Chasing a moving target... coffee beans change after opening the bag

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
ZapoTeX

#1: Post by ZapoTeX » Aug 16, 2019, 7:34 am

Dear All,

First post here :-) I lurked around for a while few months ago, when I was choosing my gear (Breville The Infuser + Baratza Sette 270wi). Been using it satisfactorily for a while now, except for one problem...

Day one: open the bag of beans, pour some of them into the Sette, start grinding. It took me a bit to dial in, but then after tasting a few shots and using the WONDERFUL pressure meter of the Breville, I managed to find a setting which produced the coffee I liked, neither sour nor bitter, just creamy and delicious. 17 grams of coffee (for a double shot) at setting 11 in the coarse/fine scale.

Now, here is what happened... Day after day the coffee was becoming more and more sour... and the pressure meter was indicating lower and lower pressure. I had to make BIG changes, all the way down to setting 7 in the coarse/fine scale. I had to go much much finer. For those who are not familiar with the Sette: the number is the MAIN setting. I'm not talking about fine tuning (which is a separate setting, defined by a letter that goes from A to G).

I thought that it was part of the "break-in period" of the grinder... Until I ran out of beans and had to open another bag (same kind of beans). At that point... boooom! Coffee was not even pouring out of the filter and the pressure meter was maxed out. After a couple of drops hit the cup, I stopped it. I tasted those two drops and it was the most bitter, overburnt coffee I had ever tasted.

I had to go all the way back up to 11 to make a decent shot. The thing is... as I was going through the second bag of beans, I had to keep adjusting. And day after day, I had to go back to 7 again.

What the hell is happening? Why does coffee change so much? With a newly opened bag, I have to grind at 11. With beans from a bag that has been opened for a week or so, I have to grind at 7...

I know that the obvious solution is: open the bags as soon as you buy them and store the beans in a big jar, so that they have time to stabilize before you try to dial in the grinding. And I will do just that, now that I figured it out.

But I'm still curious about the physics behind it... What happens over the few days after opening a bag of beans?

User avatar
slipchuck

#2: Post by slipchuck » Aug 16, 2019, 8:03 am

I don't own a sette but I know that it not unusual to adjust the settings daily due to aging of the beans
Others will have to chime in that own the sette to tell you if that kind of adjustment will unusual


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

Nunas
Supporter ♡

#3: Post by Nunas » Aug 16, 2019, 11:20 am

Randy's probably correct. I think you're suffering from two things, one of which will eventually go away. I own a Sette and can confirm that for the first little while the grinder changes significantly as the burrs season. That's why Baratza supplies shims. The grind gradually gets coarser with each use, you turn the dial finer (but actually still get the same grind), until one day it's near the end of the scale. at this point, you add a shim. By then, the process is MUCH slower and you might not need the last shim at all or maybe only after a year or so. The second thing going on at the same time is gradual change in the beans. This is also perfectly normal. Every day or two I have to change the setting on my Sette a small amount to correct for the aging of the beans. This is the case for all grinders...it's the beans, not your grinder. This is made worse by using store-bought beans. When the package is opened, they do tend to age rather more quickly than freshly roasted beans. I roast my own. The espresso gradually gets BETTER over a few days, then plateaus for a few more then drops off. So, if you can find a local roaster who sells freshly roasted beans (not nitro-packed), then you probably would find a big difference in the cup.

happycat

#4: Post by happycat » Aug 16, 2019, 11:38 am

I have had a Sette for 18 months or so. This behaviour does not make much sense to me, particularly as it happens in cycles for you. That point conflicts with any breaking in period.

It's possible you are buying stale beans.... if nitro flushed they will seem great at first but rapidly drop off.

Buy freshly roasted beans and see what happens.

You can also doublecheck that you have the same weight of coffee going into the Breville every time, and that there is not some issue with temperature.

I rarely adjust my Sette. As pointed out in reviews, it is not finicky based on adjustment in the way some flat burr grinders are.
LMWDP #603

ZapoTeX

#5: Post by ZapoTeX » Aug 16, 2019, 11:59 am

Thanks everyone for your kind help!!!

Based on all of your replies, I understand that grinder break-in is a SMALL part (if at all relevant) of what I am experiencing.

The change in the beans is likely the key. And yes, I've been using nitro-packed beans from Eataly (kind of the Italian equivalent of Wholefoods).

To be clear, I am not concerned about the flavor - yes, I did notice that shortly after buying the beans the aroma was great, then it got a little bit less flavorful. I sort of accepted that. The part I was struggling with is the dial-in... 11 to 7 is a big change and it means fiddling with it every morning (unless I "guess" right away how much beans have seasoned from the day before).

Sounds good then, I will find local roasters who do not nitro-pack or potentially buy fresh beans and roast them myself.

Huge thanks again!

Eiern

#6: Post by Eiern » Sep 02, 2019, 6:25 pm

When I was using a hopper-fed grinder I would open the bag/fill hopper (after ~7 days resting post roasting) the day or night before I would start pulling shots from it. I found the very first shots from a fresh bag to be more off the mark from the following days. Exposing beans to air a day in advance helped this. I still do this sometimes with single dosing, especially if only rested for 6 or 7 days (I try to wait 10 days before opening a bag these days).

Might help.

Good luck!

Eiern

#7: Post by Eiern » Sep 02, 2019, 6:28 pm

Nitro-flushed is not something to avoid though, all my espresso beans from Tim Wendelboe comes in nitro-flushed bags. Might have to rest a bit longer than beans only exposed to air but might also last longer.

But beans roasted ages ago from a supermarked should be avoided, nitro-flushed or not!

Bret
Supporter ♡

#8: Post by Bret » Sep 02, 2019, 7:25 pm

The moving target as the coffee ages is normal, and that is one of the reasons many of us move to single dosing. It can be logistically more effort, and only you can decide if it is worth it to you.

Additionally, I have found that keeping a notebook is very helpful: coffee, grind setting, days since roast, dose, temp, etc. If I switch coffee to a 10 day old roast, I can look up what setting I used for it at that age last time. With a new grinder, the break-in will be factor, but over time that washes out of the numbers (plus you can look back at your notes and see roughly how long the break in period was.

User avatar
truemagellen

#9: Post by truemagellen » Sep 03, 2019, 3:16 pm

This is one of those things that catch you off guard when you start getting into higher end equipment (particularly with a flat burr grinder which you dont have and this is fortunate for someone who is newer to this). You have a conical and should not experience this level of change and you can attribute that to Nitro packed beans that are going to be pretty bad an hour after you open them and certainly a day or or more.

So to clarify from all the comments and since you are new to this and we are super excited for you to be getting into this level of espresso:

1) Go buy freshly roasted espresso beans (nothing too fancy, avoid the super light roasted ones with 10 different descriptions of flavor like 'aztec cocoa with grapefuit tones and a hint of lilac wafting in during an appalachian mountain hike', but not starbucks carbonized swill) and make sure they are 5 days from roast and use them up within 2 weeks. Dial it in just right like you have been doing.

2) on your sette a concial it should hold the grind over the next week while you are using them, you may tighten it up just a hair (this will settle down a bit once grinder is fully seasoned).

3) Avoid roasted in the past beyond a few weeks nitro packed beans. Those beans basically once opened have a timer that give you 15mins of ideal usage, and if you are lucky a few hours. This is if you want to achieve 'high end' espresso which you are doing btw!

4) don't be discouraged. this knowledge has so many components to it, it is easy to go crazy in the beginning. many of us didn't start with decent equipment and were putzing around with 6 month old preground grocery store coffee...like a blind man in a brothel looking for... :wink:

User avatar
mohninme

#10: Post by mohninme » Sep 03, 2019, 4:01 pm

Nunas wrote:Randy's probably correct. I think you're suffering from two things, one of which will eventually go away. I own a Sette and can confirm that for the first little while the grinder changes significantly as the burrs season. That's why Baratza supplies shims. The grind gradually gets coarser with each use, you turn the dial finer (but actually still get the same grind), until one day it's near the end of the scale. at this point, you add a shim. By then, the process is MUCH slower and you might not need the last shim at all or maybe only after a year or so.
I also agree that you are likely facing two issues. I have also been using a Sette for about 1.5 years. Initially the adjustment was a regular thing as the machine "broke-in". I found it flattened out and adjustment became more gradual after a few months of use. I later started using light roasted beans and found that it again went through another large adjustment period where I had to add a shim and then it eventually settled out. (no pun intended..)
Michael