Most common mistakes a barista makes

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

Having studied, read and learned for some time on HB, I finally took the plunge and just bought a Vibiemme Domobar Super Semi Automatic. I am thrilled, needless to say. I have read this thread regularly and have learned enough to know I am not an expert.. I would be great if some of you could share the MOST COMMON MISTAKES an enthusiast with such a machine is likely to make.

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#2: Post by cannonfodder »

Don't push yourself too hard. You will have some dismal failures (I still have them) but don't get frustrated. It takes time. Make small changes, and only one at a time. Don't change your grind, tamp dose all at the same time when trying to dial in the machine. Make one change, observe and correct.

To help you get a jump start, you may want to read (and watch the videos) in Dialing in a New Espresso Machine Step by Step Guide
Dave Stephens

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#3: Post by HB »

Good topic! This thread sounds like the analogue to The most important lessons I've learned so far.
bobdc wrote:I would be great if some of you could share the MOST COMMON MISTAKES an enthusiast with such a machine is likely to make.
Speaking specifically of your HX machine, the most common mistake is to try to flush to brew temperature in one step. Although it's possible, practically all heavy group espresso machines benefit from a "warning flush." That is, if the machine has been idle for a good while, flush to brew temperature... pause for a few minutes... flush to brew temperature... pause for rebound only, and then pull the shot. This more closely emulates the continuous use at which these machines excel, and hence hitting the correct brew temperature is easier. The next most common mistake is not allowing enough headspace. Although the E61's preinfusion permits some wiggle room, allow ample clearance for even water dispersion over the puck's surface during the first few critical seconds of the extraction.
Dan Kehn

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#4: Post by another_jim »

My candidate for the most common mistake is not identifying what went wrong with a shot that tastes bad.
-- Learn to distinguish too sour (lemon juice) from too bitter (lemon peel, wood, raw cinnamon, other sharp tastes); at the intensity of an espresso shot, these are such an assault that they are easily confused.
-- Too flat (not enough aroma and flavor), too intense, not sweet enough, too sweet (it does happen on occasion).

Once you know how a shot tastes wrong, it's a lot easier to correct than if all you know about it is that it tastes bad, or that it doesn't look pretty. I've written some pointers on diagnostics. They are a good place to start, but they don't always work. Each grinder, machine and blend has its own peculiarities, and you'll need to learn the shot fixes for your particular setup
Jim Schulman

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#5: Post by gitano1 »

Jim, that is a superb analysis. There is some terrific info on that page. Thank you.

I found that a mistake I made had to do with changing what I was doing when it was actually working great to start with. I have been doing espresso and lattes for more than 30 years. I had a Gaggia Classic for 23 years and produced consistently good drinks. In January I upgraded to an Expobar Lever and a Mazzer Mini. It took a bit of experimenting to find the right grind setting, but once there my drinks were great. Then I started reading all of the columns and articles and forums. Suddenly, I thought whatever I was doing could be better. The grind was fine, the amount of time per shot was dead on, but I started tightening my tamps and messing with the grind and pretty soon I was producing Yuck! Slowly but surely I went back to what I had been doing for so long, and lo and behold, it tastes great and looks wonderful.
I think the mistake is that we read another person's opinion without tasting what they are producing. The whole thing about achieving perfection is completely ephemeral. What is perfection? Find what tastes good to you and stick with it.

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#6: Post by ppopp »

Don't make the mistake of thinking you can make good espresso with anything but quality, fresh-roasted beans. Either home-roasted or from a good craft roaster. Fresh roasted. Fresh roasted. Fresh roasted.

Know beans, know coffee. No beans, no coffee.