Struggling to make good espresso

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Lord Fluff

Postby Lord Fluff » Jul 27, 2015, 7:45 am

Hi guys

I am using an Expobar Brewtus that I bought I guess around 3 years ago (plumbed in via an Everpure filter), along with a used Mazzer Super Jolly with burrs I replaced just after i bought it, around 4 years ago.

My problem is that getting decent espresso is now a frustrating process. I'm sure that when I got the Expobar the results were always good, often with really good dark brown crema and complex flavours. Nowadays I find it hard to get even extractions without channeling, spritzes, poor crema, sour flavours and generally disappointing results, even with different high quality beans and careful preparation. I know the memory can play tricks, but I definitely remember the ease and consistency of results from the Expobar as a contrast to my La Pavoni lever I'd used prior to the Expo.

I descaled not that long ago and bought new VST baskets and a new showerscreen. All the above helped, but the results are still much the same.

Since I'd expected a long life of service from both the grinder and machine, I'm not sure which could be the guilty party, or if there's something I'm missing.

I am considering a change of machine (LM Linea Mini possibly) and/or grinder (Ceado E37s or Mahlkonig K30 current favourites) but will value any advice you can give. I'm sure my technique is....erm, ok - I did a Barista course recently and had no problem with pulling consistently good shots on their Robur/Linea setup.

The biggest thing for me is that I'm sure it used to be pretty easy for me (or my partner) to pump out great shots from the Expobar/SJ setup, so while I can't rule a lack of user finesse out, it's odd that the general curve of success seems just steadily downhill. I always work for nice even distributions, but I *never* see a completely even flow from the PF, which makes me question what's going on.

Thanks all

LF

brianl

Postby brianl » Jul 27, 2015, 10:58 am

I would go back to the stock baskets. VSTs are hard to use. Try a very friendly blend like nossa familia as well.

Lord Fluff

Postby Lord Fluff » Jul 27, 2015, 11:03 am

Hard why so? Changing to the VSTs, along with a new screen, got me part way back to a decent shot....

baldheadracing

Postby baldheadracing » Jul 27, 2015, 1:53 pm

I don't know the Brewtus, but it sounds like too much pressure ...

Perhaps the over-pressure valve is malfunctioning. What does the brew pressure gauge read during extraction?

I don't know how the Brewtus is plumbed in - if there is line pressure pre-infusion, has your line pressure changed? (should be at most 3 bar).
What I'm interested in is my worst espresso being fantastic - James Hoffmann

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JavaBuzz

Postby JavaBuzz » Jul 27, 2015, 2:05 pm

Have you replaced the Everpure filter since installation? If not, I wonder if it's not doing a good job filtering the water anymore and you're getting bad tasting water. I'm not sure on the life of those filters, but just something I thought was worth throwing out there.

Also, could try pulling a shot of just water, no coffee, and see how the water tastes. If it tastes bad, could be the filter, or also coffee oils that have built up in the machine that need to be cleaned (group head needs cleaning), or build-up in the boiler (leftover descale solution, being you just descaled?), etc.

Just some thoughts. :)

Lord Fluff

Postby Lord Fluff » Jul 28, 2015, 5:12 am

I replace the Everpure filter yearly, even though I don't get anywhere near its rated capacity. I will have a go at tasting the water, though even straight from the tap it's fine, and tea made with water from the machine is tasting good.

If it was a slight tang in the taste I'd believe it, but it seems like either the Mazzer or the Expobar has just suddenly completely forgotten how to do a good job of making coffee - this is not a subtle shortcoming, this is 'why am I bothering making coffee?' level of bad.....

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trumz

Postby trumz » Jul 28, 2015, 8:24 am

When was the last time you cleaned your grinder?

Lord Fluff

Postby Lord Fluff » Jul 28, 2015, 11:23 am

Ok - update - water tasted, check. Grinder clean - check. Extensive backflushing - check.

As of now the shots are still all over the place :shock:

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keno

Postby keno » Jul 28, 2015, 11:41 am

Gosh there are so many possibilities that the first thing you really need to do is narrow it down to one of three things: machine, grinder, or coffee/technique.

Ideally, you could take your grinder and coffee to a friend's house with another machine and see if that makes a difference. Or have a friend bring over a grinder and coffee and attempt to pull shots on your machine. Always easiest to transport a grinder over a machine. Once you can isolate the primary factor the problem gets easier to work on.

The worst scenario is that it's a bit of all three. For example, once something is off with your machine you start making changes to the grind and technique that only make things worse and makes it harder to get back on track - the dreaded "espresso death spiral". :evil:

Lord Fluff

Postby Lord Fluff » Jul 28, 2015, 12:11 pm

I know, it's driving me nuts....

First thing is that I know no-one else who has a home espresso setup. So that's out.

I'm pretty confident it's not technique. Partly as my half day on Robur/Linea went so well, partly as both me and my partner could easily get good shots from the setup in the past.

Can a grinder 'go bad'? It seems very unlikely....In which case should the most likely candidate be the Expobar?

I've been trying to go back first principles....stripped the Mazzer, cleaned, reassembled, and in dialling in I could only seem to get blockers, gushers or crazy spritzers. The only way I can think to describe the results in terms of taste is - "not delicious". Crema tends towards yellow, not mocha colour. Flavours mostly are thin, bitter, sour.

So frustrating.