Hi guys, im starting this thread to share how my pours evolved in the last few months.
Im sure you guys have stories to tell as well. Im interested to know how others have climbed the ladder to coffee nirvana.
Once upon a time, I was using *shock horror gasp* preground coffee and a pressurized basket. I was pouring 15s "double" 60-80ml shots that needed like a mug of milk to remove the rancidness and unpleasantness at the back of the throat...
Then I got a grinder, and used supermarket coffee beans. Slight improvement, far less rancid, but still undrinkable as espresso.
I heard about this term "ristretto" and tried my best to make it, pushing my humble pressurized basket to the point of choking... and choking it half the time.
Upset, I finally splurged on a decent machine that did not have a pressurized basket.
Things finally got easier. Pours were simple. It seemed that every shot was a "ristretto". ~30ml from a "single" basket.
But the shots lacked punch. It was rich and savoury, yes.. but still nothing like the stuff at some good family owned cafes.
Then came the revelation: My machines "single" basket was actually a double basket that fit about 14g of coffee.
As much as I tried, i found it very difficult to get MORE than 30ml in 30s (includes preinfusion time ~5s, so the time is actually ~25s) without excessive premature blonding and "transparent streams" of sour under-extractedness.
So I looked at my methodology. Got a Pullman tamper that happened to be on offer. Things got a little better. I could now consistently get about 50ml from a double shot (14g) in around 30s. The tamper improved my shots significantly. It fits the basket so well that with a bit of care, the typical tamp knock tamp procedure is no longer necessary. Yup, i dont knock the portafilter anymore. The lines on the sides also makes a level tamp a lot less anal to do.
Ok, so now I was at a point where I was making coffee comparable to many italian delis. But still not nirvana. The crema just wasnt right.
Ultimately, I ended up roasting my own beans. Thanks to the support of CS members, the first roast went well, if a little on the light side of a city roast. For the first time I could consistently get ~80% crema shots (thats straight after the pour. It settles to about 30% crema after a few minutes).
The beans were full bodied but relatively dull/flat. So i tried out my first blend. 50% Peru Grace Villa and 50% Ethopian Harrar. (!) Way too strong. The harrar was alot stronger/sharper than i anticipated. Ive since settled for about 70:30 instead. Now Im looking for things to add complexity to the palate. Cant wait for this months bean bay.
Something happened recently. I noticed that I no longer have to pull ristretto shots to get a decent shot. I can now pull about 60ml in 30s from a double (14g) basket quite easily (that would be the sunbeam so called "single" 14g basket). Ok, I still do get channeling/underextraction in about 15% of my shots... but I was surprised as I would have never dreamt of getting such shots even a month ago. I was starting to doubt the capabilities of my machine... until i read about the Weiss Distribution Technique. I now practice a pseudo-WDT that uses a long thin knife instead of a needle. I found that "karate chopping" (back of knife) the mound of coffee during dosing to even it out before levelling with the back of the knife helped me get an even extraction most of the time.
So as a conclusion I have evolved back to the double shot. Now I know why WBC contests always involve normal doubles instead of ristrettos. To be honest, they are a little harder to pull consistently, but when done right tastes awesome and goes better with foamed milk too!
Things still arent perfect though. Im starting to suspect that the mini fridge my machine is on isnt level... hence the uneven pours from the double spout in the picture below.
Summary of an evolution:
1) Rancid >> Supermarket Preground
2) Less rancid >> Got a grinder --> Supermarket Whole beans
3) Acceptable >> Italian Deli weekly roasted beans - goes stale quickly. Got a machine with non-pressurized baskets.
4) Decent >> When i finally got a good tamper and improved my technique. Started to consistently pour ristrettos.
5) Dare i say this.. good >> after polishing up my dose dist tamp, and roasting own beans..
7) Now im trying to figure out how im going to put my machine on a level workbench :p
8) To be achieved >> consistent double pours with 80%+ crema.