Need pointers on pull technique

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#1: Post by GaggiaGirl »

I was hoping I could get a few pointers on my pull technique. I am not sure I really understand how to properly use my Gaggia Factory 16 Cup. I just finished reading a previous forum thread on the "Fellini" method of pulling shots -- I am afraid this may have confused me further. Here is what I do to pull my shots:
1. Flush out portafilter by pulling some water through it
2. Tamp grinds and insert portafilter
3. Pull the lever on my machine all the way up (to the point where I feel the resistance give, and it no longer feels the handle is being "pushed" down)
4. Slowly control the downward stroke of the lever to produce a thin stream of espresso

Should I be doing something differently? Do I need to replace my grinds before coming back up and drawing more water in (the Fellini technique seemed to indicate more than one full pull from a single puck?)? Oh, the confusion. I know once I understand this whole process I will be glad I went with a lever machine (won't I?)!

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#2: Post by mogogear »

Howdy GG! I can just feel forum members either pointing you to an already well documented "order of worship" or are they going to each lead you down the aisle?

I will start as an initial adjustment.
Following your group warmimg, grinding tamping ordeals..
When you are ready to lock your PF into place, already have your lever positioned upward, just before the point where water would be allowed into the group headthrough a small hole. It is easy to find where this starts. Just watch the position when you do y our group flushing. That way when your PF is locked into place you are less likely to "suck" the puck upward ( no snickering here I was careful with wording after I read this myself :wink: ) you so tenderly tamped into place. You want it sealed in it's its seat in the basket.
So locked in; the raise the handle; water fills the cylinder above the coffee; leave the lever here. Count to about 12-15 seconds for pre-infusion ( possibly don't collect the first few drops in your cup) they are rumoured to be sour- this is not a univerally held belief!!


I'll stand back and let someone else take the next step from here. I wonder who will provide the next step?????
greg moore

LMWDP #067

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#3: Post by cannonfodder »

I will toss in another observation. Getting the pressure correct can be tricky. How much force on the lever is enough was one of my biggest questions when I started. Get out the bathroom scale and put the machine on it. While pulling you should be generating something in the 30-40 lbs range.

Personally, I believe if you get coffee dripping prior to starting the pull, your grind needs fined up. I raise the lever until the water flows, then lower it until it just stops. Then I lock in the PF, gently raise the lever to top, count to ten and pull until I get the first couple of drops. Then I gently raise the lever to top, count to two or three, and pull the shot (using the double basket).

These machines have a bad habit of overheating if you leave them on for too long. I let it sit for about 5 minutes after I open the steam valve to bleed off false pressure. Much over 10 minutes and it overheats, which gives you a burnt and bitter shot. More than three consecutive shots and it overheats. Shot one is pretty good, shot two is the best, shot three is on par with one, after that turn it off and let it cool down.

Just my two cents.
Dave Stephens

GaggiaGirl (original poster)

#4: Post by GaggiaGirl (original poster) »

I definitely need a finer grind, then...I don't have to use NEARLY that kind of pressure. Why are the preground espresso beans I'm buying so coarse?? Do pump machines need a significantly coarser grind? I am beginning to see my bean and grinder situation is a bit more critical that I thought it was going to be.

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#5: Post by HB »

GaggiaGirl wrote:Why are the preground espresso beans I'm buying so coarse?? Do pump machines need a significantly coarser grind?
Generally speaking, the grind settings for the two types of machines are fairly close (e.g., a notch or two on Rocky, 1-1/2 notches on the Mini). To pull a good shot, a skilled barista will make minute adjustments to the grind, sometimes less than a millimeter on the Mazzer Mini. Preground coffee isn't just wrong in the grind setting, it's dry, stale coffee. Getting a good grinder and using fresh coffee beans will make a HUGE difference in the quality of your espresso.
Dan Kehn

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#6: Post by cannonfodder »

Preground would be the key word. When I got my first machine I was in the same trap. I convinced myself that all of these people did not know what they were talking about and a can of fine grind Illy would be just fine. It was not.

In the end I got a cheap burr grinder, then upgraded to a Gaggia MDF, a couple months later I got a Mazzer, and thanks to the sponsors and HB's incredible birthday special, a new Cimbali will be arriving today.

The moral of the story, the grinder is as, if not more, important than the machine, and a cheap grinder will just not cut it. My MDF does a respectable job. But if I were doing it again, I would get a Mazzer from the start.
Dave Stephens

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#7: Post by kbuzbee »

GaggiaGirl wrote: I am beginning to see my bean and grinder situation is a bit more critical that I thought it was going to be.
Exactly! Improve those. Follow the other rec's here and you're well on your way. At that point you'll have more questions and there are many great threads here already but until you can fine tune your grind you are really (sorry about this) wasting your time trying to fix anything else.... I also tried fine ground Illy first. Everything I read said that was the one to start with to teach you what the right grind looks and feels like. It isn't (IMO).

Have fun.

LMWDP #054

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#8: Post by Gatewood »

Well, I'm going to weigh in, too, although I'm a screaming newbie and know nothing except that I like my shots. (As does my husband) I can't pull the handle up on my La Pavoni and leave it there while I put the portafilter in unless I grow another hand. So, I put in the PF, pull slowly and carefully up on the handle, and wait until I feel the water going in for the pre-infusion. You can feel the vibration in the two handles. Ten seconds doesn't get it. I used to do that, but sometimes the preinfusion takes 3 seconds, sometimes 14, and I want to be sure it happens. If it doesn't, I don't get anything drinkable. There's no way I'm using the correct pressure, as I'm puny, so I try to compensate by tamping pretty hard, grinding pretty fine, and pulling VERY slowly. I have to be careful with the tamp, as I've been known to choke up my machine to the point that even my husband can't pull the lever. And so far, so good. As long as I'm using really fresh beans (I roast my own, and drink them all up before the traditional three day resting period is up), the shots are very tasty. To me, and to Stan (my husband), that's what matters. I don't get a lot of crema, but I get fairly pretty stuff. The crema is just not very deep.


Paul L

#9: Post by Paul L »

I'm with Gatewood, nice post, except that I get excellent crema. Every so often I buy a small amount of commercially roasted beans and what they demonstrate time after time is that there is no substitute for roasting your own and then getting the grind, tamp and pull right. With bought beans the pull has less resistance unless clicking to grind finer. Mostly though it's that I can watch the crema disappear whereas with my own it stays there in its glory. I'm no pro either, just roasts with a humble iRoast at the moment. I do leave them for 2 days though, sitting in 1-way valve bags which I get from www. here in the UK, Steve is a well known roaster and a senior player on a forum we have in Europe (it wouldn't be fair to name it on here).

GG, I posted my own routine on here a while ago which I repeat below, I hope no-one minds. I've since made subtle changes but the key is that I did like clockwork for about 4 or 5 months until I intuitively started to push the boundaries. I use a non-pro (0.8L) Pavoni Europiccola (millenium EL). If this is too much detail you can go right to the summary at the end!:

1. Turn Pav upside down over sink to ensure completely empty, then fill boiler with filtered water about a centimetre from the top of the sight glass, insert empty pf and switch on.
2. Weigh beans into basket and then grind
(two baskets if preparing two capps - it seems everyone who visits drinks capps, as I do)
3. Dose into one of two small-wide-capp-cups kept purely for dosing and then hoover out grinder and doser
(I'm serious!)
4. Fill basket(s) using a small dosing spoon and a tray to catch grounds so kitchen stays clean
(spoons bought from UK store Whittards, I keep two of them so I've generally got a dry clean one)
5. tap baskets on tray and then level over sink with flat back of knife to get perfectly flat baskets whilst stray grounds don't go everywhere
(I like working with the baskets away from the pf)
6. Tamp with custom measured tamper from Reg Barber
(51.5mm basically)
7. Pour 5oz of cold semi-skimmed (2%) milk into cold 12oz jug
(jug was in fridge)
8. Rinse out coffee cloth so it is ready to be used
(I keep a pack of dishcloths solely for coffee and change them regularly)
9. Quickly wash dosing spoon, tray and dosing cup.

By this time the Pavoni is already up to speed and the green light goes out, I now have all prep done, no mess anywhere, I have prepped basket(s) sitting ready and I can just concentrate on the drinks.

MY METHOD (everyone will have their own)
1. Put cloth over steam wand and open up to bleed
(i.e. to ensure steam is dry)
2. Put capp cup under grouphead and pull some blank
(to pre-warm pf, cup and again release any false pressure)
3. Steam the milk first
(I do this so that I can let it have that all important rest before banging and swirling)
4. Clean the wand immediately with cloth a couple of times and rinse jug
(so milk does not dry onto the wand or into the jug, this can happen really fast)
5. Empty cup (into second cup if making two drinks), place basket into pf, lock and load and then pull the shot
(I don't raise the lever a second time, I'm happy to find the strength of bean, grind and tamp to give me the strength I am looking for and don't feel the need for a larger shot)
6. Remove cup and put waste-cup (one I use solely for slops) under group to keep the tray clean but leave pf in place even if making second drink
(the Peacock is notorious for pf sneeze. I can honestly say that in two months I have not had a single sneeze from it but I had loads form the Gaggia)
7. Bang and swirl milk then finish the drink, rinse jug
8. Now is the point that I remove the pf and spent basket
(by this time any risk of sneeze seems to have gone)

If I'm making a second drink - even if on my own I sometimes make two back-to-back - I repeat the bleed, empty cup, steam milk, clean wand, lock and load and pull shot, bang and swirl, rinse jug

1. First thing to do is switch off machine.
(Clean up is now fast, I've actually done most of it as I go)
2. Take the already-rinsed jug, half-fill with water and 'steam' it as if it is milk, empty it, rinse and repeat blank steaming
(drink(s) are already in cup, Pav is powered-off, you would be surprised to see how much milk was trapped up in there somewhere)
3. Raise lever to pull blank for a few seconds into the slops-cup
(and self clean the shower-screen)
4. Get the coffee clean wet and cold and give the inside of the group a good scrub quickly, rinse cloth and repeat a couple of times
(I'm fussy about keeping this clean as I seem to read so many times how people backflush their E61 machines or whatever they use and then seem amazed to find a staleness in taste removed from the newly-cleaned-grouphead)
5. Pull more blank only this time keep the lever up, in fact you get to a point where the lever stays up
(so that you can now safely remove the boiler cap at any time)

You're done. The whole place is clean, no mess anywhere and no baked-on or stale-grind horrors to contend with. It took about ten minutes and your drink(s) are still fresh.

Oh, and the biggest factors for me still remain:
1. Freshness of beans
(preferably home-roasted, I'm a huge fan of the iRoast I use vented straight out of a small kitchen window)
2. Grind and tamp
(you just have to work on finding your own balance but I personally grind fine, dose carefully and tamp less)
3. Choice of bean
(the strength, edge, balance, ability to cut through milk etc. to your own personal taste)
4. Freshness and type of milk
(as it makes a difference in my set-up anyway)
5. Practise, practise, practise and, erm, practise
(don't worry if it takes a few weeks to get things how you want them or learn to steam milk or pour into the cup without a spoon etc.)

Oh, and I don't double-pull and I don't particularly go with the fellini technique. Nothing wrong with either and I have tried both but it's all a case of understanding the variables to my mind. Change one thing and you're then changing strength of bean, ratio of milk or something else to regain the balance you like. So don't be swayed by any of us, it really is about finding your own sweet-spot and then pushing the boundaries to find out what you respond to. Oh dear, this is all continuing the double-entendres despite my attempts for it not to. I think you get my drift.

Coffeetime (UK) Greens Club

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#10: Post by Espressobear »

I still consider myself a newbie having worked with my La Pavoni EP for about three months. But I'm pretty pleased with my results................. I don't get alot of crema but it tasts great.

I've tried different brands and my favorite is PT coffee, out of Topeka. Their Bella Vita Espresso blend is wonderful. I have yet to take the next step and put out the $$$$Denaro Grande for a grinder, I have the coffee shop where I buy the coffee grind it for me. And this may be the one thing I lack to achieving the "perfect shot"

After doing the prep: filling with fresh water, warming to the point where steam is beginning to escape from the valve. Filling, tamping, and bleeding. I Lift the lever and for approx 15 seconds. Then pull a slow shot, pushing the lever down with firm pressure. I usually get the crema at the end.

I could probably change something in this, and am open to suggestions, but even with the little crema I get the taste of the shots is great.