Basic Equipment, Colossal Shots

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

Hi there,

I'm a heavy coffee drinker but I'm only just dipping my toe into brewing my espresso more seriously at home. I've got pretty basic kit, but I was always reasonably happy with my coffee until the recent combination of a bean subscription and a really superb cafe down my road conspired to make me realise how pale my attempts were by comparison. I've therefore been trying to improve my technique, but have run into some pretty fundamental technical issues.

I have a basic Dualit 3-in-1 machine and a half-decent grinder, and I've been using this site's excellent guide.

The guide suggests that I should start by measuring out 12g of fine ground coffee, and aim for a 20-25g shot in 30 seconds, inc. 50% dwell time. However, at my grinder's finest setting, in 30 seconds, my machine helpfully provides me with a "shot" of ~145g!

Since trying to measure my shots properly, I've found that the requisite weight of coffee never fills my double basket after tamping, leaving about a 1/4 of the space of the basket free at the top. Previously I always just filled the basket, which resulted in a nice compact, dry puck after brewing. Now that I'm trying to do things properly, the basket is always filled with sludge after extraction and I'm wondering if this lack of resistance is what is allowing so much water to pass through in 30 seconds.

So my question is, basically, what do I do? Do I persevere with the guide, increasing the coarseness, in the hope it will slow extraction? Or do I go back to just filling the basket? Or something else?

Thanks very much in advance for any help you can give!

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#2: Post by Pressino »

You could certainly try tweaking your coffee prep (dosing, grind, puck prep) and extraction time, etc, but your machine certainly limits your ability to alter these and other variables. Your grinder is very important, and I'm not sure what you are using for that.

The first "machine" I used for espresso (after a moka pot) was the old Atomic, which didn't allow much "adjustment." Then I got an old Gaggia thermobloc machine, which is somewhat like yours. That, along with an acceptable grinder, did allow me to experiment with espresso making to the point I could make OK espresso and occasionally a great shot, but not reliably and it seemed more by luck than technique. In other words, I got to the point where my ability to make espresso was limited by the machine. Then I moved on to more capable (i.e., controllable) machines.

You may be at that point now, but if not, you could experiment further using the recommendations you've been following so far. The first thing I'd do, however, is consider the grinder you are currently using and get one (there are many that have been discussed here on that is capable of grinding for espresso. Then you need to consider getting a more "capable" espresso machine. You might consider a (relatively) inexpensive "basic" lever machine, like a Flair.

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#3: Post by Jeff »

You may be at the limit of your machine. It seems to be primarily a pod/capsule machine:

* Multi-brew versatility - all Dualit Coffee Capsules, Nespresso®* Capsules, ESE Pods and ground coffee

* 15 Bar pump: The ideal pressure for the perfect 'crema'

* Patented Pure Pour® filter holder for Ground Coffee and ESE pods

It was not clear to me from the manual if it was a pressurized basket. That the same basket seems to be used for ESE pods suggests that it is a pressurized basket. if so, virtually all the advice given here for setting grind and dose for taste doesn't apply.

If you've got significant fast-flow problems with a pressurized basket, it suggests that your grinder may not be able to grind appropriately for espresso. The grinds need to be uniformly fine, with easy and precise control over just how fine they are to adjust taste.

Pressino's advice is appropriate if you want to pursue espresso at home.