The problem is on the handle side of the portafilter - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
User avatar
HB (original poster)
Admin

#11: Post by HB (original poster) »

stevendouglas wrote:...I'll taste the result and like it or not like it. However, how will I know if it's as good as it can be? How do you develop your palate? Will it just come as I practice? Does it develop by evolution - "Wow! That was a great shot, what did I do differently?"
I hear you, knowing if your own hand produced the roaster's desired result isn't easy without a reference. Working with a local roaster or mimicking the results of a good cafe is helpful. Otherwise it falls on you to trust your own taste, since afterall, enjoying the journey is more important than the (perceived) destination.

I don't claim to have a highly developed palate. If there's a way to measure, I assume it would confirm that I'm pretty average (my consolation is that the site's name is Home-barista.com, not Pro-Barista.com ;-)). It doesn't keep me awake at night, and there is the comfort that my skills and discernment have improved over time. Shamefully I will admit that one indicator is the lowering of my "sink shot" threshold. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the espresso from "way back when." The bar moves up without you realizing it.

I do have a couple practical tips that worked for me: Focus on one aspect at a time. For example, focus on the mouthfeel, flavor, aroma, or finish, but not all at the same time. While concentrating on one aspect, I found my preference of blends gravitated toward those coffees that were particularly strong in that characteristic. No problem, in a few more weeks, I went to the next. After a few enjoyable months of appreciating these qualities individually, I start noting them in groups.

The best suggestion I can offer is learning from knowledgeable professionals. Some information you can glean online, other types of learning don't work remotely (e.g., learning to describe tasting experiences in cupping, a topic that I find daunting). Anytime this becomes more work than pleasure, it's time to pull back, drop the critic's stance, and return to what you enjoy: Savoring, sharing, socializing... whatever it is about espresso that drew you to this interest in the first place. (If you haven't guessed already, I've "burned myself out" on critical analysis a few times).
Compass Coffee wrote:Surfing forces paying attention to shot flow and crema color and of course taste! Thermofilter measurements have mostly only confirmed what I'd already observed about Silvia, now quantified. If barista techniques on an unmodded Silvia can allow you to serve shots to the likes of Tom Owens without fear of disgrace, then the handle end of the PF skills easily transferable and adapted to other machines, even modded Silvia.
I will also disagree with the assertion that time spent on Silvia is well invested. Let's face facts: It's a fussy machine with a mountain of research behind it. But someone starting from scratch on the next level machine (essentially every machine reviewed to-date on this site except Silvia) would have better results in a shorter amount of time with less frustration. I don't know of anyone who has returned their upgrade from Silvia under a "no remorse" policy. Chris' recent comments about the GS3 describe the end game:
malachi wrote:One of the really nice things about the GS3 is that it allows the barista to focus on what truly matters... the coffee. In a sense, the machine becomes transparent. Over the last week I've started to notice that I spend less and less time paying attention to the machine. Everyone once and a while I get fixated on tweaking something or testing something... but this usually lasts for an hour or so at the most. What has been really interesting to me of late is the coffees that I've been tasting.

The GS3 really allows you to taste and evaluate and explore these coffees. My not creating additional tasks and challenges - by not demanding your attention - and by not imparting its own flavours and affects on the results in the cup it frees you up to really focus on the flavours and taste in the cup.

This, to me, is very cool.
I'm not suggesting the solution is to drop five grand on a machine. Rather that there's a huge gain going from the next level above Silvia (usually in the $800-$1200 range). No doubt there is an added gain to upgrading to a GS3 or Synesso class machine, however the return relative to cost are dramatically reduced. It's unpopular to criticize Silvia. The machine is capable of very good espresso, in the right hands. It isn't however high on my recommended list, especially since the price difference between Silvia (~$500) and the next level up representing entry-level HXs has narrowed to ~$200.
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Kristi

#12: Post by Kristi »

Hi Dan,
I DO appreciate your time...
HB wrote:The "tc and meter the showerhead screen FIRST" approach obviously works for you, and I thought it worked for me too. But today I no longer recommend the "get more data" path for most home baristas. I don't expect you to agree with me, and that's OK. If however you would like to humor me, consider disconnecting the TC attached to the dispersion screen for a month, paying careful attention to technique, and taking copious tasting notes. At the end of the month, let me know if you still think you need a number on a digital readout to get consistent espresso.

PS: Trust the Force, Kristi. :-)
LOL!

I read the temp surfing and tried that. No consistency in result or taste. Same for me with reverse surfing.

I got a couple of great tasting shots and a lot of bad ones and no clue as to what was what. I tried to change only one thing at a time...

Major prob in retrospect? - I did not warm the machine up consistently. The time of the warmup radically changes the result of a surf because it changes the thermal inertia of the system. 1hr, 1 1/2hr, 2hr all different, and my machine is never on all day.

Second prob? I then installed a PID and set it to 230F. Bad move because I had no idea what the gradient was, over time, between the boiler and the shower screen. I now run it at 215F. HUGMONGOUS DIFFERENCE!!!

Stuck cheap $15 temp probe into brewhead bolt. Holy snid! What a gradient!

It was only 2 weeks ago that I stuck a tc on the shower screen, and a few days later that I took it off because the only temp reader I had was the PID and I wanted it to PID the boiler. Finally the meter came yesterday, so it is very premature to ask me to remove it for a month. In a month or 2, I won't need it, because I will understand the system well enough.

I do understand that you are able to do this by taste. I think it's really nice that you, and others, are able to do that. In a year or so, I may be able to do that a bit. But at the moment, I can't - I need the electronics to get me close enough so that I can start working by taste.

I agree that a thermafilter can be inconsistent. I have found that my tc on the showerscreen (not metal to metal, but in the air next to the shower screen)("Bart's mod") is pretty damn consistent, for my purposes. This is not arguing with you, but pointing out that while a thermafilter may be "easier" to use, the location of the tc is not optimal in terms of measuring the temp of the water as it comes out of the screen, independent of pf, basket, and coffee.

After all, if a folk such as Schomer felt it was important to measure at the pf, a little critter such as me should surely be expected to experiment with the concept. besides, I'm a tech-weenie - I steal and adopt ideas.

humor you? Do I feel your ideas have merit? Damn right they do! But without the electronics, I probably would have given up on Silvia and ....... I do not have tons of money to throw at machines just because someone says they love theirs. I notice that while people may like a machine, others get nothing but bitter shots from it. Which of course gives a lot of credence to ---> the operator <--- .

The electronics can quickly get someone in the ballpark, where, maybe, they then can become an artist.

Note the long post Chris blessed me with, the crux of it being "learn distribution". Perfect timing as I was bitching about Rocky's clumpiness.

I think that I am not at a point where i can use your wisdom and experience, yet, Dan. But I thank you for offering it to me!
Kristi "always with you [me] it cannot be done" :lol:
Kris

Weber Workshops: tools for building better coffee
Sponsored by Weber Workshops
User avatar
Kristi

#13: Post by Kristi »

While the GS3 may be very nice, I suspect very few individuals will get it for home use. I can not see a way to a $1500, or even a $1000 machine at the moment.

I think Silvia is "fussy" because of poor OPV manufacture, and poor brew thermostat selection and manufacture. I suspect the Pressure mod, PIDing the boiler, and tc'ing the screen reduces the Silvia to a "better learn your operator skills" machine.

Just my own viewpoint that the teching on my Silvia is now pretty much done (I'll do the rope mod since it's cheap, but that's it) and I badly need to learn distribution.,ETC!!!
Kris

User avatar
HB (original poster)
Admin

#14: Post by HB (original poster) »

Kristi wrote:I do understand that you are able to do this by taste. I think it's really nice that you, and others, are able to do that. In a year or so, I may be able to do that a bit. But at the moment, I can't - I need the electronics to get me close enough so that I can start working by taste.
Sorry, I have to be direct: That's bull. :shock:

If I can, then any Joe / Jane Espresso off the street can distinguish such differences. Maybe your equipment or technique are introducing randomnesss that prevents you from recognizing them. The focus on brew temperature as the key factor could also be in play. The thread How do you explore the extraction space? explains this better than I ever could. Yes, brew temperature is important - very important - but the extraction can affect the flavors that one might attribute to temperature variation too (e.g., sourness being the most obvious).
Kristi wrote:I think Silvia is "fussy" because of poor OPV manufacture, and poor brew thermostat selection and manufacture. I suspect the Pressure mod, PIDing the boiler, and tc'ing the screen reduces the Silvia to a "better learn your operator skills" machine.
The barista is always more important, no argument there. But I'm not buying the whole deal, she's still fussy even with the modifications you note. I'll cite Mike's comments, a long-time PID'd Silvia owner, from the Bench's Rancilio Silvia Flash Review (PID temperature controller):
mike wrote:One thing that is incredibly interesting about the differences of Silvia vs. Brewtus is in crema quality, and I think the pressure profile is the big difference. It might also be the key to the clear difference in body and depth between the two machines...

The crema that I get from Silvia is always beautifully tiger spotted, viscous, palate coating, and profoundly stable. It's like oil paint on top of a shot. I'd have a hard time proving it, but it would seem like the pressure of the Silvia basically slamming water onto the puck is going to prevent the kind of puck expansion you'll see in a well designed pre-infusion situation. I know that I have had a number of problems recently with channeling, particularly jet sprays on about 25% of the shots. I've heard it said that the ramp up on a vibe is slow enough that you really don't need pre-infusion, but I'm not quite so sure.
Jet sprays when used by a seasoned owner? Sorry Silvia, that indelibly brands you as fussy in my book.
Dan Kehn

User avatar
Kristi

#15: Post by Kristi »

Kristi wrote:I do understand that you are able to do this by taste. I think it's really nice that you, and others, are able to do that. In a year or so, I may be able to do that a bit. But at the moment, I can't - I need the electronics to get me close enough so that I can start working by taste.

Sorry, I have to be direct: That's bull. Shocked
okay... I hear your words but not much I can do with them at the moment...
If I can, then any Joe / Jane Espresso off the street can distinguish such differences.
maybe... I don't know.
Maybe your equipment or technique are introducing randomnesss that prevents you from recognizing them.
no question... been working on both...
The focus on brew temperature as the key factor could also be in play.
been working on that Dan. Your comment told me to work on taste instead...
The thread How do you explore the extraction space? explains this better than I ever could. Yes, brew temperature is important - very important - but the extraction can affect the flavors that one might attribute to temperature variation too (e.g., sourness being the most obvious).
and bitterness... been working on that...
HB wrote: I think Silvia is "fussy" because of poor OPV manufacture, and poor brew thermostat selection and manufacture. I suspect the Pressure mod, PIDing the boiler, and tc'ing the screen reduces the Silvia to a "better learn your operator skills" machine.

The barista is always more important, no argument there. But I'm not buying the whole deal, she's still fussy even with the modifications you note. I'll cite Mike's comments, a long-time PID'd Silvia owner, from the Bench's Rancilio Silvia Flash Review (PID temperature controller)...
I would want to know whether/how he did the pressure mod. I did mine the second time today because I wasn't satisfied with it or the pressure readings...
HB wrote:Jet sprays when used by a seasoned owner? Sorry Silvia, that indelibly brands you as fussy in my book.
Dunno - course I'm living in a dream world because I don't have a naked yet. I check the puck for channeling, but I can see where that might be deceptive.

I suspect Silvia would have a better reputation if the OPV and thermostat were markedly improved. Probably a redesign of the OPV. Graphed it would look silly.


Saw my first video of Stockfleth's move. It was a nice video - slow speed then full speed. I went and tried it and got 4 sink shots (bitter because too hot)(mostly because I did not pull a long enough cooling shot) and one okay one. Then came back and watched the video a couple of more times.

What kind of a machine do you have, Dan?
Kris

User avatar
Compass Coffee
Sponsor

#16: Post by Compass Coffee »

HB wrote:I will also disagree with the assertion that time spent on Silvia is well invested. Let's face facts: It's a fussy machine with a mountain of research behind it. But someone starting from scratch on the next level machine (essentially every machine reviewed to-date on this site except Silvia) would have better results in a shorter amount of time with less frustration. I don't know of anyone who has returned their upgrade from Silvia under a "no remorse" policy.
I agree to disagree. First I never said Silvia was a purchase value today. Agree for a couple bills more there are now at least two decent HX choices, which wasn't the case not that long ago. Bang for the buck, no it's not Silvia anymore. My point (and what I thought I said) was the skills using a Silvia forces you to learn to get relatively consistent good shots were valuable and transferable. The skills are the value, not Silvia. A less fussy machine would not force as steep a barista skills learning curve, whether that is good or bad depends on point of view. I'd wager someone who cut their espresso teeth on an E61 HX would have a much tougher time pulling a shot on a Silvia type machine than someone who cut their espresso teeth on a Silvia would have pulling a shot on an HX.
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)
http://www.CompassCoffeeRoasting.com

User avatar
barry

#17: Post by barry »

Kristi wrote:This is not arguing with you, but pointing out that while a thermafilter may be "easier" to use, the location of the tc is not optimal in terms of measuring the temp of the water as it comes out of the screen, independent of pf, basket, and coffee.

uhh.... yeah, it is, provided it hasn't been moved out of position. the sensing tip does not touch the showerscreen, the basket, or any coffee. how could it be better?

Aida Battle: Indigo Reserve from world renowned Finca Kilimanjaro in El Salvador
Sponsored by Aida Battle
User avatar
barry

#18: Post by barry »

HB wrote:Jet sprays when used by a seasoned owner? Sorry Silvia, that indelibly brands you as fussy in my book.
that's a grind/dose/tamp problem, not a silvia problem.

User avatar
HB (original poster)
Admin

#19: Post by HB (original poster) »

Kristi wrote:I would want to know whether/how he did the pressure mod. I did mine the second time today because I wasn't satisfied with it or the pressure readings...
I modified it for him.
Kristi wrote:Dunno - course I'm living in a dream world because I don't have a naked yet. I check the puck for channeling, but I can see where that might be deceptive.
A bottomless portafilter would be my #1 priority "mod."
Kristi wrote:What kind of a machine do you have, Dan?
My personal espresso machines are La Valentina (upgrade from Silvia) and the Elektra Microcasa a Leva. I've evaluated a few others. The Vetrano arrived today and I'll start my research on the Bench this weekend. I sure do like the quiet rotary pump and plumbed driptray...
Compass Coffee wrote:My point (and what I thought I said) was the skills using a Silvia forces you to learn to get relatively consistent good shots were valuable and transferable. The skills are the value, not Silvia. A less fussy machine would not force as steep a barista skills learning curve, whether that is good or bad depends on point of view.
I understood you correctly. Some of the skills from apprendicing on Silvia are transferrable, but a lot of the ones that are the most time-consuming to master like temperature surfing aren't. HXs have their own brand of temperature surfing that have no relationship to the term applied to Silvia. Claiming that using a difficult machine hones your skills better is akin to claiming that driving difficult to control cars on the race track makes you a better driver.

I fully appreciate that the cost is an issue, but ignoring that for a moment, would anyone intentionally chose a difficult machine? (you lever guys are excluded from that rhetorical question ;-)).
barry wrote:that's a grind/dose/tamp problem, not a silvia problem.
Mike wasn't reporting an isolated incident, I recognized the same thing immediately (I borrowed his machine for the revisted review). I don't recall reading reports of someone upgrading from Silvia and then claiming that their new machine was a step backward in this regard. I call it the "forgiveness factor" and that's not her strong suit. I've used the La Marzocco 3AV at Counter Culture Coffee before and after they swapped in a smaller diameter gicleur. The difference wasn't subtle. A similar analogy applies to Silvia versus other semi-commercial machines I've used. Of course, I'll add the usual caveat "your mileage may vary."
Dan Kehn

User avatar
malachi

#20: Post by malachi »

Kristi wrote:After all, if a folk such as Schomer felt it was important to measure at the pf, a little critter such as me should surely be expected to experiment with the concept. besides, I'm a tech-weenie - I steal and adopt ideas.
Schomer did this after spending an enormous amount of time working on technique, tasting... until he reached the point where he felt like the machine was the gating item for the espresso.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin