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Thread: Is it me, my machine or my grinder?

  1. #1
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    Is it me, my machine or my grinder?

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

    The Background:

    I own an ECM Giotto that is approximately 6 years old that has very little use for the age of the machine. My grinder is an Isomac Professionale. Other than a metal tamper, all other equipment is stock standard as supplied with the Giotto/Isomac.

    Since I picked up the Giotto I have undertaken semi-regular descales and have recently replaced a leaking OPV. Other than these items I have not undertaken any other maintenance on the machine other than regular cleaning. For approximately two years the machine sat in storage due to renovations. Prior to myself owning the Giotto, the machine had regular twice yearly visits to the supplier for descalling and check up. I haven't performed any sort of maintenance or cleaning to the grinder.

    I have not had any training on how to use the Giotto but have spent a reasonable amount of time reading up on this forum and others and watched the Scotty Callaghan videos on the ECA website multiple times. My wife has done a basic 2 hr course with a local cafe/roaster and from the information she brought back my/our basic technique seems OK.

    I am using fresh beans from a variety of local roasters.
    I have roughly checked water temp and it seems to be in the right zone (80 ish degrees C) and allways pull a cooling shot.
    I grind on demand into a small plastic container and weigh out 16 grams (plus or minus 0.5g) for a double shot which I then upend into the portafiller and then tamp.

    I aim for approximatley 60mL in 30sec from the Giotto's double filter basket.

    Now for my question:

    Try as I might I can't seem to get a really great coffee. My coffee is still better than the majority of local cafes but I can't get anywhere as near as good a coffee as I get at the handful of really good cafes in my area (greater Newcastle area). The coffees I tend to get allways seem either a bit thin or bitter or both.

    So is it Me?
    or is it my Machine? (age or maintenance related issue)
    or is it my Grinder? (is it possible to get a great shot from my grider/ machine combo)

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bernsbrew's Avatar
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    Not sure if this is the right answer, and I stand to be corrected, but in my limited experience 16g is under dosing. Maybe try upping to 18g or even 20g. Interested to see how it goes.
    Cheers
    Bern

  3. #3
    Senior Member Dennis's Avatar
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    Are you sure your machine is running at about 80 degrees? If so, there is your problem.. Water temp should be from 90 to 95ish

  4. #4
    Senior Member Vinitasse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis View Post
    Are you sure your machine is running at about 80 degrees? If so, there is your problem.. Water temp should be from 90 to 95ish
    I have to wholeheartedly agree with Dennis on this one... if your machine is running at 80ish degrees you are way off the sweet spot of 92ish and any coffee running through it will come across as quite thin, sour and tea-like

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    Thanks for responses.

    I think for the Giotto double basket, 16g is about right as any more and it begins to be a struggle to properly insert the portafilla, though I'm happy to be told otherwise on this idea.

    I've gone away and tried a more accurate technique in measuring the temperature.
    Prevoiusly I just did a quick check by sticking a budget dial type milk thermometer in a warmed glass and pulling a shot without any coffee.
    Now I'm using a lab grade mercury thermometer resting in the spout of the single spout portafiller. BIG difference.

    Very interesting.....

    During the warming flush the temp reached a maximum of 97 C with a quick drop in temp. After the cooling flush around 92 ish with some creeping down in temp. Boiler pressure is running between 1.25 to (i think) 1.4 bar based on the gauge. The brew temp is set by altering the pressure isn't it?

    I'm actually a bit surprised with the general variation in temperatures and recycle time, I was under the impression that the Giotto didn't require much temperature surfing other than a quick cooling flush but it looks like the amount flushed and allowing a reheat time between coffees could be important. Any suggestions from other Giotto/HX machine owners?

    Looks like it is time to do a bit of study on past cs posts on Giotto temp surfing.

    Any suggestions on the best way of measuring brew temp? (without doing any mods! )

    While on this topic I have noticed that Talk coffee have a thermostability upgrade, has anyone tried this and what were the results like? Does anyone in Sydney offer a similar service.

    Oh and I should have added to the original post that we mostly drink milk coffee.

  6. #6
    Senior Member insomnispresso's Avatar
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    I have no doubt that mod greatly improves stability (no personal experience) but not sure its what you need. You said you're getting thin and/or bitter, shorten the pour to 40-50ml (my choice is marginally finer grind or you could cut the shot short - either of which should taste a bit different)

    By weight that is still a double espresso (it should weigh around 32g), personally I feel weight is a much better indicator than volume.

    Anyway taste and compare, tell us what you think

  7. #7
    TC
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    Quote Originally Posted by chemboy View Post
    Hi All,

    The Background:

    I own an ECM Giotto that is approximately 6 years old that has very little use for the age of the machine. My grinder is an Isomac Professionale. ....

    I am using fresh beans from a variety of local roasters.
    I have roughly checked water temp and it seems to be in the right zone (80 ish degrees C) and allways pull a cooling shot....
    Hello chemboy,

    Some quick responses to your post. Points for consideration:
    • The Isomac grinder- really underdone for a machine of this quality
    • How do you know you are running 80 deg brew temperature? If your measuring method involves any less than a thermocouple over the puck, it's not accurate. Better still is the use of a Scace device.
    • If your Giotto is a Premium Plus (1/2 moon gauge) it is not fitted with thermosyphon restriction. This can assist.
    • Out of the box, the machine should be running 1.2 bar. 1.4 bar is way too high.

    Cheers

    Chris

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    Thanks again everyone,

    Some more playing around with the thermometer and I think my initial stab at temperature measurement was a bit of a red herring.
    Temps look like they are hitting around the required 94C when I use my normal cooling flush method.
    I think Chris from Talk Coffee's comments regarding repeatability of brew temperature measurement are spot on.

    Insomnispresso - Do you calibrate your shot volume (liquid brew not ground coffee) by weight rather than using some sort of volumetric measuring device (calibrated eye? ) I will try pulling up the coffee a bit shorter and see what happens.

    Chris from Talk Coffee - sorry lots of questions:
    My Giotto is a bit older - It's the model with the round boiler pressure guage, the older style steam/water handles and badged ECM it could be older than 6 years - I'd need to pull out the original purchase receipt the first owner gave me when I bought it second hand. Its somewhere.....in the archived home paperwork.

    I've never touched the pressure settings but I do know the original owners had the machine in for a number of services - I assumed it was just going in for a descalling but the pressure may have been tweaked up then. When I say 1.4 (ish) bar this is the maximum pressure I see when the heating element is cycling on. What sort of regular check up/ maintenance do these machines require other than descalling?

    - If I was to upgrade the grinder to a Compak K3/ Macap M2 / Eureka Migon what differences would I see and taste?

    Thanks again for everyones input.

  9. #9
    TC
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    Hello chemboy,

    As I recall, the Giotto classic was last manufactured in about 2004 or '05, so yes- you are definitely older.

    Your machine will need a cooling flush. Lift the lever and when you no longer hear steam, lock and shoot. (NB- To others reading this thread, whilst this recommendation applies to old HX machines, it should not apply to well configured contemporary machines. Nothing in our HX range requires a cooling flush.)

    Max pressure. Set the pressurestat to deliver 1.2bar at max. Presumably someone has turned it up to deliver more steam as this was a significant weakness of the classic.

    Grinder? I have had a good heads up. I was away for the weekend and took a VBM Domobar Junior and a cheapie ($300 ish) price bracket grinder I was curious about. It has much in common with your grinder chemboy. Apart from being wake up the neighbourhood noisy, I found I had to grind way finer than I am accustomed to with high quality semi-commercial and commercial grinders. Shots were disappointing and blonded prematurely. This grinder which was new out of the box was dead in 24 hours and necessitated a trip back home to grab my backup SJ-E. No more early blonding, much better body and a far superior cup. It just goes to remind me that you cannot economise on grinders.

    For mine, the bidding on grinders still starts at Compak K3P/Macap M2 and I am led to believe that the Eureka Mignon should be included in this group- though I have no hands on experience with it. You just cannot economise on grinders and those who think that the $300 price bracket stuff can compete with the big boys are kidding themselves.

    Chris

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    (NB- To others reading this thread, whilst this recommendation applies to old HX machines, it should not apply to well configured contemporary machines. Nothing in our HX range requires a cooling flush.
    Oh really? I was always under the impression that you: flush, wait around 40 seconds or so for the heating cycle to click off, then lock 'n' load?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebookfreak58 View Post
    Oh really? I was always under the impression that you: flush, wait around 40 seconds or so for the heating cycle to click off, then lock 'n' load?
    Nope- That's just re-regurgitated internet misinformation. I wish there was a big delete button. Sadly, not and new players read this and then wonder why their coffee is no good. The days of cooling flushes and HX machines ended at least 5 years ago for switched on manufacturers and vendors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    Nope- That's just re-regurgitated internet misinformation. I wish there was a big delete button. Sadly, not and new players read this and then wonder why their coffee is no good. The days of cooling flushes and HX machines ended at least 5 years ago for switched on manufacturers and vendors.
    Excellent, I will try your method with my 5yo Bezzera tonight. Thanks TC

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    Thanks Chris, the information is hugely informative (and provides me with the info to get through the capital purchases commitee for a new grinder).

    I imagine your reccomendation 1.2bar pressure setting is based on your experience on this particular machine and would drop the brew temperature down.
    From your previous posts I would imagine the only way to get the brew temp exact would be to hook the machine up to a scace device and fiddle with the pressure setting until the right number shows up. While I would love to get you to look at my machine, it would be a choice between taking the daughter or the Giotto with me on my next infrequent trip to melbourne which while I'm tempted is not really an option . Do you know of anyone in (ideally) Newcastle or Sydney (maybe Canberra) area who would have sufficient experience and know how with this model of machine to correctly tune it up? The previous owners weren't tinkerers so I'm guesssing the pressure increase was made by the store who sold and serviced it for them.

    As to cooling flushes, are they really that big of an issue? I don't really find it that big an inconvience, as long as the water comes out at the right temp?

  14. #14
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    Hi chemboy,

    I'd think you're actually running more than 94 deg if you need a cooling flush. This would be consistent with other Giotto Classic machines I have seen.

    We attempted a thermostability mod on a classic at the request of one client. What I found was that the time required and the settings we ended with did not in my opinion result in enough benefit to justify the charge for the time taken to get it right. Call it poor value for money. In addition, the nature of the steam and hot water valves results in no improvement to steam pressure.

    Whilst we are always happy to assist and I love a sale, bang for buck is paramount and I will not take money unless we can offer value. My advice is be happy with what you have and put the money in the piggy bank towards the next dose of upgraditis.

  15. #15
    Senior Member insomnispresso's Avatar
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Sure do, "grams ground coffee in - grams espresso out". One reason is that crema variability of different beans can make volumetric measurement not very meaningful

    By measuring the weight its more about how much water did I pull through the coffee (and of course things it picked up along the way). Not as unusual as you might think!

    Ultimately you need to decide for yourself what works anyway would go with Chris's pressure/temp change first though!



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