My boss got a SOLIS Master Top - is good coffee possible?

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glaswasser

#1: Post by glaswasser »

I am working in a quite big institute and some fine day my boss decided to purchase a SOLIS Master Top - probably to increase productivity through constant caffeine supply. I have read the posts on such automatic machines and I understand that I will never get a perfect shot with it. However, given that it costs around 1500 bucks I thought there must be a way to get at least drinkable coffee. I have tried different sorts of beans (good, fresh ones), different grinds, and temperatures. Still the results are horrible: extremely sour or no taste, no crema (just a very thin blonde layer). The only way to drink it is to add a lot of milk but straight espresso is impossible.
Does anyone know how to get at least acceptable coffee out of such a machine?
Thanks a lot,
Markus

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oofnik

#2: Post by oofnik »

Well, do you have a supply of fresh beans? From the symptoms it sounds like the beans may be quite stale. See if you can find out how long ago they were roasted, and maybe try to load the machine up with a fresher batch. Super auto's will never give you a perfect shot, but with some tweaking they should be able to produce something somewhat acceptable.

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HB
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#3: Post by HB »

glaswasser wrote:However, given that it costs around 1500 bucks I thought there must be a way to get at least drinkable coffee... Does anyone know how to get at least acceptable coffee out of such a machine?
According to Michael Teahan, commercial super-autos capable of pulling good shots cost far more and require frequent adjustments. I can only take his word for it because I've only sampled straight espressos from a super-auto that would be an insult to my machine's driptray. To their defense, super-autos have a tough job - the best shots have a very narrow window between right on, gusher, and choked. Designers probably figure it's better to deliver something to the cup, so they have lower pressure and loose pucks, ergo, mediocre espresso.

IMO, making coffee cremas and masking with milk is the best option. Or bring your own grinder and French press. If it is any comfort, a super-auto is better than my employer's Bunn-o-Matic "Best by Jan 2008" swill.
Dan Kehn

glaswasser (original poster)

#4: Post by glaswasser (original poster) »

Thanks for the replies and the comforting words!
To oofnik: I am quite sure it is not the beans. I have tried three different sorts of good quality, freshly roasted beans.
To HB: I already thought that this machine might just not be able to do the job. I just could not believe it, given that for the money you could already buy a really nice grinder + a decent espresso machine. I have really tried a lot with that super-auto now and what surprises me the most is that no matter how much coffee you put in there or how finely you grind, a shot does not take longer than 10-15 seconds. I thought that maybe the coffee is not "tamped" hard enough or the pressure is far too high. However, as you will have noticed by now, I am not really an expert and there is nothing more that I could change at the machine without taking it apart.
Anyway, I guess I will stay with my french-press in the future or does anybody know some SOLIS-magic?
Thanks for the help!

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jesawdy

#5: Post by jesawdy »

glaswasser wrote:I have really tried a lot with that super-auto now and what surprises me the most is that no matter how much coffee you put in there or how finely you grind, a shot does not take longer than 10-15 seconds. I thought that maybe the coffee is not "tamped" hard enough or the pressure is far too high. However, as you will have noticed by now, I am not really an expert and there is nothing more that I could change at the machine without taking it apart.
Anyway, I guess I will stay with my french-press in the future or does anybody know some SOLIS-magic?
I don' t know any Solis-Magic but I can tell you what has worked for me in a Saeco superauto at work.

Okay, first, shot time is out the window for the most part... you can try to get there, but 1 ounce in about 20 seconds is about as best as I can come on the Saeco. (I find the Saeco is at it's best when it sounds like something is going to break!) On my particular machine I can only adjust the grind and the water volume, I cannot adjust the dose level. Also, it only makes a single... A double is two back to back singles.

Try adjusting your grind so that blonding is occuring at the end of your shot volume (if you see blonding that is, some superautos and beans seem to only make white crema, yuck!) You need a clear glass so you can see what is going on when you attempt to dial it in. You might try an overextended shot, and note the volume at blonding and then adjust for that volume. On my particular machine, the pucks are usually well formed and dry.

What has worked for me - a nice local roasted Full City to Full City+ espresso blend (always very fresh), less than an ounce delivered per single, adjust the grind from time to time, but not really all that often... it's a superauto after all. You really need to try and avoid beans with much surface oil (in my case my daily blend usually has no surface oils) to keep the grinder happy and the machine humming along. Every once in awhile, it will pull a shot that looks fairly yummy, striping, flecking and all. 99% of the time, my double is pouring into about 4-5 ounces of hot water for an Americano... cream might help :D .

Coffee Crema's, or overextended shots can also be decent depending on the coffee used. A few officemates will overextract their shots like this. I have a "nastygram" on the machine that they need to dial the shot volume back down or go back to drinking the office coffee service stuff. There isn't much that makes me madder than walking back to the machine to find my Americano overextracted and either filled to the brim or running into the drip tray. :evil:
Jeff Sawdy

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jesawdy

#6: Post by jesawdy »

I found this tonight, http://www.caffetech.com/pages/files/So ... ochure.pdf

Man there are some funny pictures in that brochure. I am not sure if they are making tea or coffee :D

With only 6 grind settings, that's not much range of adjustment. Can you tell if it is stepped? The Saeco uses an inexpensive conical burr similar to the Solis Maestro grinder and it feels stepless. It has a range from 0 - 20 or so.

It also reads like you mess with the brew group to change the dose? Perhaps you can try something close to a single, and something close to a double and see if you get better results with one over the other.
Jeff Sawdy

glaswasser (original poster)

#7: Post by glaswasser (original poster) » replying to jesawdy »

Thanks for sharing your experiences and especially for that awesome brochure, I nearly fell of my chair laughing!
The grinder is stepped, about four steps per setting. As you mentioned in your posting before this superauto seems to be one of those with a serious crema-problem: the crema is nearly white. The best result I got with a double, which was a light brown (like on the brochure-pictures). The strange thing is that that different grinds do not really influence the crema, but instead the coffee gets more sour when the grind is fine. This gets worse with lower temperatures so I am running at high temperature at the moment.
Meanwhile I thought maybe it's best to forget espressos on this thing and optimize it for those people that want to get cafe creme. After all it's a swiss machine maybe it was built for that thing they call "Schuemli".

Cheers,
Markus

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calb

#8: Post by calb »

Nearly white or at best light brown crema means the coffee is coming very weak so adding milk will only make things worse in my opinion. And if you are using fresh coffee then you are probably facing a grinder problem , since it's commonly accepted that even a modest machine will make ok espresso if you use fresh beans and a good grinder.

glaswasser (original poster)

#9: Post by glaswasser (original poster) »

The problem is solved, in a way.
I tried swiss "Schuemli"-style roasted beans on the Solis machine and it finally gives acceptable cafe creme. The "espresso" is not that sour anymore but it's also far away from being espresso and thus useless. Obviously the company optimised the machine for cafe creme without telling in the manual and for what reason ever.
Thanks to all the people who tried to help me handling this strange sort of superauto!