I can't do it :-( Every shot of espresso tastes bitter - Page 3

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
daggerNC (original poster)
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#21: Post by daggerNC (original poster) »

Alright - just tried this new bag of Yirgacheffe, and on my second shot I got 16g in -> 32.2g out in 28seconds, first drip @ 4 seconds, and I DIDN'T spit it out. Decided to try to steam some milk (my milk micro foaming is even worse than my shots are, because I rarely get far enough to try a latte), and I'm drinking it...drinkable, but missing that sweeter side "smoothness" I usually get at coffee shop latte's.

Just finished it...even with the milk there is a slight lingering bitterness (hate to say it but I usually don't get that with a local Starbuck's I've been to). Good - I'd hate to start getting bored :lol: New coffee will be here Thursday - just in time for the weekend trials.

I'm thinking of trying/tasting a lower ratio, say 1.75:1 or even 1.5:1. In some of the posts there seemed some ambiguity on the best/right(?) way to do this: should I use exact same dose and grind, but just end the shot sooner, say at 23 seconds, or should I shoot for 28g out at the same time of 28 seconds but using a finer grind? Thanks.

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#22: Post by Jeff »

Especially if the shot isn't blonding and it is a medium or lighter roast, you might try a slightly longer ratio as well.

For very light roasts by most US standards, I often pull 17 g to 42 or even 46 g to get them to balance. I don't know how light your beans are, but I'd try 18:40 or 17:38 to see if you like it better there.

daggerNC (original poster)
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#23: Post by daggerNC (original poster) »

Thanks @Jeff. Upfront newbie question apology: To try those longer ratios, should I keep the timing constant (ie., 25-27 seconds) and grind coarser, or keep grind the same and keep going timewise until I hit 38g+ yield?

(PS. One of the setups on my dream list: Niche and a Decent DE1, cause I'm a techie. So which espresso machine to you use most Jeff?)

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#24: Post by Jeff »

First, medium and lighter roasts are hard. Don't beat yourself up over them!

Second, I believe that how you "tune" a medium-dark or darker roast is very different from how you tune most medium and lighter roasts. Roast level is nothing really transferrable for many people that don't roast, and seems to be primarily marketing fluff on bags. For me, without a meter in hand, I consider something (fresh) that shows hints of oil on the surface as being in the "medium-dark" or darker range for technique. If the flavor descriptors include darker chocolate (as examples, bittersweet, dark, baker's), heavier nut (walnut), or baked or darker fruit (cherry, black cherry currant, date, prune), it is probably what I'd consider medium-dark or darker. There's a good set of flavor descriptors at https://counterculturecoffee.com/learn/ ... avor-wheel

"Medium", for me, is where many US-based, specialty roasters roast their "drip" coffees. Lighter than that generally comes from US-based roasters with a reputation for light roasts, such as Passenger, Onyx, George Howell's light roasts, to name a few, or European roasters.

For classic espresso in the medium, medium-dark, or darker range, there's a lot of great material out there, such as

Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste

Mano Lite: A Short Guide to Dialing in Espresso SOs and Blends

Here's a good read on "blonding" and philosophies around it - Newbie: Flow color vs weight to stop extraction

The "18 g in, 36 g out, in 25 seconds" benchmark is a good starting place for this class of coffees. Remember it's a benchmark, not a prescription. Once you can quickly get to that benchmark and you get familiar with your gear, experience can tell you "Oh, I remember this kind of 'off' and it needs 1/2 mark finer grind" or "to cut the shot short a little bit" or ...

Taking notes of bean origin, rough roast level, dose, grind, mass in cup, time, how it tasted, and what I changed since the last shot (I'll circle the changed value) on paper helps me. Something about writing it down just works better for me.

I find keeping the grind the same and increasing the yield in roughly 4-5 g increments helps me find where that coffee is "happy". For the medium and lighter roasts I pull, it usually tastes a bit sour at too short of a ratio, sometimes a bit harsh. As the ratio goes up, the acidity usually goes from harsh and sour to bright, as well as the sweetness filling in. Go way too far and it gets "watered down" and sometimes a bit of strange flavors or astringency creeps in.

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#25: Post by cafeIKE »

As an addendum to Jeff's great advice, I find that as commercial roasts have changed, I use a triple basket more. I have a couple that are nearly identical in shape, but the hole pattern varies a little. Some coffees are basket agnostic and some are picky. One of my first purchases after the e61 was Synesso baskets. I also benefited from a relationship with a parts vendor who let me troll the bins for baskets and shower screens. I've stuck with the most basic, shortest screens as I think headspace is important, but fine tune with baskets. I don't believe any of the screen or basket marketing hype, but they differ mechanically and they can make a difference. Baskets also wear which can change performance. I nearly cried one day when a fav bust a seam and split.

If I have a really good shot in a shop and I intend to purchase beans, I usually order another and query the barista for params. It helps if you can talk the talk and be specific with good baristas. Hopeless with shot pullers. Once I was told brew temp was 140°F. For HairBender! :roll:

I've never been a puckologist and mostly never have an imprint of the shower screen on a spent puck. So when grinding finer seems counter productive taste-wise, and I've crammed as much as I durst in a double, I add a gram or two and use the triple basket, coarsening the grind a tick.

If the pull starts bubbling and making a white spot on the surface, it's over, so don't pull any longer. If it's more than a second or two from intended time, something is wrong. Either grind is too coarse or there's not enough depth [assumes competent prep with good grinder, properly adjusted brew pressure and good coffee] If the bottom of the basket doesn't cover evenly in just over a second and there are dry areas, prep is bad.

I keep notes of every blend to assist in starting points for online purchases. Not always useful given many web descriptions... :cry: Sometimes a note to roaster with your params and defect mitigation attempts will get a response steer you in the right direction.

Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste. If I'm showing someone how, I send them the link and tell them to print the images and laminate them. You can make marks with a grease pencil

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#26: Post by daggerNC (original poster) »

Took a little break to focus on becoming unemployed! Officially I was able to "retire" but I didn't have much choice... New chapter, new doors!

@cafeIKE - interesting on using 21g baskets - should be good for us American 16oz Lattes! A little discouraging with "Some coffees are basket agnostic and some are picky" as that's all I need is to add another variable to this, but I've been reading up on them and would really like to try IMS/Baristapro or VST baskets to gauge their effects. I've got to ask - do you use a flat bottom tamper or a slight convex?

@Jeff - every time I try a "darker" roast I just can't get accustomed to the heavier "roast" flavor which draws me back to more medium or light-medium roasts. I'm working on trying to go more by the look of the pour, but with timers and scales and output volumes it is still on the beginning end of that learning curve for me.

My family is up to something....hmm, hope it's coffee related :-D

daggerNC (original poster)
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#27: Post by daggerNC (original poster) »

Wow, I have a great fam...They're upgrading me to an ECM Classika with flow control!!! Have to learn on a new machine, but really looking forward to trying the flow control to effect different profiles. (I think they're just trying to keep me busy and my wife probably is hoping for better tasting lattes.. :D )

I'll be putting my 1 month old Lelit Anna PID up for sale next.

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#28: Post by SandraF »

@daggerNC - Congratulations on your upcoming upgrade. Once you get the hang of using the new machine, I'd be interested in your comparisons or things you notice between what you're using now & your upcoming ECM.

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#29: Post by cafeIKE »

daggerNC wrote: I've got to ask - do you use a flat bottom tamper or a slight convex?
I tend not to updose, with pucks seldom having any mark from the shower screen which is as short as I could find.
I have 5 tampers, 2 generic flat in 57 & 58, 2 Reg Barber one C-Flat & the other maybe American curve & the 5th is a double ended 39 & 57 with a curve about double the RB.

IMO, there are far too many uncontrolled variables that must be addressed before one could ascribe variances solely to a tamper alone.

from 2006:
HB Roadshow - Espresso Tamper Reviews


#30: Post by dbdnt »

Also an NC resident. Not a huge fan of Black and White roasters overall, but their New World Order roast made for New World Cafe is decent. Can't go wrong with Counter Culture either. Forty-Two is a good roast for getting technique down IMO.