Frustrated: Two weeks in, grind setting surfing, still getting watered-down espresso

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
tvc15

#1: Post by tvc15 »

I recently got a Profitec Pro 500 and a Ceado E6P. I've had both for two weeks and am having fun.

But I've also been incredibly frustrated.

I've been pulling 2-3 shots per day on a bottomless pf, trying to get a shot with great mouthfeel and body, but I've been getting thin, sort of "loose" shots. You'll see in the videos below---there is none of the "body" you often see covering the bottom of the portafilter in a well-pulled shot, even at the beginning of the shot. I always hope to see one of those really thick, creamy flows that indicate good and significant contact between the soluble grounds and water, but I'm just not seeing it.

I recorded a few trials so I could examine what's going on. I made adjustments to the grind setting, ran a toothpick through the ground coffee in the filter, changed my tamping method and pressure, the whole nine, but every shot still seems to be roughly the same.

Here are a few (all 17g of light to medium roast). Note that I did not weigh or really time the shots. I just wanted to see the body of the liquid as it came through the bottomless pf. As you can see, pretty much right after the liquid comes through the sieve, it starts thinning out pretty quickly. Note that I let the pull go longer than usual because I wanted to see how long it'd take to get to the point of translucence.

https://i.imgur.com/NzfhJFj.mp4
https://i.imgur.com/X52KHuu.mp4
https://i.imgur.com/lAoHorV.mp4

The results of the pull in all three videos look roughly the same, even though the fineness of the grinds varied. For the last video, for instance, the grind was almost 1.5 notches finer than the first video.

I'm getting a bit disenchanted. Maybe it's the light to medium roasts I've been using (not as many soluble grounds)? Maybe it's being a newbie? Maybe I'm adjusting too many variables at once? I don't know. I've watched James Hoffmann's videos series about how to dial in an espresso, but apparently nothing is sticking.

Any tips would be great. Apologies if this is like, one of many of the same types of questions that are asked on this forum. My intention is not to be redundant!

DamianWarS

#2: Post by DamianWarS »

I couldn't load you videos but you seem to be describing a desire for higher extraction. If you have your grind and time in the zone but are not getting the sort of extraction you desire you have to figure out a way to increase the extraction (which is going to probably mess with your grind and time).

typically the answer is grind finer but you seem to already be trying this but maybe keep doing it until you get bitter astringent shots then you know you've gone too far. If you shots are sour then they are underextracted but extraction is often a issue with lighter roasts so if you're just starting out maybe you want to try a darker roast to see what sort of results you get from it.

There are broad methods to increase extraction, change something to speed up the shot that will allow you to grind finer or change something that slows the shot which will allows water to have more contact time with the coffee and increase the extraction. the purpose to speed up the shot is to allow you to grind finer (which slows the shot down again) so you're still aiming for the same time window not fast shots.

Things to speed up the shot to allow you to grind finer is to increase the temperature. higher temps will extracted quicker and it will speed the shot up which allows you to grind finer to keep your shot time but there is a limit to this as too hot can get more bitter astringent compounds out of the coffee so if you increase the temp increase it by 1 or 2 degrees. Another trick that was made popular with Rao/Perger is adding an aeropress filter to the bottom and top of the PF. The bottom will prevent fines from clogging up the PF holes and the top helps prevent early erosion of the puck, together both help to increase the extraction and they speed up the shot so again, you may grind finer and get more soluble stuff out of the coffee.

Slowing the shot of course increases extraction which of course grinding finer will do this but other ways is you may want to increase the dose by a gram and play with that. more coffee for water to pass through will take longer and will increase the extraction. Tamp pressure usually has little effect with the exception of nutating tamps which is sort of a rotating spin on a slight angle. This has an effect of compacting the grinds together more and it slows the shot (which increases the extraction) but it is tricky to get right because you need to end off with a even puck. You may also want to increase the ratio and shot time. typical is 2:1 but maybe you want to increase the yield a little or shot time. This will have an effect or higher extraction but more diluted and it sounds like it might not be you're problem.

Channeling of course can always be an issue and a channel will create a high flow in one area. it seems like you are taking special care in puck prep but other things to note is it's good to have a heated PF but not a wet one so make sure it is clean and dry. a wet PF will cause early extraction of the coffee along the walls and create side channeling or "donut shots". Also make sure you don't bump the PF or too aggressively put it in the group because you may break the seal of the puck or cause it to crack which will cause challenging. challenging often will have overextracted bitter qualities because it too aggressively extracts the coffee in one area which makes it bitter so this may not be your issue and I can't see your videos so I'm not sure what's going on but still things to consider

Jeff

#3: Post by Jeff »

If you want pretty photos/videos, grind fine and overfill your basket. They probably won't taste as good as they look. Coffee has changed a lot in the 15-20 years since "espresso porn" of bottomless PFs came to be popular.

If your espresso taste good, don't worry too much about not having picture-perfect flow.

Without tasting your espresso, it's hard to say. However it looks like you may be over extracting, based on the color and watery appearance of the later parts of your video.

If truly a light roast (not what it's marketed as, but what it was truly roasted as), you may need one or more of finer grind, faster water flow, more total water, higher temperatures.

More likely it is a medium roast, if not medium-dark. From the visuals, I'd grind finer and stop the pour sooner, based on blonding or long before watery extraction.

Edit: I'm guessing you've got a reservoir-fed E61. If so, lifting the lever half way does close to nothing.

ojt

#4: Post by ojt »

Try weighing the shots and take time also from pump on. I would first try to nail a basic 1:2 ratio shot in a reasonable time. Then adjust to your liking. To me the flow looks a bit too fast but quite even (with a few dead spots).

What is the coffee you are using, and how old is it post roast?
Osku

DaveWCII

#5: Post by DaveWCII »

From the videos it looks like the 1st & 3rd are too coarse. The second looks ok from a grind pov, almost plugged but there is a flow. If it has no thick mouth feel it could be the coffee itself. You're doing preinfusion but for a very short period of time. I'd do it longer, until you see a flow of coffee, then ramp it up.

I agree with ojt, weigh the grounds, time the shot, weigh the output. Otherwise you're just guessing.

User avatar
malachi

#6: Post by malachi »

What coffee are you using?
And how old is it?
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

tvc15

#7: Post by tvc15 »

Jeff wrote:If you want pretty photos/videos, grind fine and overfill your basket. They probably won't taste as good as they look. Coffee has changed a lot in the 15-20 years since "espresso porn" of bottomless PFs came to be popular.

If your espresso taste good, don't worry too much about not having picture-perfect flow.

Without tasting your espresso, it's hard to say. However it looks like you may be over extracting, based on the color and watery appearance of the later parts of your video.

If truly a light roast (not what it's marketed as, but what it was truly roasted as), you may need one or more of finer grind, faster water flow, more total water, higher temperatures.

More likely it is a medium roast, if not medium-dark. From the visuals, I'd grind finer and stop the pour sooner, based on blonding or long before watery extraction.

Edit: I'm guessing you've got a reservoir-fed E61. If so, lifting the lever half way does close to nothing.
Hmm, I don't really care about how photogenic my shots are. The videos just help me diagnose my shots. Based on what I've documented so far, they're a bit watery. Even after initial contact, the flow looks a bit thin and without any chew or body, if that makes sense.

The shots are tasting a bit on the acidic side, but that's probably because the beans are actually quite light (I self-roast).

Yes, I have a reservoir-fed E61. Indeed, I should be lifting the lever a bit more than halfway to properly preinfuse, per this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DPcZD48TxM

tvc15

#8: Post by tvc15 »

malachi wrote:What coffee are you using?
And how old is it?
Single origin that I roast myself. The beans I used for these vids were roughly a week old.

Jeff

#9: Post by Jeff »

An E61 group, if its valves and cams are set up in the classic way, will open a pathway to the puck before the pump kicks on. With a plumbed-in machine, it is "line pressure" of the water supply that will start to wet the puck (typically around 2-3 bar,30-45 psi). With a reservoir-fed machine, there really isn't much to push water through the group and into the basket other than the pump.

You can check by lifting the lever with the PF out of the group head. If you're only getting dripping, you're not going to get anywhere near the volume needed to wet the grinds in even ten seconds. Edit: The video the OP links shows this. Recent 18-g pucks I measured were around 22 g net change, so somewhere around 25-30 g of water, once extraction is considered.

If your coffee tastes sour, a finer grind may help the balance. See, for example, Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste

Bluenoser

#10: Post by Bluenoser »

I can see what you mean in your videos.. I notice "dead spots" in the basket.. and in #2, it looks like the right side is channeling quite a bit. I would say that your biggest problem might be distribution and puck prep (and maybe some coolness in the brew water temp)

First.. I'm not sure I'd try to preinfuse that way.. I don't think you are doing any harm.. but there is some preinfustion built into the design of the E61 head and the characteristic of a vibe pump which comes up to pressure slowly. The method you are using is just inconsistent and at this point, I'd keep a simpler workflow until you get a better extraction.

There's a few things I had to do to my Pro500 when I got it.. I reduced the pressure down to about 8-8.5 bar.. To do this, use a blind filter basket and pull a blind shot and if you have the case off, you can turn a screw in back to set the pressure on the gauge to 9 to 9.5. The puck pressure will be about 1 bar less. This can help reduce channeling as it won't put as much pressure on the puck.

The biggest suggestion I can make is in doing WDT.. get a needle like object and stir the heck out of the grinds in the basket (what basket are you using.. the Pro500 stock? VST? ..) I found when I moved to a VST basket from the stock Profitec double basket that I had to perform much more puck prep. So stir to ensure there are no clumps and then rap/tap to level the bed and then tamp. Don't use a thick tool as you don't want the stirring to compact the grinds in any way. It looks like your puck does not have consistent density.. When this happens, you see dead spots, your stream blonds early and you get sour, thin extractions. You might want to adjust tamp pressure.. try 15lbs.. then 25 .. just to see if there is a difference.

When pulling, just lift the lever to take the manual preinfusion variable out of the list of things that might be causing some bad stuff to happen.

Lighter roasts need a hotter brew water temp and the water might need more contact time (grind a bit finer). Now do you have a group thermometer? If not.. how are you ensuring your brew water is hot enough? I'm in the camp that think all HX designs (other than MaraX) need group thermometers so you know where your brew water temp is.. It is difficult to know what your flush routine is but if your brew water is too cool, your water won't dissolve the good stuff in a light roast. (depending on how light) So the quick blonding will happen if your water is too cool. Are you letting your machine heat up for 45 minutes before using? (then flushing to cool the group?)

Reducing the pressure somewhat might also help to extract lighter roasts.

Some Profitec Pro 500s suffer from slow rebound (I have one).. Sometimes if you pull successive shots too quickly (within 3 minutes) then the thermosiphon might not have heated up enough for the next shot. If you do a second shot and you are doing a flush.. if there is no "water dance" indicating steaming water, you might not have a hot enough temp for the successive shots and they could be cool. Sometimes on successive shots there is no need to flush.. easy to tell if you have a group thermometer.. tougher without.

BTW.. it took me 6 months to get something that tasted good.. I had a lot of issues with brew water temp.. so hang in there.. the HX designs take a bit more work to master.. and you will need to experiment more than you would with a DualBoiler .. You'll eventually learn more about HX designs than you wanted.. :)