B&W The Traditional -- can't pull a good shot

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.

#1: Post by slothtun »

Hi all,

I am new to espresso and I am struggling to pull a decent shot. I am currently almost done with a 2lbs The Traditional bag from Black and White Roasters and I couldn't get a single decent shot. All my shots tastes harsh & sour with a lingering aftertaste.

I have tried pulling shots from 1:1.4 to 1:3 ratio and every shot has been pretty much similar. 1:3 ratio shots were the most drinkable but they felt mostly super watered down and slightly bitter. Have also tried to adjust the temperature (197-203F). My dose is 16grams. Pre-infusion 5-7 seconds, brew time (tried) anywhere from 20 seconds to 40 seconds.

I have not been able to taste any chocolate or nutty flavors. Am I doing something wrong?

Here is some details on my workflow:

* Machine: Breville dual boiler
* Grinder: niche zero
* Basket: VST 16grams
* Prep: grind beans into basket, WDT, tamp

Some notes:

* Pressure starts around ~9 bars lowers towards end of the shot
* Milk does not really mask the flavors of espresso, its generally not very tasty
* I don't usually have channeling issues, so doubt that is the problem
* I have used both Crystal Geyser and Distilled Water + Third Wave Water Espresso packets, both result in similar flavors
* I have been using the beans for the past 2 weeks. Resting shouldn't be an issue since a lot of time has passed and taste is roughly the same anyways

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#2: Post by Jeff »

Welcome to H-B!

So that we can help you out a bit, would you help us understand some of the background and details?

Have you been able to pull an enjoyable shot from other beans or is this your first foray into making espresso at home?

What basket are you using with the BDB? (This is not a suggestion to buy a different one.)

Why do you believe that you aren't having problems with channeling?

Do you have any videos of your shots that you would be able to share?

slothtun (original poster)

#3: Post by slothtun (original poster) »

Hi Jeff,

I have been making espresso at home for almost a year. It is hard to say I have had a good shot but I have had some nice milk drinks in past, mostly accidentally. I have not been always tasting the espresso.

Nowadays I am a bit more serious about getting good shots so I have been tasting them a lot.

I am using a VST (16grams) basket.

I don't think I have channeling because shots seem to be flowing well. Starts slow, quickly merges and flows through the center without any spraying, etc. I could be getting lots of channeling for all I can tell but it doesn't feel like it.

I can shoot a video and share later for sure!

Here is a video:
16 grams in, 39 grams out in 27 seconds. Unfortunately seems to have some channeling in the beginning? The shot tastes pretty acidic and harsh. I can't always tell the difference between bitter and sour but there is a lingering bitter taste in my mouth minutes after the shot. Perhaps it is both bitter and sour?


#4: Post by Bean_Thinking »

A bit fast maybe? I think when trying to match "about 30s out" with Breville machines, it's better to not count the PI time. So, "grind a little finer" would be my guess.

Maybe try some beans from a local roaster that you can taste in person, so you have a reference to shoot for.

slothtun (original poster)

#5: Post by slothtun (original poster) »

Not to sound like I can predict the future, but I have pulled slower shots and it is still quite harsh. This was just a bit too fast because I was playing with the grinder settings and experimenting. Will try a slower shot tomorrow.

Additionally, I noticed that the pressure is around 9.5 bars and im wondering if I should adjust the OPV again and lower it to 9 or even 8.5

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#6: Post by Jeff »

The first thing that I would suggest is that if you have a reasonable quality basket, that is not a VST, use that. VST baskets have a time and a place but learning how to make espresso with classic roast is not one of them. They can be very unforgiving, amplifying small changes in grind and prep.

Next, I like to think about the coffee itself. The Traditional seems to be a reasonably dark roast. All of the flavor notes suggest medium-dark or dark to me. Roasts at that level often have quite a bit of bitterness from the roast itself. They tend to be relatively easy to extract. One of the challenges of pulling a good shot of espresso from a darker roast is knowing when to stop. Very often the longer you extract or the finer you grind the more bitter the espresso in the cup becomes. Looking at your video I see the stream of coffee get light about halfway through the shot. I can't tell if that is the lighting or if the shot has already gone blonde that point. While I haven't pulled The Traditional myself, its lighter cousin The Natural didn't need anything special to pull a good 1:2 ratio shot with it. As The Traditional is darker, I'd try cutting the shot when it starts to go blonde or even before. You may end up at a ratio as low as 1:1 to get a balance you enjoy.

It is also possible that you don't enjoy the bitterness of a dark roast.

slothtun (original poster)

#7: Post by slothtun (original poster) »

I see, I will try the BDB stock basket!

The thing is anything less than 1:2 is just very sharp and sour. Maybe I am not able to discern bitter from sourness

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#8: Post by Milligan »

Jeff is on the right track IMO. I think it is the coffee and your expectations. I've had the Traditional many times and while it is "dark" for modern coffee it is not a true traditionally dark or even medium dark coffee. B&W is a fantastic experimental, modern coffee roaster but if you are looking for velvety, chocolate notes with low acidity then I don't believe any of their coffees will suit your palate. I think of their Traditional more like Intelligentsia's Black Cat which showed up as a 20 roast vision when I had it. I never tested the Traditional with my roast meter but the flavor profile doesn't shy away from acidity and brightness found in lighter roasts.

Some to try for a chocolate/caramel forward, lower acidity shot but not getting into dark roast territory would be:
-Cimarron Coffee- Courthouse (roughly 16-17 Roastvision)
-Tony's Coffee- Sugar Bee Espresso (roughly 17 Roastvision)

If you want to explore traditional Italian style shots with thick crema, dark chocolate and spice then I'd look into Saka's offerings to see how you like that.


#9: Post by bullet08 »

Do you normally drink espresso? If not, how do you know what you are making is a proper shot or not? Proper shot of traditional espresso to people not used to it will be bitter. If pulled strong, could be harsh. After you get used to drinking espresso, you will notice a good extraction is nicely balanced and neither bitterness nor sourness will standout by itself. And you will also notice some sweetness. Go around local cafes and try their espresso, traditional espresso if that's what you are after. If you like it, try buying their beans and try to recreate it. Your update seems to indicate you drink mostly milk based drinks and not clear on what espresso supposed to taste like.

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#10: Post by dparrish »

Acidic and Bitter are two different flavor notes which indicate different things. Acidic notes (as in a citrus fruit of some kind-lemony, orange, lime, sometimes other fruit notes) are extracted sooner than bitter notes (think paper, pulp). Sugars and citrus notes are easier to extract and come out sooner-usually acids, followed by sugars. So if you're getting overly acidic notes (and not enough sugars), that probably means you need to grind coarser and/or extract longer into the shot--but it seems that you've already tried a longer/bigger ratio (1:2-1:3). My guess is that what you might be tasting is too much bitterness, which means the shot is going on too long and/or you need to grind finer and go for a shorter ratio. Bitterness is the last part of the bean to extract (it's actually the pulp of the bean, the celluloid). So try grinding finer and aiming for more of a 1:1 to 1:2 ratio. Finally, if you're not getting enough flavor, try going with a larger basket-perhaps 18 g. I haven't had The Natural in a while, so its hard to remember, except that I agree that their roasts tend to the lighter side. Yet, I enjoyed their coffee. If you can't get good results by making these tweaks, then as suggested by some, you may want to try something different, such as Caffe Lusso's Grand Miscela Carmo or Espresso Vivace's Vita or Dolce, all true medium to dark roasts, yet not overly roasted and chocolate/caramel notes in spades.