Struggling with single wall basket and Breville Barista Express

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
pwnell

#1: Post by pwnell »

I have an older model Breville Barista Express (bought it 11 years ago). I have always used the dual wall double basket, but recently decided to try and give the single wall double basket a try. Suffice to say -I am struggling badly. I have spent countless hours reading up, watching videos, reading the manual of the machine but I am getting nowhere.

When I try and make a double espresso shot I do this:
  1. Set grind size to 4 (ranges from dual wall to 15 on my machine, 15 being finest).
  2. Manually grind until I have exactly 18g (as per my 0.01g accurate scale)
  3. Gently flatten the espresso by hand until it is as flat as I can get it
  4. Use the tamp that came with the machine in a twisting motion, first gently, then with more pressure, to tampen it as evenly as possible
  5. Put the portafilter in the group head, click the double espresso button and start a timer and measure the output.
Here is the thing:
  1. The pressure NEVER goes into the espresso range area. At best it touches the bottom of the grey area (i.e. at 09:00)
  2. The espresso that starts dripping out comes out after about 10 - 12 seconds, and it is pitch black initially.
  3. About halfway through the extraction I do get some crema, but not a lot
  4. After exactly 18 seconds the extraction stops (probably the default setting of the 2 cup button)
  5. I always get 50g - 55g out - way more than the 36 - 40g I was targetting with 18g of coffee
  6. I dislike the taste of the espresso - definitely not right.
Now I tried, step by step (4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 .. 14) increasing the grind fineness and keeping everything else constant. At grind setting 4 I get 52g out, max pressure about at 08:00 on the gauge. At fineness 14 I get about 50g out, and pressure never exceeds 09:00. How can this be?

I also tried varying tamping pressure - from about 5kg to 30kg, makes no difference.

The only way I can get decent espresso is with the dual wall basket. The pressure then builds up to about 11:00 on the gauge (center of espresso range), However I refuse to believe the Breville Express cannot make espresso with the single wall basket.

I am using colombian dark roast beans from the grocery store.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.


User avatar
HB
Admin

#2: Post by HB »

pwnell wrote:The only way I can get decent espresso is with the dual wall basket... I am using colombian dark roast beans from the grocery store.
Search on pressurized portafilter; they are designed to provide back pressure when the coffee puck can't because (a) the coffee is stale, and/or (b) the grinder is unable to grind finely and consistently enough for espresso. I'm betting that store bought dark coffee is stale, stale, stale. The low brew pressure and dark extraction immediately followed by a gusher are the classic signs.
Dan Kehn

pwnell (original poster)

#3: Post by pwnell (original poster) »

Oh my dual wall basket is a pressurized one I believe - that is why I get the appropriate pressure when using it. Just wanted to try and have more control with the non pressurized single wall.

I will try a better, fresher coffee.

User avatar
Jeff
Team HB

#4: Post by Jeff »

Which grinder are you using?

Even with fresh coffee, many people find that the Breville grinders need to have the inner burr setting changed to grind fine enough for a standard basket. There are many videos online on how to make this user adjustment.

pwnell (original poster)

#5: Post by pwnell (original poster) »

I am using the built in grinder of the breville barista express. However even on 14 (breville recommended setting 5), being very very fine, it does not affect the pressure. 14 is definitely way finer than 5. It is so fine that the max setting on the grind amount produces about 13g, not 18g.

bgnome

#6: Post by bgnome »

pwnell wrote: I am using colombian dark roast beans from the grocery store.

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

image
Firstly, you need to get freshly roasted beans. Grocery store beans could be a year old or so. Chasing a quality shot with stale beans will drive you crazy.

Otherwise, assuming no issues with an 11-year-old Breville machine, you need to grind finer. In a single wall basket, the coffee grinds are the main point of resistance, so to build up the needed pressure, you need finely ground coffee.

pwnell (original poster)

#7: Post by pwnell (original poster) »

Thanks for the advice. I'll try and get some fresh beans Monday.

As to grind size - I am already at 14 (this is the older BES860XL so 14 is the finest and 1 is the coarsest - think they swopped this with the BES870XL).

I cannot go any finer than 14. It is like moist powder at 14.

Weird thing is it takes about 12 seconds from press of button to start of dripping - but then finishes 8 seconds later. According to the manual under extraction begins to drip at 1 - 3 seconds and is accompanied with low pressure, over extraction starts dripping after 8 seconds and is accompanied by too high pressure. Mine has elements of both - 12 seconds to start dripping, then no pressure at all after that.

bgnome

#8: Post by bgnome »

pwnell wrote: Weird thing is it takes about 12 seconds from press of button to start of dripping - but then finishes 8 seconds later. According to the manual under extraction begins to drip at 1 - 3 seconds and is accompanied with low pressure, over extraction starts dripping after 8 seconds and is accompanied by too high pressure. Mine has elements of both - 12 seconds to start dripping, then no pressure at all after that.
It is possible that what you are describing is channeling. If that is the case, you need to improve your puck prep and maybe try a little coarser.

pwnell (original poster)

#9: Post by pwnell (original poster) »

That makes a lot of logical sense. Only issue is I already tried almost all grind sizes - coarser does not fix this. I will research tamping and see if I am making some obvious mistake.

Ken5
Supporter ★

#10: Post by Ken5 replying to pwnell »

Obvious issue is what bgnome mentioned, you need fresher coffee! Try that first, second if you cannot get pressure with fresh roasted coffee at the 1 setting adjust the inner burr. Default is 6, it is easy to change. I had to go to 2 to get the machine up to pressure with beans that were roasted just days prior. Forget what the manual recommends as far as settings on the dial, get it to choke and then back off for the next shots.

No amount of prep work is going to solve any channeling issue you may have with that coffee