Newbie having trouble with Elektra Semiautomatica single basket

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
bileduct

#1: Post by bileduct »

Hi all.

I've been lurking on these threads for a while now while researching what to buy. So first off, thanks for the huge treasure trove of info!

I have an Elektra Semiautomatica, and a Ceado E5SD grinder. I've been trying to work on single pulls, and I'm kind of stumped.

The manual for the Semiautomatica says to use 7g of beans to get 25cl of espresso from a 25 second pull. This combo of parameters is causing me all sorts of grief.

Bean-wise, I'm trying to get the technique dialed in, so I'm just using Trader Joe's espresso roast.

I have a pressure-regulated tamper, so hopefully that part of the equation is relatively consistent.

If I increase the volume of beans, even by half a gram, I start getting pucks that stick to the head. So I'm keeping that variable fixed at 7g.

I started with the Ceado at the factory settings, around 1.0 on the dial. This resulted in a pull that was way too quick - I'd get 25cl in maybe 10-15 seconds.

I can bring the grind way down (to around 0.7 on the Ceado) to get a 25 second pull with about the right volume of espresso, but at that point the grind is like silt, and the result is sort of muddy and pretty bitter.

What should my next step be to try to get a decent single espresso? How seriously should I be taking the manual's guidance on the proper volumes / times?

Thanks so much.

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another_jim
Team HB

#2: Post by another_jim »

Lots of people have this problem; and in general, I find that stock single baskets need to be dosed at around 10 grams to use roughly the same grind and get roughly the same taste as a stock double filled with 15 grams. In Italy, the bars manage doing 7 gram singles and 14 gram doubles from the same grind setting; but after 20 years of trying, damned if I know how they do it.
Jim Schulman

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Smo

#3: Post by Smo »

This is normal. After buying my first coffee machine, I cried all day.
Vary one parameter (grind, pressure, water, grain, etc.) from shot to shot.
Better to take a double basket ...
Read carefully what another_jim wrote :)

SEMIJim

#4: Post by SEMIJim »

Smo wrote:This is normal. After buying my first coffee machine, I cried all day.
Vary one parameter (grind, pressure, water, grain, etc.) from shot to shot.
Yup.

Bought my machine (Breville the Bambino Plus). Stayed with my grinder (Capresso Infinity) and the pressurized PF basket. Underwhelming results. Tried it with an non-pressurized PF and some pre-ground coffee. Much better. Upgraded the grinder. Had trouble pulling even drinkable, much less tasty, shots. Results were all over the map. Began to wonder if this whole espresso thing had been a good idea. Didn't want to believe some of the common wisdom I'd seen posted here on HB. Eventually started giving in. A WDT tool (I made my own) made more difference than I would have thought--just like so many here claimed it would. Today I added a scale to the process. That, too, has already resulted in improvement.

I suppose next I'll break down and get a bottomless PF.

Espresso is an art. As with any art: It takes time to become talented. And the right tools :)

bileduct (original poster)

#5: Post by bileduct (original poster) »

another_jim wrote:Lots of people have this problem; and in general, I find that stock single baskets need to be dosed at around 10 grams to use roughly the same grind and get roughly the same taste as a stock double filled with 15 grams. In Italy, the bars manage doing 7 gram singles and 14 gram doubles from the same grind setting; but after 20 years of trying, damned if I know how they do it.
Well, this is "good" to hear - if nothing else, misery loves company!

I was initially doing doubles and I thought I was getting things figured out; I was getting what seemed like competent results within a month or so. (I have a lot of time on my hands working from home full time...)

It was actually a quote from this review on this site that made me head down the single shot road: "I was sold on the Semiautomatica when I pulled its first single shot. It and the ones that followed have consistently been in godshot territory." I don't know if I'd know a godshot if one bit me, but it seemed like I should be trying it. Apparently not so much.

Maybe for now I'll go back to doubles and enjoy my somewhat decent results. It is pretty frustrating, though.

SEMIJim

#6: Post by SEMIJim »

bileduct wrote: Maybe for now I'll go back to doubles and enjoy my somewhat decent results.
If you're able to pull somewhat decent doubles consistently, then what I'd do is work on refining my technique to turn those "somewhat decent" doubles into great doubles.

As you gain experience you'll begin to learn what went wrong with the last shot and what you have to do to improve it in the next. E.g.: I pulled two shots this morning. I won't belabor the history that resulted in the first shot. Suffice it to say I figured out, from the way it pulled and the taste, what I had to do to make the next one better. I did what I thought I had to do and damned if the second shot wasn't pretty damn good :)
bileduct wrote: It is pretty frustrating, though.
In that respect I liken espresso to my other recent new hobby: Golf :lol:

baldheadracing
Supporter ♡

#7: Post by baldheadracing »

I've got the same machine and the same basket (as does/did another_jim).

First of all, assuming the correct puck height(*), pucks being sucked up towards the shower screen by the action of the three-way solenoid happens to varying degrees; if this is what is happening, then what you are seeing is the puck not falling back down into the basket afterwards. The shape of the puck in the single basket amplifies the effect as the sloped single basket has no vertical sides to help the puck resist the upwards pull at the end of a shot. (There are 'fixes' available, for example, using a finer mesh than the factory design, or using a different shower screen design with a non-stick coating. However, that's a separate discussion.)

Second, most single baskets are picky when it comes to technique. Very picky. The Elektra isn't the worst in this regard, but I'd still tell a newbie to just stick to the double basket, and master the double first. Some espresso machine vendors will even tell you to never use the single basket. Even after years, I'll still get an uneven extraction with the Elektra or single baskets of similar designs maybe 1 in 20 times.

For example, the dose in the single has to be enough to evenly compress the puck just before the tamper touches the start of the slope. Any lower dose will channel along the sides of the basket, leading to a sour watery espresso. *Any larger dose may result in the puck pressing against the shower screen during the pull (because the puck swells in size), leading to channeling everywhere, and, again, a sour watery espresso. This dose changes with each coffee. Some find that a convex tamper helps, but I would say that a convex is only going to help after you have already gotten good results most of the time. (The convex plastic tamper that you got with the machine is pretty good for this use.)

Third, Trader Joe's uses a roast date code: Has anyone tried Trader Joe's small lot roast? Anything more than about a month from roast date is going to drive you nuts - well, it would drive me nuts, anyways. (Ignore the expiry date.)

Finally, if you really want to pull single shots all the time, then there are solutions that use straight-sided single basket designs that are as easy to use as a double basket. I use and recommend the Tidaka system, but you can see alternatives discussed here: What's the best single basket.

Good luck!

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Sponsored by Urnex
bileduct (original poster)

#8: Post by bileduct (original poster) »

baldheadracing wrote:I've got the same machine and the same basket (as does/did another_jim).

First of all, assuming the correct puck height(*), pucks being sucked up towards the shower screen by the action of the three-way solenoid happens to varying degrees; if this is what is happening, then what you are seeing is the puck not falling back down into the basket afterwards. The shape of the puck in the single basket amplifies the effect as the sloped single basket has no vertical sides to help the puck resist the upwards pull at the end of a shot.
This makes so much sense! I've been using weights that the manual specifies, but the doubles haven't been leading to stuck pucks, while the singles are all the time if I don't keep the weight down to the bare minimum. So maybe this isn't actually an indication that I'm using too much coffee, just that the... puck is getting sucked? :shock:
baldheadracing wrote:Second, most single baskets are picky when it comes to technique. Very picky. The Elektra isn't the worst in this regard, but I'd still tell a newbie to just stick to the double basket, and master the double first.
I'm so sold on this advice at this point. Esp. because other than the exploring the whole "godshot" thing, my preference is for doubles anyway. I didn't really appreciate how much higher the complexity bar is for singles.
baldheadracing wrote:Good luck!
Thank you SO much. This post is amazingly informative, and it's given me so much concrete info to better understand what's going on to cause the behavior I'm seeing.

bileduct (original poster)

#9: Post by bileduct (original poster) »

SEMIJim wrote:If you're able to pull somewhat decent doubles consistently, then what I'd do is work on refining my technique to turn those "somewhat decent" doubles into great doubles.
I think that you are quite wise. I'm going to stick to the rivers and the lakes that I'm used to. And even those still give me grief pretty regularly.