Is it possible to pull a real espresso from a pressurized portafilter?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by BKSinAZ »

I have a starbucks barista machine (maker is saeco) from the very late 1990's.
Since I've owned it, my shots are more like strong coffee instead of espresso.
So, until I can afford a real espresso machine, is there anything I can do to improve my shots?

Also.. with a pressurized porta filter, is it a waste of time to tamp?

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#2: Post by DanoM »

Well, considering your profile says the machine just died answering this might be a waste of time... :)

Anyway, you might want to check on the coffee you are using. Fresh is very important, 2 weeks from roast max is a general rule.
You need a quality burr grinder too. One designed for espresso.

Those will give you a fighting chance. If all else fails you can do a great pourover!

Pressurized portafilters might work with a tamp, but they'll also destroy the real crema that you might generate and create their own foam. It might be better than you get right now, but then again it's generally felt pressurized portafilters aren't worth the time an effort and won't deliver the product people here are after.
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#3: Post by another_jim »

Pressurized baskets slow down the flow enough so that you can stretch out the shot for 25 seconds and get a more or less properly extracted shot with coarse ground coffee. The same grind in a regular basket would produce a five second gush. However, instead of having the coffee oils emulsified by the fines at the bottom of the basket, the crema is produced by the restrictor nozzle. So it is not the proper foam with oil/water bubbles, but just atomized water based bubbles. This stuff does takes up a lot of room when it comes out, so it looks great for a second or two, but then it dissipates.

This atomized foam doesn't taste much like regular espresso for most coffees. However, if you use a blend with a lot of robusta, its heavier body and more stable foam make the shot taste closer to a traditional espresso. Try something like Cafe Bustello, Pilon or Segafredo, and you might be happier.
Jim Schulman

BKSinAZ (original poster)
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#4: Post by BKSinAZ (original poster) »

You are correct, but since then I repaired the machine with another pump.
But that seems to be last year.

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#5: Post by Scott_G »

+1 on the grinder. I use a Skerton (inexpensive, but effective) & grind slightly more coarse than with an unpressurized portafilter. When I tried a grind size closer to Aeropress, the shot produced a lot of foam and tasted more like Aeropress. Also, a light tamp to level the grounds is good enough IMO, as the portafilter is already producing several bar of pressure by design.

I haven't been able to get a shot to taste as good as a quality shot from my Oscar, but I get consistently acceptable (for me :) ) shots, especially for milk-based drinks.