Newbie advice after upgrading to a non pressurized portafilter

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.

#1: Post by danstar10 »

Hi guys!
I'm pretty new to the game after getting a delonghi dedica ec685 espresso machine about a month ago. I'm enjoying learning the dark art of espresso and have been reading up and watching some advice vids over the weeks.

My machine only came with pressurized portafilters which I have been using up until a few days ago when I got this unpressurised basket: ... UTF8&psc=1

Since getting the unpressurized my first impression is that the espresso tastes 'better'. Early days with dialing it in but here are my initial settings:
  • 17g of ground coffee
  • I only have the crappy plastic tamper that comes with the machine so I am pressing down a decent amount to pack it in
  • A double shot seems to take about 28 seconds from the first drip out of the machine to the end

So here are my uncertainties and questions:
  • A big part of me trying the unpressurized basket was that I assumed I would get more crema after seeing shots in advice videos having almost half the height of the shot as crema. Before I was getting a little layer on top that would just about cover the top layer, and now I get pretty much none at all with the new basket. But like I say I think the taste of the shot is 'better'. Why would I be getting less crema with the unpressurized basket? And is no crema a sign that I am doing something wrong?
  • Now that the new basket is only a double shot size, am I able to make a single espresso by just putting in half the amount of coffee in the basket so there is a big space on top and using the single dose button on the machine?
  • I think I am right is assuming the ideal time (for a double?) espresso shot is between 25-30 seconds, so would it suggest I have got the settings (grind size / dose / tamping) in a pretty good spot if I like the taste of the shot and don't find it too bitter / sour?

Very open to any advice and observations! Thanks for your time if you read through the above :D



#2: Post by Jeff »

Congrats, welcome to the crazy hobby of home espresso.

That you're getting espresso that you like already is a great accomplishment!

Crema is like foam on a beer. It looks pretty, but doesn't tell you much about how the beer is going to taste. It's espresso foam and, as playing with a pressurized basket has shown you, can be "faked". While it looks great, it doesn't add a lot to the flavor of your espresso. Many even consider that it detracts from the flavor. Here's one barista's discussion of crema,

You probably are reasonably close on grind/dose, as many measure the 25 or 30 seconds from "pump on" not first drops. Often it takes 5-10 seconds for first drops. I'm guessing you're around 35 seconds from pump on.

There's a recent thread on knowing when "done" is when you're pulling a shot. Time is an output, your primary inputs are coffee (fresh, yes?), grind, and dose. If you're dosing at 17 g, when you hit that done point, the result should be around 34 g of espresso and that it took 25 seconds (or 30 seconds, if you picked that as your benchmark). If off by a lot (a couple grams or 3 seconds, maybe?) , then you probably want to adjust your grind.

Newbie: Flow color vs weight to stop extraction

I'm guessing that your grinder is going to be the limiting factor right now. If you can't tweak the grind finely enough, come back and people can give you some hints about how to adjust things. If you've got a gift list, you might want to start looking at modestly priced grinders intended for espresso.

Tamping, as long as it is square to the basket and enough (which is pretty light) doesn't significantly change extraction time. A comfortable tamper that fits the basket might be a good US$12-20-ish investment. Comfortable means its easier for you to tamp square to the basket, so one side doesn't extract before the other. If you think about it, the puck is about to be hit with 100+ PSI over around 4 sq. in., the equivalent of several hundred pounds of force. As long at it doesn't fall apart when that water hits, a couple of pounds of tamping pressure one way or the other isn't going to make a huge difference

On trying to pull a single in a double basket, unless your grinder and puck-prep skills are excellent, you're likely not to have much success. Enjoy the doubles you can get out of it!

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#3: Post by slipchuck »

The most important thing for good crema is having freshly roasted beans from a local shop not the grocery store beans. 3-10 days after roasting is about right
Good crema doesn't guarantee good taste so how a shot tastes is most important.
As far as shots goes don't bother waisting your time on single shots as they are harder to pour.
Most people agree a good grinder is an important part of espresso so save your money and invest in a better one

“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”


#4: Post by DeGaulle »

You haven't said anything about the coffee you are using, but if it is supermarket coffee with a "best before" date on it, bin it and get some that has been freshly roasted, no more than 2 weeks post-roast.
Secondly with a non-pressurized portafilter it is really imperatieve to get a good burr grinder for espresso. For some reason I couldn't open the link to the grinder you are using, but grinders are a make-or-break link in the chain that makes a good shot. There are some really good options for handgrinders and many for electric grinders, but grinding consistency and latitude to dial in your grind size depending on which coffee you use are key.

The pressurized basket,with its orifice in the bottom sort of disperses the espresso into the cup, which creates the impression of a froth, but it really isn't the crema that you will find on top of a well-brewed shot of espresso.

That said, crema isn't the end-all-be-all indicator of a good shot. Some coffees will produce shots that are crema 50% or more by volume and some provide only a thin layer of it. It varies with origin, processing method and roast level.

The 25-30 second extraction time is a first indicator of being in the ballpark and then you can fine tune by taste making small adjustments to your grind size, which could lead to either shorter or longer extraction times. When using a double shot portafilter, dose the amount of coffee that it's designed for. When halving the dose in order to get a single shot, you would have to grind so fine to get a single shot of espresso yield in the same 25-30 seconds, I don't think it will work. If you want to make single shots, get a single shot basket, but sticking to doubles makes life easier.


#5: Post by danstar10 »

Thanks for the replies guys, some good points already.

The coffee I am using, yeah it is supermarket bought with a use by date. It's this one:
So where should I get good freshly roasted coffee from? I guess a coffee shop...?

Interesting point about the 'fake' crema from pressurized baskets. Maybe that's what I was getting before but it did seem pretty legit, even getting the 'tiger stripes' sometimes. That's the reason I thought even though the coffee isn't fancy fresh stuff, if I was getting some crema with the old basket I should at least be getting the same amount with the unpressurized.

Good to know about timing from pump on and not first drip. In that case yeah I am around 35 seconds as I timed it this morning. I watched a vid with guy who has a whole youtube channel on espresso saying it should be timed from first drip to eliminate differences in machines pre infusion times etc. So it should definitely be 25-30 seconds from first drip?

Question about the baskets I use... as they are smaller 51mm, do they still in theory take a full 18g double dose? I am using 17g now and still find after a fairly tight tamp it sits a little above the 2 cup marker that is on it. The pressurized double that came with the machine says to use 14g of grind but it is definitely smaller. Is it possible that this machine puts out less water for a double shot as it is expecting 14g double dose?

Jeff, when you say "If you're dosing at 17 g, when you hit that done point, the result should be around 34 g of espresso" do you mean I can literally weigh the espresso shot minus the cup and it should be 34g?

Sounds like my grind is too fine if anything as if I take into account the pump startup shots are around 35s so I need to go coarser. So hopefully the grinder isn't limiting me on how fine I can go, even if it isn't a great grinder.


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#6: Post by yakster »

danstar10 wrote:Thanks for the replies guys, some good points already.

The coffee I am using, yeah it is supermarket bought with a use by date. It's this one:
So where should I get good freshly roasted coffee from? I guess a coffee shop...?
There's plenty of threads in the coffees forum with recommendations for light espresso, dark espresso, decaf espresso, beginner friendly espresso, etc. I recommend you start there.

This thread hasn't been updated in quite a while but may be a good starting place: List of our Favorite Roasters

This thread is where people post the especially good coffees they've tried: What is wow'ing you?

Here's a thread where people call out their top 5: Top 5 Coffee Roasters

Here's some Canada-centric threads:

Best espresso bean roasters in Canada

Online Coffee Subscriptions in Canada

Canadian Roasters: Canucks...What are you drinking?

LMWDP # 272


#7: Post by Jeff »

If you're in Vancouver, BC, there are several local roasters there, as well as many that deliver by post across Canada. You might check the Coffee section here for some ideas.

If that guy is James Hoffmann, his knowledge and advice is, I believe, generally considered reliable. Even if you disagree with the conclusions, I suspect most would agree that he has the experience and knowledge to come to his conclusions, as well as doing a good job as to explaining why he came to a conclusion.

The weight in the cup is part of the "ratio" target. A common benchmark is a 1:2 extraction; twice as many grams of beverage out as grams of coffee in. You're spot on with weighing your grinds and keeping them to the nearest 0.1 g, then taring the scale with your cup and measuring the weight of the pull in the cup.

The maximum dose is what fits in the basket, tamped, and doesn't come too close to the shower screen in the group head. You can put a nickel (~2 mm thick) on a tamped puck, lock it in, release it, and you shouldn't see the imprint of the coin on the top of the still-dry puck. Filling it "as far as it can go" doesn't directly tie to better espresso and can make it worse. Edit: Significantly under-filling it can also be problematic as the puck gets thin and fragile without top-notch puck preparation skills.

There isn't anything magical about 18 g. If your basket is smaller, then 17 g, or even 16 g, might be a "good" dose for it. I have baskets that have a "standard" dose of 15 g as they are shallower than some of my other baskets. If you ask the Italians, their classic espresso was in a 7 g basket (often a different shape). 15-20 g is a "modern" change to espresso, formerly being considered a "double" or "triple" shot, based on that classic, 7-g dose.

It doesn't surprise me that the dose is less for the double-walled basket, as some of the space is taken up by that inner wall.

In any event, you should be controlling the amount of flow by hand, rather relying on the built-in timer. You might have to set that internal timer for a long time, then hit the button to stop the flow manually (or whatever works for your specific machine).

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#8: Post by slipchuck »

I also start the time from first drop. Leaves out the different variables of preinfusion etc.

“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”


#9: Post by danstar10 »

"You might have to set that internal timer for a long time, then hit the button to stop the flow manually" - I'm not sure my machine has an adjustable internal timer but I can stop the flow by hand.

I weighed the coffee this morning minus the cup and I got 86g from 16g of ground coffee... That seems very wrong from what you were saying! Not sure how it could be that far off.


#10: Post by danstar10 »

Any thoughts about the weighing of my double shot? Should I really be getting 32g from 16g coffee? but I'm getting 86g?? Seems like a big difference!