Sour, sour, sour-everything is sour! Breville BES870

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
rutilate
Posts: 11
Joined: August 5th, 2017

Postby rutilate » Apr 15, 2018, 12:53 pm

Folks,
I need some help in fixing sour espresso. I've done everything I can find and come to the sit at the feet of the masters. And I've done a lot. And I've read a lot of other advice here and tried it all (I think). My espresso has been sour for nearly 1.5 years, despite running quite a number of experiments. I worry that I'm now acclimating to sour espresso...

Equipment
Breville BES870XL
Vario grinder with ceramic burrs

Coffee: Camber espresso blend, roasted 5 days ago. A light roast blend from Honduras Santa Barbara.
Tap water

Process:
  1. Reset the machine to factory default
  2. Grind 18.0 g (held constant for all tests)
  3. Use the Luxhaus spring loaded tamper ~ 30lbs--I use this so all family member's tamps are consistent
  4. Use the WDT on all grounds to remove clumps
  5. Adjusted grind to get 36g espresso (1:2) in 30.8 seconds from time I push the button (including ~10 secs pre-infusion)-still sour
    NOTE: The extraction looks very good for all of these tests--thicker, smooth, not watery, with very good crema. Portafilter is left in group head between tests to keep hot while basket is filled/tamped
  6. Adjusted grind finer a couple of successive notches, still sour
  7. Adjusted temp +2 degrees, wait 20 mins, better, but still sour
  8. Adjusted temp +2 more degrees (@ max temp for BES870), better, but still sour
  9. Adjust grind finer a couple of successive notches to produce 30.4g espresso over 35.8s; better, still slightly sour, sourness more noticeable as it cooled
  10. Attempt manual extraction assuming that golden timing of 25-35s is not including pre-infusion by holding 1cup button for 10 seconds for pre-infusion, releasing to start extraction then hitting it again to stop at ~36g extraction. Yield was 37.2g over 32.8 (plus 10 for pre-infusion): better, but just a touch sour
  11. Adjusted grind 1 notch finer, yield was 35.4g over 38.9s, still somewhat sour.

Yesterday I had ~20 coffee cups all lined up, each representing a one-variable modification over the previous. My wife is laughing at the fact that I just dumped a pound of coffee in the sink. At this point I've tried every recommendation I can find and I'm stumped. I'm officially appealing to the gods of coffee for help!

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another_jim
Team HB
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Joined: May 5th, 2005

Postby another_jim » Apr 15, 2018, 2:58 pm

rutilate wrote:Coffee: Camber espresso blend, roasted 5 days ago. A light roast blend from Honduras Santa Barbara.


Um ... what exactly were you expecting from a light roasted 3rd wave blend? People who have had years to get used to light espresso blends, and who are pulling shots on gear that costs ten times as much as your with ten times you experience still get a lot of sour shots.

Get used to your gear, and explore your taste preferences with something more forgiving. A "0th wave" Italian bleed like Essse Massini (from Amazon) or Paradise's Havana blend. For a solid fruit and chocolate, medium roasted blend, try Klatch's Belle. Or if you want to get your feet wet with lighter roasts, start easy -- Counterculture's Apollo is just about the friendliest one I know.
Jim Schulman

rutilate
Posts: 11
Joined: August 5th, 2017

Postby rutilate » Apr 15, 2018, 5:06 pm

another_jim wrote:Um ... what exactly were you expecting from a light roasted 3rd wave blend? People who have had years to get used to light espresso blends, and who are pulling shots on gear that costs ten times as much as your with ten times you experience still get a lot of sour shots.

I was expecting something not burned, that tastes something similar to what it did when I tasted it in the coffee shop rated one of the best in the region (Narrative Coffee in Everett, WA). I didn't grow up drinking coffee--in fact, I escaped from Mormonism about 1.5 years ago and as such, never developed (nor do I think I care to develop) a palette for dark roasted coffee.

another_jim wrote:Get used to your gear, and explore your taste preferences with something more forgiving. A "0th wave" Italian bleed like Essse Massini (from Amazon) or Paradise's Havana blend. For a solid fruit and chocolate, medium roasted blend, try Klatch's Belle. Or if you want to get your feet wet with lighter roasts, start easy -- Counterculture's Apollo is just about the friendliest one I know.


I've ordered the Apollo. Thanks for the recommendation. I've had non-sour shots with some other blends obtained from a local roaster that supplies all the coffee shops here, but they're so darkly roasted as to be less than fun.

Jim,I know you're the expert here, as I've read a ton of your posts; one of which was the reason I bought the Baratza Vario. And I'm sure that you get tired of people asking about how to correct sour shots, as I've read as many of those as I can find. But I'm not sure what getting used to the gear might mean beyond what I've tried here. I've gone up and down grind size, I've gone up and down temperature, and I've started doing manual shots at 45g (which are showing some promise so far). The only thing that I've not tried is seasoning my own water.

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Peppersass
Posts: 2435
Joined: July 20th, 2009

Postby Peppersass » Apr 15, 2018, 5:33 pm

+1 on everything Jim said. It's the coffee, man.

You don't have to go completely dark to get good shots. Medium or light-medium roasts might be best for your equipment and palate. Caffe Lusso Gran Miscela Carmo is an excellent roast in the medium range. Many of us like it (a bag is shipped with each Kafatek Monolith Grinder, which is quite an endorsement.) I'd also recommend the Dharma Blend from Temple Coffee Roasters. The roast level varies a bit depending on exactly what's in the blend, but usually falls in the medium to light-medium range. If both of those give you sour shots, try the Lionshare blend from Caffe Lusso, it's on the dark side of medium, but not overtly roasty. Very easy to pull.

Getting medium-roasted single origin coffees can be challenging these days. Many of the high-end specialty roasters are still going pretty light on SOs. Temple Coffee Roasters usually has one SO roasted for espresso that changes frequently. Most of the time it's in the medium range, but other times it might be lighter or darker. Best to email or call them to find out before buying.

The problem of finding high-quality medium or light-medium SO espresso roasts is one of the primary reasons I just started roasting my own coffee!

BTW, with your shorter 30.4g shot, the finer grind probably extracted a little more, but pulling shorter typically extracts less, so that experiment probably didn't move the needle much. It really could take 45g-50g shots to make that light roast work with your grinder and machine. However, it's likely the shots will be thin and weak. That's a typical tradeoff with many light roasts, even when ground with high-end grinders and pulled with profiling espresso machines.
Dick Green

gocanes
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Joined: January 4th, 2018

Postby gocanes » Apr 15, 2018, 5:37 pm

I'd purposely go the other extreme try to get a watery, bitter shot and dial back from there.

For single origins or lighter roasts, I like pulling longer. For example, for intelligentsia black cat classic, 18 in/47 out in 39 seconds.

Not knocking the 870, but I don't think it was meant to serve 20 shots in a short amount of time. The machine may allow it, but I'm not certain it's reaching your desired temperature. Too cool = sour underdeveloped shots.

kellzey
Posts: 205
Joined: July 28th, 2014

Postby kellzey » Apr 15, 2018, 6:13 pm

I chased sour shots with my new Profitec 800 for the first week. Turns out it was the beans. Switched to a different bean and all was well in the universe.

Some roasts leads to sour or grapefruity tasting shots because of the bean, not the equipment.

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slipchuck
Posts: 600
Joined: April 12th, 2017

Postby slipchuck » Apr 15, 2018, 7:22 pm

gocanes wrote:I'd purposely go the other extreme try to get a watery, bitter shot and dial back from there.

For single origins or lighter roasts, I like pulling longer. For example, for intelligentsia black cat classic, 18 in/47 out in 39 seconds.

Not knocking the 870, but I don't think it was meant to serve 20 shots in a short amount of time. The machine may allow it, but I'm not certain it's reaching your desired temperature. Too cool = sour underdeveloped shots.

In order to get a higher temperature, try steaming first. If you don't do milk drinks turn the steam on for 30-60 seconds and then quickly pull a shot

Randy
The only bad decisions are the decisions you didn't make

BaristaBob
Posts: 312
Joined: November 4th, 2017

Postby BaristaBob » Apr 15, 2018, 7:40 pm

There have already been some great suggestions. I'm currently drinking Klatch Rainforest espresso blend. Not too dark, more of a solid medium roast, and not sour.

Sounds to me that you know your machine pretty well after this, so 18g in your pf is a great place to start on a new coffee. Try 30, 35, and 40g in the cup in 30 to 35 seconds (time includes the 10 sec pre-infusion) at 200F. Note the taste of each one and focus on the one that suits your taste best. Then tweek the grind or dose while leaving the amount in the cup the same. See if it moves you into a better flavor space.
Best to you on this journey!
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..."

HoldTheOnions
Posts: 576
Joined: December 16th, 2014

Postby HoldTheOnions » Apr 16, 2018, 12:41 pm

Max out the temp, but also grind to max out the pressure and IMO should run closer to 40 seconds. I shimmed the burrs to grind finer and still anything less than a completed 1c is not so good. Not sure why so difficult, but I only ever recommend it as a compact latte machine. Milk and sugar, yay.

ben8jam
Posts: 520
Joined: January 6th, 2015

Postby ben8jam » Apr 17, 2018, 8:24 am

My vario produces more sour odd flavors than my Sette