Extremely sour shots (Presso + Porlex)

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

#1: Post by Iluvatar »


I'm quite new to espresso making and only got my first machine (the Presso) about 3 months ago. I've read through many articles on this site and also done some research on the net about making espresso, and I found on many places that it was possible (but not easy) to get good shots with the presso. So when I got mine, I boiled some water, got some Preground Illy coffee and poured.. something you can't call an espresso. So i figured that I should probably get a grinder and freshly roasted beans. I decided to get the Porlex hand grinder and some "very forgiving" south american beans ( roasted 3 days before I got them). From the moment I got those I experimented a lot, and even though I managed to get some crema on my espresso, they tasted disgustingly sour. So I banned espresso making to sunday afternoon, where I would pull some 5-6 shots always trying new things, and always giving up frustrated. The first shots with Illy coffee, actually tasted better than with the freshly ground beans :(

Before buying a Bialetti and giving up on espresso, I thought Id ask you guys here for help.
So this afternoon I took my presso out, I put it in a sauce pan with some water and heated it up (must have been at least 90°C). Then i ground some coffee, I overfilled the Presso chamber with boiling water and pulled a shot, that actually looked nice. It had nice crema, not very thick, but long lasting. The first sip was a bit sour but drinkable, however the rest of it I had to spit out. It was just so acid. Ive never stopped the time (when do you actually start the watch?) but the shot is out rather quickly, i guess in about 10sec from the moment i start pulling the levers.
So I gave it another shot and grinded the beans finer. This time the coffee started dripping out while i was still filling water in -.- It had some oily surface and tasted disgusting.

After that I tried my mom's Lavazza, just to see what it would taste like. The coffee started dripping before I even pulled the levers. The result was more like filter coffee I guess, but at least it didnt taste to sour (just a bit)

So is it me, the presso, the porlex, the coffee or all together?
Any help is very much appreciated :)

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#2: Post by cannonfodder »

I have not used either of those pieces of equipment so take this with a grain of salt. The Presso has been around for a while and if memory serves it will make a decent cup of coffee/pseudo espresso. The grinder looks to be capable as well.

Sour shots can be many things. Temperature too low, underextracted coffee, or your selected bean is simply not too your taste. Pre ground coffee is less than optimal but Illy has a long track record in Europe and is quite popular. Whole bean Illy will actually pull a decent shot when freshly opened although it tends to be somewhat bland and stales fast, as in hours after opening the can. Illy is also heavy with Brazil coffee's. You may want to try a different coffee before you give up. Try a blend instead of a single origin coffee and look for something that works with a lower brew temperature. A coffee with high acidity can be very over the top when brewed at low temperatures. Try brewing the coffee as a press pot or drip and see if you get the same flavor profile. You may want to try the coffee at the cafe to see how it tastes there then use that as a baseline when you try preparing that coffee at home.
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#3: Post by the_trystero »

I still have a Presso, but I haven't used it for awhile. It will produce a real shot of espresso but the stars need to be aligned because once you start pushing the limits you can break the Presso. In addition to keeping the Presso very warm run quite a bit of 95 degree C water through it before pulling your shot, be sure the portafilter is very very warm, too, and grind as fine as you can without totally choking it.

After grinding finer you shouldn't see drips while filling the water. Are you sure you really set it finer? Especially since it sounds way underextracted on your Mom's machine.
"A screaming comes across the sky..." - Thomas Pynchon

Iluvatar (original poster)

#4: Post by Iluvatar (original poster) »

Thx for your feedback.
I made some coffee with a drip machine. The flavor was rather mild, slightly bitter but not sour at all.
It seems easiest to put my problem on the coffee, but since Ive got the same acid result with 4 different coffees, it might just be my technique and the brewing parameters. I think that my machine is already as warm as it can get, so I will have to increase the pressure I guess?
Also is there anything I can find out by analyzing the puck?

I forgot to say that I don't pay much attention to tamping. I have only got the plastic tamp that came with the presso and it got rounded corners so I don't know if it works very well. But Ive read around it doesn't really matter whether you tamp strongly or lightly, so from there I concluded that tamping itself isn't so important?

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#5: Post by the_trystero »

The best way to troubleshot distribution and tamping issues is to get a bottomless portafilter for the Presso. They now offer one. If you're confident you have everything up to temperature then you need to focus on the extraction, which will be best revealed by looking at your bottomless pf while you pull a shot. It sounds like your either grinding too coarse, or your having major channeling through the puck.
"A screaming comes across the sky..." - Thomas Pynchon


#6: Post by rodabod »

Iluvatar wrote:So is it me, the presso, the porlex, the coffee or all together?
Any help is very much appreciated :)
Sour coffee most often is a result of under-extraction in my experience.

So, how many grammes roughly of coffee did you use, how much water was there in the drink, and how long did the coffee grounds spend in the hot water to make that drink?

If I were just starting out (I don't own a presso), I'd try to pour a double shot with 14g of coffee in 25-30s or so. Your Porlex should probably be two or maybe three clicks back from fully tightened.



#7: Post by rodabod »

This guy looks like he's doing it about right:

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#8: Post by koh »

As a long-time lurker, and Presso devotee I'd agree with what's been suggested thus far; a temp issue, or too coarse a grind. If the ambient temperature is too cold, you'll want to pre-heat quite a bit. How long are your pulls with the fresh roasted coffee?

It's always great getting beans that you can have pulled for you at cafes with commercial equipment so you know what taste profile to meter against. I've done this with intelligentsia, cafe grumpy, and ecco beans here in nyc, and have had rather respectable approximations at home... See if you can do the same in your area, it could turn out that you just don't like the coffee, even as extracted by seasoned folk with commercial machines... Sapsucker comes to mind, too bright for my taste, in cafe or out.

I'd say, find a coffee you know for certain is great and to your liking and then tinker more, before deep sixing the Presso... It's a great little machine, that's quite capable. I use a Porlex with it too, and am constantly tooling grind... I've posted some videos on my youtube channel, and will add more soon...

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#9: Post by hbuchtel »

Your post reminds me of my first experiences with the Presso - I was learning how to roast and learning how to make espresso at the same time . . . a terrible combination!

I would suggest using a bean that is low-brew-temp friendly (I got the best results with Brazilian beans), roasting it well into 2nd crack (also lengthening the time between 1st and 2nd, if you're not already doing that), and making sure that the brew water is just off the boil.

As stated above, the Presso is definitely capable of making good espresso. Just don't try to make a ristretto, and never try to force an extraction, as this will break the arms!