Difficulties grinding Onyx Monarch

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#1: Post by figius »

I am having some issues satisfactorily dialing in Onyx Monarch. Pulls are either a little fast (22 sec) or almost choked, then a little fast. In the cup the pulls are quite tasty, but I know this roast can be better and I just can't seem to hit the sweet spot. I think the issue is grind uniformity/excessive fines, associated with the Ethiopian beans and/or related to issues with the grinders. I have not had this problem with other roasts. Initially I was using my Mazzer Mini electronic. I have about 200 lbs on these burrs which I replaced a few years ago. I changed over to my Nuova Simonelli G60 (about 100 lbs on these burrs) which has performed slightly better with this roast, though the problem has not been solved completely. I am using an unmodified LMLM, so no preinfusion or flow profiling.

19g in/36g out, 200F. I am meticulous with puck prep. I weigh dose carefully, use a lunar, WDT. I use beans within 2 weeks of roasting. Before the Monarch I was drinking mostly Klatch Belle, and had no difficulty hitting my targets consistently and getting what have seemed to me nearly perfect extractions. My thought is that these grinders can't deal with the ethiopian beans, but would like to ask for your thoughts out there.
BTW I have a Monolith flat on order. I'm hoping that will solve my problem!
Thanks in advance for your input!

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#2: Post by Jeff »

African beans seem to behave differently for me than Central or South American ones. My gut feeling is that it isn't your grinder, is probably your expectations, and for a really long stretch could be your basket.

How do the shots taste, ignoring the numbers?

If you ignore how much the shots speed up, how do they taste? Is there a ratio where it smooths out for you?

Put differently, what defects in the cup have you thinking it could be better?

That gloppy, 1990s-style pull isn't always the best look for current blends and roast levels.

"18:36 in 25 seconds" or the like is just a benchmark. It's probably near a good dial-in point, but doesn't define how to make espresso.

figius (original poster)
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#3: Post by figius (original poster) »


Thanks for the response. It's not simply that the extraction is 22 secs that bothers me. It's that it starts too slow and then finishes too fast like there is some channeling, and I think it must be because of the fines.

But I get your point. And the coffee is really good in the cup. Also, I have experimented with different ratios for this roast, from ristretto up to 55g out (which is what Onyx suggests). That was interesting, and tasty, but shots that long are not what I typically favor. What I like best so far with this roast is 19g in/38-40g out (that's 19 in a 17g LM basket btw).

Anyway, thanks for giving me some things to think about. I think I'll play around with different size baskets next.

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#4: Post by Jeff »

The seemingly fast flow speed up is probably normal. As roughly 1/5 of the grinds dissolve and go into the cup, there's less to hold back the pressure, so the flow increases. Different beans lose their good stuff at different rates. Kenyan and Ethiopian beans seem to me to have a tendency to speed up sooner than Central or South American beans (feeling, no experimental proof).

You're probably OK on the basket, as long as you've got enough head space. With some Ethiopian single-origin coffees and a well-respected basket I've seen behavior where the "resistance" of the puck went up later in the shot, instead of down. There's lots of hand-wavy explanations with people mumbling "fines migration" and nodding knowingly at each other. What ever the underlying mechanism really is, changing basket from a moderate- to a fast-flow precision basket (my "usual" VST) improved shot flavor and the "strangeness" in the measured flow ended.

Are VST better? For that coffee, my grinder, and that style of extraction, yes. In general? I think the desire for fancy baskets that seem to accentuate every tiny flaw in grind and prep causes beginners and intermediates more trouble than they're worth. For advanced users I think they're a great tool to have as one option, especially with lighter roasts.

Anyways, you might try a different basket to find out for you and that coffee what the changes might be.

If you're really adventurous and have lots of cleaning rags around (or a spouted PF), you could try "turbo" shots, where you shoot for the other sweet spot with a coarser grind, faster flow, and even shorter time. Some people find they work well with their coffees and gear, others don't.

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#5: Post by Quester »

I know this offering, and I think it's overdeveloped. You will get chocolate, but "berries" is a reach. I've pulled Monarch on several grinders. It tastes similar on all of them.
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#6: Post by cmin replying to Quester »

This, I've never gotten that "berry" note in Monarch, not even with Monolith nor profiling. It taste like a sorta tyoical/generic offering (nothing like their single origins). I think they say wine and berries or something like that, have never had anything like with Monarch. It's fine, but way too many other better offerings elsewhere. I'm pulling Brooklyn Estate from Hyperion right now and loving it and not even really dialed yet

I don't recall it flowing unusually fast though OP. Which basket are you using? If VST than yeah no doubt with those origins and a fast flow basket is going to pull quickly. I just had a Kenyan that was tricky as it was on the faster flow side even with my trusty HQ baskets from espressoparts which are slower flow, and dialing in further would start tasting off. Took almost half the bag (8oz lol) to really get it in range.

figius (original poster)
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#7: Post by figius (original poster) »

Using the LM baskets that came with the LMLM, "advanced precision" I think. My understanding is that it's identical to VST, minus an extra layer of QC. I have been using 19g in a 17g basket.

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#8: Post by BaristaBob replying to figius »

You might want to move to a 20g basket (or slightly larger basket). Your headspace might be a bit too tight and that might be causing some of the inconsistencies you are seeing.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..I've come to drink you once again"

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#9: Post by jz_coffee »

This has not been my experience. I pulled my first shot with monarch about two weeks ago after pulling Vivace Dolce for about a month straight. The first shot of Monarch had an incredible dark cherry flavor followed by dark chocolate but 100% fruit forward. Strangely however as I pulled the Monarch over the last two weeks that cherry note receded further and further everyday and I was frustrated by my inability to coax it back out.

I'm grinding on an HG-2 and pulling on a Cafelat Robot.