Trying to get the right extraction on Starbucks espresso machine

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
missbexx

#1: Post by missbexx »

I have a two year old starbucks espresso machine with a pressurized PF. I have a Breville grinder, and some Italian espresso beans i got at the Italian supermarket. Here is the thing i cannot change:

I cannot change the temperature of the water in my machine
and i cannot seem to adjust the extraction time, it comes out fast everytime, no matter the tamp or grind, it's about 8-10seconds for 2oz.

But I can adjust the grind, and i can try to find a non-pressurized PF.

The thing is that my espresso always tastes very bitter, smells burnt. I don't really know what a "good" espresso tastes like, and i suppose as long as i don't i will continue to enjoy my cappuccinos every morning... but the thing is i want to be able to have an ordinary shot of espresso, and enjoy it you know.

I am confident that my grinder is a good one, but i am unsure of how fine to grind my espresso... i know it's trial and error, but what am i looking for in the shot.

I am preheating the PF and the cup before extraction, how else can i perhaps regulate the temperature? if you can't change the temperature how else can you affect the bitter taste of the coffee?

if i don't tamp the grind down in the PF it doesn't make a puck, it makes a sludge... so i tamp.

I'm just really needing a professional to come and physically work my machine and show me how to do it... but i'll try and work with any advice that i can get, i super appreciate it!

Happy New Year

Bexx
Kelowna, BC

Beezer

#2: Post by Beezer »

Don't despair. You can do it, but you may need to make some changes to your setup.

First of all, it sounds like you're using grocery store coffee, which is almost certainly stale and won't make good espresso. You need to find some fresh roasted coffee, no more than a week past roast date. That means no grocery store or Starbucks coffee. Try ordering some beans from one of the online vendors who sponsor this site if you can't fresh beans locally. Without fresh beans, you'll never get good results.

Also, I doubt that your grinder is really up to snuff. Breville isn't known for making great espresso machines or grinders. The grinder is the most important part of the equation, other than maybe the beans themselves. You need a really good burr grinder to make decent espresso. It should be highly adjustable so you can dial in the grind for a 25-30 second extraction. The minimum grinder that will produce decent results is probably a Gaggia MDF or Cunill Tranquilo, which are both about $200. A Rancilio Rocky is even better, but costs about $300. The Mazzer Mini and Macap M4 are even nicer, but cost a fairly hefty $550 or so. Get the best grinder you can, and you'll results will be much more satisfying and consistent.

As for the Starbucks machine, I've never used one myself, but I hear they are capable of decent espresso provided you get rid of the pressurized filter basket. This is the basket with a "crema enhancer" device built in that basically forces the coffee through a small hole and artificially froths it up into a crema-like substance. It's a trick to make stale, poorly ground coffee make something that resembles crema, but it's not the same as the real thing. Get a regular basket with lots of little holes in the bottom. This will allow you to brew a proper shot, assuming you use fresh beans and a good grinder, plus good technique. I think you can get replacement filters online for fairly cheap, but I've never done it myself so don't ask me where to look or how much they cost. Cheaper than buying a whole new machine, anyway.

As for temperature management, there's only so much you can do with a small machine like the Barista. Let it heat up a fairly long time, at least 20 minutes or so. Leave the portafilter in place while it heats up. Pull a blank shot through the empty portafilter and into your cup. That will preheat the cup and the machine. Then grind, distribute, tamp, lock and load, and pull your shot.

If the shot is too cold, you may need to switch to steam mode for a few seconds before pulling the shot to heat up the boiler even more, but this can lead to excessively hot brew water that scalds the beans. If the water is boiling as it leaves the group, it's too hot. Pull some more water through the group to cool it down a bit, then try again.

Whew. Sorry for the long-winded response. I hope this was at least somewhat helpful. Good luck.
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erics
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#3: Post by erics »

Hi MissBexx -

This brings back fond memories as I wrote the first and my only review of this espresso machine for CoffeeGeek back in January of 2000.

While I do recall their instructions for running one or two shots through the PF and basket to warm them up, you could just as easily leave the PF and a clean basket in the group for an hour and they would be just as toasty if not more so.

You do keep the PF handle to the right until the pump changes sound after you press the brew button?

Why not get a local cafe to grind up a small amount of beans for you and try them out in your machine. I would put two level scoops in the basket, doing a very light tamp/distribution after the first and then a normal tamp after the second. If I remember right, the instructions say you don't need to tamp but I sorta bypassed that line. I'm not a big fan of changing over to a non-pressurized PF for this machine as ya gotta believe the machine was designed with the pressurized PF in mind. If I remember right, this machine does have an OPV but its more of a safety valve than a pressure regulator so changing to a non-pressurized PF can put some pretty high pressures in the basket. However, from what I can remember reading, others have done so with success.

IIRC, Starbucks published lots of tips for these machines (this is a Starbucks Barista?) and all that is available from their customer service line.
Skål,

Eric S.
http://users.rcn.com/erics/
E-mail: erics at rcn dot com

missbexx (original poster)

#4: Post by missbexx (original poster) »

erics wrote:You do keep the PF handle to the right until the pump changes sound after you press the brew button?
No, I do not do this - is there a benefit that i don't know of? do i let go of the handle that i'm holding to the right before the brew comes out then?
If I remember right, this machine does have an OPV but its more of a safety valve than a pressure regulator so changing to a non-pressurized PF can put some pretty high pressures in the basket.
Will this high pressure in the basket do any harm to the machine, or the quality of espresso coming out?
IIRC, Starbucks published lots of tips for these machines (this is a Starbucks Barista?) and all that is available from their customer service line.
What is IIRC?


Thanks so much for your helpful reply!

ntwkgestapo

#5: Post by ntwkgestapo »

MissBexx, Having an older version of what you've got (I bought mine in 2000 as a reward for making it thru the Y2K non'debacle'(sp?)...) I can sympathize with you! First, pressurized or not (there IS a non pressurized P/F available for the machine from Saeco and some other sites as well), the FIRST things you need to do is 1) get fresh beans 2) grind them finer than the Breville grinder will do. I used a Starbucks Barista burr grinder and couldn't get IT to grind fine enough (until I shimmed the inner burr a bit!). I am currently BACK to using the Barista 'spresso machine as my Gaggia Factory lever is down right now, sooooo, I use a small hand grinder (the grinder at THIS location http://www.espressoparts.com/product/CLIP_TGR_LG/) and grind much finer than I could ever get from the SBUX/Solis/Baratza grinder that starbucks sold for a while (they now sell something different). the 3rd thing I did (and do) was use a properly sized tamper (mine is a home-made one @ 52.5mm I turned out of a piece of scrap wood). The same site that has the grinder ALSO has LOTS of tampers. IF you go there to get one pick a 52mm as a 53mm will, often, "stick" in the basket (a little TOO close a fit!). Don't tamp too hard, I just use about a 15-20 lb push and about 14 grams of ground coffee for a double. Makes fairly good espresso (not as good as my Gaggia Factory, but hey, not bad either!).

You could use any of the grinders already mentioned OR get a zassenhous or a Pe De hand grinder off of ebay (but some work, some don't as far as I've heard)...
Steve C.
I'm having an out of coffee experience!
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erics
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#6: Post by erics »

missbexx wrote:No, I do not do this - is there a benefit that i don't know of? do i let go of the handle that i'm holding to the right before the brew comes out then?
This is, apparently, the Starbucks Barista (Saeco Rio Vapore, et al) method of preinfusion. IIRC (If I Remember/Recall Correctly), this is what the instructions say to do. Instructions for the use of this machine are/were available from the Starbucks website.

If I remember right, this machine does have an OPV but its more of a safety valve than a pressure regulator so changing to a non-pressurized PF can put some pretty high pressures in the basket.
Will this high pressure in the basket do any harm to the machine, or the quality of espresso coming out?
High pressures (>10 bar) and espresso don't seem to coexist well. See here: Brew pressure profiling update 3 . My previous point being that the machine was designed to operate with the PF (portafilter) it came with. It is a true statement to say that others with this same machine (or very similar) have purchased "standard" portafilters and have had success with same. IIRC, Starbucks published lots of tips for these machines (this is a Starbucks Barista?) and all that is available from their customer service line.
What is IIRC?
Internet abbreviation for If I Remember Correctly or If I Recall Correctly - used a lot by people who testify before Congress.
Skål,

Eric S.
http://users.rcn.com/erics/
E-mail: erics at rcn dot com

bgn

#7: Post by bgn »

I also own a starbucks barista and have been working at tuning it to make good coffee for almost 10 years. The most important thing I've done is invest in a good grinder. This was a revelation! It immediately made a big difference in the taste. I've also invested in a 'chopped' portafilter, i.e. one that has no bottom on it so I can see the coffee come through the bottom of the basket by watching the bottom. Your barista can make better coffee than you will get in most cafes. It's limits are definitely temperature control, but 'surfing' the temp by running the pump without the portafilter on long enough to engage the heating element and then locking on and starting to brew before the heating element shuts off (catching the heater at the top of it's cycle) seems to help.
Have fun. If you're ever in Surrey I could show you how I run mine.
Barry.

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jesawdy

#8: Post by jesawdy »

Depending on whether you can trust the consumer reviews on CoffeeGeek, the Breville grinder might be usable, link. Unfortunately, I'd suspect that there may be enough variation in the production of these grinders that some may grind finer and/or better than others.

I'm of the opinion that the Starbuck's Barista can make a good espresso. I've also made some good shots on the Barista with the non-pressurized portafilter in conjunction with the Starbuck's Barista burr grinder (made by Solis or Saeco, I'm not clear on that one), but there was no adjusting the grind (finest or second finest setting needed on the one I used).

My successes used this recipe:

Clean machine - machine was cleaned well, removing the showerscreen and washing up the screen and baskets with espresso machine cleaner. You can't backflush this machine, but it does include a plastic gizmo for cleaning the gasket.

FRESH Coffee (and I do mean fresh... a local light Northern Italian roast that I picked up from the roaster, also had some nice shots of Intelligenstia's Kid-O on one). You can't use a supermarket coffee and expect anything decent with the non-pressurized portafilter, period.

Non-pressurized Saeco portafilter (like this one, link).

Conical Burr grinder (Starbuck's/Solis/Saeco with limitations as mentioned above).

Dose, IIRC :wink:, was about 15 grams, lightly mounded and then leveled, be certain the coffee isn't pressed into the showerscreen when you insert the portafilter.

Tamped the coffee (early on with a cheap 45mm and tamping NSEW to get it all but later with a very nice EspressoParts 52mm Deluxe Lava tamp),

Machine was well heated and the portafilter hot. The Barista is somewhat odd in that the "Ready" light comes on when the heater is off. Best results were achieved when pulling just after the ready light came on so the machine is at or near the high side of its' temperature swing. This was forced by filling a cup, and then building the coffee basket. Try dropping the built basket in the hot portafilter just after the ready light comes on.
Jeff Sawdy

missbexx (original poster)

#9: Post by missbexx (original poster) »

Holy crap is there ever a lot of details to think about when trying to find espresso heaven! Haha, I feel like such a dolt for some of the things that i'm doing to "try" and reach heaven, and then reading what you've written and am thinking: "Okay... I won't be doing that again!" What a learning experience.

I think i'll stay with my grinder for now, it seems to produce a very nice grind (and as far as finest settings, it goes to a setting called "turkish" - which is super fine and i don't think would work for the PF - too fine) so we'll see how it holds up. I think i need to focus on whether i want to stick with the pressurized PF (which i don') and convincing my non-coffee drinking husband that i need these additional 'parts' for the machine so that i can get a non-pressurized filter (to see the difference) and i'd like to get a bottomless PF so that i can see what kind of extraction i'm getting and learn from it.

A lot of the pictures on home barista of extractions with a bottomless PF are an orange colour.... i am wondering what makes this orange/caramel colour. When i pull a shot it is very dark, and the "crema" (haha - the crema is a joke - too much froth) is like a dull ash brown. I don't know, it just doesn't look as appealing as the photos!

Heh, I'm just running over all the advice i've been given over the holidays and here on home barista, and i am surprised that i'm not just overwhelmed completely.

On the bright side, I made a cappuccino today that tasted quite good, (the shots i'm pulling these days need milk, :wink: ) i made 3 1/2oz of espresso for it, otherwise there is so much room left in the cup for milk that i get a little liberal with it and it turns into a latte, which i'm not too fond of that over-milk taste

A question though about cleaning the machine, is the showerscreen the screen in the "group head"? i remove that with a screw right? I haven't really looked at the machine and it's parts too closely (although i did carefully take apart the PF to see if it was dirty and i thought that if you removed the bottom it would magically become a bottomless PF :wink:) but i think there is a screw to remove the screen. What kind of detergent should i use to remove the screen, and can i use lemon juice to descale it (or are you all laughing at me now)? I purchased it used from a lady here in town and i don 't think she's ever descaled it. the machine is quite clean in appearance but i don't know about the guts, if they are clean. So is there a better descaling agent (i have a tiny bit of descaling agent from melita but i doubt that it's enough) that i can use... the barista instructions are not that detailed to me.

Okay, work is getting busy - got to wrap this up, thanks again for all the information, i really appreciate it!

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jesawdy

#10: Post by jesawdy »

missbexx wrote:A question though about cleaning the machine, is the showerscreen the screen in the "group head"? i remove that with a screw right? I haven't really looked at the machine and it's parts too closely (although i did carefully take apart the PF to see if it was dirty and i thought that if you removed the bottom it would magically become a bottomless PF :wink:) but i think there is a screw to remove the screen. What kind of detergent should i use to remove the screen, and can i use lemon juice to descale it (or are you all laughing at me now)? I purchased it used from a lady here in town and i don 't think she's ever descaled it. the machine is quite clean in appearance but i don't know about the guts, if they are clean. So is there a better descaling agent (i have a tiny bit of descaling agent from melita but i doubt that it's enough) that i can use... the barista instructions are not that detailed to me.
I think you can remove a spring from within the portafilter (on some of them at least, see here) to disable the pressure mechanism. Was the portafilter quite dirty inside?

The shower screen comes out with a screw. Since you don't know the entire machine history, I'd try removing it and cleaning the machine as best you can. You may have some crud in there that will affect the taste. I'll forewarn you that the screw may be hard to remove. If you have the Barista cleaning gizmo/cup, I think the backside has a screw driver head attached.

Dezcal (by Urnex) is a descaler product. Cleancaf is a combo detergent/descaler. You can find more info about them including instructions on both here, http://www.urnex.com/

Normally I would not recommend Cleancaf, but the Barista boiler is small enough that it should not take a terrible amount of flushing to get it rinsed out.
Jeff Sawdy