Newbie espresso maker side channeling

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
StSparky

#1: Post by StSparky »

Hello everybody,

As stated I am a newbie at espresso, but love this forum, it has taught me a bunch.

Before I ask my question, I have searched the internet for help on my problems and have read and watched a bunch of article and videos about tamping and distribution. A lot on HB as well. But I am not sure what else to try. Moka pot and french press are how I have been making coffee at home for years.

I have just bought a Rancilio Silvia Pro X. My issue I think, seems to be a result of channeling, almost exclusively on the sides of the basket, I have a comandante grinder which I have had for a while, I bought it for my moka pots etc, I upgraded it to red clix a while ago before deciding to buy my espresso machine. But from what I understand it, despite being a stepped grinder, it should do ok for espresso other than the work required. Maybe once my wallet has recovered I will look at an electric grinder.

I am using the baskets which came with the Silvia, 40-100-108 which from what I have researched is an 18g IMS basket, the single 40-100-106 I have not used much as I have read the singles are harder to use especially for a newbie. I am also using the stock portafilter and 58mm tamp that came stock. I know an open portafilter would help me identify issues easier and I will get one, in the next month or so.

My espresso is very sour almost all the time, I am using fresh beans, roasted less than 6 weeks, ones that I use for moka pot and are said to be suitable for espresso also. I doubt my puck prep is fantastic but I have tried using a home made WDT with cork and some needles. Trying to get even distribution. From what I can see the puck is pretty level, no drastic slants. With my grind I am getting 40g espresso between 23-27 seconds. I have tried to go a bit finer on grind, but no drastic improvements.

I have attached an image of one of my pucks, and from what I understand, all along the sides are channels forming, correct me if I am wrong. These are all in the space that my tamp does not reach.

So my main question is, is there something I can do to fix this, via technique or is this simply a result of having a tamp that is just too small?


Nunas
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by Nunas »

From the photo, the grind looks rather coarse. I'd go finer and pull a little less espresso; try 30 to 35 grams and see what happens. As one extracts more coffee, the taste improves on a gradual slope, but once past a critical point, the quality drops off very rapidly. Some call this going over the cliff.

Six-week-old coffee isn't all that fresh. How are you storing it, once the package is opened?

As for the tamp, it's really hard to say from a spent puck what's going on, because when the pressure is released, the puck expands and all sorts of things can show up. That said, I agree that you appear to have side channeling. Try this. After you get the grinds distributed and levelled, first tamp modestly, maybe about 10#. Then, with the tamper held firmly on the puck, rock it back and forth a little in several directions, tamping more firmly. Be sure that doing this does not result in a puck that isn't level by extending your thumb and a finger or two to the edge of the basket as you tamp and turn. Your fingers will tell you if the puck is even a mm or so off.

StSparky (original poster)

#3: Post by StSparky (original poster) »

Hi Nunas,

Thanks for taking the time to give me some advice, I reduced the grind a bit and tried the technique you suggested, I doubt I did it very well, will need to practice. I got 35g espresso in about 33 seconds, forgot to mention I have a 4 sec pre-infusion set. From what I know that is supposed to help with channeling. Maybe I should disable it.

Anyway the puck still had some channels, but less I think, I took some pics of what the puck looks like during the prep.

As for the beans, sadly I don't have any close by roasters where I stay so most are bought online. But I do try keep them in their bags and I have the timemore vacuum jars, they seem to hold an decent vacuum.

puck post WDT:



After tamp:



post shot:



Sorry light is not great.

Shot was still sour but less, had a bit of bitterness in the after taste.

The tamp in an empty basket feels like it catches on two spots, like if you drove a nail through the base, it swivels on that axis. minor movement obviously. Don't have enough experience to say if that means anything. especially in an empty basket.

User avatar
cafeIKE
Supporter ❤

#4: Post by cafeIKE »

Holes in a spent puck mean nothing.

Try rapping the PF vertically on the counter before you tamp.