Can’t dial in new Breville Barista Express. Need help!

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

Postby BillBurrGrinder » Feb 04, 2018, 6:52 pm

Hi all,

Long time espresso lover...just bought a Barista Express by Breville. I cannot seem to get it dialed in.

Locally roasted fresh coffee: Espresso Blend description "Light French Roast"

I am getting very bitter shots.

Brew Time: 20-30 seconds (depending on grind, starting at push of button)
Brew ratio: Between 1:2 and 1:4
Quantity: 14.5g - 18g

Only changing one variable each matter what, I get a nasty bitter strong shot. No sweetness to speak of.

Last shot was 14.5g, 23sec , 1:3 ratio still strong and bitter

Is it just an overroasted bean???

Any help is much appreciated!


Postby ben8jam » Feb 04, 2018, 7:02 pm

Who is the local roaster? "Light French" is a contradiction. French is the last stage in the roasting process before you have burnt beans.

Might want to start with a widely accepted espresso roast. And go from there.

But as you'll read a lot on here. Bitter usually = water temp too high.

And 1:3 is quite a long shot in 25 seconds. Try for 1:1.7 to 1:2


Postby BillBurrGrinder » replying to ben8jam » Feb 05, 2018, 12:37 am

Thanks for the tip! I ordered some Lavazza Super Crema. I figure if the general public likes it, must not be bitter so if that turns out bitter it's definitely my methods or machine limitations.

I turned the temp down for the last shot and it was still very bitter.

to change brew ratio but maintain the same brew time (with same tamp pressure) would it be best to grind more corse and up the dose? Seems like more coffee would still even out to the same yield? Still learning though.

BTW...I am glad you pointed out that "light French" is an oxymoron because I just figured it meant in between "full city" and "French roast". Roaster is Heavenly Cup in Painted Post, NY. "Espresso Blend". Small local roaster in an area with very little coffee options. All I know is that it was fresh so figured it's the way to go. Medaglia D'oro on a $49.95 machine I recall tasting better than this.


Postby HH » Feb 05, 2018, 6:24 am


Postby BillBurrGrinder » replying to HH » Feb 05, 2018, 10:54 am

Which part exactly are you referring to?


Postby klund » Feb 05, 2018, 11:59 am

BillBurrGrinder wrote:Thanks for the tip! I ordered some Lavazza Super Crema.

Just thought I'd chime in because I haven't seen it posted yet - when we say "fresh beans", we mean "beans that have been roasted 5-14 days ago". To get great espresso, your first priority is to only buy beans where you know exactly when they were roasted. I am making an assumption here, but I don't think that your Lavazza beans will be sufficient.


Postby ben8jam » replying to klund » Feb 05, 2018, 12:13 pm

Yeh... Super Crema will be months old probably. Lavazza is a dark roast too.

OP, where do you currently go to get espresso? What beans do they use? What's the quality of their shots? If it's good, you can probably buy the same beans they are using in house.


Postby klund » Feb 05, 2018, 12:18 pm

ben8jam wrote:OP, where do you currently go to get espresso? What beans do they use? What's the quality of their shots? If it's good, you can probably buy the same beans they are using in house.

But even then, you have to be careful. We have a great cafe in our town that makes rock solid espresso. They sell the beans that they use. However, they are targeting people who drink coffee, so the beans they are selling are not fresh enough for espresso. Bottom line, get confirmation of roast date!

But I agree, talking to a shop that makes espresso you like is a great idea.

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Postby lancealot » Feb 05, 2018, 12:49 pm

We are certainly going to give you the run around on here! First, please understand that making espresso is, in many ways, like baking bread. You can buy lotsa fancy equipment but in the end you still need skill and knowledge that comes from study and experience. It is also true that baking bread and making espresso are similar in that there is more than one way to go about some things and that that taste is individual and what is "good" or "sweet" or "bitter" means can be confusing to ascertain and communicate.

About the link about tasting and diagnosing. You asked what part to read. It has been a long time since I have read it but I would say you need to study it all. Then in a few weeks after you think you have a handle on things, read it again. I should stop typing this and re-read it now!

Making espresso consists of working with a bunch of variables. Taste in the cup can seldom be contributed to one thing. For example, in your case, the bitterness you want to escape may be attributed to the roast of the bean, the fineness of the grind, the duration of the extraction and the temperature of the water. I do not know which one it is, and really, in your specific case, neither does anyone else on here!

What we do know is that you have these variables to mess with in order to find different flavors that the beans will give up in the extraction. This is what that linked article is trying to explain. Don't toss those beans. Learn from them. Start with say a 18 gram dose and 200 degree temp. adjust the grind so that you are pulling 36 grams of espresso in 25 seconds. It may be sour or you may like it. Begin making the grind finer one small move at a time. Keep the dose, temp and output (36 grams) the same and you should get the 36 grams in like 27 seconds. Taste it. Then move the grinder one click finer. Keep everything else the same. Keep making small changes in grind wile keeping everything else fixed until you are running your shots for like 36-40 seconds. Take notes. When you are done, return to the settings that you liked the best.

This place will likely be a compromise. It will be the best you can find by altering grind. Next, mess with water temperature and dose. Keeping grind, dose and output locked. If you think it is a touch sour, increase water temp. If it is a touch too bitter, decrease water temp. Do each a little at a time. My suggestion is to handle things this way. Then after all this I'd mess with dose, but I would not suggest it now. Other may have different methods, they are probably correct too, but these are my suggestions.

When you are new to this, it can take a lot of coffee to get a bean "dialed-in." for some it is frustrating and expensive. Tweaking these variables are ways you can effect the taste of the extraction. Finally, it is worth it to note that there are some flavors that you may not ever be able to get away from due to the roast or origin of the coffee you are using. Good luck.

As for your Super Crema. Do not despair. Many believe that these Italian blends are made to sit on the shelf for longer than our typical rules of thumb. Read this for suggestions on how to start to pull it. I bought the Kimbo that everyone was talking about on this thread. If I had not seen Dominico's recommendations in this thread on how to pull it, I would not have liked it. Since the Kimbo is an Italian blend, and so is the Lavazza, there is a chance they are develloped to be pulled in a similar style. I have never used Super Crema but if I did, I would start by pulling it the way Dom, recommends for Kimbo and make changes from there.
Italian Coffees. Lets talk about Kimbo, Danesi, Lavazza, Caffe motta, Illy

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Postby slipchuck » Feb 05, 2018, 2:35 pm

I previously owned the Barista 870xl and also suggest putting 18 grams of coffee in the portafilter (make sure you weight it as close to 18 as possible)
Get a scale and weight the espresso shot to 36 grams (less if you want to increase the sweetness)
The one thing about the built in grinder is when you change from one number to the next it can big a big jump depending on the coffee.
I start the count from when the pump is full pressure (you can hear it when it does)
Start there and let us know how it tastes. Baby can and will get frustrating but hang in there it does get better :)

“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”