A tale of sour espressos - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
israguard (original poster)

#11: Post by israguard (original poster) »

Good morning,

A small update and I am not sure yet this has anything to do with anything.... But....

So I increased the temp on the infamous " PDI Wheel" of the LMLM. I hate it but is what it is.. As I may have mentioned earlier... sourness is gone and now shots just taste bitter and crappy. I was hoping to increase temp even more.. to 200 degrees range.. Ran a lot of hot water through machine... So much so that the reheating water red lamp started flashing.

But when I filled a very tall mug with water only and immediately plunged in the digital thermometer in it... I get 181-185 degrees only. It does not go higher and this is on the highest temp setting on the PDI Wheel.

Did a google search and Home-Barista threads came up & comments about calibration between PDI Wheel and boiler temp arose. This machine was purchased from Toronto and I am not driving 5+ hours each way.. I will have to figure something out as I believe this may be adding to my issues. Not the only issue.. but certainly adding to it.

Wishing you all a great day.


#12: Post by Nate42 »

The temperature you care about is the temp delivered to the coffee. You need a scace or similar device to measure that directly. You can't go by the temp in the cup, although 185 in the cup is actually a pretty hot result. The initial water temp will drop faster than it would in a shot, since its flowing faster with no puck. You will further lose temperature by exposure to the air and the cup.

If you use a styrofoam cup and keep it as close to the group as possible, that will get you closer to the real reading but it will still read colder than reality.

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israguard (original poster)

#13: Post by israguard (original poster) »

I'm embarrassed. I get top of the shelf equipment and only educate myself years later, better late than never I suppose. Chris @ La Marzocco was very kind to answer m quickly this morning. Below is a copy/paste of his reply:

"Hi Shawn,

I believe your machine is operating normally. There is a huge drop in temperature when the water leaves the pressurized environment of the brew chamber.

We typically see temps around 170 when measuring the water after it exits the group when set to typical brew temps (196-205)."

So now I will reduce the temp to the 205 range and see if the taste become more palatable than it is now with the temperature set to max.


#14: Post by Nate42 »

Your beans claim to be medium and low acid so they shouldn't need an unusually high temp I would set your temp somewhere you think is in the middle of the road, leave it alone, and then do your best to dial in to taste using dose and grind. Temperature shouldn't be the first variable you mess with in most cases. If your shots are sour, grind finer, and or pull a larger output shot. If a finer grind resuls in too slow a shot, reduce dose.

This 101 post is very helpful Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste

Also, if you like the Lavazza from the office, there's no shame in just buying Lavazza. It probably has a quite different profile than the beans you posted earlier. Traditional Itallian espresso is its own thing, and if that's what you like the Italians still do it better than anybody.


#15: Post by LesZedCB »

are you still having probems, and can you provide exact numbers for everything? dose, basket size, yield weight, temp, and time.

israguard (original poster)

#16: Post by israguard (original poster) »

Hi everyone,

Apologies for delay in posting... its been a busy weekend.

Well, as I suspected.. I am dumber than I look. So here is my "story" and update. Apologies if I go all over the place, but I promise this will all come together @ the end.

1) After getting SERIOUSLY sour shots, it was recommended to me that I raise my temperature and see how things go, My PID wheel was 100% set to lowest temp on the machine. Not making matters any easier was the fact that the alignment of the wheel (display wise) wasn't done well. So the lowest temp and highest were always hidden. It was just off and it was upsetting. A quick google search on LMLM temp issues and a wonderful home-barista post from 2016 talked specifically about the LMLM PID wheel being misaligned. I adjusted its positioning only for display purposes and not its temp adjustment. Step 1 complete... I know can see what the heck I am doing.

2) I increased temp to around 206 degrees. Immediately the sourness was gone but I personally did not like the taste of the espresso. Tasted bitter, raw and no sign of any taste other than.."oh boy this bites". Now please bear in mind that the last time I drank an espresso was maybe 10 years ago. Just not my thing as all I drink are milk based drinks. But I knew I was possibly on the right track as the sourness was gone and temp certainly had something to do with it.

4) I soon realized that no matter what I did with the LMLM or any other type of bean I would try. A big and valid problem I had/have is that I have no clue what a perfect tasting espresso tastes like. Now granted taste is subjective... but a good espresso I would hope can generally be agreed upon as being good.

5) So yesterday morning I took a bag of the Lavazza beans and filled the Cunill hopper and boy did it take me a while.. But finally I got there. 18g beans / 36 grams coffee in 38-39 seconds. Definitely in the right area and PID still set around 206. Temp in cup is around 182-184. The extractions through the naked porta filter were gorgeous. A few initial drops and a centered beautiful stream and rich dark colors on the basket as the extraction was being done. Finally like the YT videos. Shot wasn't sour... but again I felt it sucked.

What to do ?

6) So my Wife and I headed downtown to a very reputable coffee shop that has an LMLM and I hoped knew what they were doing. I ordered an Espresso and a cappuccino as I wanted to compare both to what I have at home. Well, the espresso here to my taste buds was just as bad tasting as the one at home & my cappuccino imho was ten times better than theirs. So am I just going mad and espressos are simply not to my liking?? a high possibility.

7) This morning I again made us cappuccinos using the Lavazza beans. Very nice extractions but I honestly enjoy my usual Sam James beans much more. Strictly a taste preference over the Lavazza. The Lavazza also has oils on the beans which you can see in the hopper and is a much darker roast it seems / smells / tastes than my usual go to Sam James.

So I will finish the hopper and the beans and will then switch back to Sam James beans which were roasted on Feb 15.

I am far from fully nailing this down. This coming weekend we will go to Little Italy and repeat the Espresso experiment. Two cafes and I will know if my home espresso bites or I need a shrink lol...

I have read everyone's comments more than once and I will try also reducing temp and adjusting extraction amounts as it was suggested since Sam James is a medium roast. I was also delighted that Mr. Sam James himself emailed me back with precisely their procedure @ their cafes. temp/ dosage etc. What is very cool is the difference in extraction characteristics between the two beans during the extraction.

So quite long winded yes... but this is where I am.. step 1 (get ride of sourness) is achieved. Now the fun of adjustments, learning and exploring continues.

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment and I will 100% update you in a few days..

Warmest regards, Shawn


#17: Post by Gingko »

Hi Shawn,

I have definitely had and made some sour shots and I try to avoid it like I avoid covid. Here goes what I've seen-

The temperature on for medium-dark roast can be lower and I've heard between 198-202 degrees is fine, I'm able to see the temp and I have it set to 199. Many people have suggested that longer extraction times lower the acidity even increasing the time to as much as 35-40 seconds and grinding finer especially for more light- medium roast. Since yours is a medium roast I think aiming for 25-35 seconds should suffice. One more thing is the ratio of the volume and I would check the recommended ratio for your beans. Often I do 1:2 18g to 36g out and with longer extraction times and grinding finer this should start tasting less sour and bring out more flavors. Keep us update!

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israguard (original poster)

#18: Post by israguard (original poster) »

Thanks for taking the time to read & reply.

Below is a copy/paste from Sam James Coffee website where I purchase the beans.
12OZ/340G BAG

medium roast

whole bean / pre-ground

roasted in toronto

The blend that put us on the map.
Butterknife is our house espresso blend and most popular coffee for a good reason.
It's a traditional profile with a modern approach to sourcing and roasting.
The result is a rich, sticky sweet, low acidity coffee, versatile enough for any use.
Suggested espresso recipe of 1:2 coffee to water ratio in 28-32 seconds.

I will now try longer extraction as well as shorter and compare the results. Temperature as well I will reduce a touch.

Warmest regards, Shawn


#19: Post by cgibsong002 »

Don't get overly concerned with results from local cafes. I've been to many top tier roasters who have served bad espresso. I think they just don't serve enough straight shots to justify having them perfectly dialed. Not saying you won't find a great shot, but you could easily go to five cafes and get absolute garbage.

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#20: Post by yakster » replying to cgibsong002 »

+1, that's why many of us enjoy our own shots at home more than those at most cafes.

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