View Full Version : Gaggia Classic - bitter shots

26-11-10, 01:22
Hi All,

well my classic arrived on tueday, haven't slept a wink since. I am working on perfecting my Espresso shots. I did get an un pressurized basket, have tried the pressurized and have shot coffee all over the kitchen. My MDF is set at 6, i have no trouble getting crema but the coffee is very bitter. I have tried different beans and admittedly i am only using beans from Waitrose at the mo. I have tried a courser grind but only gpt more bitter.

The next step is a finer grind and will try that tonight. i am tamping good and hard and getting good solid pucks. Any further advice would be much appreciated.


26-11-10, 01:26
In order to diagnose some further information is required;
What grind weight are you using (eg 16g)
How long are your extractions (within 5 seconds wither side of 25 seconds)
How much liquid is in the cup (eg 1oz, 2oz or 30/60mls)

26-11-10, 01:37
i must admit Gleen that this is a little haphazard at the moment. To measure the coffee i am using the dispenser supplied by Gaggia, i am only doing double shots, so 2 scoups are being used. i am dispesing about 4-5of of liquid and it takes about 20 seconds, out to buy scales in a min

28-11-10, 11:04
Things I would do (and why):

1. Don't worry about weight or number of scoops right now, just dose to fill the portafilter. That is, overfill it a bit, then level off the excess with a finger and make sure the PF is evenly filled all around, to the very edges.

Why: it is easier to get an even distribution of coffee in a filled portafilter than in a partly-filled one. If the distribution is uneven there will be weak spots in the puck that the pressurised water can more or less rush straight through. This leads to poor flavour.

Once you have your distribution skills in hand to the point where you are regularly getting satisfactory shots with a full PF, you can try smaller doses if you wish. But for now I would suggest dosing the easy way, with a full PF, to help limit the variables and frustration until you have a feel for all of this.

2. Get a real tamper, and tamp quite firmly.

Why: the one attached to your MDF probably doesn't fit your portafilter basket very exactly, so the puck will probably be packed inconsistently, which again gives you weak spots that water can channel through too easily. And a grinder-attached tamper is just hard to get a good firm tamp with ('standard' is 30 lbs), so again you risk insufficient compaction to give you a firm coffee bed for the water to push through.

3. Use freshly-roasted (or at least freshly-opened) coffee.

Why: coffee roasted within the last couple of weeks is just a far better, more flavourful product than older coffee. An espresso machine is just a device for infusing water with the essence of those beans, after all, so start with good ones.

If you must use supermarket beans, judge yourself only against a newly-opened bag, because (in my experience at least) prepackaged coffee deteriorates remarkably quickly once unsealed: what's drinkable on day one becomes marginal on day two and undrinkable on day three.

Note: one of our members is a staunch advocate of Costa's beans, which are more expensive than supermarket beans but which are surely much fresher, and pretty ubiquitously available. If they're an option for you, I would suggest trying them.

I would also like to know the number of seconds between the time you start the pump and the time the first drops of coffee come out of the portafilter spout. While this does not seem to be a commonly-employed measurement, I have found it to be the single most telling indicator of what I can expect from my own shots. With my Gaggia Classic, 5 seconds to first drops tells me I can probably expect a 'normal' espresso (which is a little too thin for me since I like a ristretto) and 7 seconds is the sweet spot for the type of ristretto I usually go for. Below that range means the shot is almost surely going down the sink (after I taste it to punish myself for getting it so wrong :) of course). So I'm curious what your timing is, as it may help me make a guess about what is happening with your shots.

28-11-10, 11:24
Based on the amount of liquid and short time I'd say grind finer

Should aim for 2oz in about 25 seconds (doesn't need to be exact)

02-12-10, 01:28
I would say don't worry and listen to the good advice here. It took me weeks and weeks to get anything good and I just practiced one bit at a time but now its all wonderful in my coffee corner. Its a skill :)

02-12-10, 09:05
The first and most important factor in getting the best out of your machine (in my humble opinion) is having fresh beans that make coffee to your taste. You can tamp perfectly, extract perfectly, time perfectly but it the coffee is not to your taste you are lost. Maybe your Waitrose beans are not to your palate, in my limited experience Has Bean seem do the most reasonable postage charges and have a wide selection of beans.

09-12-10, 11:50
guys thanks all for your advice, i am now very happy with my results, the most important step was getting the grind right on my grinder, in this case "4 is the magic number", since getting that right, i would say it is about 5 seconds from when flicking the pump on to when i get my first liquid, must admit this evening i made the best yet, put a half a scoop more of coffee in the PF, lovely thick crema lots of flavour but no bitterness, i feel really justified in my expensive purchase. Next job, wand up grade and some freshly roasted coffee for chrimbo.

best advice i could give any one who has just bought or is thinking about buying a classic. MAKE SURE YOU GET AN UNPRESSURIZED BASKET, the pressurized is crap and shouldn't be sold with this machine, to be frank it is dangerous, splurted hot coffee all over my kitchen, other than that the machine is top draw and i am very happy, now would just like to have a go on the ranchilia silva to make sure i'm not missing, or may be i don't

gaggia bean
11-12-10, 12:06
Great to hear youve got to grips with the Classic.