Is it me or my equipment? Bad luck w/Breville & just want good espresso! Need advice.

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?
elef3u

Postby elef3u » Mar 13, 2018, 4:28 pm

Hi gang, this is gonna be long but please bear with me because I could use some advice. (Long time reader, first time poster.)

I recently bought and returned the Breville Oracle Touch TWICE, and the Breville Barista Touch once. I found that I could not get any kind of consistency from hour to hour or day to day. Sometimes there was minute-to-minute consistency in pulling back-to-back shots, but they were never GOOD shots.

Is the issue the built-in Breville grinders that just don't do a good consistent job grinding and timing the dosing? To dial in, I weighed my grounds and my liquid output and started with a 1:2 ratio, adjusting one variable at a time, using the same fresh beans, blah blah blah (I've been doing research for a LONG time and following lots of advice) but still just could never get a good shot out of those machines. Sometimes one grinder setting would give me overextraction, and just adjusting one grind size finer would give me bad overextraction and barely dribbling espresso.

I think the issue with the Oracle Touch is that it was overdosing with no way to adjust it (e.g., After letting it grind and tamp, if I'd put the portafilter into the group head and remove it, there were indentations in the coffee from the screen! That shouldn't happen, right?). And the Barista Touch just would never give me any kind of consistency even with all variables unchanged. And both would grind lumpy. I was using medium roast beans.

For a year or so I've had a Miele CM6310 superauto. I get consistent espresso out of the thing that's half-decent, but it just doesn't produce thick body and depth you get from a real espresso machine, plus the auto milk frothing system is annoying to keep clean, and I'd rather have a steam wand. I'm looking at two options here since the Oracle and Barista Touch haven't worked out for me:

1. Baratza Sette 270W and Breville Dual Boiler
2. Baratza Sette 270W and ECM Elektronika II Profi (less likely since my wife isn't crazy about the look, and because of the higher price)

I know the ECM will probably be the recommendation here out of those two options, but is the Breville Dual Boiler a bad idea? It seems to get good reviews if not for possible long-term reliability issues. I like that the Dual Boiler and the ECM Elektronika have programmable shot timers, so maybe that would result in some consistency? But I'm sure a good grinder is part of if not the whole solution.

Any other suggestions? I'm pretty set on the 270W since I love the look and built-in scale. Are there any other grinders with a scale I should consider? And I'd prefer a grinder that wasn't *too* messy...

Thanks all.

-Charlie

desmodici

Postby desmodici » Mar 13, 2018, 5:01 pm

What coffee are you using and have you tried different coffees?

I've made espresso on my friends Breville Barista Express and was very pleased with the results - i.e. the machine (even with the built in grinder) is capable of producing good shots from my experience, so just want to ensure you don't chase after equipment when the issue could potentially be elsewhere

sternalot

Postby sternalot » Mar 13, 2018, 5:10 pm

While it's a pain in the butt, I've had really good success lowering the tapping fan to lower the dose from the built in Oracle Touch grinder. With a stock basket, I can get down to 18.5g at the lowest. This morning I raised the fan to get the ~19g recommended for Cat & Cloud The Answer. I can get lower doses by using a VST 15g basket, though I have a lot of incomplete tamps with this setup.

I feel your pain though. I bought the Oracle mainly because I wanted my fiancée to be able to easily make herself a latte. However, my personality dictates that I had to master this inflexible machine. I find I've been able to dial in consistently good and occasionally great drinks.

With all that said, you've already moved on. As such, your wife's concern over the looks of the ECM basically suggest the decision has been made. Enjoy the BDB. ;-)

maxbmello

Postby maxbmello » Mar 13, 2018, 9:16 pm

You *should* see an improvement in your coffee by getting a better grinder paired with a BDB, and the sette would likely qualify. I haven't used one, but by all accounts is good. The built in grinder in the oracle and barista express is probably on par with the SGP by bee like, and would be considered bottom of the barrel in terms of espresso grinding.

Before you move on, I think trying other types of coffees is a worthwhile expirament. However at the end of the day, it's always better to have a separate grinder and machine. I've had my BDB for 5ish years now and have gone from a Preciso to Vario to Pharos to M68 and consistently enjoyed better shots with each upgrade. The machine itself has been a solid performer and have only had to change the steam boiler o rings.

elef3u

Postby elef3u » Mar 13, 2018, 9:40 pm

desmodici wrote:What coffee are you using and have you tried different coffees?

I've made espresso on my friends Breville Barista Express and was very pleased with the results - i.e. the machine (even with the built in grinder) is capable of producing good shots from my experience, so just want to ensure you don't chase after equipment when the issue could potentially be elsewhere


I used the coffees below. All but the Illy were within about a week or so of their roast date:

Ceremony Coffee, Mass Appeal (a favorite of mine, local to Maryland) medium roast

Ceremony Coffee, Destroyer medium roast

Chesapeake Roasting Company, Eco-Reef medium roast

Intelligentsia, Black Cat Classic

Illy, Medium Roast (I LOVE Illy medium roast in Europe but can't duplicate the flavor on any espresso here at home in the U.S.)

Illy, Monoarabica Brazilian medium roast

desmodici

Postby desmodici » Mar 13, 2018, 11:36 pm

Seems you've tried a wide variety of freshly roasted coffee. I'm not knowledgeable on those specific Breville machines, but seems like there is a potential limitation in the fixed dose. You will likely have better results with either of the combinations you are looking at.

My brother has the Breville Dual Boiler with a Mazzer Mini Doser grinder and gets great results.

klund

Postby klund » Mar 14, 2018, 10:12 am

elef3u wrote:I like that the Dual Boiler and the ECM Elektronika have programmable shot timers, so maybe that would result in some consistency?


I'll ignore all the rest, because others have covered everything else. I have had a BDB for 6 years now, and I strongly advise against the programmable shot buttons. If you want to master the machine, you will use the Manual button to get the desired result. I just didn't want that to be a factor in your decision, and then you end up disappointed.

Everything you've heard about the machine is true. It makes amazing, consistent espresso, but has reliability issues.

elef3u

Postby elef3u » replying to klund » Mar 14, 2018, 10:36 am

Hmm good point. I guess while I'm learning I'll be using a scale to weigh every shot anyway so the shot timer might only come into play after everything is dialed-in? Or maybe never? I guess I'm trying to have some "one touch" style convenience for those early mornings where you just don't feel like pulling 2 or 3 shots before you get one that tastes good.

Or, with good equipment (grinder), is getting consistently drinkable shots on the first try each day easy?

klund

Postby klund » Mar 14, 2018, 10:46 am

elef3u wrote:Hmm good point. I guess while I'm learning I'll be using a scale to weigh every shot anyway so the shot timer might only come into play after everything is dialed-in? Or maybe never?


For me: Never. I always stop the shot at my desired weight.

elef3u wrote:I guess I'm trying to have some "one touch" style convenience for those early mornings where you just don't feel like pulling 2 or 3 shots before you get one that tastes good.
Or, with good equipment (grinder), is getting consistently drinkable shots on the first try each day easy?


I have a Vario-W, and I freeze beans in roughly 5 day batches. I think I'm 4 pounds through a 5 pound bag of beans right now, and in the past 3 weeks I've adjusted the grinder one click. My first shot in the morning is great. So it's not one-touch, it's two-touch, but damn simple.

User avatar
lancealot

Postby lancealot » Mar 15, 2018, 10:59 pm

elef3u wrote:Hmm good point. I guess while I'm learning I'll be using a scale to weigh every shot anyway so the shot timer might only come into play after everything is dialed-in? Or maybe never? I guess I'm trying to have some "one touch" style convenience for those early mornings where you just don't feel like pulling 2 or 3 shots before you get one that tastes good.

Or, with good equipment (grinder), is getting consistently drinkable shots on the first try each day easy?


I drink a latte first thing and usually take an americano on the road with me. I usually use a comfort espresso that doesn't have a ton of subtle flavors or whatever. I've been at it for about a year and my palate isn't too picky. After getting dialed-in, due to the coffee choice and all the milk or water, i could easily get away with pushing the button on my grinder and not weighting it, then pushing the button on the BDB that is set to whatever time i dialed it in for. I would notice some difference in straight shots but not the drinks i make. I don't do this though. It is part of my routine to weigh everything, make sure my distribution is good and then weigh and time the shot. I have it down and it really takes me 2 min to make a latte in the morning. When I have a bunch of people over who want coffee drinks, I do dial-in, and then use the presets once I have them programmed for the dial-in.

For the second question ^. The short answer is yes. With decent equipment, coffee you like, and good skills you can get great shots consistently. I do.

The long answer: My grinder holds about 5 grams of ground coffee in the exit chute. If I am making a latte, I just grind the dose into my portafilter and I make the shot for the latte and it is great, though it usually pulls a little fast. If I am making a shot to drink straight and I haven't pulled a shot in say, an hour, I will purge 5 grams of coffee and toss it, then grind the dose. This purge ensures I have fresh ground coffee for the straight shot. Once I get everything dialed in, it stays pretty consistent with my setup. I buy 5lbs of coffee at a time, rest it for 7-10 days, then freeze it in vac seal bags. I only have coffee in my hopper for about 3 - 4 days then i am defrosting another 1/2lb. As most coffees age in the hopper, you'll find that they pull a little faster. You can adjust for this by 1) ignoring it, 2) upping the dose a tad, or 3) adjusting the grinder. With my 3 days regimen, i usually do either 1 or 2 once I am dialed-in.

Last thing. Buy your BDB at Bed Bath. Use the 20% coupon, keep your receipt and rest easy about reliability issues. Their return policy goes a long way to taking away my concerns about that issue.