First attempt at a systematic approach to teaching myself how to make better espresso, looking for feedback - Page 4

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
vickeryj (original poster)

#31: Post by vickeryj (original poster) »

The grinder seems to have low retention, and there are lots of single dose hoppers sold for it, which would be nice because the hopper fields a little fragile.

That said, when there are beans in the hopper the grind by time function consistently produces the same amount of weight, +/- 0.1g. Does that suggest that it's reasonably consistent? Or could it be producing the same amount of inconsistently sized grinds in the same time?

Alternately I could get another single dose grinder and leave the Mignon for GOD for my wife, as she really likes it, and when I dial it in and shot the shot program she likes pulling those shots for her drinks. It's just me who's chasing better espresso, so a separate grinder for that might keep her nice workflow intact, and I could use it for milk drinks as well.

For a second grinder, would a high end hand grinder suffice?

I'm so happy you mention the BDB. I think that's more my speed than a DE1 right now, unless I can land a side gig to cover the cost. Other people have attempted to steer me away from it, claiming that it's unreliable and won't make as good coffee as a basic e61 single boiler. There's a used one local to me that they claim is in good working order for $800, so I may try to get that.

In the meantime I'm going to go walk the dog then pull some shots and see if I can get something tasty.

Thank you so much for all your help so far.

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#32: Post by Peppersass »

The consistency in weight you're seeing with timed grinding might indicate the grinder is reasonably consistent weight-wise, but the question is whether the grind profile varies with the weight of the bean column. In other words, you might be getting the same weight but with a different grind profile -- finer or coarser depending on weight of the bean column. Fines production could be different. It may not take much increase in weight of fines to alter the flow rate.

I've not owned or used a BDB. I've just seen some positive reviews on it. Do as much research on the BDB as you can. I may be true that a good basic E61 machine will be more durable, but a double-boiler E61 will cost more and a with a single-boiler HX you'll have to learn how to temperature surf, which adds yet another variable and skill to the mix. If the reviews look good, and you can verify that the used BDB is in good condition (get a demo and ask about the service history), and if you can resell the Barista Pro for a reasonable amount, it'll be a low-risk way to move up to a more consistent machine and determine how much of the inconsistency is due to the machine and how much is due to the grinder.

Another thought is that if the local seller is willing, bring your grinder and beans to the demo and pull some shots to see if the consistency improves.

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vickeryj (original poster)

#33: Post by vickeryj (original poster) »

One factor that I should have included is that I've only had this grinder for 3 weeks, so this experimentation has been over a short period of time.

I think I'm starting to accomplish some of what I'm looking for, in that I think I'm starting to recognize different flavors and how manipulating variables impacts them.

Today I pulled two shots with the same inputs, outputs, and pull time, with different grind settings. That shouldn't happen unless I messed up the puck prep, or my grind setting were basically the same. But now that I see that my machine is inconsistent with flow rate, I can offer another option, which is the shots are different, but time varied unpredictably.

This would be really helpful, because I'm almost positive the first shot was over extracted. It left an aftertaste in my mouth like I get if I drain the bottom of a french press after it's been sitting for an hour. The coarser shot didn't have that, though it had a slight acidity that I didn't love.

I've been chasing that acidity through this entire bag of beans, and I don't remember it being present in other coffees, so perhaps I just don't love this blend and roast. Or, maybe I just don't understand other parameters well enough to get something that I really love out of it.

Does that make sense?

As for the $800 bdb, the seller tried to rush me into a sale yesterday and I said I wasn't interested in doing that, but am still interested in the machine if it didn't sell immediately. We shall see. I don't feel like I've learned all I can from my setup, but I suspect it would remove some of the frustration and speed up the leaning.

vickeryj (original poster)

#34: Post by vickeryj (original poster) »

I bought the Dual Boiler last night, and roughly dialed in a new coffee this morning. I haven't done any methodical shots, or a direct comparison to the Bambino yet, but I have some initial notes.

1. My bad shots taste good. Like 18g/47g in 18s with 10s of preinfusion. Oops. It didn't taste like espresso, but it didn't taste sour. I suspect this is due to brew temperature.
2. Having a shot timer on the machine is super helpful for me because it's one less thing I need to think about.
3. It's very easy to get a vortex with the steam wand and even though I only tried once, the milk poured better than all but my best attempts on the Bambino.
4. I think I better understand how Breville pre-infusion works. On the Bambino I would hold down the button until the pump clicked on, which was about 4 seconds. I figured this meant it would then do 4 seconds of preinfusion. I think, instead, I was doing no preinfusion. I figured this out by looking at the pressure gauge on the bdb and listening to the noises the pump makes. When I do my comparison on the bambino I'm going to hold the button until I see coffee through the basket, as I think that's probably the easieat way to get consistency there.

The machine is in pretty good shape. I think I need a new solenoid and to flip the seal on the steam wand. The hot water spout is also leaking, but maybe I'll do the Slayer mod instead of fixing that.

In summary, I'm very happy with my purchase. I don't think I would appreciate it as much if I hadn't spent time with the Bambino.

Peppersass, thank you for nudging me toward the machine upgrade, and thank you and everyone else on this thread who have helped me along this journey so far.


#35: Post by ZX2BY2U »

One more little tip for you. Open up your grinder at do a little clean up. I waited a month before I did my 1st with the Specialita, and it can get pretty backed up behind the little declumping screen. Good practice every couple of weeks or so, and very easy to do

vickeryj (original poster)

#36: Post by vickeryj (original poster) » replying to ZX2BY2U »

Thanks for the tip.

I tried to do a comparison across machines, but I realized I don't know a good way to do that.

My first attempt was the try the same setting, dose and ratio on the Bambino. But it didn't seem to work. First, I don't think it did a long enough preinfusion, though I can't be sure without a pressure gauge. Next, it was very slow, perhaps due to limited preinfusion, and the shot cut off at 60s. I was shooting for 38g out and I got 8g.

I suppose I could try to dial in a shot with the same ratio and time on the Bambino with different dose and grind settings.

vickeryj (original poster)

#37: Post by vickeryj (original poster) »

I strayed from my systematic path with my first bag of coffee (a little scary that I'm on day 5 on this machine and done with my first bag of coffee) as it was a light roast, and I wanted to see what the machine could do with it.

But the last couple of days I've been working on a "light medium" coffee (Caffe Vita Del Sol) that pulls more like traditional espresso blends.

1. 1 1/2 grinder 18g/33g, 49s - this was my first shot and I got the settings wrong. It wasn't bad though
2. 2.0 grinder 18g/35g, 36s - close but too bitter
3. 2 1/8th grinder 18g/36.3g, 33s - a good shot, I could be happy here, notes of chocolate and berries. A hair too bitter
4. 2 1/8th grinder 18g/33.5g, 31s - almost great, but slight ashy aftertaste
5. 2 1/4 grinder 18g/35.7g 30s - great. The unpleasant bitterness is gone, as is the ashy after taste

I'm really happy with the progression of shots 3-5. I feel like I dialed in the coffee and then was able to tweak specific parameters (first ratio, then grind setting) to make changes to the taste.

I don't know if I'm actually doing what I think I'm doing, but I finally feel like all the advice everyone has given me and all that I've read and watched is starting to make sense and I'm ready to make deliberate progress on my espresso journey.