Please tell me it gets easier

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
kmgiants

#1: Post by kmgiants »

Frustrated newbie here. After studying up on here and elsewhere, I acquired a used Rancilio Silvia with PID and a barely used Mignon Silenzio. I've used the grinder daily, primarily for french press (set on its coarsest setting) and then using it every couple of days on about 3.5 turns finer for espresso. I've backflushed the Silvia once now. The grinder has ground to a halt twice in the past 2 weeks and seems to work again after taking in almost entirely apart and cleaning out.

I've not yet had 2 consecutive shots come out nearly the same. I would be thrilled if I could get 2 doubles in a row that were within even .5 ounces of each other. But nope.

It's a lot of new gear all at once and a lot of variables to try to assess. I realize that. I've tried to reduce those by using a scale, trying to be consistent with things. But I'm just not having any luck. (and this shouldn't be about luck, right?)

Everything I've read seems to point to 3 main things: grinder (and related settings/amount, etc.), dosing, tamping. Those last 2 are human and so most likely to be inconsistent it seems to me. The scale should take care of the dosing part. Tamping, I think I'm being consistent. That leaves the grind/er. Is my attempt to use the Silenzio for 2 completely different brew methods what's dooming me? I love that it's quiet, and it's been good for french press. But if I can't get a consistent espresso grind out of the thing and have to tear it down every 2 weeks it's pretty ridiculous.

I'm considering keeping the Silenzio for the french press and then getting a Baratza 270 for espresso. I've heard it's loud but since it's not stepless, I'm hoping for a more repeatable/consistent setting AND it seems like it's low retention and would be good for single dosing.

Can someone lend any advice - or maybe talk me off the ledge here. After this morning's 2 ridiculously overflowing (like 4 oz each) "shots" that I poured down the sink, I'm feeling about ready to clear this counter space of these devices.

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JohnB.
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#2: Post by JohnB. »

When you adjust the grinder from French Press to the Espresso range is it running? If not that could cause it to lock up. Are you running some beans through in the espresso range to clear out any larger grounds before grinding for a shot?
LMWDP 267

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AssafL

#3: Post by AssafL »

Also do you WDT?

It could be a normalization issues (non uniform density) so WDT will resolve it.
Scraping away (slowly) at the tyranny of biases and dogma.

kmgiants

#4: Post by kmgiants »

JohnB. wrote:When you adjust the grinder from French Press to the Espresso range is it running? If not that could cause it to lock up. Are you running some beans through in the espresso range to clear out any larger grounds before grinding for a shot?
Yes indeed. Forgot to mention that. I have definitely made sure it's running when adjusting in either direction.

kmgiants

#5: Post by kmgiants »

AssafL wrote:Also do you WDT?

It could be a normalization issues (non uniform density) so WDT will resolve it.
Thanks for the suggestion. I have not WDT'd. I can try that.

I know there are variations as coffee ages, etc. but I can't imagine they're this wide. And in fact, yesterday I got a 26g shot from a 16g dose of coffee. Today, I got an overflowing, weak mess (that i'm sure would have weighed over 80g if I bothered weighing it) from 17g of coffee. SAME beans. Maybe I'm just terrible at this?

MNate
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#6: Post by MNate »

Yeah, it will eventually get better. I do think going back and forth on one grinder is going to lead to big challenges. Maybe just make espresso for awhile? Idk...

Don't worry about tamping. And yes, weighing the dose takes that out of the equation (ideally your scale does at least 0.1g increments or you'll be in trouble too... cheap scales can work well though).

Getting the right grind fineness is a big key, but not too hard (unless you keep going back and forth from French press to espresso). If it flows too fast you grind more fine. Too slow you grind a little more coarse. If you're caught between steps of your grinder you can usually add .5g to slow the shot down or take out .5g to speed it up.

And again with scales, I really made the most headway with my Silvia when I started weighing the yield... the espresso in the cup... and cutting the shot off either when you reach your desired yield (say, 36grams) or the shot has thinned its color (blonded, or turned more translucent). Hopefully these happen at the same time! (So your shot blonds as you hit 36g). The timing of that to me is the last thing to worry about! As long as it's between 20 seconds and 45 seconds or so I'm happy! Sure, if the shot took 45 seconds to get your yield you might grind slightly coarser. But when you say you can't get two shots in a row within .5ounce of each other that must mean your stopping by time... For me that's not the good way to do it.

The real tricky part, as mentioned above, is WDT or some sort of basket prep where you get your grounds to be super even in your basket before ramping (tamping is no big deal). No little channels or slightly thicker on one side than the other. This is the thing that really leads to inconsistencies and is tough for a beginner to get right. A bottomless portafilter does help you know if you have gotten it right and everything comes out even and smooth.

So yeah, you'll get it before too long if you:
1) weigh your shots and stop by weight/color
2) get your basket "distribution" to be perfect every time (see WDT threads)

Jeff

#7: Post by Jeff »

+1 on "just make espresso for a while" -- At least that way you can at least remove the comparatively huge change of grind size.

If you're going to stir your grinds (which many. including myself, find valuable), I'd recommend the finest wire/needles you have access to. A paper clip at ~0.7 mm is big compared to the acupuncture needles at 0.3-0.4 mm that people are now using. I personally found that a toothpick was too fat, often making things worse, not better. Leave the chopsticks for the take-out food, not the coffee.

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slipchuck

#8: Post by slipchuck »

Two things come to mind. Is the coffee from a local roaster 3-10 days post roast and not from a grocery store?
Also if you have too much coffee in your portafilter it might cause inconsistency




Randy
“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”

Marcelnl
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#9: Post by Marcelnl »

stick w espresso for the grinder, french press can be handled by any other grinder...see if it helps.
Narrow down your variables to a few and play with ONE at a time, the sticky post by Jim is golden. it does gets easier!
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slipchuck

#10: Post by slipchuck » replying to Marcelnl »

I literally felt like throwing everything in the garbage when I first started out



Randy
“There is nobody you can’t learn to like once you’ve heard their story.”