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Thread: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

  1. #1
    ER1
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    Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

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

    I am not sure if this is the best place to put this post...but here goes

    Anyway i am a completely newbie to coffee machiens (this is the first time ive made anything aside from instant)

    Yesterday i bought a rancilio silvia + sunbeam 480 grinder

    Ive made some progress....using the 2x dose tray of the silvia i can extract ~60mL in 25 seconds and the puck is only a bit a bit wet at the top ; inside is dryish (compared to the sludge i finsihed with yesterday).

    However, no matter what grinder combination i try my coffee is very VERY bitter, and doesnt smell anything as good as the coffee beans from which it came.

    I use a setting of ~17/18 on the sunbeam grinder (a bit higher and the shot gushes out, a bit lower and the machine chokes/comes out in dribble).

    I overfill the portafilter completely and then level it off with a flat surface, and then tamp down with ~10-15kg of force (bathroom scales may be dodgy though).


    Anyway the fact that the coffee tasts like garbage indicates something is very wrong...am i missing anything?

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    Senior Member fatboy_1999's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    ER1,

    Welcome.

    As you are starting to experience, there are a lot of variables in coffee making.

    What beans are you using?
    Do you know when they were roasted?
    Are you letting the Silvia warm up with the portafilter(without coffee) in place? Most machines, and certainly the Silvia, benefit from a 30 minute warmup before you start pulling shots.
    Are you flushing some water through the group prior to doing your shot?

    The flow rate sounds OK, but how does the coffee look? Is it rich and reddish brown or pale and light brown to yellow?

    So many questions.

    0-15, your serve!

  3. #3
    ER1
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    i do the warm up....dont do flush though


    beans were roasted 03/06/08.


    just made another one.


    yuck


    edit: coffee is dark brown/black with light brown crema

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    ER1,

    Looks like youve got all the gear and fresh beans you need to make a good brew. And Im sure you will be before long.

    Here are some possibilities:

    1. From my experience the Silvia (used my friends one lots), you need to flush water through the group head before each shot you pull. When you first turn it on and let it heat up, or when youve just finished steaming milk and need to pull a(nother) shot, the water that comes out the group head will be too hot for a good espresso. Thats why it hisses and some steam comes out too. This will burn the coffee and result in bitterness. I usually let 100-200mL water run through - just until theres only water and no steam coming out - before putting the portafilter on.

    2. If the machine (or, less likely, the grinder) are old or dirty (eg. if they were second hand), they might need a clean. Coffee oils love plastic and stick to it and then go rancid. This could come out in the cup as bitterness.

    3. Dont put the filled portafilter on the group head before youre ready to brew it. Coffee in contact with the hot metal of the group head will burn in a matter of seconds without water running through it. Again, burned coffee would be bitter.

    4. You might want to try extracting less volume to see if youre over-extracting. Your volume and time sounds about right but its worth a try.

    5. My other mate has just started using a EM0480/Silvia combination. He needs to use a grind of 1 or 2 to get anything other than gushers. Now, I know that one persons "1" is anothers "11" with the EM0480, but Im intrigued that yours can choke up a Silvia at just below 17... The EM0480 usually gives a pretty consistent grind, but Ive heard of users installing the burrs incorrectly and getting a really inconsistent grind. This could choke up the Silvia even if it doesnt seem that fine. SOOO, Id probably get out your grinder manual and make sure youve put everything together correctly, just in case.

    Hope one of those is right. My vote is for #1, but try em all. :P
    Cheers
    Stuart

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Maybe try pulling a shot, catch the first 15secs in one glass and the second in another glass and see how massively the difference is.

    When does the coffee begin to blonde (if any)?

    What type of tamper are your using, maybe youre getting some channel action. Silvias apparently like an updose too.

    Obviously your grinder might be letting you down a bit and not helping the situation.

    Keep us updated! The only way is up from here. Its all part of the learning experience with new equipment! Fun fun.

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    ER1
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    @stuartguard

    whats this thing about having to install the burs? i just pulled mine out fo the box, stick on the bean holder and started grinding. I am not like 200g of beans down the track...would have noticed if somethign was wrong?


    @Zeeya: the coffee turns from dark to golden coloured within 10 seconds of the first drip coming down


    btw, when i say 25 seconds for my shot, i start counting from when the coffee first comes out, not from when i flick the switch. This is fine right?

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    Senior Member speleomike's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Hi ER1

    I have a Silvia too. Count from when you flick the switch. If the grind is right there will be from a few seconds to several seconds delay and then coffee will come out of the spout. It should be a dark stream. For me its usually about 4 or 5 seconds delay. After a total time of 25 seconds there will be about 25 ml in each cup. But at around this time you should see the stream "blonding" ie getting light quite suddenly. Its then that you switch off.

    Mike

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    ER1
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    as i said mine blondes like....5-10 secs in at most :(

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    try changing coffees to see what a difference this makes, then experiment with one variable at a time

    i.e. more / less coffee in the group handle or adjust the grind a bit finer and see what happens with a bit less coffee in the handle etc

    new grinders need to be tightened up a bit as you go as well. so if a setting seemed fine a few days ago you may still need to adjust it a bit finer a few days later

    as a matter of interest what beans are you using?

    pat

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    the free beans that came with the machine from Jetblack espresso. Smells like heaven.

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    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    The bitterness is coming from the blonding.

    17/18 is obviously too course then.
    Or else you arent putting enough grounds into the basket.

    YeeZa says the Silvia likes updosing.
    So overfill the basket as before but dont level off straight away.
    Tap the portafilter to settle the coffee under its own weight then level off.
    This will get a bit more coffee into the basket.

    I use a 6910 at work and it too likes to be updosed.
    I even flatten whats left of the heaped coffee into the basket with a plastic card before tamping.
    Youd be surprised how much coffee actually fits.
    I measure my beans before grinding, so I know from experience it will fit.
    It looks like a lot when heaped in the basket but it does all fit in.

    To slow down a pour you need to grind finer or fit more coffee in the basket.
    As you say you cant go finer *(you may be able to go one notch) the option is to get a little more coffee into that basket.

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Hi ER1,

    Id try (1) flushing water through the group and into a cup until the element goes on, then waiting about a minute after the element switches off to brew (ie. start grinding after the element switches off) and (2) adjusting grind/dose to get 35-40mL in 20 seconds after hitting the brew switch with the maximum amount of coffee that you can fit into the basket.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Quote Originally Posted by ER1 link=1213255556/0#0 date=1213255555
    Hello all,

    Ive made some progress....using the 2x dose tray of the silvia i can extract ~60mL in 25 seconds and the puck is only a bit a bit wet at the top ; inside is dryish (compared to the sludge i finsihed with yesterday).
    Hi ER1,

    If you are getting 25 seconds after extraction starts and the puck is dryish inside it suggests to me that it is over extracted ie. either too fine or too much coffee in the portafilter. On my silvia at home I actually use a really fine grind and quite a low dose (although Im using the rocky grinder). Try making a finer grind and dosing to the level of the line inside the filter basket. If you concentrate on dosing EXACTLY the same everytime and just change the grind each time you should eventually get a good shot - unfortunately its a bit of trial and error.

    I fill to about 3/4 full, give it a light tap on the side of the bench, fill to small mound with total surface cover. Take a flat edged butter knive and sweep excess coffee off then tamp.

    Its really important to keep your dosing consistent to eliminate variables when trying to figure out whats wrong.

    Please feel free to contact me if you have continuing problems. Good luck!

    Debbie

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Quote Originally Posted by luca link=1213255556/0#11 date=1213284215
    Id try (1) flushing water through the group and into a cup until the element goes on, then waiting about a minute after the element switches off to brew

    Ive found that once the heating light goes off after the machine needed to reheat, some steam/air will come out of the group head for the first 5 seconds or so. Im guessing that whatever water was in the pipes either a) got too hot and some turned to steam, or b) leaked out, leaving air in its place (this could be the result of a bad seal somewhere?).

    Now, Im not sure if Im describing a problem with this specific Silvia or a common "problem" with these machines. But, if it is common to Silvias, Id recommend running water through the group head AFTER the heating cycle (or after returning from steaming milk) until theres no more air/steam in the pipes.

    Hope this makes sense. Let me know if not.
    Cheers
    Stuart.

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Quote Originally Posted by ER1 link=1213255556/0#5 date=1213268349
    @stuartguard

    whats this thing about having to install the burs? i just pulled mine out fo the box, stick on the bean holder and started grinding. I am not like 200g of beans down the track...would have noticed if somethign was wrong?
    Yeah, the grinder is probably not the issue.

    My logic was:
    1) You can choke up the Silvia with your grinder set on ~15-16.
    2) Miss Silvia is a pretty beefy machine and should take a lot to choke up.

    Therefore, its probably not that the grind is too fine, per se.

    Thus:
    3) Sometimes uneven grinds (which dont look that fine) can choke up machines because at least SOME of the grind will be too fine.
    4) Sometimes improperly installed burrs (or damaged burr carriers) can cause an uneven grind.

    Ergo, it could have been that your burrs werent quite in right, causing an uneven grind, causing the Silvia to choke up despite your shots blonding early (classic sign on too coarse a grind IMO).

    Its worth getting out the manual and ensuring that the grinder is properly put together, but I guess its an unlikely scenario in your case. But nice logic, me! :P
    Cheers
    Stuart.

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    Re: Newbie: my coffee is very bitter

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by stuartgrant link=1213255556/0#13 date=1213326140
    Quote Originally Posted by luca link=1213255556/0#11 date=1213284215
    Id try (1) flushing water through the group and into a cup until the element goes on, then waiting about a minute after the element switches off to brew

    Ive found that once the heating light goes off after the machine needed to reheat, some steam/air will come out of the group head for the first 5 seconds or so. Im guessing that whatever water was in the pipes either a) got too hot and some turned to steam, or b) leaked out, leaving air in its place (this could be the result of a bad seal somewhere?).

    Now, Im not sure if Im describing a problem with this specific Silvia or a common "problem" with these machines. But, if it is common to Silvias, Id recommend running water through the group head AFTER the heating cycle (or after returning from steaming milk) until theres no more air/steam in the pipes.

    Hope this makes sense. Let me know if not.
    Cheers
    Stuart.
    Nothing wrong with the Silvia if it does that, (the steam/water in the first 5 secs or so after a heating cycle) this is why PID controllers are so popular, they keep temperature in the boiler much more stable compared to the standard setup.
    Common problem is what you are experiencing.
    Cheapest way to manage is the temperature surfing method = time the heating cycle, and pull shot 30-60 secs after, depending on what tastes best to you,
    Next easiest way is to fit a temp probe from a digital multimeter or similar and monitor boiler temp, then you can pull shots at your preferred start temp, and you can manually force temp a bit with some practice.
    Best way, is to fit a PID controller, set your desired temp and it does it for you,
    yes it is a bit costly, but it makes a good machine great!

    Bullitt



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