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Thread: So after 2 years, my does my coffee still taste awful? Is it my machine?

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    So after 2 years, my does my coffee still taste awful? Is it my machine?

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


    This month marks 2 years since I bought a Silvia + Rocky combo and started making my own coffees at home.

    It was a steep learning curve, but with practice I managed to consistently extract shots over 25-35 seconds, and to froth milk with the right consistency to allow some free pour rosettas which impresses friends. Example below.



    However, in the most important taste department, it still sucks. I use fresh beans from specialty roasters in Sydney, mainly Campos, Mecca, Toby's Estate etc, have also tried beans from Seven Seeds and Small Batch Roasters in Melbourne which I bought while visiting.

    I guess I can't expect to reproduce the taste of coffee from LM, Slayer or Synesso commercial machines, but my coffee lacks any kind of complexity and tastes nothing similar to the coffees served in cafes using the same beans. If anything, there isn't much difference whether I use the good beans or use months old Coles brand 1kg beans as a back-up.

    I've tried adjusting the grinder to try various settings, tried tamping at various pressure, but to no avail.

    It's easy to blame the tools, but my question is this - will I improve the taste significantly by upgrading to a 3K machine like Rocket Giotto ?



    Any comments would be appreciated

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    Sorry, I can't particularly help in resolving the matter... But I can say that I have the rancillio Silvia paired with a mazzer mini and my coffees are ahead of a lot of local cafés. I can't see any benefit from upgrading to a $3k+ machine apart from having the benefit of a double boiler and speed.

    Have you descaled your machine in those 2 years? Do you back flush and clean the machine often? Also is the grinder often cleaned out from the old grinds?

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    Hi covalatte,

    Sounds like you're doing really well!

    It's all about espresso now. I reckon that an hour of palate training and shot work would get you tantalisingly close.

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    You don't say just what is wrong with the coffee. If you could describe what you're tasting that would help diagnose things.

    Some things to look at...

    When you remove the PF, what does the puck look like? Is it smooth on top, indented by the showerscreen, show channels or cracks? Is it even in depth or tilted to one side in the basket? i.e. one side higher than the other?

    Can you measure your water temp? It might be set too high and you're burning your beans.

    What does the coffee look like coming out of the PF? Is it thick, black, watery etc. How long does it take to blonde?

    Do you have a favourite café where they make the coffee as you like it? You could go there and watch them or ask for a lesson in what they do? They might even give you the training Talk_Coffee mentions.

    This one is just a guess so maybe someone with more experience can correct it if wrong, but how sure are you your procedure is right? I'm thinking maybe you are grinding too coarse or too light and compensating with tamp to get a pour in approx the right timing? e.g. you are too coarse and using mammoth pressure to tamp it down, giving a 25 sec pour but lacking the depth of taste from correct ground coffee.

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    You have a naked P/f? you could take a video of a typical shot for everyone to see.

    Make your location available there may be a fellow snob nearby who could have a taste of your espresso.

    It could very well be a temperature issue, different beans / blends / roasts can all have different sweet spots. The pressure of your machine might be a bit off as well?

    The suggestions above are good to. If your willing to pay for it, pretty sure you could take your machine and grinder to a sponsor that does training and get some industry advice on your actual set up.

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Without seeing you work I can't say much, but something I'd suggest would be prepping/tasting both the shot and the milk separately.

    Work on getting a good shot (or long black, if that's too strong). That'll help you make sure your extraction is producing desirable flavours (and make it easier to identify flaws).

    With the milk, it should taste sweet; sweeter than the milk you started with, at any rate.

    If your shot is tasty and so is your milk then you may want to look at altering the quantity of milk you're adding to your espresso. I find that an extra 10-20% can turn a delicious drink into something that's merely "ok" (but then I like my milk drinks strong).

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    with my recent change over to a Giotto, all I can think of the difference with the Silvia is the Giotto is much more forgiving in terms of getting good shots compare to the Silvia... with the Silvia, if it is slightly off, you will get either sour or bitter shots... and I can see plenty of holes and channelling with the Silvia with my naked PF having squirts most of the time (of varying severities) while the Giotto I seems to be doing very well with my tamping and getting good looking shots with the naked PF. (And taste good too)

    Mind you, when I do get it right with the Silvia, the shots are very good too...

    My work flow and technique hasnt change much (as far as I know)... But I have noted I get good result with 16grm basket on the Silvia, where as on the Giotto I have to overdose it to 18g to get good shots. Other than that, can't think of why there would be a difference.

    do you have Coffeesnob friend's who can either try your machine, or you use theirs?
    as mentioned before, do you regularly clean your silvia and grinder?

    what's your work flow when pulling a shot?

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    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Have you tried temperature surfing on your stock standard Silvia? If not develop a routine that is consistent and experiment with different time delays for temp surfing.

    A routine I use for my Silvia while temp surfing is as follows. (Also comes up to temp quick)

    Switch on machine with empty portafilter in place and run 1/2 cup or so of water through the steam wand using the hot water switch (until a steady water stream with no air is evident).

    The boiler is now full when you start. Wait until the heating light goes out. Using the brew switch, run water through the empty portafilter for about 10 secs or until the light comes back on.

    Wait until the light goes out and run water through the portafilter again for 10 secs or until light comes on. Your portafilter is now pre-heated.

    Fill your portafilter filter basket with grinds.

    With the dosed portafilter out of the machine, use the brew switch to run water through the grouphead for 10 secs or until light comes on.

    As soon as the light goes out this time start your timer. Use the brew switch for a quick flush of water of about 3-4 secs and turn off. Now install the dosed portafilter. After the desired delay as shown by your timer, brew your shot. Somewhere around 30 secs after the light goes out is a good starting point. Experiment to see what suits the bean you are using and your palate.

    As always, the fineness of grind, tamp pressure and fullness of your filter basket come into play. Channeling is one of the biggest culprits of poor brews. A naked Portafilter will show this up as fine pinhole sprays. I found with my setup these occurred mainly at the perimeter of the basket. After the initial tamp I carefully tamp with the tamper pushed all the way to the 12 o'clock position, then again to the 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock and then 3 o'clock. This solved that issue for me.

    If you're going to steam after the brew, I would refill the boiler again using the hot water switch through the steam wand as detailed earlier. Doesn't take much longer but I think your heating element would thank you in the long term for doing this.

    Everyone settles on their own prefered routine and what works for them. For me, the above routine and a carefully packed filter basket verging on over-full produced a result I am happy with. Getting the grind down to the point of an initial slow syrupy pour was also important especially with my current favorite bean blend which is the Di Bella Felici.

    Good Luck and keep experimenting until you find what works for you.

    Here's a good little link on finding the correct grind fineness too-

    Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste - Tips and Techniques • Home-Barista.com
    Last edited by CafeLotta; 2nd October 2013 at 01:16 PM.

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    opps... I forgot... I did make a change to my process of tamping...

    Previously I would tamp and while still under pressure, I twist my tamper to polish... after I changed to tamp down, release and only polish lightly... I have had less channelling issues after...

    its funny how once you get used to a process, you don't think about much anymore... sort of just automatically do it

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    Wow, I am overwhelmed with the responses. Thanks.

    My temperature surfing method is a simplistic one. I simply switch it on, wait for the light to go off, and have my portafilter ready so I can start brewing about 30 seconds after the light goes off.

    The puck, after extraction, is whole, easily drops off into the knock box keeping its shape. I could even pick it up without it cracking.

    I use a bottomless portafilter, and the extraction comes out in several spouts and within seconds it forms one central cone. Past the mid-point of extraction it becomes see-through, like black tea.

    And no I've never had any training. I'm clueless as to how to describe the espresso. I know what I like is strong, nutty, and sweet with that hokey-pokey taste without sugar.

    I might consider taking classes, one day..

    Thanks again for the helpful suggestions!

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    I used to do a purge once the heat light goes off till there is no steam, then I lock and pull the shot... the initial steam would "burn" the coffee and gives a bitter taste to it...

    its not about whether the puck holds it shape... its the tell-tale signs of channelling like these: (stolen from google search)


    with the taste... if you don't like it... why don't you like it... is it because too bitter, sweet, taste like burnt toast, something funcky like garbage taste, etc?

    have you tried different size basket? I did notice a difference when I changed to a larger VST...


    add: just to clarify on you simply switch it on and pull the shot when the light goes off.... do you let your machine warm up completely for say 15-30mins, or do you immediately pull the shot once the light goes off the first time?

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    Junior Member mehurley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    My temperature surfing method is a simplistic one. I simply switch it on, wait for the light to go off, and have my portafilter ready so I can start brewing about 30 seconds after the light goes off.
    Try turning on the machine about 30 minutes before you make coffee. Although the boiler comes up to temperature in just a few minutes, it will take much longer for the rest of the water path to come up to temp. If you brew too soo, the water will cool too much before it reaches the portafilter. For me, I leave the portafilter loosely in place in the machine while its heating up, and when IT feels hot, I'm ready to go.

    good luck,
    Martin

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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    Past the mid-point of extraction it becomes see-through, like black tea.
    Um...without seeing it, it sounds like this might be your problem. Is it gushing out?? Because it sounds like you're grind might be waaayyyyyy too coarse. Is there much crema sitting on top of the shot after extraction?

    It could also be that you're underdosing as well...again hard to tell without seeing what the puck looks like in the basket pre/post extraction and what the extraction looks like exactly.

    -Aaron
    Last edited by aaronpratt; 2nd October 2013 at 02:21 PM. Reason: forgot to add about dosing...

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    I'm with Dragunov21 on this one. If you remove the milk from the equation, how is the espresso on its own?

    I know that I was having trouble with the taste of my milk based drinks but when I pared it back to just the espresso it tasted fine. My problem ended up being that I was heating the milk too much. When I dropped the milk temp about 5-10 degrees it totally changed the flavour of the resulting drink.

    Maybe you could do a bit of a panel test:

    1) Espresso on its own
    2) Same espresso with 10-15% less milk
    3) Same espresso with 10-15% more milk
    4) Same espresso with slightly cooler milk (5-10 deg cooler) and repeat 2 and 3

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    I never thought to leave the machine on for 30 minutes prior to brewing, because I usually start the day with a coffee. I don't have PID installed, so by leaving it on I am risking a big difference in temperature? I will give it a go nonetheless.

    I don't let the first little bit of water go before brewing either, but I will certainly try this as well.

    Re: coarseness and dose - I dose until it is slightly overfilled, then use the flat edge of a butterknife to top it off before tamping. I time my extractions to deliver a double shot (60mL) over 25-35s, which I think is standard.

    I wouldn't know how to describe the espresso, because it's too strong without milk and any subtleties of flavour are lost on me because of it.

    Thanks again for the comments. I may post a video if I can find the time.

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    refer to cafelotta's post on how to temp surf the silvia properly after you leave it to warm up for awhile... (The temp surf will reduce the chances of temp fluctuating high and low)

    if temp is too low, it can cause underextraction resulting in a thin looking shot... that may explain why your shot is blackish thin half way through...

    if you need to visualise it... this is a good video showing the actual temp fluctuation during a temp surf


    I normally turn on the coffee machine when I first wake up before shower and stuff... and would be ready by the time I am finished...
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    Thanks, I'm looking forward to making a coffee tomorrow after leaving the machine on for a while.

    I might only change 1 thing at a time, to study the effects.
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    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    The heat up time is significantly reduced by forcing the Silvia to go through the heat-up to brew temp 2-3 times in quick succession as per my earlier post.

    Running hot water through the group head and portafilter while doing this gets heat through the internals quicker too.

    You could compare both this method and heating up for 30 minutes after first filling the boiler to see if there is a noticable difference.

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    I wouldn't know how to describe the espresso, because it's too strong without milk and any subtleties of flavour are lost on me because of it.
    So chuck 60-100ml of water in it :P

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    Senior Member Rocky's Avatar
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    I would venture to say that the more expensive the machine the easier it is to get really good coffee.
    A friend has a Sunbeam Cafe Series and although he is no fool he struggles to get acceptable coffee with it.
    People with Silvias generally seem to be able to make good coffee most of the time.
    Upmarket of that the coffee gets better with a reduction in effort/skill on the part of the Barista.
    I make great coffee most of the time on my $1800. Perfetta.
    I am certain I would make great coffee ALL of the time on a machine with better temp. control and less dose/tamp sensitivity.
    What I am saying is that cheaper, basic machines require more skill to produce good coffee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    I would venture to say that the more expensive the machine the easier it is to get really good coffee.
    A friend has a Sunbeam Cafe Series and although he is no fool he struggles to get acceptable coffee with it.
    People with Silvias generally seem to be able to make good coffee most of the time.
    Upmarket of that the coffee gets better with a reduction in effort/skill on the part of the Barista.
    I make great coffee most of the time on my $1800. Perfetta.
    I am certain I would make great coffee ALL of the time on a machine with better temp. control and less dose/tamp sensitivity.
    What I am saying is that cheaper, basic machines require more skill to produce good coffee.
    Hmm.. This is probably getting OT.

    Using the Breville dual boiler. I can say my shots are very consistent. I also found it really easy to pull good shots.

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    Are you making singles or doubles? Singles are harder. Adding 60ml of hot water to a double makes an Americano or long black. So do what Draganov21 said. Otherwise take a few risks with your grind and see what happens to the taste.
    PS There's a reason most of us know about fixing bad coffee. We've all been through this.

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    True dat...

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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    Wow, I am overwhelmed with the responses. Thanks.

    My temperature surfing method is a simplistic one. I simply switch it on, wait for the light to go off, and have my portafilter ready so I can start brewing about 30 seconds after the light goes off.

    The puck, after extraction, is whole, easily drops off into the knock box keeping its shape. I could even pick it up without it cracking.

    I use a bottomless portafilter, and the extraction comes out in several spouts and within seconds it forms one central cone. Past the mid-point of extraction it becomes see-through, like black tea.

    And no I've never had any training. I'm clueless as to how to describe the espresso. I know what I like is strong, nutty, and sweet with that hokey-pokey taste without sugar.

    I might consider taking classes, one day..

    Thanks again for the helpful suggestions!
    One of your main issues (besides not preheating everything and giving it a quick flush before loading it up with coffee) is poor tamping. Using a naked and tamping properly will never spray and rarely do multiple streams. Look up progressive tamping (Journeyman new machine) and most of those issues will disappear. Any channeling on a naked is a disaster, and you have described it clearly.

    Then SeanSheep gives you the next bit of diagnostics.

    Alternatively, providing a location may be useful, as there are CS people everywhere who could probably sort it out quickly.

    Cheers

    TampIt

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    One of your main issues (besides not preheating everything and giving it a quick flush before loading it up with coffee) is poor tamping. Using a naked and tamping properly will never spray and rarely do multiple streams.
    Maybe, maybe not; I often have a tiny zone in the centre that takes a bit longer to fill in, resulting in two streams that join a few seconds later.

    I'm not sure why it occurs, but it's not channelling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Maybe, maybe not; I often have a tiny zone in the centre that takes a bit longer to fill in, resulting in two streams that join a few seconds later.

    I'm not sure why it occurs, but it's not channelling.
    I have found that it tends to happen if I tamp a bit too hard or overdose (or possibly grind too fine).

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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrJack View Post
    I have found that it tends to happen if I tamp a bit too hard or overdose (or possibly grind too fine).
    Yeah, that's what I found, but the coffee tasted marginally better, so I resigned myself to ignoring the dead spot :P

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    Quote Originally Posted by ggoosen View Post
    Hmm.. This is probably getting OT.
    In actual fact it is the only comment that is ON TOPIC.

    The question the OP asked was:
    " It's easy to blame the tools, but my question is this - will I improve the taste significantly by upgrading to a 3K machine like Rocket Giotto ?"

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Yeah, that's what I found, but the coffee tasted marginally better, so I resigned myself to ignoring the dead spot :P
    Is your tamper a (near) 'perfect' fit? If a good tamp to the edge of the basket isn't being achieved there can be a pressure bias towards the outside.
    Have you tried both a flat and a convex tamper base?

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    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Yeah, that's what I found, but the coffee tasted marginally better, so I resigned myself to ignoring the dead spot :P
    Have you tried stirring the grind before you tamp it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    In actual fact it is the only comment that is ON TOPIC.

    The question the OP asked was:
    " It's easy to blame the tools, but my question is this - will I improve the taste significantly by upgrading to a 3K machine like Rocket Giotto ?"
    Well, so far we are still trying to determine if the OP is doing everything correctly first before we can answer that.... Would hate to say yes go spend 3k on a machine, but he still get crap shots because his method of making an espresso was wrong from the start.

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    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    In actual fact it is the only comment that is ON TOPIC.

    The question the OP asked was:
    " It's easy to blame the tools, but my question is this - will I improve the taste significantly by upgrading to a 3K machine like Rocket Giotto ?"
    HaHa, you're right but it's the nature of the beast! ;-D

    But no-one makes "great coffee ALL of the time". (post #20)
    Even on a Speedster, a GS3, a Pompeii Lever or any of the top line commercials.
    Or any machine. :-)

    It does become easier tho' and a good domestic has the capability of punching out multiple shots before it begins to suffer
    temp loss. A nice machine is a pleasure to use.

    I used to teach drum set playing. Young kids and adults would ask; "I wish I had a better kit, what is the best drum kit in the world?"

    My reply would go along the line; " The kit in your garage or bedroom……… because it's yours, it's the one you play on
    and one day you might own a DW or similar, it will look good, be a pleasure to have and give you something to brag about
    but if you can't play well, it's not going to help you and if it's not tuned right, it will sound worse than yours.
    A good player can make music on just about anything."
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    Okay, so this morning I left the machine on for about 20 minutes, and started brewing 30 seconds after the light switch went off.

    Let off a little bit of hot water before brewing. Using a naked PF, the single cone formed quicker than before and was a much thicker, dark/spotty brew and didn't lose its thickness until much later. Darker/thicker crema which looked very promising.

    To answer some of the questions above I use a double basket most of the time, and my tamper fits okay, leaving a 2-3mm gap which I never thought of as a problem.

    Coffee definately tasted different. Stronger for a start, but will have to make another cup tomorrow before I can say anything more.

    I will experiment with the suggestions given in this thread so far. It will take me a week or so to try them all out.

    Thanks again!
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    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chokkidog View Post
    Is your tamper a (near) 'perfect' fit? If a good tamp to the edge of the basket isn't being achieved there can be a pressure bias towards the outside.
    Have you tried both a flat and a convex tamper base?
    There's maybe half a mm gap around; the fit is better on the stock basket but oily find the taste is better on the ep precision basket despite the gap.

    Wdt doesn't fix it (I dose from a small milk jug) and provides no benefit in taste or apparent extraction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by covalatte View Post
    The puck, after extraction, is whole, easily drops off into the knock box keeping its shape. I could even pick it up without it cracking.

    I use a bottomless portafilter, and the extraction comes out in several spouts and within seconds it forms one central cone. Past the mid-point of extraction it becomes see-through, like black tea.
    This description sounds like you are doing the dosing and tamping right. The puck holds its shape and is well packed. The pour through the basket sounds about right - mine usually gives about a second or so of multiple small streams that almost immediately amalgamate into one central one.

    Some more questions...

    When you remove the PF from the group head, look at the puck - is it moist and dries up in a few seconds?

    Have you tried the 5 cent test? (basically you dose and tamp as normal, then sit a 5 cent piece in the middle of the puck and put the PF into the group head. Tighten as normal then remove it and look at the puck. You should see a very faint indentation from the coin - if there is depth to it you are overdosing.

    How long does it take for the pour to become like black tea?

    Did you try the finger tests for your coffee? One is to press a pinch of it between thumb and finger and see how it compacts and the other is to take a pinch and smear it in your fingers and see if there are fines caught in your fingerprints.

    Can you measure the temp of your water as it comes out of the grouphead?

    When you go to a café what is your normal coffee? Do you frequent mainly one that you think is great and all others are crap? Years ago, CUB did a beer course for barman. They told us of a guy in Melb who bought a pub, did extensive fix up work and promptly lost most of his customers. They (CUB) did all kinds of forensic type work and couldn't find a thing wrong - even had a taster of theirs come and try the beer on the sly. (THAT'S the kind of secret shopper job I want )

    Eventually they worked it out. The previous owner had been adding 1 keg of water for every 5 kegs of beer to increase profits. The locals had got used to it and when the new guy put on kegs as per CUB instructions, they didn't like the beer, even though it was better.

    EDIT: A 2 - 3 mm gap around the tamp is a LOT - if I had the money I would be getting a precision tamp from site sponsor Mark at Pullman and mine fits within about 1mm. I compensate by doing the nutating tamp on my last tamp. I tamp 3 or 4 times, but not at 15kg. Have a read of http://coffeesnobs.com.au/general-co...light=nutating - it seems to help even out the tamping. I do it gently, like my other tamps, as per the procedure listed by TampIt somewhere on here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    Maybe, maybe not; I often have a tiny zone in the centre that takes a bit longer to fill in, resulting in two streams that join a few seconds later.

    I'm not sure why it occurs, but it's not channelling.
    I fully agree, that it why I said "rarely do multiple streams". There are numerous reasons for a “brief duration multiple stream”. The short version is that it shows you are getting the grind /dose / tamp very close to the VST* "sweet spot". Generally, adjusting the dose by a minute amount up or down can get it exactly "in the slot". FWIW, whilst first sorting the VST /naked, I managed to get four equal streams twice in a row. Never had more than three since, and more than one is rare these days. That was definitely a slight underdose combined with a minute grinder adjustment (Vario, one micro notch coarser). As usual with these things, YMMV according to all the other usual suspects.
    *I am assuming your are using VST's here, as most CS naked p/f users do. Playing with half a dozen other makes of basket proved conclusively to me that using a naked with anything else was only doing half the job.

    Spraying, together with the "other type" of multiple stream (which are almost always quite persistent), indicates channelling. Doing a very careful, gentle (around 3Kg) initial tamp for the first "2mm compressed" of coffee in the bottom of the basket goes a long way to prevent channelling. The reason for stating it as 2mm compressed is the degree of fluffiness varies according to your grinder, which affects the compression ratio of the grinds.



    All the Best



    TampIt

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    In actual fact it is the only comment that is ON TOPIC.

    The question the OP asked was:
    " It's easy to blame the tools, but my question is this - will I improve the taste significantly by upgrading to a 3K machine like Rocket Giotto ?"
    .... and my answer is "Not really, unless you know what you are doing at every stage before hitting the grinder / espresso button." Some of the worst coffees I have encountered have come from machines that rate up there with the best money can buy. Some of the miscreants even called themselves "baristas" and worked as such.

    The reason the various helpful CS posters are trying to sort out covalatte issues is that throwing more money at it usually does not help. Of course, he may have a dud machine which can be diagnosed / repaired / replaced. Or, much more likely, his technique or his grinder is the problem.

    A truly precision machine is actually way more finicky to set up than most cheapies, simply because of the increased margin for error. It then becomes even more important to know what you are doing.
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  37. #37
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    I'm using the EP(?) Precision baskets from TalkCoffee.

    Honestly I think my standards aren't too finicky, because I can't taste a definitive difference between a couple of micro settings on the Preciso or what have you; by the time I've pulled two shots (1.5min on the Gaggia) any nuanced differences have already been overwhelmed by virtue of one shot being fresher/hotter than the other.

  38. #38
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    My Silvia/Rocky combo is very touchy.
    After 4 years my partner is still too afraid to try and use it because it comes out terrible every time she tries, and back when I first got it, I consistently made significantly worse coffee than the $200 double walled espresso machine/$50 spice grinder it replaced for the first week or so.
    It is capable of making exceptional coffee, but all the elements need to be near spot on. A more expensive machine may be more forgiving, but you don't need to spend $3k just to make a decent cup.

    My temperature surfing method is a simplistic one. I simply switch it on, wait for the light to go off, and have my portafilter ready so I can start brewing about 30 seconds after the light goes off.
    The machine definitely won't be fully warmed up. Does the heating light turn on mid-shot? That's definite indication your water temperature is dropping too low mid-shot.
    I usually leave my machine on for 15-30mins before brewing. You can get it to warm up quicker, try searching for "cheating Miss Silvia", or mod the machine with a PID to better regulate temperature.
    My routine is after the machine has warmed up, to flush water through the portafilter into my cup until the heating light switches on, preheating the portafilter and cup. Then while she is going through her heating cycle I grind/tamp and this usually ends up taking me 10 or 15 seconds longer than the heat cycle and I'm ready to brew.

    I use a bottomless portafilter, and the extraction comes out in several spouts and within seconds it forms one central cone. Past the mid-point of extraction it becomes see-through, like black tea.
    I never have my coffee look like black tea during the extraction. It comes out like dark brown warm honey, and lightens to a cream colour.

    Something is definitely up if you aren't seeing the difference in the cup between months old coles beans vs. fresh stuff. On my Silvia it's like night and day, and I don't even have a very sensitive palate!

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    I'm using the EP(?) Precision baskets from TalkCoffee.
    Hi Dragunov21

    I would suggest you try the VST's. An eastern states friend of mine reckoned the precisions were no better than most other baskets in his "far bigger than mine" collection of 200 or so. He agrees with me that VST /naked transforms any machine when you get it correct. He has a linea for work and a db Breville for home. I have found the same with my commercial/party La Pav 2 group and home SB 6910's. I also play with a few other machines from time to time, and it seems to be true of every machine I encounter. La Cimbali and La Marz Strada are two more I can add to the list first hand.

    Having said that, be aware they are finicky SOB's to set up, and will be a total fail with a curved tamper. VST reckon that the curve is trying to overcome problems inherent in poor quality baskets, and I strongly suspect they are correct.

    Some new toys for you to play with.

    Have fun.

    TampIt

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Having said that, be aware they are finicky SOB's to set up..
    And then some. For mine, they are the most irritating baskets I have ever used. Sold my last 8 for $100 and was happy to see the back of them.

  41. #41
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    can't say I have much issues with using the 16g and 20g VST basktet with the Espro flat base tamper to get good result... and I don't think i have done anything that special either... just have to be consistent?

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    And then some. For mine, they are the most irritating baskets I have ever used. Sold my last 8 for $100 and was happy to see the back of them.


    +1 for the VST being irritating, got rid of mine too.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Talk_Coffee View Post
    And then some. For mine, they are the most irritating baskets I have ever used. Sold my last 8 for $100 and was happy to see the back of them.
    I've used VST for months, now used the EP basket and can honestly say I much prefer the EP.

  44. #44
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cadan View Post
    +1 for the VST being irritating, got rid of mine too.
    I blame John Howard.....he introduced the bloody thing.
    Journeyman, kwantfm, TC and 2 others like this.

  45. #45
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Hi Dragunov21

    I would suggest you try the VST's. An eastern states friend of mine reckoned the precisions were no better than most other baskets in his "far bigger than mine" collection of 200 or so. He agrees with me that VST /naked transforms any machine when you get it correct. He has a linea for work and a db Breville for home. I have found the same with my commercial/party La Pav 2 group and home SB 6910's. I also play with a few other machines from time to time, and it seems to be true of every machine I encounter. La Cimbali and La Marz Strada are two more I can add to the list first hand.

    Having said that, be aware they are finicky SOB's to set up, and will be a total fail with a curved tamper. VST reckon that the curve is trying to overcome problems inherent in poor quality baskets, and I strongly suspect they are correct.

    Some new toys for you to play with.

    Have fun.

    TampIt
    I'd be interested in giving them a shot, but as I say, I'm not perfectly consistent with dose, grind or time/volume, so I'm not sure how much success I'd have with them. My shots vary day to day and I just endeavour to keep them "tasty", which gives me a wide range to work with.

    I can definitely tell the difference between EP and stock, and that a back to back test with me expecting to see no difference.

    I can't say with any authority, but I suspect the VSTs have a greater total void area resulting in lower flow restriction and making the puck prep vastly more important because the resistance of the puck will be making up a greater proportion of the resistance and will therefore need to be closer to "perfect".
    Last edited by Dragunov21; 3rd October 2013 at 10:43 PM.

  46. #46
    Senior Member Journeyman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    I blame John Howard.....he introduced the bloody thing.
    I'm fairly new to VST's (a couple of weeks) but I have found them great to use. I've been trying a range of options in the search for bliss and haven't had anything but good and sometimes better coffees. For me at least, there was nothing finicky about setting things up to use the VST although it may be a while before I master my entire coffee making process to where it is repeatable to a finer level of error.

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragunov21 View Post
    I can definitely tell the difference between EP and stock, and that a back to back test with me expecting to see no difference.

    I can't say with any authority, but I suspect the VSTs have a greater total void area resulting in lower flow restriction and making the puck prep vastly more important because the resistance of the puck will be making up a greater proportion of the resistance and will therefore need to be closer to "perfect".
    Then you will notice a difference with VST's as well. They have 'bout 43% holes, which is a lot more than most of the others, and yes, it alters the flow rate and yes, they need meticulous prep. Matching them with a naked, which lowers the resistance pressure as well means you generally have to grind finer, dose less and use a flat tamper to even start to get them to work. FWIW, if you are the type of person who doesn't mind tinkering, they would be worth a try (especially if you can get them cheap from some of these other CS guys). Just make sure they are the ridgeless ones. When you get them correct, IMHO they do far better coffee than any others in my collection. Mind you, I had more sink shots dialing them in than anything else I can recall.
    It must be possible, as I gave journeyman a heads up, and he is going through a lot less grief than I did.

  48. #48
    Senior Member Dragunov21's Avatar
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    I'll keep an eye out for any going cheap. Just one thing;

    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    a naked, which lowers the resistance pressure as well
    Unless I'm missing something, that doesn't make sense; spouted PFs don't (shouldn't) hold pressure between the basket and the spouts as the spouts have holes of sufficient size (mine do, at least) that they aren't even filled up completely unless the beans are producing massive amounts of crema.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by TampIt View Post
    Matching them with a naked, which lowers the resistance pressure as well..
    Huh? How so??

    I could only see this happening in comparison to a pressurised portafilter. There is no resistance with a conventional portafilter as the product does not enter the cup under pressure- or not the product I drink anyway....
    Dragunov21 likes this.

  50. #50
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    For the past few days I've been leaving the machine on for at least 20 minutes before brewing my espressos.

    Some observations:
    1) Using a naked PF, the central cone forms much quicker, and the brew stays thick for longer, instead of becoming like black tea half way through.
    2) Crema is darker and thicker.
    3) The infusion time prior to the shots coming out went from 3 seconds to about 6.
    4) Taste-wise, I think it tastes better. But I'm a newbie at describing flavour.

    That'll do me for now. I'll enjoy my coffee this way until I'm ready to take the next step forward (which might be a PID kit).

    Thanks again to all!



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