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Thread: Causes of 30sec shot but tastes underextracted, thin and little crema?

  1. #1
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    Causes of 30sec shot but tastes underextracted, thin and little crema?

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

    Hoping I can get some help troubleshooting my long blacks. Been dialling it in and generally lands around 30sec but kinda seems watery, tastes underextracted (EDIT 22nd Jan - don't worry about the under-extraction 'taste' anymore, it was a once off), and the crema seems to break and is very thin.

    In fact lately I recall having not too much crema on other beans I've been trying, and starting to think if I'm doing something wrong. However underextracted taste is not usually what I taste. Generally I go for beans with higher sweetness or fruity flavours so not sure if it's something related to lighter roasts.

    Workflow is:
    • single dose using Settle 270 to 18g
    • beans are usually between 1 to 3 weeks old
    • WDT with paper clip
    • generic OCD-like tool
    • tamp
    • water using machine water but let it cool during grind/tamp period
    • about 1:2 ratio in around 30sec using VBM Domobar Super
    • 18g VST baskets
    • about 1.2 units on the water temp thing
    • about 9-10 units on the brew pressure


    Here's a few photos of a typical finished product. Notice how the crema seems to not have formed.

    IMG_20200122_081330_MP.jpg IMG_20200122_081322_MP.jpg
    Last edited by snoffee; 22nd January 2020 at 11:11 PM. Reason: added more info

  2. #2
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Morning snoffee, what make of PF basket are you using?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Morning snoffee, what type/make of machine and PF basket are you using?
    Hi Yelta, I mentioned but wasn't too clear. I'm using a VBM Domobar Super. Have also added in original post I'm using 18g VST baskets.

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    Bean problem?
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    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Interesting, not a big fan of VST, in fact I find them a pain in the rear end, my preference is for an Espresso Parts 14 to 18 gram, others will disagree, regardless, that's my opinion.

    Available for around $20 on line, worth a try.

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    G'day "snoffee"...

    While it's Ok to use Boiler Water to flush and warm up coffee cups, etc I wouldn't recommend using it as water for consumption with espresso, because it becomes more and more mineralised over time and will affect the taste of your coffee drinks.

    Mal.
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    Senior Member speleomike's Avatar
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    Hi Snoffee

    I'd suggest doing a bit of variation around the grind and tamp parameters and see how the extraction changes. That's always an option before you change hardware. Then based on pics of what the shot looks like some better advice might be offered.

    Your dose should remain the same as that's not likely to be the problem. Try for the same grind but with a firmer tamp, then try your normal tamp with a finer grind. The shot time of course will change away from 30 seconds but lets see if the crema and body improve.

    Mike
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    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Snoffee,
    "machine water" if you mean using boiling water from the hot water wand, as Mal says, that water is coming from the boiler, and I wouldn't use that for drinking: as in making tea or diluting espresso.

    Only good for washing up.

    If it is coming from the group, that's of course OK.

    I try to use about a cupful daily for rinsing portafilters, milk jugs, cups etc, from my 5 litre boiler so that it is replaced with fresh water.

    Are you saying the long black tastes watery and underextracted, or the espreso does? If it is the long black...well, it is a long black.
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    Robusto... Hot water from the boiler... I never considered that. Interesting. I don't think mine has a taste problem, but I guess it should be flushed through regularly. Comments?

    Did the manufacturer intend it to be used?

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    Senior Member speleomike's Avatar
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    Oh

    > beans are usually between 1 to 3 weeks old

    Is that from roasting date or purchase date?

    Also is your problem the same with all types of beans? Do you have others that you can try?

    If you don't have Coffee Snobs beans from here you could order some (with advice from users here as to what might suit your taste) as that way you will have good beans to test out your extraction with. If they come out the same way then you know the problem is your technique or the machine, if they come out fine your problem is solved :-)


    Mike
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    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    It looks like old beans to me too.
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    Light roasted beans can be delicious but the crema will probably be thin and disappear quickly.
    What do you mean by under extracted taste? It means different things to different people so an explanation might help

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    Quote Originally Posted by GaryM View Post
    Bean problem?
    Hi Gary - so in the photo, I was trying some new beans I've never had before.
    Criteria - The Crowd Pleaser
    60% Fazenda Serrado Brazil – pulped natural yellow bourbon
    40% Yirgacheffe Boji Ethiopia – natural mixed heirloom varietals

    Any issues of blends and how that correlates to crema?
    However in my latest experiments, I'm using Dukes El Salvador La Many - see more details below

    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Interesting, not a big fan of VST, in fact I find them a pain in the rear end, my preference is for an Espresso Parts 14 to 18 gram, others will disagree, regardless, that's my opinion.
    Available for around $20 on line, worth a try.
    Ah okay interesting Yelta. Do you mind if I ask why you don't like VST? (and why you like Espresso Parts baskets better?) I always thought VST baskets were the ones to go for?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    G'day "snoffee"...

    While it's Ok to use Boiler Water to flush and warm up coffee cups, etc I wouldn't recommend using it as water for consumption with espresso, because it becomes more and more mineralised over time and will affect the taste of your coffee drinks.

    Mal.
    Very interesting Mal, never thought about this! I actually think the coffee shops I go to use water from the boiler. Would it be 'okay' if I cycle through my tank every 5 days or so? Or is it more related to it going through the pipes?
    And so how do you normally get your water? Boil water in a kettle and wait for it to drop to around 70c?

    Quote Originally Posted by speleomike View Post
    Hi Snoffee

    I'd suggest doing a bit of variation around the grind and tamp parameters and see how the extraction changes. That's always an option before you change hardware. Then based on pics of what the shot looks like some better advice might be offered.

    Your dose should remain the same as that's not likely to be the problem. Try for the same grind but with a firmer tamp, then try your normal tamp with a finer grind. The shot time of course will change away from 30 seconds but lets see if the crema and body improve.

    Mike
    Cheers for the reply speleo - I actually did some experiment (but using a different set of beans - see below) - maybe that will help with the diagnosis?

    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    Snoffee,
    "machine water" if you mean using boiling water from the hot water wand, as Mal says, that water is coming from the boiler, and I wouldn't use that for drinking: as in making tea or diluting espresso.

    Only good for washing up.
    If it is coming from the group, that's of course OK.

    I try to use about a cupful daily for rinsing portafilters, milk jugs, cups etc, from my 5 litre boiler so that it is replaced with fresh water.
    Are you saying the long black tastes watery and underextracted, or the espreso does? If it is the long black...well, it is a long black.
    Cheers robusto - I guess it is a bigger thing to think about since Mal says it too. So btw - if I take water from the grouphead, and wait for it to cool down, this is OK? (Is this how baristas normally make long blacks?)
    In terms of the underextraction, actually I think that was a once-off, maybe channeling in that shot.

    Quote Originally Posted by speleomike View Post
    Oh

    > beans are usually between 1 to 3 weeks old

    Is that from roasting date or purchase date?
    Also is your problem the same with all types of beans? Do you have others that you can try?

    If you don't have Coffee Snobs beans from here you could order some (with advice from users here as to what might suit your taste) as that way you will have good beans to test out your extraction with. If they come out the same way then you know the problem is your technique or the machine, if they come out fine your problem is solved :-)
    Mike
    1-3 weeks from roast date. Generally I get pretty decent results from Dukes/Danes/Axil/Marketlane so maybe I'll go back to them and see what it's like.

    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    It looks like old beans to me too.
    Do you mean the result looks like what happens from old beans?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronin View Post
    Light roasted beans can be delicious but the crema will probably be thin and disappear quickly.
    What do you mean by under extracted taste? It means different things to different people so an explanation might help
    As mentioned in my reply above, yeah I think the under-extracted taste was a one off. Just tasted bland. My later shots have been okay tasting. But yeah I meant watery, not much flavour, thin feeling.


    ****************************************

    Anyways, so I also have an update on 5 shots I pulled this evening.
    Using Dukes El Salvador La Fanny beans
    Not sure if these are light roast or not (how can you tell from the description?)

    So I made 5 coffees tonight...


    1. 18g dose, 36g yield, 30 seconds (sweet, fruity, apple, honey, brown sugar tasting)
    2. 18g dose, 36g yield, 25 seconds
    3. 18g dose, 36.5g yield, 33 seconds (tasted good - interestingly, I didn't use my generic OCD distribution spinning tool and I felt like the crema was a bit better, maybe I have it pressing down too much?)
    4. 18g dose, 38g yield, 33 seconds (likely channeling, stuffed up the tamp)
    5. 18g dose, 36g yield, 28g (this is the last one, the espresso, tasted good, and interestingly, nice crema)



    So the first 4 are long blacks and they pretty much had the same thin crema (like my original post using the Criteria beans).
    My 5th one was just to see how the espresso shot looked, and it surprisingly tasted good, and had a nice rich crema.

    Which led me to think, is it something to do with the water of the LB? Is the distance from the naked too high?

    I measured the temp, I'm using 80deg from the water spout from the machine, and it cools to 70deg by the time I do the LB (which I understand is an OK temp?)
    The distance is larger than I used to have because now I'm using a naked PF....what is a good distance? Should I be literally be as close as possible? 2-3cm from the naked PF?

    So here are my photos:

    IMG_20200122_193648_MP.jpg
    First one, I think it looks better in the photo than IRL. It looked thin, and didn't really spread the surface.

    IMG_20200122_195010_MP.jpg
    I think this was the 2nd or 3rd shot, after I took one sip. Notice how it breaks easily after the first (small) sip.


    IMG_20200122_194954_MP.jpg
    Apologies for the upside-down-ness, this is the 4th shot, the bad one, so probably ignore this.

    IMG_20200122_195417_MP.jpg
    This is the final 5th shot, the espresso. Tasted good, a darker crema, and it was quite thick. I'm used to seeing this on my long blacks.
    Last edited by Javaphile; 22nd January 2020 at 11:53 PM. Reason: Commercial links removed

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    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    G'day "snoffee"...

    While it's Ok to use Boiler Water to flush and warm up coffee cups, etc I wouldn't recommend using it as water for consumption with espresso, because it becomes more and more mineralised over time and will affect the taste of your coffee drinks.

    Mal.
    OH really... I did not know this Mal! Is that from scale build up and just residues of some sort getting through and affecting the water?

    What do other people here do for long blacks, kettle, or water from the group head?

    Have always used the water from the hot tap/boiler for long blacks, but actually I have noticed it isn't exactly odorless..

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    Senior Member Jackster's Avatar
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    The hot water in my Musica comes through the hx. It is not boiler water. My long blacks are amazing!
    A different machine, I'd use group head water
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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonsk8r View Post
    OH really... I did not know this Mal! Is that from scale build up and just residues of some sort getting through and affecting the water?

    What do other people here do for long blacks, kettle, or water from the group head?
    Not necessarily scale causing compounds but because the mineral concentration increases over time with regular steaming, the water can get an off-taste that doesn't do anything to enhance the coffee experience. After all, unless you make an effort to replace all of the boiler water daily (impractical), there will be a significant amount of water left behind that is being boiled and boiled and boiled - Ever done that with the occasional cup of tea. Not very nice.
    Fresh water through the Group is much more preferable...

    For us though, I heat the water separately using a Hario kettle and an Induction cook-top. Always beats the espresso making routine.

    Mal.
    Last edited by Dimal; 23rd January 2020 at 01:29 PM.

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    Hi Snoffee I reckon you've likely self diagnosed your issue.
    Note your last post(13) with pic cup 5 ...then look back at your (post 1) shot 2.
    Yes ok an Espresso Vs the a prepared LB.
    But note the Extraction Level - Colour of the Crema - and the somewhat lack of deep hzlnut colours in Pic 2 ! Pic 5 is more abundant with those deeper richer Hzlnut colours and is easily seen.
    My experience is that it is much nearer what you should be able to extract given the beans / machinery you've listed.

    Then note the 'Data' from shot 5, Vs the 4 prior. Dose 18g=30g Out in 28sec. Some 15% slower than the other 4 shots. To me I am seeing a slower shot (longer duration the coffee is in touch with the water, more intense shot giving higher Extraction Yield, Vs the other 4).

    I'd chill regarding the roasts / blends. But take notice of the age of the roast as you use it. Hone in on peak date usage range. Try over time some other roasts. Its a no brainer to me to start with Andy's Roast as both a known high quality and therefore reference base.

    As for better shots, for now Imagine that you Are in the ballpark ....
    but need to proceed by taking small steps, 1 at a time to achieve greater results = tastier, & consistency.
    Always only change one thing at a time. Taste. Check. Cross Reference.
    I'll suggest its much easier as your steeping thru ( may be numerous) trial changes to record as much as your equipment allows you to, for later reference.


    And I to agree with Yelta. I also have the lower dose VST's. They are more pronounced in the demands of their setup requirements. Not prohibitive tho. But more so than either the VST 22g, HQ 18 and 22. Which I also use constantly.
    The HQ's are very forgiving and the results as a comparison IMHO are very close.

    And he's Yelta the renowned LB drinker here! I noted one of his replies some time ago, and to me its a good recipe. One I've used since and all of the LB drinkers I make coffee for don't complain!

    If you not already using similar ....try ....
    Heated Cup, 100-105g Hot water, from kettle 80-85 deg.(a higher temp water seems to burns off a greater % of crema straight off)
    Drop the shot* onto the Rim of the Cup (not the water), placing cup as close as practicable to the spouts / naked basket.
    There's something also about the length of drop of the crema onto the water (from a naked particularly) that dissipates the crema faster.

    Also Mal's spot on with focus on the quality of your water.
    For instance with a LB, 90%+ of what your tasting reflects directly back to the quality of the water.
    You don't mention whether you are using filtration? or what area of the country ?....

    If you haven't already do establish what is the maximum puck height your handle / basket(s) can set up, locked away, in your machine.
    So that the puck is clear of the screen. Note height, not dose weight. once established then measure the weight of that puck.
    And then go from there. IIRC VST stated that they preferred a 2-3 mm head height. Try different levels till you find what suits your palate.

    *With your basket you may be able to dose in the ballpark of -
    19.x Grams (?) and then Yield a Shot of 28g to 34g, flowed at 1g a second total shot time (inc 8sec pre-infusion).
    Thats about it....
    Report back how your progressing Snoffee.


    GL
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    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Not necessarily scale causing compounds but because the mineral concentration increases over time with regular steaming, the water can get an off-taste that doesn't do anything to enhance the coffee experience. After all, unless you make an effort to replace all of the boiler water daily (impractical), there will be a significant amount of water left behind that is being boiled and boiled and boiled - Ever done that with the occasional cup of tea. Not very nice.
    Fresh water through the Group is much more preferable...

    For us though, I heat the water separately using a Hario kettle and an Induction cook-top. Always beats the espresso making routine.

    Mal.
    Awesome, yep makes sense! Thanks Mal
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    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    I'm a little confused. If the coffees taste good, as an espresso....why turn it into a long black?
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    Hi Snoffee,

    Hot water makes crema break down. For most espresso machines that draw water direct from a boiler (as opposed to through a dedicated water HX, or from the boiler and via a mix valve with room temp water), the hot water temp will be very hot. If you are going to use that water, best to mix it with a bit of cold water. This will help to preserve the crema. I also much prefer the taste of coffee as it cools down a little bit. If you want a temp, maybe ballpark 65C or 60C in the cup.

    In terms of crema, generally you'll get more of it and it will be a darker colour as the roast is darker. Craig's roasts are usually pretty light, so it's not surprising that the crema from his coffee is lighter.

    When it comes to espresso, and in particular roast levels for it, there are generally a variety of competing tensions. If you want to reduce acidity, which many people hate, you will probably mute out the more delicate fruit/floral flavours. If you want to go darker to make the crema more voluminous and better coloured and reduce acidity, you will probably introduce more roast bitterness and reduce sweetness. If you want to go lighter to preserve fruit and acidity, you will probably expose any green quality flaws pretty dramatically. If you go darker or lighter than the highest body point, you will reduce body.

    There are similar competing tensions with extraction, particularly since you get a lot of stuff dissolving into the liquid at the beginning of the shot and less later. If you want a very strong shot, you should pull it short. You'll get a lot of the acidity and less of the flavour and sweetness, but it will be concentrated. If your coffee is roasted dark, so that the flavour quickly becomes roasty and it lacks sweetness and is lower in acid anyway, then this is a good outcome. Conversely, if you pull a light roast shot long, you'll get more balance and flavour, but less strength, and it will probably be higher in acidity to start off with.

    Inherent in a lot of this is a bunch of value judgments about what taste qualities you want and what tradeoffs you are prepared to make to get them, given that you cannot simultaneously maximise body, flavour, acidity, sweetness, crema volume and crema colour at any given roast or extraction.

    One thing that's important with long blacks and totally different to espresso is that strength of the shot is irrelevant, since you are diluting it with water anyway. So you can control strength through dilution. Hence, for long blacks, pulling longer shots loses the drawback of diluting your espresso. Also, once you are making a long black, the drawback of excessive acidity is also lessened, since acidity is counteracted by carbonate ions in the water and you have ~7x the water and therefore ~7x the carbonate and acid neutralisation power in a long black as you do in an espresso. So long blacks are uniquely well suited to things where the drawback is more acidity or lower body, such as light roasts and long shots. If I were you, I'd definitely experiment with longer shots in long blacks, particularly for lighter roasts like Criteria. Don't be scared; go significantly coarser and faster; try 3:1, or maybe (possibly even better with light roasts) dose less and go finer for the same beverage weight.

    There's a very wide spectrum of roast levels and styles across the roasters that you have mentioned. I can't imagine that they're all optimised at the same brew temperature settings and extraction conditions. You may need to play around a little. From memory, the Domobar Super is a HX, so not sure that you have much room to change the brew temp, which is probably important. Probably best to find some roasters whose stuff you're happy with and stick to stuff with comparable roasts. It may also be that if you significantly change the shot speed, you can use more coffees at the same temperature, but this is something that doesn't come easily to mind, since I haven't held temperature constant when dialling in a coffee for quite some time now.

    Worth also making an observation about the filter baskets, too. There are two differences between EPNW and VST. First is the repeatability between baskets; VST has some sort of quality guarantee, EPNW not so much, but they're cheaper. You're not a cafe where it's important to you to have three baskets that pour the same with the same grind setting, so this is less important. The other difference is that the VSTs are designed to take a finer grind and result in a higher extraction. This is what makes them more finnicky, since the puck dissolves more quickly and the flow rate speeds up more quickly. Generally speaking, dark roasts are the ones that are punished the most by higher extractions, since they start to taste really bitter really quickly, so I'd expect the EPNW baskets to be best suited to darker roasts.

    Like everyone else, and all things coffee, you are going to have to pick the set of compromises that you hate the least. Good luck.

    Luca

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    Firstly, thanks SO much for all the replies so far btw! I may not be replying to everything directly but I certainly have read it all

    So answering/addressing some of the replies:
    • I'm from Melbourne, Australia - I think someone asked me where I'm from
    • My VBM Domobar Super is a HX machine - does that mean water coming form the 'water spout' is boiler water or not?
    • I do plan to start using my Breville variable kettle which boils to 80deg and then I'll cool it down with some cooler water (but I won't do this yet because I don't want to add another changing variable)
    • It tastes good as an espresso but sometimes I feel like a long black (like when I make some eggs, and want to be able to have more volume to sip, etc.)
    • Trying to understand a bit more about a 'longer' or 'slower' shot - is this the same thing? I get the longer duration of coffee is in touch with water, the more intense shot. Does this generally mean keep dose/yield the same, but have it run for longer period of time? (i.e. grind finer?)
    • Also are we saying VST 18g have less 'give' than other ones? I'm a bit hesitant to go to VSG 22g because not sure I want to use more coffee. What's another good one for 18g? I noticed that the HQ18 has been mentioned - is this Espresso Parts HQ 18g? Because I only seem to find the 14g double ridgeless basket online? Are these the same as EPNW? I couldn't really find definitive information online.
    • I couldn't drop the shot on to the rim because of the angle - but just to clarify, am I meant to be tilting the cup 45deg or so to drop it on the side? Or do you mean the actual rim? (Note that I have a naked portafilter)
    • I measured 20g in my current VST and it wasn't touching the machine yet, so that means my 18g is normally pretty safe I'm assuming? Still haven't found max height. I took a photo of general clearance that I have.
    • On flow rate, not something I've considered before but I feel like the shot is 'hitting' the espresso very quick - could this be contributing to the crema breakage?
    • Noting that I'm now trying to be at around 65deg for water in the cup


    On tonight's set of coffees. Safe to say, the most interesting thing you'll see is that I worked out how to embed images so you don't have to click on the small thumbnails each time!

    So this is a photo just to show you the colour of the beans....if that's important


    This is a photo to show the head height - this is 18g in the 18g VST basket....is it too low?


    So I did 3 pulls (baseline is the 18g in, 36g out, 30 sec)
    All of these still had thin crema.


    • 20g in, 36g out, 50 sec - Tried increasing the dose and it took a lot longer? Tasted bit more sour, like a sour apple





    • 18g in, 36g out, 40 sec - Tried using the other basket I was provided (maybe stock VBM basket?) - Took longer than my VST for this dose/time - nice tasting though





    • 18g in, 46g out, 37 sec - This one I tried to make the shot 'longer' by just letting it run more. Less sweet than the others



    Then I changed the grind from 9D to 8D (finer).
    Still had thin crema.


    • 18g in, 36g out, 38sec - So it took longer to come out, more salted caramel flavours



    So pretty much all resulted in a similar look to last night.
    I've now officially run out of Dukes so going to go back to the Criteria one tomorrow morning for probably another cup of nice disappointment ha

  22. #22
    Senior Member Jackster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robusto View Post
    I'm a little confused. If the coffees taste good, as an espresso....why turn it into a long black?
    Because sometimes a espresso is just not enough, and there is time to burn
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    Quote Originally Posted by snoffee View Post
    Safe to say, the most interesting thing you'll see is that I worked out how to embed images so you don't have to click on the small thumbnails each time!
    The problem with embedding images is they disappear when the hosting ISP changes their address format, hosting rules, or closes their doors. Additionally they dramatically increase page loading times for our bandwidth challenged users. Having them hosted here and displayed as thumbnail links to the full sized images eliminates all of these problems.

    If placing the images at a specific location with-in the post is an issue for you that can be done with the locally hosted images as well.


    Java "Hates disappearing pics" philes
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    35
    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Long black just now. Brewed directly into hot water in the cup. No shortage of Crema. VBM Domobar Jnr. Local roasters coffee off the supermarket shelf. Could be a couple of weeks old.
    Dimal and snoffee like this.



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