Clogged basket screens are not your friend

Beginner or pro barista, all are invited to share.
Jeepin' Geo
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Postby Jeepin' Geo » Tue Feb 19, 2008 1:08 am

I noticed my LM double basket screen holes just weren't as clean as I thought they should be. I always wash the screens after a shot, brush them briskly inside and out, rinse them again and dry them off. I soaked them in Joe-Glo once a week. But there were always some holes that did not glitter as brightly as others when held up to the light. I would blow hard into the basket but they just didn't clean out.

After a month with my Silvia I took more drastic steps. I soaked the worst screen in boiling hot Joe-Glo with vigorous scrubbing while soaking (ouch a few times). Repeated twice. Went to the garage, grabbed the high pressure nozzle for the air compressor and point blank blasted each hole in the screen with 100psi. No change - :shock: huh? :?

Out came the WDT tool (a straight dental pick)! From the inside to outside, I tediously poked through every hole in the screen. Each poke I could feel a resistance give way, feel a crack as the hole cleared. When finished, I scrubbed the inside surface with 600 paper until it was smooth.

Here are the results:

Image

The left pic shows how every hole has a cats eye look and some are completely closed off. The right pic is after the WDT treatment, and the right basket was actually worse than the basket on the left. My other unused LM double looks a little worse than the left basket. Conversely, the original 'never used' Rancilio single and double baskets that came with Silvia look just like the right basket.

I've pulled about a half dozen shots so far and the flow is much smoother. The formation of the extraction is more regular and there is much less spurting and multiple cones. The pressure gauge is showing slightly less pressure during the shot, too. In addition, the baskets a very clear after a simple rinse now.

Have you checked your baskets?

George

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Psyd
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Postby Psyd » Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:43 pm

Jeepin' Geo wrote:Out came the WDT tool (a straight dental pick)! From the inside to outside, I tediously poked through every hole in the screen. Each poke I could feel a resistance give way, feel a crack as the hole cleared.


:shock: :shock: :shock:

To take things a step further, if you had 'cleared' each hole with a 1/16" drill bit, you'd see even less resistance, more even flow, and cleaning would be even easier. I'd be a bit hesitant to open up the holes on my baskets. I mean, if it works for you, go nuts, but it sounds sorta scary to me.
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Jeepin' Geo
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Postby Jeepin' Geo » Tue Feb 19, 2008 4:53 pm

Psyd wrote::shock: :shock: :shock:

I'd be a bit hesitant to open up the holes on my baskets. I mean, if it works for you, go nuts, but it sounds sorta scary to me.


Yep, a 1/16" drill bit would be a touch excessive!

I didn't open up the holes any larger than they were originally manufactured, just de-clogged them. They now match the diameter of the holes in the stock Rancilio baskets. What is surprising is they came to me pre-clogged. Maybe something during the manufacturing process, don't know. I do feel it is better to be fighting one less variable in the process, though. :D

George

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Postby RegulatorJohnson » Tue Feb 19, 2008 5:20 pm

have you noticed any grit grinds in the cup after you drink the coffee?

i did this to the "synesso 18g double" basket and i got grit. i dont use that basket anymore for other reasons but you will see grounds in the cup if you grind fine enough.

jon
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Postby roblumba » Tue Feb 19, 2008 6:58 pm

How does it effect the shot. Seems like you made the hole bigger. Wouldn't more grounds filter through? Would it require a finer grind?

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Postby RapidCoffee » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:09 pm

Unfortunately, quality control on espresso filter baskets, especially ridgeless baskets, appears to be sorely lacking. One of my 18g ridgeless doubles from the great Synesso basket buy was poorly stamped, and I handled it the same way. Keep in mind that a dissecting needle is not a hole punch for aluminum. It was tedious and difficult to punch through even the prestamped holes in the basket, and I saw no evidence that the holes were widened beyond their "normal" diameter by this treatment.

So I really don't think you need to worry about damaging the filter when cleaning clogged filter basket holes with a WDT tool. I've done this on several occasions, when one or two holes resists the green scrubbie treatment. In this case, a gentle poke from a needle or dental pic is just what the doctor ordered.
John

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Postby CremaKatz » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:08 pm

Wouldn't it be safer to soak it in white vinegar and then scrub?

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Postby cafeIKE » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:13 pm

CremaKatz wrote:Wouldn't it be safer to soak it in white vinegar and then scrub?


If you have an unplumbed drip tray, drain the tray, place the basket in the drip tray and do a detergent backflush. Spotless every time. :)

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Postby cannonfodder » Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:53 pm

cafeIKE wrote:If you have an unplumbed drip tray, drain the tray, place the basket in the drip tray and do a detergent backflush. Spotless every time. :)


That is what I do with my VBM at the office, every Friday. It may just be the photo, but those holes look way too large now. I would expect that you would end up with a crunchy cup of espresso from all the grinds that went thought the grid. Baskets do eventually wear out, the holes will slowly erode and allow more fines/grounds to pass through. In a home, that would take years, unless you go sticking things in the holes of your basket.
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Postby RapidCoffee » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:57 pm

cannonfodder wrote:It may just be the photo, but those holes look way too large now.


The holes in the Silvia basket do look large, but maybe that's the lighting. George states quite clearly:

Jeepin' Geo wrote:Conversely, the original 'never used' Rancilio single and double baskets that came with Silvia look just like the right basket.


For reference, here's a high contrast pic of my two Synesso 18g ridgeless baskets:
Image

In order to punch through the holes, I was far more aggressive in my use of the dissecting needle than you'd ever need to be to clear out coffee buildup. Those baskets are tougher than you might think! Nonetheless, there's no significant hole diameter difference between the baskets, although the holes are a bit more regular on the doctored basket. As you can see, I was unable to punch through three holes, no matter how hard I tried. (Maybe one day I will try the 1/16" drill bit. Never liked that basket much anyway. :twisted:)

I can't remember ever having a problem with grinds in my espresso. When I find grinds in my cup, I assume they come from grinds that adhere to the bottom of the basket when I tamp. That happens on occasion, since I'm in the habit of dosing and tamping the basket before locking it into the portafilter. Sometimes I don't swipe the bottom of the basket, and grinds drop down into the cup as I lock in.

FWIW, I'm not advocating use of pointy objects for the daily cleaning of filter baskets. But I've used this method in the past to good effect, and haven't seen any ill effects yet.
John