Espresso only bearable with sweetener. Need help dialing in.

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
JEHolloway

#1: Post by JEHolloway »

Hi everyone,

I'm a new owner of a Lelit Bianca and a Eureka XL Oro grinder. I am working with a number of different coffees and have only had one decent espresso with one roaster being Panther out of Miami. I've used beans from fresh market, Whole Foods, Starbucks and the included bag from Clive Coffee made by a company called Verve or at least that's the name on the bag.

I've tried to keep some variables the same. Like for instance I start by making sure every pull is 30 seconds. I also make sure that every dose is either 18 or 16 g. I try for an output of 32 to 36 g. My grind settings fluctuate between five and six on the grinder.

No matter the bean I either get bitter, sour, dry, harsh, flat or watery. The only way any of the shots are bearable is with added sweetener. My portafilter is the correct temperature. My cup is warm. I weigh everything. I do not have old grounds mixed with new grounds. my water is perfect. The taste of my water is good. i've watched over 100 hours of YouTube videos and I have read obsessively about proper espresso brewing. My machine appears to ramp up to 11 bars. I have not used the paddle or pre-infusion. My brew boiler temperature is 201°.

Any ideas would be helpful.

mgwolf
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by mgwolf »

A few simple things to look at.
1. Make sure your machine has had long enough to heat up. The E-61 groups are at usually at least 45 min. If the group-head isn't warmed up, you will get sour, under-extracted coffees.

2. The coffees you are using. If you buy beans from Whole Foods, for example, most of their stock is quite old. Many Starbucks coffees, even when fresh, taste harsh and bitter. If you like Italian-style coffee (like Lavazza which you listed), I would look for some local or small US roasters that do this type of coffee and that you could get fresh. If there's a local shop whose coffee you like, buy some of theirs and work with that.

Smo

#3: Post by Smo »

Try to return to your usual pressure of 9 bar. The key for 10 and 14 will help you to adjust the pump.
And don't be afraid to use a paddle.

Howard Alan Treesong

#4: Post by Howard Alan Treesong »

Next to no experience, so I feel like an idiot even responding, but from what I have observed from others, it would appear changing only one variable at a time and seeing what difference that makes, would be a systematic approach to consider, if you have not done so already. Time, ratio, temperature, grind, dose are the obvious ones, but of course having the ability to pre-infuse adds much more nuance to your box of tricks.

portamento

#5: Post by portamento »

Maybe stick with the Panther coffee for a bit while you get used to your new setup! (Or any other espresso you have already enjoyed in a coffee shop). You're working with a lot of new variables. Better to rule out potentially bad / stale coffee, otherwise you're going to have a frustrating time.

Remember there are bitter and sour elements in virtually every espresso; the key is to make subtle adjustments until they are in harmony.

Also, are you single dosing your grinder or filling up the hopper? You'll usually have a more consistent grind with a loaded hopper, as this eliminates popcorning and helps the beans feed into the burrs at a steady rate. This has reduced harshness in the cup for me in the past.
Ryan

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yakster
Supporter ♡

#6: Post by yakster »

JEHolloway wrote:Hi everyone,

I'm a new owner of a Lelit Bianca and a Eureka XL Oro grinder. I am working with a number of different coffees and have only had one decent espresso with one roaster being Panther out of Miami. I've used beans from fresh market, Whole Foods, Starbucks and the included bag from Clive Coffee made by a company called Verve or at least that's the name on the bag.
I agree with the advice to stick with Panther while you work on consistency. Some of those other coffees you listed sound pretty dubious.
-Chris

LMWDP # 272

JEHolloway (original poster)

#7: Post by JEHolloway (original poster) »

Thanks MG Wolf. I'm using a fully warmed up machine. I think my beans I'm buying are probably the culprit. Whole Foods, Fresh Market Starbucks. It's good to know I'm getting the same bad results everyone else is with these bean providers. It's sad you can't walk into a specialty store and buy beans with a roasted date on them. I'll stick with beans with posted roasted dates only. I'll show my results.

JEHolloway (original poster)

#8: Post by JEHolloway (original poster) »

Hi I'm confused by your suggestion. Are you recommending I adjust the pressure of machine to 9 or just use the paddle?

JEHolloway (original poster)

#9: Post by JEHolloway (original poster) »

Hi SMO, do you mean I should go under the machine and turn the pressure screw to lower the brew pressure to 9 bars or should I just use the flow profile paddle to reduce the water flow to the puck?

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Jeff
Team HB

#10: Post by Jeff »

For me, #1 is good beans.

I've never found anything at Whoie Foods that was within a week of roast, even from the local roasters. Other generalist retailers are even worse, many carrying beans with only a "best by" date. I haven't found anything from Peets or Starbucks to be enjoyable as espresso for me in probably 20 years. Verve is a good roaster, but if those beans went to Clive and then were shipped with your machine. they were probably two or three weeks old. Classic espresso blends and roast levels are probably good from one to two weeks from roast, maybe a bit longer.

Panther is probably a good choice, as would be some of the well-known specialty-class roasters (the ones that have been swallowed up entirely or with a controlling interest by large conglomerates aren't on my list for that). There are several threads on H-B discussing "comfort" espresso. Italian espresso is another style, that tends to be darker. The classic Italian flavor profile, for me, works best with milk. Other's tastes are different than mine.

For pressure, I'd suggest leaving the OPV/bypass alone and setting the flow-control knob to a point where you're getting around 8 bar during extraction in the basket. "9 bar" (at the pump) is a historical number that made sense in the 1960s with the early pump-driven machines and the blends and roasts of the day. With some people now being able to measure the pressure in the basket, pulling shots in the 6-8 bar range (in the basket) is becoming more common. "9 bar" on the in-machine (upstream) gauge is probably around 8 bar in the basket for a machine without a flow kit.