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Thread: Advice wanted to improve coffee from Breville BES920

  1. #1
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    Advice wanted to improve coffee from Breville BES920

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi,
    New user of a Breville BES920 machine here.
    Amateur home coffee maker.
    I think we are getting what you'd call under extracted shots. Shots are somewhat sour to taste and we are getting well under 30ml volume for a single shot.
    Image shows rubber band around glass where 30ml is.



    Here's a video showing the extraction. This is pretty typical. There's only ever a stream of coffee at the end of the pre-infusion stage (pre-infusion settings are default. Pressure is good so I think my grind size is right. We have the matching grinder and its repeatedly putting out 16gm of coffee for single basket. We are using the single wall basket supplied with the machine. Everything else is stock.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/xc6mupolaw...1602.JPG?raw=1
    Thanks in advance,
    J

  2. #2
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Welcome J,

    I can't see any video (just an image). Try grinding coarser (you may also need to drop the dose as well....as coarser ground beans take up a greater volume in the filter basket).
    What beans are you using? Are they freshly roasted?

    Cheers

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    Thanks Barry,
    Video here in Dropbox. https://www.dropbox.com/s/knt40yuhd4...1603x.mov?dl=0

    Beans are local and fresh
    If I grind coarser the pressure drops from the sweet spot but I'll give it a shot. Should I aim for 16gm still?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    Thanks Barry,
    Video here in Dropbox. https://www.dropbox.com/s/knt40yuhd4...1603x.mov?dl=0

    Beans are local and fresh
    If I grind coarser the pressure drops from the sweet spot but I'll give it a shot. Should I aim for 16gm still?

    Hmmmm. That was odd, as the flow rate early in the shot didn't look too bad, and then slowed down to almost choking. Have you got the shot set on a timer?

    Without being an expert on this particular machine, I'd grind coarser and perhaps reduce dose and watch what is happening to the coffee (both visually and tastewise), rather than the pressure gauge.

    EDIT: When you say you are a new user of the machine....does that mean that the machine was purchased new?

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    Maybe your grinder is producing a lot of fines? Try grinding coarser. How old are your beans? Too fresh can make the shot come out irregular. And yes, taste is king above all.
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    You are correct in that it looks underextracted. Slight chance it's due to machine and portafilter not being completely hot. More likely it's the coffee prep.
    16g is too much for the single basket. Try 7-10g. I know it looks like the "pressure is in the sweet spot" but it looks to me like you've maxed out the pressure and opened the OPV, at least partially. What I believe is happening is due to the significant overdosing of the basket the grind must be too coarse for espresso. With the OPV opening you're losing half your water out that instead of through the puck. My advice would be to put the single basket back in the box until you have mastered the double basket. Put 18-20g in the double basket and aim for double the yield (36-40 depending on the coffee you put in) in 27-30s. Pick a dose (18,19, or 20g) and stick with it. Aim for double that weight (not volume) in the cup. Then you only need to adjust the grind setting to shrove the time (27-30s). Once you can do that in your sleep you could consider trying the single basket.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    16g is too much for the single basket. Try 7-10g. I know it looks like the "pressure is in the sweet spot" but it looks to me like you've maxed out the pressure and opened the OPV, at least partially. What I believe is happening is due to the significant overdosing of the basket the grind must be too coarse for espresso. With the OPV opening you're losing half your water out that instead of through the puck. My advice would be to put the single basket back in the box until you have mastered the double basket. Put 18-20g in the double basket and aim for double the yield (36-40 depending on the coffee you put in) in 27-30s. Pick a dose (18,19, or 20g) and stick with it. Aim for double that weight (not volume) in the cup. Then you only need to adjust the grind setting to shrove the time (27-30s). Once you can do that in your sleep you could consider trying the single basket.
    You're right. I didn't notice that the OP was jamming 16g into a single basket.
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    OK, thanks all. I'll try the suggestions from level3ninja tomorrow and report back.

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    It's also possible that your grind is too fine and the coffee is getting past around the sides because the puck itself is essentially impenetrable. Does the ground coffee feel more like sand or like talcum powder?

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    First attempt this morning. Grinder at previous setting and 18gm in the double basket. 135gm. Pressure barely rose above 3 bar.
    Photo 17-10-18, 8 22 06 am.jpg

    Second attempt, grinder set finer and again 18gm of coffee in the double basket. Pressure to about 7 bar. 68gm
    Photo 17-10-18, 8 38 33 am.jpg

    I have to go to work now. Grinder is set to number 10 at the moment. I'll try again later

  11. #11
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    Sounds promising, your next couple of adjustments should get you pretty close. Is the grinder a BCG820? If you run out of grind settings there is another adjustment inside the top of the grinder.

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    So on the next attempt I returned 40ml from my 16gm coffee, now at #6 on the grinder.
    Having mastered the double basket I moved back to the single basket and measured out 8gm only to discover that it's so little coffee I can't tamp it properly as the tamperiser won't fit that far into the basket.

  13. #13
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    Trust me you haven't mastered it
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    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    So on the next attempt I returned 40ml from my 16gm coffee, now at #6 on the grinder.
    Having mastered the double basket I moved back to the single basket and measured out 8gm only to discover that it's so little coffee I can't tamp it properly as the tamperiser won't fit that far into the basket.
    What made you think that dropping from 16g (in the single basket) to 8g in one hit was a good idea?

    While it is far from perfect, it might be worth you trying the 5c cent test (just search for 5c test on this site) to help determine a reasonable dosing level. I'd be guessing that 14g might well fit in your basket, given that you could physically lock in a 16g dose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    Trust me you haven't mastered it
    damn... 10 characters

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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    damn...
    I don't say that to be critical, but how many shots have you pulled that tasted really good? I assume more than the one above you mentioned the measurements of (but not taste, did it taste any good?). The skill requirement difference between the double and the single baskets is huge. You can play with the single by all means, but I think it's going to be much harder to get it right consistently when you don't have the practice of making a couple of hundred double shots consistently (dose, distribution, tamp etc).

    The apprentice practices until he gets it right. The master practices until he can't get it wrong.
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    Hi 657658765
    I've recently owned the BES 920. It was my first proper dual boiler, came with the grinder. It made what I thought was reasonable but not great coffee using fresh roasted and supermarket beans. Then it wouldn't go through descaling so I arranged for servicing under the 6 year warranty about to expire. (thanks to coffeesnob member who posted receipt of purchase with 5 year warranty and HN price matched - silly them- this is why they don't offer the warranty anymore). Servicers contended the machine unrepairable and a write-off! HN offered a replacement but methinks possibly I don't know what a good coffee is (because I haven't had one for so long) or that the machine was always broke and I didn't know it - so replacement no way. I tried all sorts of tweaks and variations to attempt to improve results but still couldn't get THAT cup of coffee. Perhaps descaling is really your issue here because it seems the result you posted is a bit constipated.

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    Thanks treeman, I'd be really concerned if it needed descaling. It's only a few weeks old and has made probable less than 50 coffees.

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    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    I don't say that to be critical, but how many shots have you pulled that tasted really good? I assume more than the one above you mentioned the measurements of (but not taste, did it taste any good?). The skill requirement difference between the double and the single baskets is huge. You can play with the single by all means, but I think it's going to be much harder to get it right consistently when you don't have the practice of making a couple of hundred double shots consistently (dose, distribution, tamp etc).
    So I'm finding this all a bit bizarre. Most of the time I am making coffee just for myself. Sometimes for both my wife and myself. You can imagine I don't want to be making hundreds of coffees that will just be discarded. I also mostly have one coffee per day from my home machine on weekdays, and maybe two on the weekends. Likewise I also don't want to spend 'a couple of hundred' days doing unnecessary double shots when I only want one. I would like to be able to produce a good coffee from the single basket sooner rather than later.
    I also don't understand what mastery can be brought to bear on the process assuming the machine is functioning properly and the dose is close to correct. Dose will need to be recalibrated when new beans are introduced. I tend to buy in small amounts from the same roaster so perhaps even this won't include much variability.

    I'm interested in why the single basket is so much more difficult than the double. Isn't one just designed to produce twice the volume as the other? A coffee-holding-bucket of twice the volume?

    So, yes, the coffee from the double-basket shots tastes good, and certainly tastes better than what I'm getting out of the single-basket. It seems to me that 10gm is the minimum I can put in the single-basket and have enough coffee in there to tamp down. Any less than that and the tamp hits the angled sides of the single basket. This assumes, as I do, that grind size is the same for both single and double baskets, and if it isn't then how does just producing double shots teach me what is correct for the single shot.
    So the two most recent single basket attempts turned 10gm into 7gm coffee (tasted horrible) and 18gm coffee (tasted reasonable but still a bit below the volume I would want and expect)

  20. #20
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    The single basket will amplify any imperfections in your technique and equipment, whereas the double basket will hide more. If you want single and double baskets you can switch between without adjusting grind you'll probably need to buy VSTs, 7g for the single and 18g for the double. Breville doesn't actually advertise the exact dose their baskets are designed for, probably because they're not as consistent between baskets. The engineering and quality control required to be able to label a basket with a specific weight (you can swap VST baskets of the same size and won't need to adjust anything), as well as the engineering behind every basket having the right amount of flow resistance so you don't need to adjust your grind setting is huge. You will note then likely have to adjust your grind between the single and double baskets. The good news is that grind size teaches you nothing but what it looks like, it's all the muscle movements that need to learn to be identical every time. Trust me when I say I am the least consistent part of my coffee making process. The other problem you'll have with the single basket is the Breville grinder, it's inconsistent in output, and it clumps like nobody's business. All of this adds up to be the imperfections in your technique and equipment, which the single basket will amplify. I understand your expectations and frustrations but unfortunately I can't give you a shortcut. Weren't you putting 16g into the single basket? If you're putting 18g into the double surely that's not much difference and could be drunk the same? I'm not saying you can't battle on with the single but it will be a hard slog.

    Also those last two single basket shots you mentioned the weights of, did you change anything from one to the other?
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  21. #21
    Senior Member chokkidog's Avatar
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    If you want coffee that tastes good why are you bent on using the single basket? I don't know of any good coffees produced from single baskets, I've certainly never had one.

    The dynamics of coffee extraction are complex at best..... it's a meeting of multiple crosshairs in your sights; puck density, depth, surface area and outlet area, tamp dynamics, infusion time,
    extraction pressure and time, the influence of the grind on the above and the influence of the above on the grind, and this is only a rough , non technical summary. But what is certain is that good extraction is way
    easier in a 15gm or greater dose (pref. 18-22) as the knife edge is thick enough to walk on and not fall off.

    I don't know how much you're paying for your coffee but 8gms (extra... for the double) is only measured in cents, not dollars.
    Most people put their blind filter in the second pf instead and use it for backflushing but if you only have one pf, put the single basket somewhere you won't find it....easily.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post

    I'm interested in why the single basket is so much more difficult than the double. Isn't one just designed to produce twice the volume as the other? A coffee-holding-bucket of twice the volume?
    I understand the confusion. A single basket is not just a double basket chopped in half. In order to get the flow rate similar, the number and distribution of holes in the base of the portafilter differs between single and double baskets. Secondly, the basic maths of the situation mean that if you accidentally overdose/underdose by 0.5 grams that represents a much greater proportion of the 'standard' dose in a single basket than a double basket. And then there's the fact that the depth of coffee in a double basket give you a little more insurance against channeling due to imperfect distribution. This is probably not an exhaustive list of the differences.
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    @chokkidog "If you want coffee that tastes good why are you bent on using the single basket? I don't know of any good coffees produced from single baskets, I've certainly never had one." - are you saying I have a false expectation to be able to make a good single shot of coffee from a $1000 coffee machine?

    @level3ninja - Breville advise 10gm and 18gm respectively for the single and double single-wall baskets in their manual. The machine also comes with double-wall single and double baskets (for pre-ground supermarket coffee they say)
    Also those last two single basket "shots you mentioned the weights of, did you change anything from one to the other?" - no, I have left grind settings as they were for the double basket and I have not yet altered anything to do with pre-infusion time or temperature.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    @chokkidog "If you want coffee that tastes good why are you bent on using the single basket? I don't know of any good coffees produced from single baskets, I've certainly never had one." - are you saying I have a false expectation to be able to make a good single shot of coffee from a $1000 coffee machine?

    @level3ninja - Breville advise 10gm and 18gm respectively for the single and double single-wall baskets in their manual. The machine also comes with double-wall single and double baskets (for pre-ground supermarket coffee they say)
    Also those last two single basket "shots you mentioned the weights of, did you change anything from one to the other?" - no, I have left grind settings as they were for the double basket and I have not yet altered anything to do with pre-infusion time or temperature.
    G'day 657658765 (of course you are an unique individual, just like everyone else...)

    I started with espresso in 1970 (showing my age here) and used a naked p/f from about 1979. I bought a set of "late prototype VSTs" on first sight, and followed them up with two complete sets of their production baskets (yep - better again) about 5 years ago. I would have agreed that single baskets were a waste of time until 2014 - when I bought my first of what became three Mahlkoenig Varios. The VST 15g double basket delivered coffee was far too strong to drink and enjoy unless the roast was substandard (and a lot weaker).

    Since then I have been making 90% singles / 10% 15gs, 20gs and the odd 22g with success - although if your technique sucks you can guess what your coffee will taste like - oh, and spraying coffee mist all over the kitchen is a no cost added option with a naked p/f regardless of basket size. Singles are more fiddly simply because dosing and tamping need to be more precise. The upside - after nailing the single, using even a 15g becomes child's play.

    Your problem is probably that your grinder is simply not consistent enough to deliver accurate enough dosing. Most EM480 / Smartgrinders vary from pretty poor to good enough to do the job - it seems yours is not at the top end of that spectrum. The grinder is way more important than the espresso machine anyway (the old "garbage in - garbage out" mantra).

    So I suggest you try a different (better) grinder and see what happens. Also, using 0.1g scales is almost essential to get the dosing correct for a single basket (unless you use a Vario - its timer is well within 0.1g accuracy - Swiss made precision in action).

    Hope this helps


    TampIt
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    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    @level3ninja - Breville advise 10gm and 18gm respectively for the single and double single-wall baskets in their manual. The machine also comes with double-wall single and double baskets (for pre-ground supermarket coffee they say)Also those last two single basket "shots you mentioned the weights of, did you change anything from one to the other?" - no, I have left grind settings as they were for the double basket and I have not yet altered anything to do with pre-infusion time or temperature.
    My memory failed me, my apologies. Its been a while since I read the manual. Stick to the doses they recommend and adjust other things.

    If you didn't change anything to get the two wildly different yields that is a good indication of what I've been saying, that the single basket amplifies issues. I can't tell you whether it's the grinder or what you're doing that's at fault there but I suspect a bit of both. The part coming from the grinder is impossible to fix with practice though.

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    [QUOTE=657658765;639397]@chokkidog "[COLOR=#333333]If you want coffee that tastes good why are you bent on using the single basket? I don't know of any good coffees produced from single baskets, I've certainly never had one." - are you saying I have a false expectation to be able to make a good single shot of coffee from a $1000 coffee machine?

    In a nut shell.... yes. As someone who is a 'new user' it is probably a bit soon to expect yourself to be nailing quality shots at the sharp end of coffee extraction. Even seasoned salties like Tampt couldn't do it straight off the bat (insert a whole bunch of emojis here) ....until the winder grinder showed up. So don't be too hard on yourself, take the time to get in the groove with the 18gm dose (or 15gm, 18 or 20gm.... if you change the basket for an after market one such as an EP Precision) and then challenge yourself to get the single dose right.

    Personally, I wouldn't bother, but that's me and I'm no clone, or automaton, or regurgitator of other people's doctrine. The other comment I would make about your above question is re the '$1000 machine' ... just because of an entry level machine, don't set your expectations too high. Try some of the things that some of the others have suggested but don't go letting a salesperson get under your skin and make you doubt yourself into buying a new grinder.... at least , not yet!!
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  27. #27
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    [QUOTE=chokkidog;639458]
    Quote Originally Posted by 657658765 View Post
    @chokkidog "[COLOR=#333333]If you want coffee that tastes good why are you bent on using the single basket? I don't know of any good coffees produced from single baskets, I've certainly never had one." - are you saying I have a false expectation to be able to make a good single shot of coffee from a $1000 coffee machine?

    In a nut shell.... yes. As someone who is a 'new user' it is probably a bit soon to expect yourself to be nailing quality shots at the sharp end of coffee extraction. Even seasoned salties like Tampt couldn't do it straight off the bat (insert a whole bunch of emojis here) ....until the winder grinder showed up. So don't be too hard on yourself, take the time to get in the groove with the 18gm dose (or 15gm, 18 or 20gm.... if you change the basket for an after market one such as an EP Precision) and then challenge yourself to get the single dose right.

    Personally, I wouldn't bother, but that's me and I'm no clone, or automaton, or regurgitator of other people's doctrine. The other comment I would make about your above question is re the '$1000 machine' ... just because of an entry level machine, don't set your expectations too high. Try some of the things that some of the others have suggested but don't go letting a salesperson get under your skin and make you doubt yourself into buying a new grinder.... at least , not yet!!
    G'day chokkidog

    Several home users I have trained (some from scratch) have never used anything bigger than a VST single for their own cuppa since 2014. More than a few cafe "baristas" I have trained since then have all used a single (some under gunpoint until they realise it exposes all flaws) until they get it right. It means that first hand they understand the importance of good technique. It doesn't matter how good the gear is, it is all too easy to produce something undrinkable if the "mano" is incompetent.

    Segue to the record breaking attempt for the worlds worst coffee - I was living in the US / visiting in New York at a "CS / HB famous" cafe when such a person had the some of the best possible gear at their disposal - an EK43 and a 3 group Strada - and, using their equally famous house blend, produced a cup of quinine laced undrinkable swill as an espresso. It is actually quite difficult to get sour and bitter at the same time with almost no crema but this guy was up to the challenge. My wife's cuppa was even worse - he scalded the milk badly in front of us to produce a truly terrible cappuccino. When I complained to the manager he personally produced two superb cuppas for us out of the same gear in under a minute. I have no idea if their training was poor or I scored the untrained newbie of the day, however that is their reputation they are playing Russian roulette with...

    It behooves us to recall that the 7g single always was (and still is) the "standard single shot" in Italy. If they can get all the rest of their food and food production machinery correct (in terms of performance, not necessarily reliability) it seems pretty bizarre to me that so many Oz / US coffee fanatics accept everything else Italian and reject the bedrock foundation of their espresso coffee making art.

    True, using a single means you have to hone your technique - isn't that what CS'r's should aspire to anyway? Good technique would even give a superior result out of my 28g quad basket if that floats your boat / peels your eyelids back.

    TampIt
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    For me it came all down to adjusting grind depending on the age of the beans. I like the BES920, it has given me great shots (for my taste) but it takes a lot of practise



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