Is it the grind?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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jeremya

#1: Post by jeremya » Feb 23, 2009, 7:39 pm

Hey all... my first post here, though I've been lurking for a few weeks, reading everything I can get my eyeballs on, watching the videos, etc., all in anticipation of the arrival of my first espresso machine: a gently used 2008 Rancilio Silvia (w/ Watlow SD3C PID installed). I have no prior experience as a barista... so what follows is a total n00b tale.

Miss Silvia arrived last friday and I experimented all weekend pulling shots of freshly ground espresso roast from my local Tully's. I had them grind it on what they called their "pump" setting, which is very fine, not powder, but only slightly grainy. Clumps a little, but nothing a bit of WDT can't solve.

My first few pucks in a ridgeless double basket had too little coffee* and weren't tamped nearly hard enough: they broke apart quickly under pressure. Let's just say after I got coffee in my eye (and everywhere else) a second time, I stopped using the bottomless portafilter and spent another hour reading about extraction problems and tamping techniques.

Now I've got my tamping down pretty well. I had a long conversation on the phone with the previous owner of the machine for some advice about this particular Silvia and the tampers, baskets, and PFs he'd sold me. Having examined my more recent pucks post-ejection, I'm pretty happy with their solidarity -- they don't crumble out of the PF into the trash leaving bits of dreck in the basket -- instead they come out much as a single, solid puck with only a few grains of coffee left behind. So I feel I'm making progress there.

Where I feel i'm still failing however is perhaps the grind (hence the subject of this post). I ordered a Mazzer Mini Doserless Type B from 1st-line which should be arriving tomorrow** so i've only had the Tully's "pump grind" to work with. What I'm noticing that is NOT lining up with the "perfect shot" descriptions i've seen and read are the following:

1) Extraction time is more like 9-11 seconds, not 25-30, before I've filled a shot. Coffee starts rushing out within a second or two of flipping the switch... all of which seems horribly rushed.
2) Coffee flows (from a standard double-chute PF) much like drip coffee does. It *pours*... it doesn't "ooze" or "mouse tail"...
3) Crema? What crema? I get a little blonde foam on top of very dark brown liquid from the blatant blonding that starts around 8-9 seconds, but nothing i'd call true crema.
4) Straight taste is kinda bitter. That said, I haven't had straight espresso in a while so it could just be strong... but to my tongue, it's bitter.

Image

So, how about it? Is it the grind?

My analytical brain can only suggest that with a WDT-distributed, level, well-tamped, solid puck of grinds in the basket, the most likely candidate for my super-fast extraction and bitterness is that the grind is just too coarse... it's not putting up enough of a fight and the water is able to rush through.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Tips? Stupid, obvious newbie errors that need to be pointed out?

-jer

* (don't follow Rancilio's instructions, apparently... their little scoop does not dole out nearly enough coffee unless you use very well-rounded scoops)
** (originally FedEx said Saturday but on Saturday changed their mind. Gotta love ground shipping... /sigh)
"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

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Vidio

#2: Post by Vidio » Feb 23, 2009, 9:05 pm

I think it almost certainly is the grind. I think once you get your Mazzer you will see a world of difference. A 9-11 second extraction is WAAAAY too fast. You say it is too bitter but my guess is that it is sour you're tasting at that fast rate. My advice would be that when you get the Mazzer experiment with different grind settings but keep everything else constant. Don't worry too much about examining pucks and WDTs and all the other stuff we obsessive compulsive types have put on this forum. Select a constant amount of beans. I prefer weighing 15 grams for a double but there are many opinions on this. Some also go by a constant volume of beans or grounds. Don't worry too much at this point. Just pick one method and stick with it for a while. Keep the amount steady. Then experiment with grind until you get the desired amount of coffee (1-2 ounces) in about 25-30 seconds. Use your taste as a reference too. Change grind until you get a pleasing taste in about 30 seconds. One final tip is to try and use fresh beans, preferably 2 - 10 days from the day they were roasted. Find a place that tells you the roast date. Good luck and enjoy.

Mario

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim » Feb 23, 2009, 9:25 pm

jeremya wrote:Hey all... my first post here, though I've been lurking for a few weeks,
You obviously missed the 10,000 posts explaining that the Silvia is a very nice paperweight until you get a proper grinder of your own. Nemox Lux is about the least expensive, home burr grinders like those by Baratza or Capresso won't work very well or at all.
Jim Schulman

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cafeIKE

#4: Post by cafeIKE » Feb 23, 2009, 10:00 pm

Pucks are compost. Ignore them.

Ground coffee older than a very few minutes is STALE. And useless for pulling espresso shots.

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HB
Admin

#5: Post by HB » Feb 23, 2009, 10:06 pm

jeremya wrote:Hey all... my first post here, though I've been lurking for a few weeks, reading everything I can get my eyeballs on... Miss Silvia arrived last friday and I experimented all weekend pulling shots of freshly ground espresso roast from my local Tully's.
All the available reading can seem overwhelming. If you haven't done so already, see the Recommended Reading that precedes the FAQs and Favorites Digest. If you have a specific question, try looking in the FAQs and Favorites (unabridged). For example, searching on 'preground' and 'silvia' will lead to many relevant discussions for this thread.
Dan Kehn

terhune281

#6: Post by terhune281 » Feb 23, 2009, 10:37 pm

Sure, it's the grind. Try 12 oz of Ambrosia Blend from Cafe Fresca. A treat. You are in for a lot of fun. Learning about new things is an exciting part of life. A couple of tips. First, go on ebay and buy yourself a good heavy tamper either stainless or aluminum. 58 mm is the right size for Silvia. I have a Silvia too. You will learn to make hand-crafted espresso. Read about "Reverse temperature Surfing" and dialing in the grind. Other useful ditty's are a knock box, blind portafilter, proper frothing pitcher, youtube videos and google videos on latte art and barista championships. The grinder is going to make a world of difference. Cleanliness (of the Silvia) is next to godliness. Clean the machine regularly. Enjoy yourself and this terrific website. Carl

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jeremya

#7: Post by jeremya » Feb 23, 2009, 10:44 pm

Thanks for the tips, everyone. I'll keep digging!

I'm excited because my Mazzer (supposedly) arrives tomorrow... along with a proper frothing pitcher, etc., etc.
"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

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jeremya

#8: Post by jeremya » Feb 23, 2009, 10:52 pm

terhune281 wrote:First, go on ebay and buy yourself a good heavy tamper either stainless or aluminum... Cleanliness (of the Silvia) is next to godliness. Clean the machine regularly. Enjoy yourself and this terrific website. Carl
Thanks, Carl. :)

I have a Reg Barber 58mm stainless that the previous owner sent me as part of the package. I use it exclusively (he also sent me a 58mm aluminum but it just doesn't feel as good). I clean her religiously after every session, following the steps for re-filling the boiler, scrubbing the grouphead and seals with hot water, etc.

-jer
"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

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roastaroma

#9: Post by roastaroma » Feb 23, 2009, 10:55 pm

Ciao Jeremy,

In addition to the obvious part about the grinder, I suspect your beans are a contributing factor to those sucky shots. So you might want to look into that, once you have the grinding sorted out.

I don't know if you've actually enjoyed straight espresso shots pulled at Tully's, or if they're even using that "espresso roast" you mentioned. But you're in Seattle -- you could do a LOT better than Tully's! Two vital details: a) freshness, and b) roast level. If a bag of beans has a "sell by" or "use by" date on it, you can't know how many days have elapsed since roasting.

Also, what is sold as "espresso roast" in this country is often on the dark side. If you like that "Southern Italian" style, that's fine. But the Northern style, which many espresso-heads prefer, is a medium roast (aka "Full City"). It won't be hard to find a local roaster who knows all about this & puts the actual date of roasting on each bag.

BTW, you are not required to drink all of your early shots! :D You're in training, so some good beans will have to be sacrificed in the process.

Happy Brewing,
Wayne
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
LMWDP #223

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Psyd

#10: Post by Psyd » Feb 24, 2009, 6:48 pm

jeremya wrote:I had them grind it on what they called their "pump" setting, which is very fine,
Babbie's Rule of Fifteens:
Greens can be stored for fifteen months, and if you haven't used them by then, pitch 'em.
Roasted beans can be stored for fifteen days. If you haven't used them by then, pitch 'em.
Ground beans can be stored for fifteen minutes. If you haven't used them by then, pitch 'em.*
So yeah, in your case, it's that the grinder is too far from your house, and the new mini should solve that very well.
As I'm fond of saying, the grinder makes the espresso, the espresso machine only makes the water hot and pushes it through the grounds. ; >


*These are generally accepted numbers. There will be outliers, but not by too much and not too many of them.
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175