Newbie espresso maker side channeling

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

#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?

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#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.

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#4: Post by cafeIKE »

Holes in a spent puck mean nothing.

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