Difficulty Dialing in Espresso - Page 6

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
correarc1

Postby correarc1 » Oct 05, 2018, 2:48 pm

Jake,

As per your suggestion, I kept the recipe the same, and changed the time.

First, I did my second flush for 9 seconds and kept everything else as close to the same as possible:
17.5g in -- 35ish g out -- 28seconds

This tasted worse than before. More sour/bitter?

Then I did it again, but this time, I did not do a second flush at all.

17.5g in -- 35ish g out -- 26 seconds.

Closer to the shot this morning... Perhaps a little bit better
All of these felt just as hot to the touch.

What do you suggest I try next?

Thank you for helping me with this,

-Ramon


quote="Jake_G"]I wouldn't change the recipe...

Leave everything the same but do a 7 second flush before locking in and pulling the shot. This will drop the temperature a few degrees and will be better or worse that this morning. The key is to identify if it is more sour or less bitter, or less sour or more bitter. If results are inconclusive, try 9 seconds. You want to get to the point where the espresso gets cooler and tastes cooler.

Since you don't have the ability to flush a negative amount of time and you can't adjust Mara's boiler temperature, we have to work in the direction we can. Your water dance is heating the group head. When you dose and tamp, the water in the HX is recovering and the group head is likely cooling off just a bit. Depending on the recovery time, your flush right before the shot continues the group cooling (if the group is hotter than the recovered HX water) or heats the group again (if the HX water is hotter than the group). This is why the temp gauge is so helpful. You know the temp of the group, which is good. And you know if it get hotter when you flush that your HX water is hotter than the group, if it gets cooler, the opposite is true. It just gives you some intuition into your flush routine that is difficult to get otherwise.

You can figure it out without the gauge, but understand that you're not alone in your frustration and that it takes time and a diligent approach to learn what flavor characteristics are linked to temperature and how to control them when you're shooting in the dark.

Cheers!

- Jake[/quote]

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Jake_G

Postby Jake_G » Oct 05, 2018, 5:44 pm

If you flush the machine with no portafilter after a long idle, do you get flash steam out of the group? You should get a gurgling hissing steamy spray out of the group for several seconds before the flow calms down. The fact that these shots seem hotter to you makes me think that your flush is still heating the group, which is why a longer flush made it worse than before but it stil felt hot. You need to get all the hissing and gurgling out of the way and into the second half of the flush in order to have a longer flush result in a cooler shot. This is really easy ot do with a group thermometer and less so without but you should be able to get to the point where hot water comes smoothly out of the group.

This is a critical point because it means that from this point on, the water from the HX begins cooling the group, and longer flushes will cool the shot. Only when you reach this point can you count on things being consistent. I still don't have enough data to suggest a flish and wait or flush and go technique, but it sounds like you are using the flush and wait, coupled with flush and go, which may be responsible for your frustration.

Flush go is a one time flush where you take it from a long idle, prep your puck, and flush away until the group gets to your target temperature (no gurgling, smooth flow, then count 1 second for each degree drop from your steady temp, which is generally 206 or so, but will vary from machine to machine. At this point, you lock in and pull the shot. The group got hot while the gurgling was taking place, and then cooled down to target temperature as you kept flushing. At this point, you let the group and the water flow from the HX even each other out while you pull the shot.

Flush and wait goes the other way. You flush longer to cool the group below target temp and then let the HX recover while you prep your shot. Then when you lock your PF on and pull the shot, the cooler group tempers the now recovered hot water coming from the HX.

Most machines have a preferred flush routine and have better thermal response during the shot when you use the better method. Doing the water dance first and then flushing again doesn't seem to be working for you, and I wouldn't expect it to. The problem is knowing which method is better. If your puck prep routine is totally rock solid, you may find that flush and wait is good, but the problem is that the longer you wait, the hotter your shot will be. I would suggest trying the flush and go routine since you lack the temperature feedback to tell you when the group has recovered to your target temp, and I assume that it is likely to have a 10 to 15 second variation from your first flush to when your puck is ready, which will have an impact on your shot temperature when using the flush and wait routine.

So. Here's my advice:
-Let the machine warm up with the bottomless PF in the group.
-Pull out the PF and prep your puck with no flush whatsoever.
-When your puck is ready, and with no PF in the group, flush into your cup until you get a smooth and steady stream from the shower screen and then count 5 additional seconds.
-immediately lock your PF in the group, dump yor cup and pull the shot.

Good luck!

correarc1

Postby correarc1 » replying to Jake_G » Oct 06, 2018, 2:23 pm

So, I did as you said below and it helped.

I think now I'm at a point where the awful sour/bitter taste is mostly gone. Now, I still feel like I need to bring out the sweetness of the beans as it still doesn't taste balanced.

nuketopia

Postby nuketopia » Oct 06, 2018, 4:04 pm

I scanned through the whole thread and I see you got a Sette 270wi. This is a good grinder and one of the very best things is that you can precisely control the dose of coffee. It also does a good job a grinding uniformly. I have one paired with a Quickmill Anita at my vacation home. It does make really good coffee, even compared with the Linea Mini and Monolith Conical in my home.

Not to beat a dead horse too much, but the grinder is the weakest link in the chain. We all like to buy shiny espresso machines and not pay much attention to the grinder. After many dollars and time spent chasing espresso, it is better in most cases to have a $500 grinder and a $900 espresso machine than a $200 grinder and an $1100 espresso machine.

I took a look at the Lelit Mara. It is sold in various versions around the world, some with adjustable PID on the front panel, some with pressurestats on the inside, and it looks like yours has a non-adjustable PID - or perhaps not easily adjustable PID.

The PID controls the steam boiler temperature and pressure. Pressure and temperature are directly related, controlling one, controls the other.

If you look on your front panel gauge, you should be able to read the steam boiler temperature. Hopefully, it is around 1.2-1.4 BAR. But I have read that the PID version is set to only 1.1. That's pretty cool.

Now, the brewing water runs through a tube through the steam boiler to heat it up. That's the "heat exchanger". The hotter the steam boiler, the hotter the brew head and brew water.

The secret to e61 brew groups like your Lelit and my Quickmill Anita is that the water continuously circulates between the brew group and the exchanger in the steam boiler. This keeps the brew group nice and hot while idling.

Now - I bring this up for a reason. If your machine has been sitting idle for an hour, the entire brew group should be nice and hot. The quick test for this to touch the top nut on the brew group. (don't burn yourself). It should be quite warm! If it isn't, that's a sign that the water is not properly circulating and likely means there is air in or getting into the brew group.

Also, the brew pressure gauge should show some pressure while it is idling. After purging the water, look at the brew pressure. It should remain with some residual pressure and hold it for an extended amount of time.

If it doesn't hold pressure, or the nut at the top doesn't stay hot - water is not circulating and you'll get cold brew temperatures.

Now, if that's all holding pressure and circulating properly - you might be dealing with a fixed, low boiler pressure. Not the end of the world, you'll just have to deal with it a couple of ways.

1. The water dance (how long you purge it before a pull) mentioned many times on this forum.
2. Picking coffees that work well at the temperatures your machine will operate.

If you're dealing with a fixed, lower temperature PID, then you might want to consider coffees that work well at lower temperatures. In general, more developed roasts will pull better at low temperatures, and lighter roasts of fruitier more acidic beans will generally like higher temps.

You have some "technique" control with the water dance. HX machines normally operate a little "too hot" intentionally. If it has been idle for a while, you'll need to flush some water out of the brewgroup before pulling a shot to reach a good brewing temperature. If your PID is fixed to be fairly low, you only need make a very short flush after idle, and none at all if pulling multiple shots. If it runs cool enough, you might need to let it recover.

Without a SCACE it is difficult to calibrate the brew temp. But once your learn your machine, you'll get a feel for how much flushing you need.

In general, sour or salty flavors indicate low extraction. Bitter flavors indicate over extraction.

Extraction increases with temperature and pull time and finer grinding. You can also play with the dose.

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Jake_G

Postby Jake_G » Oct 06, 2018, 10:23 pm

nuketopia wrote:If you look on your front panel gauge, you should be able to read the steam boiler temperature. Hopefully, it is around 1.2-1.4 BAR. But I have read that the PID version is set to only 1.1. That's pretty cool.

With a properly tuned HX loop, 1.1 bar should be ample, especially when it doesn't cycle like a pressurestat boiler would. My Sirai cycles between 0.8 and 1.1 and I enjoy light roasted coffees that require higher temperatures with no issue. Being that he was able to tame the flavor by flushing more and not allowing a recovery, I think it's safe to say that his group gets hot enough...
nuketopia wrote:Also, the brew pressure gauge should show some pressure while it is idling. After purging the water, look at the brew pressure. It should remain with some residual pressure and hold it for an extended amount of time.

If it doesn't hold pressure, or the nut at the top doesn't stay hot - water is not circulating and you'll get cold brew temperatures.

Mara has a 3 way valve for the brew pressure gauge that drops the gauge pressure to zero after a shot. So while this is good advice, it doesn't apply to the machine...

correarc1 wrote:I think now I'm at a point where the awful sour/bitter taste is mostly gone. Now, I still feel like I need to bring out the sweetness of the beans as it still doesn't taste balanced.

You're over a major hurdle. 5 seconds is not a magic number; it's just a repeatable blind shot in the dark. I would say that you're close though. Next up, flush for 10 seconds after the calm. Note what you taste. Write it down. Really taste it. Then just reach the calm and dont flush any more at all. TASTE. Which was better? WHY was it better? This process isn't about making your espresso balanced and great. It's about understanding what too hot, too cool and just right taste like.

Unfortunately, you still have to work out grind, dose and yield after you find the right temp. It's a VERY iterative process. Get the temp close. Then work on grind. Then double check temp. Then work on dose. Then adjust grind again to match dose. Then once you've settled on them, check the temp again. Go one second cooler, one second hotter, notice the difference in flavor.

Then there's yield. Shorter shots (ristretto) might like to be hotter to improve extraction. Lower doses with finer grinds tend to be sweeter. You can increase the dose with a finer grind and pull a ristretto in a typical brew time, or stretch it longer and get a really long normale shot. The options are endless. And all this is just in figuring out the brew parameters for one coffee. When you start experimenting with more roasts, you see why we call it the rabbit hole. It just never ends.

But fret not!

There are oodles of tasty shots in the process. Once you get the temperature nailed, you're chasing great shots and navigating a sea of coffee that is really quite good even if you just stick to the 18g in, 36g out in 23 to 35 seconds ritual and just adjust grind to see if you like 23 seconds better than 35. But i will tell you that the 1:2 ratio is not king. Its just a starting point. All coffees are different, so once you get consistent do not be afraid to experiment.

Stick with it!

- Jake

correarc1

Postby correarc1 » Oct 06, 2018, 11:15 pm

Thank you.


Jake_G wrote:With a properly tuned HX loop, 1.1 bar should be ample, especially when it doesn't cycle like a pressurestat boiler would. My Sirai cycles between 0.8 and 1.1 and I enjoy light roasted coffees that require higher temperatures with no issue. Being that he was able to tame the flavor by flushing more and not allowing a recovery, I think it's safe to say that his group gets hot enough...
Mara has a 3 way valve for the brew pressure gauge that drops the gauge pressure to zero after a shot. So while this is good advice, it doesn't apply to the machine...

You're over a major hurdle. 5 seconds is not a magic number; it's just a repeatable blind shot in the dark. I would say that you're close though. Next up, flush for 10 seconds after the calm. Note what you taste. Write it down. Really taste it. Then just reach the calm and dont flush any more at all. TASTE. Which was better? WHY was it better? This process isn't about making your espresso balanced and great. It's about understanding what too hot, too cool and just right taste like.

Unfortunately, you still have to work out grind, dose and yield after you find the right temp. It's a VERY iterative process. Get the temp close. Then work on grind. Then double check temp. Then work on dose. Then adjust grind again to match dose. Then once you've settled on them, check the temp again. Go one second cooler, one second hotter, notice the difference in flavor.

Then there's yield. Shorter shots (ristretto) might like to be hotter to improve extraction. Lower doses with finer grinds tend to be sweeter. You can increase the dose with a finer grind and pull a ristretto in a typical brew time, or stretch it longer and get a really long normale shot. The options are endless. And all this is just in figuring out the brew parameters for one coffee. When you start experimenting with more roasts, you see why we call it the rabbit hole. It just never ends.

But fret not!

There are oodles of tasty shots in the process. Once you get the temperature nailed, you're chasing great shots and navigating a sea of coffee that is really quite good even if you just stick to the 18g in, 36g out in 23 to 35 seconds ritual and just adjust grind to see if you like 23 seconds better than 35. But i will tell you that the 1:2 ratio is not king. Its just a starting point. All coffees are different, so once you get consistent do not be afraid to experiment.

Stick with it!

- Jake

correarc1

Postby correarc1 » Oct 07, 2018, 8:45 am

Once again, guys... Thank you so much for helping me with this. I was getting very frustrated, and am grateful that you were all willing to get involved and help me out. This here is a pretty awesome community.

Code: Select allYou're over a major hurdle. 5 seconds is not a magic number; it's just a repeatable blind shot in the dark. I would say that you're close though. Next up, flush for 10 seconds after the calm. Note what you taste. Write it down. Really taste it. Then just reach the calm and dont flush any more at all. TASTE. Which was better? WHY was it better? This process isn't about making your espresso balanced and great. It's about understanding what too hot, too cool and just right taste like.


So, this morning I tried 10 seconds after TheCalm. I noticed a few things:

1- No more sour taste at all. Thank goodness. Because of this, I did not go back to try the 0s after TheCalm since I figured things moved in the correct direction.
2- Coffee was hotter to the mouth (which is why I now know that the issue before was sourness not bitterness)
3- The coffee has gotten pretty boring now. So, the taste is much better than before, however, it does not necessarily have subtleties to it right now... and it is definitely not as sweet as I think it should be.
4- I spent a lot of time adjusting recipe when the problem was temperature, so I think I need to work on that now...

It is also worth noting that I probably had the machine on for 45min before brewing instead of 30min which is what I normally do. I'm going to update my timer to turn it on 1 hr before I wake up now... Even though I don't think that this was it.


I do have one question, though. I expected the coffee to get colder when I purged it longer, not hotter. But I can feel that it is hotter in my mouth. I don't know how to explain this.

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Jake_G

Postby Jake_G » Oct 07, 2018, 10:09 am

Perhaps your cup is hotter? Since you purge into it and then pull the shoe right after?

**Edit**
Also, please do the 0 second flush. Even though 10 seconds was better than 5, you need to verify that 5 was better than zero. It is possible that zero is more betterer than 5 than 10 is... :P

Doing this will not only give you clear direction, but the taste of that zero second flush will tell you much and help you understand when you should flush more or less with a given roast/recipe. I vary my flush routine significantly when changing beans, but only by tasting the extremities and noting their effects on flavor do you develop intuition to look at a bean, note how much a given dose weight fills the basket and then make a calculated guess on temperature and yield to get something yummy. We can't share this intuition with you, only give you guidelines on how to develop it and the biggest and bestest rule you'll find is to follow your taste. Learn to describe what "bad" is. Learn the difference between sour and bitter. Try to define what you taste as best you can and you'll learn what steps to make to drive your flavor into the sweet spot.

Cheers!

- Jake

nuketopia

Postby nuketopia » Oct 08, 2018, 8:05 pm

Jake_G wrote:With a properly tuned HX loop, 1.1 bar should be ample, especially when it doesn't cycle like a pressurestat boiler would. My Sirai cycles between 0.8 and 1.1 and I enjoy light roasted coffees that require higher temperatures with no issue.

Being that he was able to tame the flavor by flushing more and not allowing a recovery, I think it's safe to say that his group gets hot enough...

Mara has a 3 way valve for the brew pressure gauge that drops the gauge pressure to zero after a shot. So while this is good advice, it doesn't apply to the machine...

- Jake


Admittedly I don't have a Mara - but all e61 HX machines work on the convective circulation principle. So at the very least, the top nut on the brew group should be quite warm while it is idling.

In my own experience, while 1.1 is adequate to get brewing temperature, it may not be optimal, especially for subsequent pulls. In any case, it is a moot point since it appears to unadjustable on the OP's machine. He just has to work with it.

correarc1

Postby correarc1 » Oct 15, 2018, 11:28 pm

So, it became rather clear to me that my issue was incorrect flushing technique (meaning, I wasn't hitting the right temp).

After that, I realized that I was having a difficult time staying consistent with the water dance. It was tough but I was getting better... And then it happened... The temperature in Ohio dropped 20-30 degrees, and I'm only compensating so much with the heater... so the house is 10-15 degrees cooler, and even that is not consistent. This threw off my timing in the flushes for some reason.

I just want consistent coffee, so I think I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get a thermometer for my group head until I really get the hang of it. I know that Eric's is an option, but I also found this on amazon:

http://a.co/d/7mX55SM

Do you know anything about this? Is there anyone here interested in selling a used one of these for a little cheaper? Is there a cheaper solution? Is there a better solution? What are your thoughts on this?