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Thread: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

  1. #1
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    Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    I currently have a thermoblock machine - a Sunbeam 4800B which doesnt make great coffee.

    That could, of course, be due to my lack of skill or the beans, or my roasting, the wrong grind (I have a DeLonghi KG100), etc.

    We arent big espresso drinkers. *My choice is either cappucinno or a long black. *My wifes choice is cappucino or a flat white. *No sugar for either of us.

    The espresso Im making is usually too bitter. *I usually drink coffee without sugar but Im finding the espresso needs it to make it palatable.

    Yet the same beans when used in a cappucinno are really lacking in coffee flavour. *I dont know where to go. *I think I really need to try some espresso made by someone who knows good coffee just so I can get an idea of what I should be aiming for. *As I said, we arent big espresso drinkers so we dont know what is considered good espresso. *

    Besides, 30ml of coffee is hardly worth mucking around with.

    Even if I had some recommendations for places in Sydney to try, Id have a problem. *Since I changed jobs and moved out of working at Paddington, I rarely travel into Sydney owing to (a) my job in the Blue Mountains and (b) I hate travelling to Sydney - its too crowded. *Parramatta is about as far towards Sydney as Ill travel these days.

    I like the idea of the Saeco semi-auto machine for sale elsewhere on the forum mainly because of the degree of hassle required to produce bad to mediocre coffee with the Sunbeam. *But to spend $650 on a machine that also makes mediocre coffee may be extravagant even if it does make the coffee with far less hassle. *:)

    So what am I saying with all the stuff above? *A good question. *Thinking aloud perhaps. *Too much red wine, even. *

    Maybe its easier to stick with a plunger or a drip coffee machine.

    Ron


  2. #2
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Ron:

    Nothing wrong with filter or plunger coffee.

    Unless you are willing to commit to a minimum grinder and machine I would stick with filter or plunger coffee.

    Grant

    PS. Concentrate maybe on roasting decent coffee and save $$$ and get better coffee

  3. #3
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Ron,

    without knowing anything about you, but reading your post, this sounds very much like "I bought a car but I dont know how to drive it".

    Dont be concerned....Most people that buy espresso machines dont realise they are getting into something that will require some education, and that the instructions that come with the machine tell you ( if youre lucky)...how to use the machine...NOT how to make coffee properly...there is a very big difference.

    So called "bitterness" is usually caused by:
    a) grind is too coarse;
    b) dose is too small;
    c) over extraction ( flowing the espresso to a much larger volume than it should be...ie overly long or incorrectly made espresso especially long blacks);
    d) low quality or stale coffee OR
    e) misunderstanding a healthy high natural acidity or "brightness" in good quality freshly roasted coffee, for so called bitterness.

    ...when all is said and done, it usually means the espresso wasnt brewed STRONG enough (ie correctly) as per the above pointers, and all the above are a function of operator misunderstanding.

    This is further complicated by the fact that almost all domestic espresso machines have smaller coffee filters (and therefore take a smaller dose of grinds) than commercial espresso machines...so unless you use your "double" filter for every SINGLE espresso made, you will NEVER duplicate the character of the coffee properly produced in a cafe. Less dose/coffee grinds, means less coffee oil in your coffee, means less body, less substance, less flavour , less everything...particularly in long coffees which I undersatand from your post is one of your favourites.

    You could muck around asking questions here and there over time, experimenting with the advice, putting it into practice bit by bit, going backwards and forwards with what you try,& hopefully improve our technique and results.

    But if you want to cut to the chase...want it all to work now, get proper advice immediately, have you considered paying for a lesson. You may well have to drive into Sydney on a few evenings or on a weekend but you should get the ducks guts straight away, have an enjoyable time of it, and as long as it is given by a properly qualified person, *this should *get you making the best possible coffee to be made from your own equipment almost *straight away. THEN you can make a judgement on whether the equipment is up to your expectation or should be upgraded, or parked in the cupboard.

    Regardz,
    FC.

  4. #4
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    hey mate, the machinery you have should do fine - though upgraditis may hit soon.

    You say you work in the blue mountains. If you get a chance - theres a great cafe on the main street of katoomba, heading down the hill (cant remember the street name) - across the road from a church (I think). The cafe is called the elephant bean. They use danes coffee, and from memory, pull a really good shot - they introduced me to the ristretto shot, and I havent looked back. Might be worth popping in there - having a few coffees, then once the barista recognises you, start a freindly chat, and ask for advice! (so long as theyre not busy when youre asking.)

  5. #5
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Ron

    Give it time matey, it all takes practice and patience.

    The pointers that FC has given you are really very good.....

    Id be making certain that the Filtercup is full before you Tamp (pressing the coffee into the filter cup and making a pack of coffee beans) the 30ml is more important than you think.... the timing of the shot allows for the water to infuse and extract the flavours out of the ground beans into your cup, the faster it comes out the lower the concentration level and if it takes too long then the concentration levels are too high and the coffee ends up tasting yuck >:(!!!!!

    As FC said, a course would do you a lot of good and theyre heaps of fun too, and if you consume what you make...hehehehe you wont have a sleep problem for a night *:)
    Dont fret over it.. give it time, in the future you will wonder what all the fuss was all about when you consistantly produce great coffee....

    regards

    FB


  6. #6
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Just want to add my tuppence worth. I agree wholeheartedly with the above comments. I think it took me about six months to start getting a reasonable shot. Like you I was originally disappointed with my efforts and in retrospect I would have paid for a lesson rather than doing it all by trial and error.

    Like FC said I wouldnt change your machine until you become familiar and confident in making a good reproducible shot. A good barista using your Sunbeam will always make a better coffee than a novice using a far more expensive machine and grinder.

    Keep at it. I promise you it will all click one day and you will never look back!

    Cheers,

    Louis

  7. #7
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Hiya Ron,

    It can be a bit of a bugger trying to get everything right with an espresso machine, but it is well worth trying to find out how to do that. I second the advice from FC, FB and all the others.... you cant beat a practical demonstration and lessons on how to pull all the necessary variables together, by someone who really knows their stuff.

    Im not sure where you live is in relation to Sydney, but if you could try and find the time to setup a training session with Pinot (aka John Doyle), one of our sponsors, you will be forever grateful. Dont give up what ever you do :).

    Cheerio Ron,
    Mal.

  8. #8
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Ron:

    I think you should get someone in the area to try to make an espresso using your grinder and machine.

    I mean a Delonghi grinder and a thermoblock machine might be quite marginal or simply not possible to make good espresso with.

    With the right equipment it is really hard to go wrong. I dont agree with the other comments that it takes months to make a decent shot. Sure, it may not be possible without some basic knowledge but making espresso is pretty easy really.

    Maybe ask for someone from CS or maybe a local cafe owner (one who knows how to make a good espresso) to use your machinery to make a good espresso.

    I dont want to rubbish your equipment but I really think you should eliminate your equipment as a source of trouble before you waste a lot of time on it. The grinder is probably more critical than the thermoblock machine. Most thermoblock machines will make at least an average cup of espresso but if the grinder isnt up to it then you are wasting your time.

    Grant

  9. #9
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Hey Ron,
    It true what they say about perseverance and experience but I have to agree with Grant. I just upgraded, both grinder and machine, and I was producing some of the best shots Ive ever tasted within 2hrs of unpacking the sparkling beauties. (By the way... thanks for the advice Grant).
    I thought I was doing OK with the old Sunbeam aromatic until I got together with some Perth CSers and tasted some shots together. I soon realised that it wasnt really working at home. I think the single thing that was holding me back the most was the grinder, also a sunbeam (...and possibly the worst bur grinder ever manufactured… No, I’m going to call it… Definitely the worst!)
    Of coarse the way to test this would be to unpack the aromatic and let him pull some shots with Rocky, I think the result wouldn’t be too bad… But then why make Silvia jealous?
    Anyway, make the most of what you have and remember that you love coffee!
    (And if you are going to upgrade something... Vote 1 for grinder!)
    Cheers,
    Matt

  10. #10
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Quote Originally Posted by Fresh_Coffee link=1125222805/0#2 date=1125224743
    Ron,

    without knowing anything about you, but reading your post, this sounds very much like "I bought a car but I dont know how to drive it".

    Dont be concerned....Most people that buy espresso machines dont realise they are getting into something that will require some education, and that the instructions that come with the machine tell you ( if youre lucky)...how to use the machine...NOT how to make coffee properly...there is a very big difference.

    So called "bitterness" is usually caused by:
    a) grind is too coarse;
    b) dose is too small;
    c) over extraction ( flowing the espresso to a much larger volume than it should be...ie overly long or incorrectly made espresso especially long blacks);
    d) low quality or stale coffee OR
    e) misunderstanding a healthy high natural acidity or "brightness" in good quality freshly roasted coffee, for so called bitterness.

    ...when all is said and done, it usually means the espresso wasnt brewed STRONG enough (ie correctly) as per the above pointers, and all the above are a function of operator misunderstanding.

    This is further complicated by the fact that almost all domestic espresso machines have smaller coffee filters (and therefore take a smaller dose of grinds) than commercial espresso machines...so unless you use your "double" filter for every SINGLE espresso made, you will NEVER duplicate the character of the coffee properly produced in a cafe. Less dose/coffee grinds, means less coffee oil in your coffee, means less body, less substance, less flavour , less everything...particularly in long coffees which I undersatand from your post is one of your favourites.

    You could muck around asking questions here and there over time, experimenting with the advice, putting it into practice bit by bit, going backwards and forwards with what you try,& hopefully improve our technique and results.

    But if you want to cut to the chase...want it all to work now, get proper advice immediately, have you considered paying for a lesson. You may well have to drive into Sydney on a few evenings or on a weekend but you should get the ducks guts straight away, have an enjoyable time of it, and as long as it is given by a properly qualified person, this should get you making the best possible coffee to be made from your own equipment almost straight away. THEN you can make a judgement on whether the equipment is up to your expectation or should be upgraded, or parked in the cupboard.

    Regardz,
    FC.
    This guy knows what hes on about. Making a great tasting espresso is a lot harder than learning how to drive. Id know, Ive learnt how to do them both in the past four years! (Im 20, hehe ;))

    Dont give up though Ron, Im not sure how good your brewing machine is but youve got the grinder that Ive been looking for a good price so you shouldnt be having any trouble grinding the beans down to a nice espresso grind.

    Ive found the biggest and most important part of making the coffee is making sure the water is as fresh as possible. Never leave any water in your machine for more than a day maximum, as the water distills and parts of it evaporate which will leave the final espresso tasting bitter and unfulfilled.

    The second most important thing to ensure a good tasting "cuppa" is how you go about putting the coffee into your filter. This is the bit that takes quite a bit of practice and nobody can say they can make the perfect espresso first go. You need to make sure its all spread out across teh filter relatively evenly, I believe its better if it goes up towards the middle ever so slightly as then the water can flow through and spread out to the edges before coming back in to go through the holes and out into your cup.. You need to make sure you put the right amount into the filter, not squishing the grinded coffee down too far, but not leaving significant air pockets which allow the water to flow through too quickly..

    The only other tip I can think of is to ensure your coffee is actually kept in a cool dark place, preferably in a glass sealed container for obvious reasons. Some people think plastic will do the job but coffee reacts with plastics and its actually quite bad compared to glass, which could be giving you your bitter flavour also.

    Hope Ive been of some help =)

  11. #11
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    I agree with MattyJ re the Elephant Bean in Katoomba St; also Myra at Mementos in Blackheath and Phil & Denella at The Hatters Cafe, also in Katoomba St (they used to run the Elephant Bean) - all make superb coffee. Ive also had some great coffee at Solitary Kiosk on Cliff Drive between Katoomba and Leura, the view is amazing so when the coffees good its a hell of a spot. A lot of people in the Blue Mts get their beans from the roaster in Falconbridge (I havent been able to get there yet, but everyone swears by their beans). Apparently its left off the highway (coming from Katoomba) before the station where the tyre place is. Worth a try. Might see you there! Claire

  12. #12
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    Re: Im getting nowhere in my coffee programme

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Interesting you say the water evaporates, MasterChief. I suppose all machines have their own peculiarities, but most Ive seen have a lid. On the Silvia its a fairly tight fit, and any evaporation condendes on the underside and then drips back into the tank without loss.

    Robusto



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