Post By DesigningByCoffee
Cafe coffee bitterness/acidity vs. my own
I've been brewing on my EM6910 for over a year now (maybe 2?), and am just starting to get the hang of pulling shots that I consistently like. I still run a fine line between just right and stalling the machine, particularly as I adjust the grinder down a notch or two as the beans dry over a week or two. Let's just say that I now am starting to understand some of the shortfalls of my grinder (EMO480) with respect to repeatability. I don't put a great deal through my machine - around 1kg of BeanBay single origin a month if I'm not away travelling for work.
I travel a lot for work, both around Australia and internationally, and use the BeanHunter app on my phone to find good coffee (this is critical in the USA where cups of tea and good coffee is extremely rare!).
I've long noticed quite a difference in my espresso shots from what I would normally get a cafe. I find that cafe espresso is normally much more bitter than mine. This might be acidity, but it's certainly a bitterness. I tend to get a hint of this bitterness in the last mouthful of my shot (last sip, taste, whatever), but with cafe shots this flavour is the whole way through, and quite strong.
For a long time I was convinced that this was because cafes didn't spend much time fiddling with espresso to get it really good (they have to pump out heaps per hour), or maybe the espresso was quite bitter/acidic because most people have milky drinks and the espresso needs to be more robust/strong?
But now that I have had quite a few espressos from cafes that rate very highly on BeanHunter, and certainly seem like the barista knows what they are doing, but the shots are still much more acidic/bitter than what I have at home.
What's the deal? Am I under extracting? My machine not running hot enough? Cafe coffee is just terrible?
Could be a whole heap of factors that cause bitterness - dirty machines with minimal back flushing will do it. Oily, stale, over-dark roasted beans will too. Machines set up with a higher brew temp will give a stronger shot.
But acidity though is quite different - the darker you roast the less acidity generally. But - if you roast a bean quite quickly, and then darkly - you can get both flavours in one brew. But it can also lead to quite an interesting espresso with lots of layers of flavour if done well.
So could be user error - or bean issues - or just personal preference - or perhaps a combination of them all!
Moral is - stay at home Then enjoy the experience of going out - and realising how good you have it at home!
Thanks, I guess I'll just keep researching (drinking coffee and see how things go. I am just concerned that because I am not producing shots that have this same type of flavour as cafes (with potentially good baristas) that I might be doing something wrong and could be vastly improved. Anyway, we'll see.
Difficult question to answer because we dont know anything about your coffee making skills and your understanding of machine/grinder set up, and therefore what you are making in comparison to the cafes (also unknown) you have been freqenting. Seriously....its all a bunch of unknowns. And ofcourse just because bean hunna says some cafe is great doesnt mean it is.....its just someones opinion that it is, and who judges the judge?
Additionally your use of the terms bitterness and acidity seems to indicate you are not sure which is which and what is what
The definition of what constitutes a "good espresso" will then depend (just to confuse the issue) on the adjudicator. If you happen to have an accredited coffee cupping judge on your team to help that is good, and if you are relying on personal opinions or those from various sections of the roasting industry (like "third wave" afficionadops that love their espresso to taste like lemon concentrate), then in my opinion you wont get a balanced view. A good espresso in my view, is a balance of the various characteristics that are in brewed coffee, and both acidity and bitterness can be good or bad depending on the outcome in the cup. I prefer a well "balanced" coffee....
So I would tend to advise it is far easier to check your own technique and understanding and make sure you are making the best possible brew you can. Then it doesnt matter what they're doing out in cafeland.
Your machine is quite capable of cafe (commercial) quality brew, and your grinder is a reasonable entry level offering. Ergo with the same beans as your favourite cafe, you should be able to get a comparable coffee in the cup, and if you dont (where you believe the cafe's coffee is "better" than yours), then it could be time invest in a barista class from an accredited source.
Hope that helps.
if you're used to Beanbay coffee then its probably hard to step down from there!
Question? Are you roasting your own or buying roasted beans?
And how much are you dosing? Using the double basket as standard?
It would probably be worth measuring how much coffee you're extracting and then use that as a benchmark when ordering
Also, if you're using a single basket for each coffee and most 'decent' cafes are using a double - then there's going to be a noticeable difference right there
There's plenty of cafes serving great tasting coffee around Melbourne, and once you know the profile of what you like to drink you should be able to order accordingly
If in doubt try ordering a serve of milk on the side, and add a bit into your coffee, as milk to coffee ratio will change sweetness / acidity / bitterness quite a lot - and a bit of extra milk might just cut out the bitterness that you're talking about
or try ordering coffees with varying milk levels such as a magic, or a 3/4 latte, as once again milk to coffee ratios will have a different impact upon bitterness etc
Hope this helps
Originally Posted by moosepants
Bitter - roasted to charcoal and / or shot run too long (90+% of US cafes).
Acidic - Milk is scalded almost to wheymaking (90+% of US cafes).
Needless to say, US coffee was a rude shock to me when I lived there (as was their "donuts" shudder).
Both problems have numerous other possibilities. FWIW, I do not think you are necessarily mixing them up...
The 480 needs to be kept clean, especially the chamber.
The 6910 needs to have the showerscreens removed (phillips head no2) about every 250g or so of coffee or it will clog up between them and futz the pressure so the shots vary.
... and just like the bitter / acid thing, there are a lot of other possibilities.
Enjoy your brew