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

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
eune00

#1: Post by eune00 »

Hello!

I am having some trouble making great espresso.

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.

I am getting my beans from local coffee shop : https://www.movingcoffee.com/collection ... a-espresso

I have tried all the coffee beans that I get with my moka pot and it tasted delicious and was able to get it in first couple tries. But I'm having a lot of problem trying to get a great hopefully better espresso. :(

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?

Please help and really appreciate any kind of help!

BKSinAZ

#2: Post by BKSinAZ »

Water that is too hot can contribute to sour.

VoidedTea

#3: Post by VoidedTea »

I was having the same problem with my prior machine, no matter how hard I tried to improve (fresh roast, non-pressurized PF, etc). It turned out it was my water not hot enough. Can you measure the temperature of your water running from the shower screen with a barbecue thermometer and compare to the boiling water with the same thermometer? If the difference is more than 10 degrees, that must be your problem.

eune00

#4: Post by eune00 »

OOH! I see! Thank you so much !

Do you happen to know how to measure the water that's in the appartamento machine ? I just recently got it 2 days ago (on Monday).
So far with appartamento was sour as well (but not enough experiment just yet. ) , but it's new and the brewing was really quick. I am thinking of trying finer grind- much finer- to see if I can get a bitter shot and scale it back from there? What do you think?

But I can definitely see that happening with my Breville Dual boiler because the machine was already having some pressurizing problems as well. :/

Jeff
Team HB

#5: Post by Jeff »

Welcome to H-B!

A lot of things going on. I'm not sure what happened with your BDB, but let's go with your Appartmento.

It's an HX machine, so it will need careful attention to flushing to get a consistent temperature. See Managing HX Brew Temperature. I find an EricS group-head thermometer makes it a lot easier and more repeatable.

An E61 group needs at least 40 minutes to heat up, no matter what the boiler temperature says. If it hasn't been, it may be pulling cool or cold shots, which often leads to sourness.

It's hard for me to tell the roast level of the coffee you linked, but "a fruit basket filled with sweet tropical fruits, super ripe muscat grapes, drizzled over by honey and a glass of fine old world wine" and "Black Cherry | Lavender | Peach | Balance" suggests to me that it might be a little challenging to pull with low acidity. There's often a fine line between "refreshing" acidity and unpalatable sourness, especially if one is expecting a more classic chocolate and nuts espresso. That you got a moka pot out of it that you enjoyed tells me you know what's possible from the coffee. Now to see if we can get that in your espresso!
eune00 wrote:it gets blond pretty quickly.. And super sour. So should I try to do a finer grind first?
Edit: Only start here once you have confirmed you've got your group-head temperature under control!

Yes, "conventional wisdom" would be that both of those point to needing a finer grind.

If you don't yet have a scale good to at least 0.1 g, I think the $15 or so would be a good investment.

I don't know how much finer to go as I don't know the coffee, your grinder, or your machine. I'd go fine enough that it is going blond at around 25 seconds with around 36 g in the cup with an 18.0 g dose (your benchmark, see in a following paragraph).

Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste is a good, general reference.

I think that getting to know a good benchmark for your machine and taking every new coffee there first is a good way to dial in. After a while you get a feel for what to change and by how much for the next shot. I found that keeping a notebook of what I tasted, changed, and how the next shot tasted made that a lot easier for me. Many people find a fixed dose, say 18.0 g and ratio of 1:2 (36 g out) blonding around 25 seconds from pump on a good benchmark. My benchmark is a little different than that because of the kinds of coffees I enjoy and some quirks of my machine, but I'll still go straight for my benchmark, then adjust from there.

eune00

#6: Post by eune00 »

[quote="Jeff"]Welcome to H-B!

A lot of things going on. I'm not sure what happened with your BDB, but let's go with your Appartmento.

It's an HX machine, so it will need careful attention to flushing to get a consistent temperature. See Managing HX Brew Temperature. I find an EricS group-head thermometer makes it a lot easier and more repeatable.

An E61 group needs at least 40 minutes to heat up, no matter what the boiler temperature says. If it hasn't been, it may be pulling cool or cold shots, which often leads to sourness.

It's hard for me to tell the roast level of the coffee you linked, but "a fruit basket filled with sweet tropical fruits, super ripe muscat grapes, drizzled over by honey and a glass of fine old world wine" and "Black Cherry | Lavender | Peach | Balance" suggests to me that it might be a little challenging to pull with low acidity. There's often a fine line between "refreshing" acidity and unpalatable sourness, especially if one is expecting a more classic chocolate and nuts espresso. That you got a moka pot out of it that you enjoyed tells me you know what's possible from the coffee. Now to see if we can get that in your espresso!



Edit: Only start here once you have confirmed you've got your group-head temperature under control!

Thank you so much for your response!
I see! So far I have kept the Appartamento for around 15 - 20 mins which was recommended on the manual. And I flush for about 5 secs before I pull the shot, but tomorrow I will try to keep it on for 40 mins and do some flushing as well and let you know what happens!

I do have a very cheap scale, but it does go up and down lol; do you happen to have any good but cheap scale recommendation?

Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

Hopefully a longer warm-up will get you back on track!

Lots of threads on scales. Model names change seemingly weekly in the inexpensive scales. They're probably different in Canada as well. A recent thread I recall was Good Cheap Pourover Scale? The one looking for a scale to fit the Robot talks about tiny scales (under 4" wide), but I like something a little bigger than 3" if you're not going to put it on the drip tray. Mini scale for Cafelat Robot

There's many more threads as well.

eune00

#8: Post by eune00 » replying to Jeff »


Thank you so much! I'll have to look in to getting another cheap scale :D

SO this morning, I had left the machine for around 40 mins , did the cooling flush (forgot to put my empty portafilter in and prepped the coffee :P ) for about 10 seconds, got 18 g coffee, took 42 seconds (Started counting as soon as I pulled up the lever) and had 19g out.

The taste was still very sour with the hit on the back of the throat. I think it was a little less than yesterday?

This afternoon I think I'll try again with the empty portafilter in and I'll report back!! :)

Jeff
Team HB

#9: Post by Jeff »

Getting the whole HX temperature management thing down is a big key to consistency. Every machine is a little different, but you might want to read up on what other Appartmento owners are doing for their "ritual".

Sour and bitter can confuse even experienced tasters, especially when they're both present at the same time. "Back of the throat" might be astringency, often associated with bitterness.

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.

VoidedTea

#10: Post by VoidedTea »

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.