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Thread: Continual underextraction

  1. #1
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    Continual underextraction

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

    I have done plenty of reading and video watching on the art of a good espresso leading up to me getting my first machine. I got the Breville BES870 a few days ago and am having a very hard time with the extraction.

    No matter what I try, I under extract. I have the built-in grinder set to the most fine setting, and have tried tamping both hard, soft and in between. The machine comes with a dose/trimming tool so I am getting consistent levels of coffee in the basket post-tamp.

    I have probably done about 20 shots today alone but my results are not varying at all. Scratching my head and beginning to get very frustrated!

    The beans are from Coles as I didn't want to buy the best beans during the learning process, I figured it is important to nail down technique first.

    Attached are a few photos of my grind at the finest setting, and the shot in the cup - no crema. Hope this helps and would appreciate any input!

    _DSF1634.jpg | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    _DSF1633.jpg | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    _DSF1631.jpg | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    Cheers,
    Joe

  2. #2
    Senior Member GrahamK's Avatar
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    The stale beans from Coles are more than likely a culprit. Suggest start with good quality freshly roasted beans, they will perform totally differently to poor quality ones, so you are probably wasting your time trying to learn with cheap offerings. You will go through another learning curve with fresh beans anyway.

    GrahamK
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    Couple of things to try... on your finest grind, take a pinch between finger an thumb. Press them together to compress the grind. Lift finger and look at the 'puck' you've made. Can you see your fingerprint in it? (= too fine) Does it break apart into chunks? (too coarse) Does it stay as a puck with maybe a couple of broken lines in it? (should be OK for espresso.

    Next, clean your fingers and take another pinch of grind. Smear it between finger and thumb. Lightly brush grind off your fingers. Do you have a brown 'stain' on your fingers? (fines that get into your fingerprint) It should be there but not in excessive amount.

    If both these check out there is something wrong elsewhere. If there is very little brown 'smear' on your finger the grind is not fine enough. If it leaves a solid smear you are too fine. (or getting too many small fines = unwanted.

    How high up the basket is your grind after you tamp it? Look for 5 cent piece test on the site.

    Look at the puck after you have pulled a shot - is it a smooth top or are there cracks or maybe gullies down the side of the basket? (tamping issue called channelling)

    How long does it take to get a shot? i.e. it should be somewhere between 20 secs and 30 secs - less than 20 and you have a gusher. I doubt you're doing more than 30 or you'd be describing something different.

    Personally I learned quite a bit using Coles beans. I produced some reasonable coffees using them, better than I could get in maybe 60% - 70% of the cafés charging me $3+ for my cup. Better to learn at $12 a kg than at $40.

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe91 View Post
    The beans are from Coles as I didn't want to buy the best beans during the learning process, I figured it is important to nail down technique first.
    G'day Joe...

    That's your problem mate... You have to use freshly roasted, high quality beans to dial-in your machinery. Supermarket beans are just too old/stale and of unknown quality and origin. Do yourself a favour and buy a couple of packs of beans from Andy or one of the Site Sponsors; sure, you'll waste a bit but if you approach the process logically it won't be much.

    When you get decent beans, find out where Zero on your grinder is and then wind back about 90Deg. from there. This is a decent starting point. Better to start off with tight shots (very slow flow), rather than fast flows and trying to close it up. Going from tight to correct flows is a quicker (and easier) way to dial in to a great shot.

    Lots of info about all this on CS and here too if you don't mind watching a few videos ... Doesn't really matter that the machines being demonstrated are different than yours, it's the process and technique that are important.

    All the best,
    Mal.
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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    "The beans are from Coles as I didn't want to buy the best beans during the learning process, I figured it is important to nail down technique first."

    Another telling you to get rid of the supermarket beans Joe, its surprising the number of people make the same mistake, stale beans perform totally differently compared to freshly roasted.
    Buy yourself some decent beans from Coffee Snobs CoffeeSnobs - BeanBay - Roasted Coffee and start the learning process again.
    The Coles beans will be fine as compost.
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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Without disagreeing with the beans issue as noted above, you might well be dosing at a pretty low level if I understand the photos. Of course, could be perfectly appropriate for your shower screen level.
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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    Without disagreeing with the beans issue as noted above, you might well be dosing at a pretty low level if I understand the photos. Of course, could be perfectly appropriate for your shower screen level.
    You could well be right Barry, not a lot of coffee in the portafilter! what is there looks very clumpy, almost moist.

    Regardless of whether its a case of under dosing or not, getting rid of the supermarket beans will immediately eliminate one variable

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    Hi Joe91,
    It might be more useful to take a couple of photos of your dosed and tamped shot and an another shot after extraction for us too see. It looks to me from your pic that under dosing could be an issue? Does your puck stay together when you tap it out? Frustrating when there are so many variables that can be affecting your shots isn't it! Good luck

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    G'day all,

    First off, I'm overwhelmed by the help - thanks ladies & gents!

    Wasn't aware the freshness of the bean would affect the shot, thought it would only matter to the taste! This morning I bought 250g of beans from a reputable Canberra roaster (Ona) - they were roasted on 10/12 so hopefully these bode me well.

    As for the dose - I grinded this coffee into the portafilter for the sole purpose of the photos, and just tipped it straight in the bin as I'd had enough by that stage! The photo of the shot in the cup is from an earlier run.

    Journeyman, I'll run these tests this evening with the new beans - fingers crossed.

    Mal, will have a look at those videos too - been watching plenty on YouTube but haven't seen these ones, the more the merrier.

    I am nervous about the tamping - unsure of how to nail down 15-20kg of pressure. I've watched plenty of instructional videos but am still struggling. As I said in my first post, I experimented with pressure a fair bit and still get the same results with the Coles beans!

    Another question, when people refer to the length of the shot, is this with respect to when the 'go' button on the machine is pressed and the pump is heard? My machine came with a cheat sheet and says extraction should begin between 4-7 seconds, typically my shots have been starting after that bracket.

    I will post an update tonight with the new beans, again - thanks all!

  10. #10
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    There's an ongoing discussion about this, but it helped me get consistently good shots. It's called progressive tamping and you can read about it on other threads - type the word progressive in the Search box at the top, should be plenty to keep you going.

    But the idea is, you tamp more often and at much less pressure. It can be difficult without kitchen scales to accurately tamp at the 30kg of the normal process, but estimating 2.5kg to 3kg is much easier. Basically you tamp several times while filling the filter. Makes for a much more even consistency of the grinds. Look it up and try it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe91 View Post
    G'day all,



    I am nervous about the tamping - unsure of how to nail down 15-20kg of pressure. I've watched plenty of instructional videos but am still struggling. As I said in my first post, I experimented with pressure a fair bit and still get the same results with the Coles beans!

    Another question, when people refer to the length of the shot, is this with respect to when the 'go' button on the machine is pressed and the pump is heard? My machine came with a cheat sheet and says extraction should begin between 4-7 seconds, typically my shots have been starting after that bracket.
    Don't get hung up on tamping pressure Joe, anywhere between 5 and 20 kg is OK, just try to be consistent.

    More important than tamping is getting the dose right, don't allow the coffee puck to contact the shower screen, will try to find a link to the 5 cent piece test and post it here. http://coffeesnobs.com.au/general-co...-unknowns.html

    Time starts as soon as the button is pressed and the pump is heard, the 4 to 7 seconds referred to is preinfusion time, all is ok.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Journeyman View Post
    There's an ongoing discussion about this, but it helped me get consistently good shots. It's called progressive tamping and you can read about it on other threads - type the word progressive in the Search box at the top, should be plenty to keep you going.

    But the idea is, you tamp more often and at much less pressure. It can be difficult without kitchen scales to accurately tamp at the 30kg of the normal process, but estimating 2.5kg to 3kg is much easier. Basically you tamp several times while filling the filter. Makes for a much more even consistency of the grinds. Look it up and try it.
    Interesting. Will jump on YouTube tonight and see some examples!

    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Don't get hung up on tamping pressure Joe, anywhere between 5 and 20 kg is OK, just try to be consistent.

    More important than tamping is getting the dose right, don't allow the coffee puck to contact the shower screen, will try to find a link to the 5 cent piece test and post it here.

    Timie starts as soon as the button is pressed and the pump is heard, the 4 to 7 seconds referred to is preinfusion time, all is ok.
    There is a gap between the top of the basket and where I've been dosing my coffee post-tamp. The machine comes with a dosing tool for a consistent dose, which I've been using for the learning process - have a look here (YouTube link).

  13. #13
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    FWIW Joe, have a look at this thread
    http://coffeesnobs.com.au/general-co...esso-home.html
    Plenty of good advice here in an east to understand format.

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    Oh, something I forgot to emphasise; only tap the handle the FIRST tmie, before you tamp. Doing that after a tamp can crack the puck and give channelling issues. I usually just gently tap the side of the PF with my hand to even out the grounds after dosing the 2nd and 3rd times. You can also use a card or finger to spread the grind out evenly.

  15. #15
    Coffee Newbie okitoki's Avatar
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    Get a weighing machine and press down on it. You will be surprise how little effort you need for 15kg

    No need to strain and pop a vein tamping your shot

    Good luck with the new beans

  16. #16
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe91 View Post
    Mal, will have a look at those videos too -
    Really worth watching those videos from "Scottie Callaghan", seeing as how he is an Aussie champion and all plus a great bloke to boot. Everything you need to know about making great espresso, looking after your machinery, etc is located in one place.

    Mal.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe91 View Post

    There is a gap between the top of the basket and where I've been dosing my coffee post-tamp. The machine comes with a dosing tool for a consistent dose, which I've been using for the learning process - have a look here (YouTube link).
    I've got to say that dosing tool and method seems a bit 'interesting' to me. While Scottie's dosing tools (or home made equivalents) are designed for use before tamping, the one on that video carves out the top of the puck after tamping. I'm only going on intuition here, and I might be wrong, but does that not increase the chance of 'challenging the structural integrity of the puck' and getting a channelling problem?

  18. #18
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    the one on that video carves out the top of the puck after tamping. I'm only going on intuition here, and I might be wrong, but does that not increase the chance of 'challenging the structural integrity of the puck' and getting a channelling problem?
    I would think so, probably need to tamp again after use.
    Just another bit of paraphernalia looking for a purpose in life, I suspect most will find their way into the bottom of the odds and sods drawer pretty quickly.

  19. #19
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    Hi Joe

    I just got one of these machines and they’re excellent, especially for the price as the grinder does its job. Don't use the Razor - I found it pointless. It actually made my puck move in the single basket!!

    Every machine and grinder is different, but as a fellow BES870 owner I can tell you two key starting points will help make a big difference:

    1. Use fresh beans. The unit comes with non-pressurised baskets and a great built-in grinder. You shouldn’t need to max the grinder out, especially with fresh beans. I get awesome shots and golden crema on the ‘4’ setting with the dark roasts I’ve used so far. I never had a BES860, but apparently the grinder was one of the big improvements between the models.

    2. Get the dose right first, then work on refining your grind. Breville states that, after tamping, the dose is typically good if the top corner of the tamper is aligned with the top of the portafilter. Again, don't use the tamper. Bang it out, adjust the dial an increment, and try again. Once you set it up, you actually won't waste coffee because more often than not it will be consistently good.
    Also, as you increase or decrease grind fineness, you’ll find you need to adjust the dosing. You can also use scales to measure the dose in grams, something I’m going to try this weekend.

    From there, just read a lot about coffee science, speak to others (especially on here) and make small changes, one at a time, so you can learn what cause has which effect on your coffee. Keep the machine clean, too. Especially the grinder. When you change beans, take the time to brush it out so you remove the oils and old grind that could affect your shots.

    Here’s an example of my experimentation this week. A friend bought be a bag of Seven Seeds Espresso. The beans were a really light roast, and I was pulling bitter shots. I read up on lighter roasts, and some of the tips were quite relevant: decrease machine temp (BES870 allows you to go +/- 2 degrees, which is awesome, so I dropped it by 2), grind coarser (I bumped the grinder to setting ‘7’ after failure on 4, 5 and 6) and dose slightly less (1 or 2gs, which without scales I again just made small adjustments to the dial)
    After about five or six failed shots, I finally nailed it, and just today tried the real thing at Seven Seeds and boy mine was very close – so much so that I thought mine was slightly sweeter and really hit the cherry notes, although seemed a touch thinner, and a little more tart at the end.

    There are stacks of other tips, too. The way you tamp, how you distribute the grinds, the age of the beans and making sure you adjust the grind setting accordingly, flushing the group head before each shot, letting the machine warm up, keeping moisture out of the portafilter when dosing, and much more. I tried nutating the tamp last night and it produced a slightly smoother, sweeter pour. Apparent in espressos, but subtle in lattes.

    Some snobs might not respect Breville, but I'm impressed so far. Keep it up and you'll have great espressos for sure.

    Good luck!

    Cheers
    Shaun

    coffee1.jpg
    Last edited by ElShauno; 7th February 2014 at 04:00 PM. Reason: specific tips

  20. #20
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    I actually got good shots with good crema from Coles beans. I think they are great for working out technique and less than half the price of fresh beans. Everything you learn in getting a drinkable shot from Coles beans (I did the Vittoria ones) you can use when you start on your fresh roasts.

    If everything is under-extracted down to the finest setting the chances are you need to get a new machine. Tamping makes much less difference than does grind. Dosing correctly is impossible if nothing your grinder does will let you get a good shot. That's why people say to spend as much or more on the grinder - if you can't grind your beans right, dose, tamp and extraction mean bugger all.



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