Newbie frustrated with super sour espresso. What to try next? - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
eune00 (original poster)

#11: Post by eune00 (original poster) »

VoidedTea wrote:I know I probably shouldn't say anything because I don't know anything about your new machine, so please listen to Jeff and other experts here first. It is just your experience with sour coffee is so identical to mine that I feel like I could help at least somehow. Like I mentioned, in my case the coffee was sour only because of the low water temperature. The beans were fresh, the grind was matched to allow 25 seconds pull, non-pressurized PF, etc. So it was always the temperature. The same thing happened with my manual lever at first. I ground my beans too fine and it took near 60 seconds to pull 30 grams of espresso. out of 15 grams of coffee. The coffee was very sour. Why? Because water temperature drops significantly during the pull. So after about 20 seconds all I am pulling is sour flavour, which require lower temperature to extract. Once I made the grind coarser to make sure that I can pull the shot in 25 seconds, the problem was solved, my espresso is sweeter than ever. Now, your machine is different but I have read somewhere on these forums that machines like yours also experience temperature drop during the pull, by a significant degree. If that is true for your machine, then I can almost certainly guarantee that you can fix your problem by grinding coarser until you can pull 36 grams (not just 19) at 8-9 bars in less than 30 seconds. Don't be afraid to grind a bit coarser, just a few stops at a time until you get your timing right.

Your experience really sounds like the problem I have right now :O Thank you so much for your response :) Really helps me to know that this could be fixable!!! I thought sour means go finer, but I'm really surprised to learn that sour could also be because it's too fine hahaha.
jeff wrote:Close to a 1:1 ratio in over 40 seconds, at least for most coffees, suggests the grind is too fine. I'd try working back to 1:2 in 25-30 seconds, tasting as you go. Let each shot cool a bit, stir, and at least sip. You may end up tossing a few, but tasting the changes can help recognize the various ways an espresso can be "off". You may find that you like it a little "longer" than even 1:2, depending on the coffee and your own flavor preferences.
So, today in the afternoon I tried to do a coarser ground after reading all your responses! And I think I went back a bit too far on my sette 270 Wi haha;; I got a 18g, 30g in 24 seconds but I think it was blonding a little before 24 seconds.

But the taste was of course off, but it was actually much more drinkable than what I've been getting so far. It still had the ting on the back of the throat and tasted both sour and bitter but it was much less. This time I let it warm up more since I turned it on earlier while I work and went to make coffee for lunch. Probably for an hour or so.

In this case should I try to go finer?

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Jeff
Team HB

#12: Post by Jeff »

Take good notes and you'll get your own intuition about what works for all kinds of beans and ways that you could improve the flavor of your shots. I'll highlight the one thing I change from shot to shot so I get a better feeling for what 1/2, 1, and 2 marks do, for example. At a minimum, I'd keep track of:

Country or blend name
Roast level, as you see it (roasters tend to label everything "medium", probably as that sells better)
Roast date

Then, for each shot, at least:
Date
Dose
Grind
Time
Weight in cup
Flavor notes

"Yuck, bitter" is plenty to start. Whether it's ashy or charcoal won't matter much. It's how it's "off" to you that's important.

Let things cool a little after the shot and stir before tasting. I don't heat my cups and taste after I've flushed and wiped the screen and washed and dried the basket.

Every week I learn something new about how coffees, my grinder, and my machine all work together when I look over my notes.

Edit: How are you managing temperature? That can be a huge problem on an HX. It's a little omission on those glossy sheets about how easy a machine is to use. If you have budget for one and haven't already ordered it, something like an EricS group-head thermometer makes it much more repeatable. They're available direct as well as through a couple dealers.

VoidedTea

#13: Post by VoidedTea »

Glad you are getting some improvements. I forgot to mention another observation from my very limited experience - some roasts are naturally more acidic than other. I think Jeff mentioned it as well. So, it might be that you picked up one of those fancy roasts that are not for beginners. Try darker, simpler roasts, which are usually easier to manage. Pull both roasts side by side with exactly the same parameters and see if you can spot the difference. If even darker roasts come out sour, I would still check water temperature with a thermometer to make sure there is nothing wrong with the boiler. The grind alone is not going to fix it if your extraction time stays around 30 sec.

eune00 (original poster)

#14: Post by eune00 (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:Take good notes and you'll get your own intuition about what works for all kinds of beans and ways that you could improve the flavor of your shots. I'll highlight the one thing I change from shot to shot so I get a better feeling for what 1/2, 1, and 2 marks do, for example. At a minimum, I'd keep track of:

Country or blend name
Roast level, as you see it (roasters tend to label everything "medium", probably as that sells better)
Roast date

Then, for each shot, at least:
Date
Dose
Grind
Time
Weight in cup
Flavor notes

"Yuck, bitter" is plenty to start. Whether it's ashy or charcoal won't matter much. It's how it's "off" to you that's important.

Let things cool a little after the shot and stir before tasting. I don't heat my cups and taste after I've flushed and wiped the screen and washed and dried the basket.

Every week I learn something new about how coffees, my grinder, and my machine all work together when I look over my notes.

Edit: How are you managing temperature? That can be a huge problem on an HX. It's a little omission on those glossy sheets about how easy a machine is to use. If you have budget for one and haven't already ordered it, something like an EricS group-head thermometer makes it much more repeatable. They're available direct as well as through a couple dealers.


I see. Thank you so much for all the help so far! I've seen some light shine through from darkness hahaha :) I will keep track of all those notes!!!

As per temperature, I was wondering if measuring the water that's coming out from the group head AFTER the cooling flush would help ?? Could that be as precise as using the EricS group-head thermometer ? Or less but accurate enough ?

VoidedTea wrote:Glad you are getting some improvements. I forgot to mention another observation from my very limited experience - some roasts are naturally more acidic than other. I think Jeff mentioned it as well. So, it might be that you picked up one of those fancy roasts that are not for beginners. Try darker, simpler roasts, which are usually easier to manage. Pull both roasts side by side with exactly the same parameters and see if you can spot the difference. If even darker roasts come out sour, I would still check water temperature with a thermometer to make sure there is nothing wrong with the boiler. The grind alone is not going to fix it if your extraction time stays around 30 sec.
YES! After reading the suggestions, I have actually ordered 49 Parallel Old school Espresso to try!! It's going to arrive next week so I'm pretty excited to try it out :)

VoidedTea

#15: Post by VoidedTea »

eune00 wrote: YES! After reading the suggestions, I have actually ordered 49 Parallel Old school Espresso to try!! It's going to arrive next week so I'm pretty excited to try it out :)
I am finishing a bag of The Old School right now and really enjoy it. Definitely one of my favourites. It is on the darker side, so should be an excellent choice for your practice. If you manage to get sour notes from this roast, you should throw your machine right out of the window! ... Haha, just kidding :D.

eune00 (original poster)

#16: Post by eune00 (original poster) »

VoidedTea wrote:f you manage to get sour notes from this roast, you should throw your machine right out of the window! ... Haha, just kidding :D.
HAHAHA! I just got the Old School beans today!! So excited to try it! :D If I get some sourness, I will have a big hole in my window shaped like an espresso machine haha 8)

Jeff
Team HB

#17: Post by Jeff »

eune00 wrote:As per temperature, I was wondering if measuring the water that's coming out from the group head AFTER the cooling flush would help ?? Could that be as precise as using the EricS group-head thermometer ? Or less but accurate enough ?
You need to do something very repeatable every time, from the same starting point. Without a group-head thermometer there's a lot of guessing as to where you're starting the flush, how far it's gotten you, and where you are in the rebound. You're sort of hoping that you started at the same group-head temperature and that "count to ten" (or what ever) gets you to the same point every time. Time-based, flush and go is better than nothing. Details in the thread I linked earlier and likely several others.

Measuring the temperature in the cup can provide a very rough hint as to what a given flush time changes, but not really a lot of guidance for each shot. Temperature in a cup is going to be lower than brew-water temperature by a bit. How much isn't easily predictable.

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cccpu

#18: Post by cccpu »

eune00 wrote: I have Sette 270Wi and had Breville Dual boiler had it for few months but the machine had a bit of a problem so I had to return and recently got the Rocket Appartamento.

But ever since Breville I'm having the same problem with my extractions :( It's mostly sour and it has this sour taste that hits the back of my throat. I tried different coffee beans too but I still couldn't get the right taste.

When I had my Breville, no matter the grind size, it was always sour.. And felt like it was just getting more sour when grinded finer, even when the shot was almost choking. I tried changing temperature up and down from 198F - 202F, tried tamping more and less (have pullman palm tamper and distributer), tried 17- 19g coffee..

At this point I'm really lost on what to try and feel sad wasting a lot of good fresh coffee :( . But since I changed my espresso machine, I really want to try to get this right and I thought I'd reach out for help!!

Right now, I am using a Rocket bottomless portafilter with Pullman 876 Filtration Basket (17-19g) , doing a 18g coffee and it gets blond pretty quickly.. And super sour. So should I try to do a finer grind first? And how much finer should I try?
Jeff is steering you very well but it may be worth mentioning at this point (unless it's too late) that it sounds like at this point it's either:

A) the grinder
B) the coffee
C) the water
D) the puck prep

Switching from something stable and easily monitored with the BDB to an E61 HX sounds like jumping the gun a bit, and possibly in the wrong direction if you are trying to nail down your parameters consistently successfully.

You switched from a machine that is ready to pull shots from a cold start in 5-7 minutes, gave instant pressure, temperature and timing feedback to one that gives none of this and takes 40 minutes to warm up.

You mention this later:
But I can definitely see that happening with my Breville Dual boiler because the machine was already having some pressurizing problems as well. :/
But you never described what you meant by it more clearly.

At this point in the game, it is safe to say that it probably isn't either machines fault as to why the espresso tastes off. However, it should at this point come back to you how you want to proceed. Do you like the more "manual" approach to controlling to brew parameters on the Appartamento, or would you rather the more automated controllable approach? Do the long warmup times make it challenging to experiment and learn when it's convenient to you? If so, there IS a solution to that.

If possible, would you go back to the Breville, or is it more about how the machines look and regardless of perceived functional advantages, you would prefer to hold on to the Appartamento?

Just food for thought going forward.
LMWDP #583

VoidedTea

#19: Post by VoidedTea »

cccpu wrote: If possible, would you go back to the Breville, or is it more about how the machines look and regardless of perceived functional advantages, you would prefer to hold on to the Appartamento?

Just food for thought going forward.
I had the same sentiment, but it appears that the Breville has already gone. I read the original post again and it's surprising that the OP tried all sorts of settings on BDB, but to no avail - different grind size, different temperature, different coffee, etc. It is hard to imagine that none of those tries produces at least one passable result.

I am starting to think maybe the OP does confuse sour with bitter and we are trying to solve the wrong problem. Although in my experience, if you have a bitter coffee, you would never call it sour, so I still think the coffee is sour, not bitter. The OP seems to like the result coming from a mocha pot, how is it different from espresso? Is it milder? Maybe espresso is simply too strong to the OP? Just running out of suggestions...

cccpu

#20: Post by cccpu »

VoidedTea wrote:I am starting to think maybe the OP does confuse sour with bitter and we are trying to solve the wrong problem. Although in my experience, if you have a bitter coffee, you would never call it sour, so I still think the coffee is sour, not bitter.
I'll throw this out there: often we can EASILY confuse UNDERextracted flavors and OVERextracted flavors... I definitely do agree that ASHY CHALKY yuck is a pretty stand out flavor, but there can be a large band where espresso can be yuck.

I definitely think moving to a more developed roast is the right next move for your current gear. My heart aches for your lost BDB though...
The OP seems to like the result coming from a mocha pot, how is it different from espresso? Is it milder? Maybe espresso is simply too strong to the OP? Just running out of suggestions...
I could be wrong, but I think that the mocha pot could have an easier go at extraction. The battle would be to prevent going overboard with that method.
LMWDP #583