Steaming & pulling sequencing? Too much crema? and other questions

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tesuji

#1: Post by tesuji »

Hi All --

I've been working with my Gaggia Classic (recently repaired; had a cracked boiler for a long time) and Macap doserless/stepless grinder (new) for a few weeks now, and have some questions.

First, the sequencing question: I have tried steaming the milk THEN pulling my shots (which I was under the impression, from back in about 1997 when the Gaggia was new and I initially got into home espresso, was the "correct" order, to prevent the delicate crema from breaking down and the espresso from becoming cold & bitter.) And this works great, except that by the time I've flushed the boiler and pulled my two shots, the microfoam is not so micro-ey.

So I've tried the other way around, and it all falls apart when I try to pull the shots first, then steam. The espresso extracts waaay too slowly, and then I can't get enough steam going to froth & heat the dairy. Is this anyone else's observation, and what is the "correct" order anyway, on a single boiler machine? The whole process is just not very efficient... I know I need an HX or dual boiler machine to speed things up, but that's probably a few years out, and any suggestions for in the meantime would be much appreciated.

Ok, now my crema question: Wow, the Macap has made a huge difference in my extractions. After much tweaking, I am filling my little 2-oz. Bodum Pavina cups in about 25 seconds, but it's almost all crema. If I'm doing the milk first, then shots, I just dump this into the milk and it tastes great. But if I'm doing shots first then milk, I have to watch this great (?) shot break down to less than an ounce of liquid. Is it possible to produce too much crema and not enough liquid, or is this how it's supposed to be? I cored the bottom out of my pf a couple of weeks ago, and I'm seeing (most of the time) beautiful tiger striping, and since the shots taste good to my (woefully uneducated) palate (meaning they're better than Sbux any day, and better than Peet's most days), my inclination is to just keep doing what I'm doing. But could I be getting a better extraction?

Third question: I've been using a fresh, local roast (ok, Kaladi's Trieste in Denver) because I don't want to pay shipping and I've been wasting too much coffee trying to dial in all the variables. BUT, I have to store these beans in the freezer, otherwise they develop surface oil. They don't look over-roasted when I buy them, but they sure do get oily quickly. I've read conflicting thoughts on the freeze-don't freeze dilemma, and I certainly don't want to gunk up my new grinder. Should I look for a new bean source, or should I just get used to the idea of storing my beans in the freezer? Has anyone ever done a taste comparison of frozen vs. never-frozen beans?

Last, a few observations on the Macap. Nice & quiet, love the stepless feature. BUT, too many grounds get stuck in the chute. I wish the inside of the chute could be teflon-coated, or at least smoother than it is, or that the chute could be pulled off for cleaning. Because I have a two-year-old son, the central vac hose is never far from the kitchen, so I usually just suck the grounds out after each session, but it's a bit of a hassle. How do others clean old grounds out of their doserless Macaps?

Thanks so much for any and all input,
Jill

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jesawdy

#2: Post by jesawdy »

tesuji wrote:First, the sequencing question: I have tried steaming the milk THEN pulling my shots (which I was under the impression, from back in about 1997 when the Gaggia was new and I initially got into home espresso, was the "correct" order, to prevent the delicate crema from breaking down and the espresso from becoming cold & bitter.) And this works great, except that by the time I've flushed the boiler and pulled my two shots, the microfoam is not so micro-ey.

So I've tried the other way around, and it all falls apart when I try to pull the shots first, then steam. The espresso extracts waaay too slowly, and then I can't get enough steam going to froth & heat the dairy. Is this anyone else's observation, and what is the "correct" order anyway, on a single boiler machine? The whole process is just not very efficient... I know I need an HX or dual boiler machine to speed things up, but that's probably a few years out, and any suggestions for in the meantime would be much appreciated.
Refer to this thread for discussion of same question. My opinion, there is no right way, just whatever works for you. My current primary setup is a single boiler Silvia, and I am of the pull first, steam second camp. To help you along that path (although you're not so sure this is working for you), here is what I do.
  • Heat Silvia for 30 minutes
    Heat final cup (not shot glasses) either in the microwave with water or via hot water wand (I find hitting the beverage button on the microwave is a good option for me right now, I can move on to whatever is at hand and grab the cup, dump and pull when I am ready)
    Grind into PF, tamp, polish
    Flush grouphead with a tad of water
    Lock in
    Grab that heated cup, dump and dry
    Pull DIRECTLY into the heated cup (if you don't know when to stop, either watch your naked extraction, time, or pull to a predetermined volume via sight... throw 2-3 ounces in an identical cup for a visual reference, you will learn to use a combination of all three indicators of when to stop)
    Set your crema-laden cup aside
    Hit the steam switch to start heating for steam (the Silvia boiler is huge, I would think you should be okay, but you may wish to top up the Gaggia boiler)
    Flush water out of steam wand
    While heating to steam, I pour milk into a pitcher stored in the freezer, and leave it there until needed
    I also set to cleaning the grouphead with a flush, brush and a PF wiggle, at the beginning of the steam heating
    Wait for your steam temp light to go on or off as the case may be
    Flush water out of steam wand again
    Steam your milk
    Pour into the final cup ON TOP of your espresso, you should still have some crema left, just not as much
    Enjoy!
My comments based on what you've said.... if you get weak, slow espresso pulling first, are you warming long enough? If it is better pulling second, are you not cooling the boiler down to brew temp with the hot water button? If steam is weak pulling second, you may need to top off the boiler with water, wait longer and flush a bit out the wand first. If you are transferring from shot glasses to another cup, you do leave some crema behind, and break it up as well, hence the suggestion to pull into your final cup.
Is it possible to produce too much crema and not enough liquid, or is this how it's supposed to be? ... But could I be getting a better extraction?
I think not... the fresher the bean, the more crema you'll have. If they are JUST out of roast you will have ridiculous crema, as the beans are still off gassing. If you are worried about your shot volume, you can try adjusting your grind and pulling a bit more volume. It boils down to taste though, so if you like what you have, no need to change.
should I just get used to the idea of storing my beans in the freezer? Has anyone ever done a taste comparison of frozen vs. never-frozen beans?
Unless you have reason to have the beans around for more than 2-3 weeks, I'd keep them out of the freezer, but that's only my opinion, not an expert. Unopened bag, I leave it in a dark cupboard. If opened and the beans are mostly degassed, I've been putting them in an airtight container in same cabinet.

Glad you are enjoying the Macap... you have the kit now to make some good espresso (until upgraditis strikes).

-Jeff

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JR_Germantown

#3: Post by JR_Germantown »

Jeff, I agree with your sequence, but I disagree that "there is no right way." The thread you cited was in reference to an HX (or was it a double-boiler) machine (the S1). This poster's question is in reference to a single-boiler, non-HX machine. This changes everything.

If you steam first, I cannot imagine a way to get the boiler down the the correct brew temp quickly and efficiently. Yes, you can flush to cool it down--I've done this to make (almost) back-to-back drinks, and it's just clumsy. I switch to "brew" then flush until the heating element comes back on, then wait for it to go off again. With my machine, this takes quite a bit of water, and if I immediately pull the shot, it's a long duty cycle for the pump.

IMHO, with a single-boiler, non-HX machine, it's just not practical to steam first. If anyone disagrees, please tell me a better way to cool the boiler...

Jack

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jesawdy

#4: Post by jesawdy »

JR_Germantown wrote:Jeff, I agree with your sequence, but I disagree that "there is no right way." .............. IMHO, with a single-boiler, non-HX machine, it's just not practical to steam first. If anyone disagrees, please tell me a better way to cool the boiler...
Jack-

Very valid points, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. The aforementioned thread does start with a double-boiler S1, but the conversation does include a Silvia, to which Dan says, in reference to steaming second:
HB wrote:That's really the only choice. If you froth first, the chances of obtaining correct brew temperature drop precipitously.
With a Gaggia, the boiler is a small volume thermoblock, so arguably you MIGHT be able to steam first, pull espresso second. It probably can heat that small volume of water faster than the Silvia after the monster flush to cool her down after steaming.

Based on some of the limited comments of the original poster, I wonder if she is either not waiting long enough for proper heatiing, or if there is a problem with the brew and/or steam thermostats.... Jill? The machine was just serviced so hopefully it is okay.

-Jeff