot in around 25-30seconds from 19grams, on my old silvia with a double basket i could only get about 18-19grams in and blonding would usually start around 30ml sometimes earlier, so i would think you must be getting some blonde pouring 60ml from only 19grams, and thats enough to give your shot a bitter edge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wynton87 View Post
    hey kaiser perhaps try for a 30ml shot in around 25-30seconds from 19grams, on my old silvia with a double basket i could only get about 18-19grams in and blonding would usually start around 30ml sometimes earlier, so i would think you must be getting some blonde pouring 60ml from only 19grams, and thats enough to give your shot a bitter edge.
    Ah ok, so is a double basket not meant to produce double shots ie. 2 x 30ml? Have I been extracting double the volume I'm meant to?

  17. #17
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    Well in my opinion yes, those standards of double basket (typically rated as a 14gr basket) being able to produce 2x30ml shots are fairly old school standards and based on an italian style of coffee drinking whereby they add sugar most of the time so some blonding doesnt really matter to them. I mean some people may argue with me a bit on that but personally thats my taste preference, i would encourage you to try it yourself and some up with your own opinion - you may find it too intense, then you could completely ignore everything iv said.

  18. #18
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    Kaiser, before throwing out the baby with the bathwater, keep trying There are many variables, so you have much to play with.

    Temperature of 93░C--providing it is accurate and at the shower screen, -- is ideal. So I'd leave that alone.

    Dosing: 19 grams of grinds, I'd leave that alone too. As Wynton said, 14 grams is pretty much old school and will give you dishwater in your bigger basketl.

    Tamp pressure: 14-15 kg is ideal, so I'd leave that alone.

    Extraction time: Pardon my say so, but I think you are unnecessarily fussing about pre-infusion time and pressures. Just aim for an overall time from when you hit the brew button of 25-30 seconds.

    Pressure: your 9 bar sounds ideal, so I'd leave that alone too.

    Freshness: that too sounds well within the ballpark, 3-7 days from roasting. Perhaps you could try 4 days? Are they degassing through a one-way bag?

    Shot volume: I assume you have measured 60 ml in your glass/cup, made a mark there and brewed to that level.

    Whatever you do, change only one thing at a time, assess, and then go onto the next variable, otherwise you won't know which is working and which isn't.

    Good luck.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    Kaiser, before throwing out the baby with the bathwater, keep trying There are many variables, so you have much to play with.

    Temperature of 93░C--providing it is accurate and at the shower screen, -- is ideal. So I'd leave that alone.

    Dosing: 19 grams of grinds, I'd leave that alone too. As Wynton said, 14 grams is pretty much old school and will give you dishwater in your bigger basketl.

    Tamp pressure: 14-15 kg is ideal, so I'd leave that alone.

    Extraction time: Pardon my say so, but I think you are unnecessarily fussing about pre-infusion time and pressures. Just aim for an overall time from when you hit the brew button of 25-30 seconds.

    Pressure: your 9 bar sounds ideal, so I'd leave that alone too.

    Freshness: that too sounds well within the ballpark, 3-7 days from roasting. Perhaps you could try 4 days? Are they degassing through a one-way bag?

    Shot volume: I assume you have measured 60 ml in your glass/cup, made a mark there and brewed to that level.

    Whatever you do, change only one thing at a time, assess, and then go onto the next variable, otherwise you won't know which is working and which isn't.

    Good luck.

    Hey,

    Reason I clarified the pre infusion was that not all machines have this, so it's not really comparing apples to apples when you are doing a seven second preinfusion and other machines aren't- and yet saying times should be the same. Does that make sense? The shot glasses have 30ml markings which I've confirmed. I will try the suggestion of pulling ristretto like shots and see if I enjoy that taste more. Thanks for all the helpful advice so far

  20. #20
    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Kaiser, is there anybody from whom you can borrow a different grinder? (don't know where you reside)
    As Robusto says, it's a good idea to work on one variable at a time.
    If I lived in one of the major cities I would be hooking up with other CS in my locality as the benefits from being able to swap tips and equipment are immense.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    I am not suggesting the Breville won't make a decent coffee. However if you are looking for fruitiness, caramel, chocolate, nutty, and all the other nuances and unique flavours a coffee has to offer and that are usually lost under milk, then the Breville is not going to cut it. End of story.
    Last edited by Dennis; 17th January 2013 at 04:40 PM.
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    Senior Member coffeechris's Avatar
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    I must say i didn't mean to dip your name in on what i said either Dennis. However what you said was exactly what i found after updating my grinder from the Smart Grinder too the K3.

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  23. #23
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    ... under moll???

    Dennis, when you say 'the Breville', are you talking about the BDB/BES900 or the BSG/BCG800, or both?

    I have both, and while I'm considering getting a better grinder at some stage in the future and I might even upgrade from the BDB some time after that, I can get chocolate, caramel, nutty and even occasionally fruity flavours depending on the blend and the roast, just not as consistently as I'd like. I'm using a VST basket and Pullman tamper, but I don't think they're essential to getting a good cup. It has taken me the better part of 13 months to get to this point and for the grinder to stop clumping badly. I make six to ten coffees a day, mostly milk but some espressos, and everyone in the household likes their coffee strong so I use a 22g VST basket, 15 secs of pre-infusion using the manual button, and 60+ml of coffee in about 30 secs from the end of pre-infusion or until it blondes, which can sometimes take 40 secs or more. There has been some recent discussion in the BES900 thread about longer pours, I get no sourness and usually no bitterness from these pours, and the espresso is rich and full-bodied. This may not meet Dennis' definition of good coffee, so I'm looking forward to trying a better grinder and I'd like to experience what something like an Alex Duetto can produce as well. A side by side comparison would be great!

    Kaiser, I presume you've been reading the BES900 owners' thread in the mid-priced machine forum, especially if you've mentioned 11 secs to the start of the coffee starting to pour. Had you asked your question there, you would have reached a higher proportion of forum members who are familiar with the BDB, its pre-infusion capabilities, the expected shot clock times to start and complete extraction, and the appropriate weight of coffee to dose the Breville double basket, which is a lot more than 14 g!

    As far as I can see from your opening post you seem to be doing everything about right. Are you running the grinder for a couple of secs before you fill the portafilter to clear stale grounds? Does the top of grinder spindle oscillate/orbit when running, perhaps indicating some misalignment in the shaft which can contribute to uneven particle sizes? What sort of sound does it make when it runs empty, ie, is there any indication that the burrs may be touching slightly at some point? If so, this might indicate that trying out a better grinder may be your next step, but first try a slightly finer grind and a slightly extended pour and tell us what you think.

    Andrew
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    Hi Andrew - 'moll = milk' I had a laugh. Stoopid iphone! Have fixed that.

    I was referring to the grinder in particular but to some extent, thinking of the coffee machine as well. Glad to hear you are producing great shots. From memory, when I visited Breville they had the BDB900 partnered with a Robur or similar. I think it's even in some of their youtube videos. What more can I say?

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    Thanks Dennis, that makes sense now.

    Heh, a Robur is way further than I was intending to go, but you make a very good point. I'd say I get a reasonable proportion of good shots, but I'd like to get it to an excellent proportion. An M4D maybe.

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    Thanks all. I know that a better grinder would be the ideal solution but I'd like to see what the ebst result is from the Breville before I write it off. I tried courser and finer grinds - coarse shot yielding 40ml in about 18 secs and the finer one yielding 20ml in 40 secs. I preferred the taste of the under extracted shot which had a bit more acidity while still retaining some body. The latter was undrinkable. I'll keep playing around. I'm eyeing off a Baritza / Mahlkoenig Vario as a replacement if I decide I can't get along with the Breville.

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    that seems a big change in time for what I assume is a small change in grind. is it two clicks between the two?

  28. #28
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    I don't know the grinder but in case the clicks aren't fine enough how about trying to change the dose?
    More coffee = slower pour
    Less coffee = faster pour

  29. #29
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    I think 35 seconds is likely over extracting. Try a bit courser grind and look to have your shot complete around 25 seconds as you will likely find the shots a bit sweeter with less extraction.

  30. #30
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    Unless the pre-infusion has been turned off or altered, 35 secs on a Breville Dual Boiler includes 7 secs of pre-infusion, so it's a 28 sec pour!
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  31. #31
    Life-long Learner DesigningByCoffee's Avatar
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    Hi Kaiser
    Something I don't think anyone has mentioned - have you tried beans from a different supplier? Some suppliers roast darker, which with a tight pour like you mention may well become bitter.But as I home roast, I now roast lighter as a rule - which almost never becomes bitter (but can become sour!) Maybe you could try a bag of SO from beanbay?

    PS Agree with a few here - if my espresso's are bitter, I tend to coarsen / speed up the shot. And forget the numbers! I've has great 25 sec and 45 sec espressos - but it is very dependent on the roast depth :-)
    Matt
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    If you want to upgrade your grinder the Baratza Preciso will get you 95% of the way there. No need to go crazy with some enormous comercial conical grinder

  33. #33
    Senior Member shapeshifter's Avatar
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    One thing I can't see mentioned, reduce your pre-infusion, I have mine set at 2 seconds, most people I know with the same machine only use up to 4 seconds, no higher.

    Also don't completely write off either the grinder or machine just on certain comments on here without testing all variables.

  34. #34
    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kaiser View Post
    Hi all,
    First coffee comes out at around 11-12 seconds, and total time to fill 2 x 30ml shots is around 35 secs (including the preinfusion of 7 secs). I try and cut the shot when blonding becomes apparent.
    In my opinion, 60 ml is way too much!
    Try exactly what you describe but cut it short about 25 seconds and 25 ml and see how you like the taste.

    Greg

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    Thanks for all the advice so far. Well for some reason things seem to have got worse - without me really changing any of the variables so it has me stumped and frustrated. I'm using the double basket in the naked portafilter holder and basically all of my shots are completely gushers with lots of channelling - having to cut the shot at about 12-15 seconds. The pressure only gets to about 5 bar. The puck is wet and muddy and now usually sticks to the shower screen - whereas before they used to by quite dry and firm with no cracks. I thought maybe the grinder had gone out of adjustment so I ground finer to no avail. Then I tried lowering the dose thinking maybe the puck was being compromised on portrafilter locking. No change. Then I tried updosing. No change. Ive tried three different roasters and beans of varying age (3,5,7,10 days).

    Here is a pic of what I was originally getting (from my original opening post)

    photo-1-L.jpg
    - now all I get is gushing, watery crap.

    I have the shim kit for the Breville grinder but haven't installed it yet as last week it was grinding fine enough to choke the machine with adjustment room to go even finer
    Attached Images Attached Images

  36. #36
    pwp
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    When I upgraded from a Sunbeam EM0480 to a Compak K3T (rebadged as Wega), the main thing I noticed was an improvement in consistency of both grind and in the cup.
    When I upgraded from a Rocky doserless to a Compak K3 Touch the difference was immediate and very positive. I knew a grinder upgrade would make a tangible difference, but I had no idea how big a difference it would actually make.

    -PW



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