Watery espresso from Elektra Microcasa Semi-Automatica SXC

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#1: Post by bennycode »

Dear Community,

I got a Elektra Micro Casa Semiautomatica SXC and I would like to make great espresso with it. Unfortunately, I just can't do it, so I am asking for advice.

Here is what I am currently doing:

- Filling the water tank with softened water
- Pressing boiler water supply button until boiler water level indicator is at 3/4
- Waiting for the machine to heat up (red heating warning light goes off)
- Waiting for the machine to reach 1.2 - 1.3 bar pressure (green range on boiler pressure gauge)
- Filling 2-cup filter with 18g of Espresso (pre-ground for portafilter machines)
- Tamping the coffee
- Putting original Elektra portafilter for double shots into brew group
- Pressing coffee dispensing button
- Waiting for 20-25 seconds before pressing coffee dispensing button again

Despite following these steps, I have not yet managed to get a nice espresso out of the machine. The water flows too fast and makes the espresso very watery. I was hoping to get an espresso like this:
Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?


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#2: Post by HB »

It's a guess, but that looks like terribly stale coffee (zero crema, runs like water). Update after re-reading...
bennycode wrote:Filling 2-cup filter with 18g of Espresso (pre-ground for portafilter machines)
Whoops, preground coffee, by definition, is stale.
Dan Kehn

Team HB

#3: Post by JRising »

Just for testing purposes, using that overly coarse, stale pre-ground... You can greatly over-dose the portafilter with 21 or more grams of coffee and tamp the heck out of it, just for testing purposes. It can help you prove the machine is fine and it just needs coffee with some coffee left in it.
I dispose of a lot of out of date coffee by using it for testing and it will work fine to prove that the machine is working. Just put too much in, tamp it like a gorilla and the machine's gauges will go to the right positions and you'll actually get a bit of crema despite the stale coffee.

It's up to you whether you want to actually drink it. :(

bennycode (original poster)

#4: Post by bennycode (original poster) »

Thanks for your quick responses and tips!

I already tried four different kinds of Espresso (whole bean) and got watery Espresso every time. I am using already the finest grind setting and to exclude that the problem is on my grinder, I bought pre-ground coffee from a nearby coffee roastery. But there doesn't seem to be any coffee that can satisfy my machine.

Are there other parts that can cause water flowing too fast through the grind? I am using the original Elektra cup holders which have written on them that I should use 7g coffee for single shots and 17g coffee for double shots.

I tried to tamp like a Gorilla (that tip made me laugh :D) but I cannot fit more than 17-18g in the 2-cup holder. If I try to put more, then I cannot put the portafilter back into the machine. :cry:

Team HB

#5: Post by JRising »

Okay, so you may need a better grinder, but... If you can see what is limiting your grinder so badly that is has a "finest setting", see if you can change that limiting problem.

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Team HB

#6: Post by Jeff »

There is no "espresso grind" the way there is something roughly appropriate for drip or French press. What you get from a bulk grinder might be suitable for a pressurized-basket machine, not a standard basket.

Which grinder are you using?

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#7: Post by baldheadracing »

Besides the grinder/fineness of grind:

- 14g-15g in the stock portafilter - maximum. There is insufficient headroom available for more coffee with the stock basket
- either follow the start-up instructions in the manual (multiple flushes) or wait 20-30minutes after the machine is turned on before starting to make espresso. Keep the portafilter installed throughout the warm-up process

The Elektra benefits from a finer grind than most machines as the machine has no over-pressure valve.

Good luck!
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

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#8: Post by HB »

bennycode wrote:Are there other parts that can cause water flowing too fast through the grind?
Let's review: If water flows too quickly through the puck, it's because the water isn't resisted (duh). A coffee puck fails to offer resistance because of (a) stale coffee, (b) poor puck prep leading to massive channeling, and (c) inadequate grinder -- that's about it. Some espresso machines are more "forgiving", typically by adding preinfusion time that allows the puck to expand/fissures to close before full pressurization. The Elektra Semiautomatica, according to the review, is less forgiving than an E61. I owned one for years and don't recall it being fussy.

The Semiautomatica is a very simple espresso machine, i.e., there are no fancy valves or electronics. The only less complicated espresso machine are levers or the Cafelat Robot. That is, looking for something "wrong" to adjust with the espresso machine itself, IMO, is a fool's errand.
bennycode wrote:I am using already the finest grind setting...
A quality espresso grinder can produce the fineness of talcum powder, choking the flow of any espresso machine, even if the coffee was dreadfully stale. Based on what you've told us so far, everything is pointing to the grinder as the cause.
Dan Kehn

bennycode (original poster)

#9: Post by bennycode (original poster) »

Hey Dan, thank you for your detailed explanation. It really helps me to understand the Espresso-making process. Much appreciated! A friend of mine owns a Eureka Mignon MCI. I will borrow it over the weekend, buy some fresh beans and level up my grinding! :D

bennycode (original poster)

#10: Post by bennycode (original poster) »

Hey everyone, I've taken your tips into account and after a couple of experiments I can now make a better espresso with much more crema. Here is what I do now:

1. I replaced my pre-ground coffee with a freshly roasted (1 or 2 days old) Arabica/Robusta blend (Mocambo Brasilia). It's 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta as I have read that there is more crema when increasing the proportion of Robusta beans. The roast is dark as I have also read that dark roasts are easier to set up because their blonding effect doesn't show up so quickly.
2. I bought a "Eureka Mignon Specialita 16 CR" coffee grinder to grind 17g of coffee which fit my basket for double shots
3. I do 1-2 empty flushes before extracting coffee to get rid off stale water
4. I leave the portafilter installed during the warm-up process
5. I rinse the espresso cups with hot water to warm them up
6. I tamp the grounded coffee so that it fits in the basket of my portafilter just below the mark
7. I extract the coffee for 25-30 seconds in order to get 30ml of liquid out for each espresso (I am usually doing double shots)

Here is what it currently looks like:

Am I doing everything right or is there more that I can do?