View Full Version : Help me to help myself
Okay I've been playing around with my new machine a bit (Dualit Epressivo), and I've been having mixed results. Anyone offer any advice as to where I'm going wrong making an espresso shot? I've been reading a lot online but I know NOTHING and am getting more confused!
At the moment I don't have a grinder so I've been using ground Illy, which I like. Have to open some Lavazza now as I'm almost done. So my grind is consistent and can't be considered a variable, right?
I leave the machine on for 30 minutes to properly heat up, and I run some water through the group head to heat that up. My cup is warm. I scoop some grounds in to the filter head and level it off and give it a tamp. (I wouldn't mind some advice with tamping - I'm sure I'm doing this badly).
They say, what, 20-odd seconds to pull a shot? Well mine mostly come through quicker than that. I'm finding them to be either under-strength or burnt sometimes. There have been a couple of exceptions where I've pulled a good shot, but I think they were just flukes.
It's not a major disaster. I can salvage my rubbish espresso in to a drinkable Americano anyway, but I really want to know how to put it right! Can anyone help?
Just been reading the problems you have been encountering in getting inconsistent espresso shots. The problem is most likely down to the fact that the pre-ground espresso you are using is to course, hence the reason for the shot running too fast. There are also numerous variables to getting a poor espresso apart from the grind itself and this could be down to the amount of coffee used, the freshness of the coffee and temperature which I think you have already picked up on.
The pressure you apply of the tamp has also a lot to do with the extraction as the ideal pressure you apply is 30Ib.
In our own roasted coffees we recommend a 26 second extraction time using 7g of ground espresso to get the very best results in body, crema and the flavour of the coffee itself for a single 1oz espresso shot, and this is regulated simply by the grind of the coffee itself, tamp pressure and using the freshest of coffee obviously. By adjusting the grind so that it is finer this will slow the extraction time and obviously the coarser the coffee the quicker the extraction time, and it may take 3 or 4 attempts to get the perfect grind to get the results above.
In my own experience when trying the branded pre-ground espressos, I have always found them to be too coarse and lacking the characteristics you want in a great espresso, just the results you are experiencing. The only way of getting around this would be to recommend the investment of £150 in the purchase a semi-professional espresso grinder. By doing this you will be able to have the espresso grinder calibrated by yourself so that the grind is set perfectly so that the coffee, grinder and espresso machine are all working in harmony with each other.
Tamping :- I load the portafilter with 1 shot of coffee, tamp, load the 2nd shot and tamp again. When I tamp I push down with my tamper and rotate under pressure. If the coffee is not level, then I disturb the coffee and try again.
Check out YouTube for videos on the subject.
There is some debate about tapping the side of the portafilter and tamping again but I do not do this.
Does your tamper match the width of your portafilter?
Are you using the single or double shot basket? I find the double produces the better espresso.
Since you cannot grind, have you tried varying the quantities of the coffee? Do you use a consistent measuring spoon?
I use the double basket. Seems a waste of time to make a single, and I read that doubles are easier to pull off. I tried using two scoops, but I assume the pre-ground coffee is slightly too coarse, and I now fill the basket to the top, level off and tamp hard. The results have been much better.
My tamper is slightly concave, and I intend to pick up a flat one soon.
I realise I have to buy a grinder. Not particularly flush after buying the machine, and I wondered if this cheap burr grinder is sufficient: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Krups-Expert-GVX231-Coffee-Grinder/dp/B0002H2IOM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen&qid=1260211530&sr=8-2
I'm a real coffee snob but I have to compromise. I just can't afford to spend over £100 on another piece of equipment, and there must be a level of equipment that is acceptable. Perhaps a hand grinder would be a better option.
That Krups one looks awful actually, I'm also looking at this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dualit-Burr-Coffee-Grinder-75002/dp/B000094U5T/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen&qid=1260212065&sr=8-1
I can't be certain but I think that is the same as the Starbucks one, and in one of my local stores it was cheaper - worth a look.
If buying pre-ground coffee then ensure that it is 'espresso grind' or 'fine'
Many commercially ground coffees work well in domestic machines but usually are a little on the coarse side.
Try weighing your ground coffee. You should aim for 7g - 8g per shot and always load a double portafilter with 2 shots, even if you only intend to drink a single.
A £10 set of scales (measuring to .01g) is sufficient and may make the world of difference to your coffee as it sounds like the shots are under extracted (not enough volume)
When tamping, load all the coffee into the portafilter before tamping.
Tamping, then adding more coffee and tamping again can leave 2 different pucks and the water can channel and pool in the middle of the puck, not evenly extracting.
Tamping is one of the hardest things to get right. You need to apply even pressure and the right pressure. However, work on getting your tamp level first, the pressure can be adjusted depending on the amount of coffee, coarseness of grind etc. 30psi is an average but there is no hard and fast rule about the tamping pressure.
Your concave tamper will work. There is very little noticeable difference between flat and concave when using a home machine. Make sure the tamper is not too small. Can you see a gap between the tamper edge and the basket or are they pretty much flush?
Avoid cheap burr grinders, you will soon regret the purchase and start wishing you had saved an extra few quid for a decent grinder such as the Iberital MC2 (£99 + vat and delivery at HappyDonkey (http://www.happydonkey.co.uk/iberital-mc2-grinders.html))
For under £50 I would recommend the Porlex Grinder from CoffeeHit (http://www.coffeehit.co.uk/PRD_ProductDetail.aspx?cid=82&prodid=1010&Product=Porlex-Ceramic-Burr-Coffee-Hand-Grinder)
As soon as you get a grinder, order some freshly roasted beans.
See previous threads for UK based roasters.
Hope this helps
Thanks for the advice, everyone.
I'll get the Iberital. This coffee malarkey is a lot more expensive than I thought!
I'll need a new tamper too. The one I have is too small and I would prefer I flatter, larger one - I imagine I could tamp more evenly that way.
Its amazing the difference in weight between a small and large tamper. My wife things you could do some serious damage with one (if you've not had your coffee fix ;))
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