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RolandG

Tips/FAQ for beginners

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It seemed like a good idea to put up a thread of "top tips" for people who've just got themselves a new espresso machine and are looking to make the tastiest drinks they can.

 

I expect lots of entries here from our professional barista trainers - no pressure guys ;)

 

 

So to start it off:

 

1) Taste everything!

There are a huge number of variables in espresso making (dose used, how fine the grind is, how big the shot pulled is, etc.) and the best thing you can do is to try extreme examples. E.g. Using the same dose and grind, pull two shots - stop the first at a full espresso cup and the second at only half a cup. Taste the results - they won't be pleasant, but you'll understand much better what the impact of longer and shorter shots is.

 

2) Everything matters.

Especially true with home espresso machines, less so the more high-end you go. Lots of the variables in espresso making are not directly controllable by you (at least on a home machine). Most of them, however, can be indirectly impacted by you. So try and set up routines - for example - leave machine to warm for 20 minutes with portafilter locked in; remove basket; return handle to machine; weigh basket; grind into basket; weight dose of coffee; take out portafilter and put in basket; flush some water through the system; tamp coffee; lock in portafilter; place cups; start shot. It's not about right and wrong here as much as consistency - doing it the same way, in the same order, will mean that when you aren't happy with the results, you have a good chance of tracking down what has changed to cause this.

 

3) Trust yourself:

Related to my first one, but trust your taste buds - taste is king! You're making coffee for yourself (at least to start with), so if you don't like the results, then change things until you do. There is plenty of advice and pointers on here, and I certainly suggest trying recommendations, but don't defer to others' judgments - what matters is how it tastes to you. Tougher still is putting your own expectations aside - you might expect a good espresso to have a thick, dark crema, but don't let your assumption cause you to dismiss a coffee before you've tried it.


Mahlkonig Vario, Dualit grinder, V60 (paper & cloth filters), 1-3 cup Chemex, Porlex Grinder, Kantans, Kalita Wave, Bodum French press, Various Ibriks, Turkish Coffee Hand Grinder, Bialetti Mini Express, Moka Pot, AeroPress, TCA-5 syphon and lots of tasty coffee :drink:

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Good idea! Perhaps Glenn will make this a sticky.

 

4) Don't put your face too close to your bottomless PF when extracting a shot (unless you want to be blinded by a random sprite of hot water :))


Rancilio Silvia V3 | Compak K3 Touch | Reg Barber 58.5mm | Grindenstein knockbox | Synesso Double Ridgeless

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5) Don't be afraid to ask questions

 

You'll get more answers with a detailed description, or by posting Photos or Videos

 

No question is a dumb question...


Home Barista Training - contact me to discuss your requirements

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And most importantly be patient & enjoy the ritual of making your own liquid heaven :) even on your worst day you'll probably be better than a lot of the Mc-baristas out there !!!

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Good idea! Perhaps Glenn will make this a sticky.

 

4) Don't put your face too close to your bottomless PF when extracting a shot (unless you want to be blinded by a random sprite of hot water :))

 

As i found out 3 days after buying my machine. Curiousity got the better of me!

 

On the subject of spatter, i get a rich smooth pour for about 8 seconds then it starts to spatter all over the place. There is a nice thick head on the shot, but is the spatter normal? My Gaggia dose has a plastic drip ( not sure the coorect term), is it worth changing to a stainless one?

Edited by BobR1

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Some people only use their machine at weekends, which is fine... but if you can spare a few minutes on a weekday to use the machine before leaving for work, you will be getting 350% more practise, and the improvement in your skills will show in the cup. If you don't have time to drink it on a morning, buy a resuable keepcup and drink it at your leisure on your way to work.

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Make sure to distribute your grind evenly before tamping using a bent pin or paperclip. I dismissed this tip for quite a while thinking it wouldn't make too much difference (and the fact that I didn't have a paperclip to hand). It's probably the one factor that's made the most difference to my shots in a positive way :D


Rocket Appartamento | Mahlkonig Vario | 58mm Rocket tamper | AeroPress | VST 18g basket | HappyDonkey Bottomless PortaFilter

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Rather than start a new thread, I'm just going to post my question here.

As an espresso purist, with very little time for milky drinks, I decided to learn how to make latte art-quality milk only recently.

 

I bought a new steam wand for my gaggia as the frothing aid one is a joke, which arrived today.

I understand the principles and I actually succeeded in my first attempt and made some pretty nice milky foam emulsion of the micro quality.

But when I came to pour into my cup, all the very thin milk came out first and actually left all the lovely foam in the jug.

 

Is this due to not swirling and creating a bit of a vortex whilst stretching (possibly due to wand position) or could this be due to the lip on the top of my jug (not a proper frothing jug) or both?

 

Thanks

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Sounds like you haven't actually made microfoam, but have blown over large bubbles onto the surface of your milk. Get the nozzle in deep enough so that it isn't blowing bubbles then raise it until you hear that sucking noise....lower it fractionally in so that the noise disappears and keep it there. When you put the nozzle in, have it in at an angle so that the steam hits a glancing blow and spins the milk round and round the jug in a circle. When you can't bear to hold the jug anymore, sink the nozzle back down as you quickly shut off the steam. This will stop huge bubbles. There should be no visible bubbles in the surface and if you swirl the milk round in the jug it should have the consistency of double cream.

 

I think because people are used to milk drinks having mountains of thick froth they think it is a good thing.

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Expobarista I followed techniques as demonstrated on numerous youtube videos but I literally can't get that nice backflow from aiming the wand against the side of the jug.

I think my steam wand may be low on power. Any way to tell?

 

Sort of wish I had a classic to get the rancilio wand upgrade.

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Any chance of a video of what you're doing?

 

This morning when I was making the missus a latte I pointed it at the bottom of the jug at an angle and it made a lovely thick milk that poured out together perfectly.


Rocket Appartamento | Mahlkonig Vario | 58mm Rocket tamper | AeroPress | VST 18g basket | HappyDonkey Bottomless PortaFilter

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Steaming microfoam requires two parts. Firstly, stretching the milk. That's putting in the bubbles, which it sounds like you may well be doing right. The second part is texturing. This means blending the bubbles and milk into an even mixture. My experience is that the pressure of a gaggia steam wand is a bit wimpy for this part. That tends to mean that the milk is not as evenly mixed as is ideal (without over heating the milk). Tips to help this:

 

stretch with the wand near the surface quickly, so you have as much time as possible with the wand deeper in the jug to texture.

focus on getting a spin/whirlpool established.

pour immediately after stretching. Once left, it will start to separate.

pour reasonably slowly to start with - this pours off the higher density milk with few bubbles. Pour faster when you want to add foam, since this is lower density and will not come out of the jug when poured slowly. This principle is used for latte art.

 

I've made passable microfoam (and latte art) with a Gaggia Classic and default steam wand - but it's a lot harder than on more powerful machines.


Mahlkonig Vario, Dualit grinder, V60 (paper & cloth filters), 1-3 cup Chemex, Porlex Grinder, Kantans, Kalita Wave, Bodum French press, Various Ibriks, Turkish Coffee Hand Grinder, Bialetti Mini Express, Moka Pot, AeroPress, TCA-5 syphon and lots of tasty coffee :drink:

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I saw a video (and if i find it again, i'll post a url), where the training technique was as follows.

 

get the jug. put in as much water as you'd use milk. the recommendation was 100-120ml of water/milk per cup.

 

add the smallest amount of liquid dish soap as possible. literally one drip.

 

Then place the tip of the wand just below the surface of the milk/water/soap.

 

Gently turn on the steam,

 

then back out off the wand untill you just start to hear a "tearing" sound. you should see the water go milk coloured, and small bubbles start to form.

 

then hold the wand there until the milk/water had increased in size by ~30%. a little more, a little less.

 

now drop the tip of the wand into the milk.

 

if you go too far, it will "squeal like a piggy". Not far enough, and it will continue to stretch.

 

Now tip the jug slightly to one side, so the the steam of steam hits the far side of the jug, re-bounds to the bottom, and starts the milk swirling.

 

if there's no motion in the milk, "swirl" the jug to get it started.

 

you need to continue this untill you cant keep your hand on the side of the jug anymore.

 

 

return jug to horizontal, and turn off the steam.

 

Tap the jug on the counter-top a few times, and wipe down the steam nozzle.

 

 

edit:

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Just a quick note, the above technique doesn't work with a pannerello

 

That's one of the one's that's usually attached to a Gaggia, and has a double layer wand, with a hole at the top that sucks more air in.

..

and in my experience made lots of very dry foam.

 

...

 

(and two days into owning a Rancilio Silvia, I've come to the conclusion that there's a knack to steaming milk. And i don't have it)

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Tasty, tasty, tasty Is the rule of thumb, of course there are parameters to what espresso is, but they are there to be used as guidelines, remember when you learned to drive, everyone said you only really learn after you pass your test. Well the same applies to making espresso, learn the basics get that 25ml +/- 5 ml in 25 sec etc etc. But then once you know what you're doing as Roland said let your tastebuds rule.

 

1. Water taste the water you'll be using if you're using a tanked machine lots of different types of mineral water out there. Also if you're tap water tastes horrid, there are ways around this too, by using mineral water from big bottles. (be careful with this one) but it can be cheaper than some of the expensive filtration methods you may need to use.

 

2. Making milky drinks? taste the milk again loads to choose from, I personally use filtered milk as a. I prefer the taste and b It is peforms far more consistently when foaming

 

3. Of Course taste you're espresso, obviously if you like it change nothing, if you think it tastes slightly out ask questions.

 

 

but ultimately taste everything that u use from the water going in cold, water from the boiler hot, milk cold, milk steamed and of course taste that espresso. once you've learned the basics there are so many tweaks you can do to make the same bean taste so very different when you play with brew time dose etc.

 

but as roland said your taste buds are king


Lots of brewing equipment</A>

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I recently had some practise on creating micro foam, and I found using the right size jug and amount of milk makes a big difference. Takes a lot of practise and Im not all the way there yet.

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Great! Many thanks for the tips! I love ding different coffee experiments at home. I can only add - watch videos, there are so many of them on youtube and at the end of the day, the best way to learn (at least for me) is by watching!

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Sounds like you haven't actually made microfoam, but have blown over large bubbles onto the surface of your milk. Get the nozzle in deep enough so that it isn't blowing bubbles then raise it until you hear that sucking noise....lower it fractionally in so that the noise disappears and keep it there. When you put the nozzle in, have it in at an angle so that the steam hits a glancing blow and spins the milk round and round the jug in a circle. When you can't bear to hold the jug anymore, sink the nozzle back down as you quickly shut off the steam. This will stop huge bubbles. There should be no visible bubbles in the surface and if you swirl the milk round in the jug it should have the consistency of double cream.

 

I think because people are used to milk drinks having mountains of thick froth they think it is a good thing.

 

I dont appear to have a thanks button or I would have clicked it, this is a very very useful post thank you...

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I have a steel foaming jug and a milk thermometer, which I generally use for making cappuccino for 2. However I've 'calibrated my hand' to some extent now, so if I'm just making a single caffè latte for myself in the morning I can pull a couple of shots, then steam the milk directly in the mug. Purists may disagree (what coffee shop would do it?) but the advantage is that you don't lose any of the foam that is otherewise apt to stay in the jug. I find that I can stretch the milk just right, creating a good vortex, and now I know exactly how hot the mug feels when it's time to plunge in and texturise for the last 20° (i.e stretch until 40°, texturise until 60°). I never use the thermometer now if using the mug, but still use it with the steel jug because the surface temperatures are much higher and it's harder to get right. (It's easier to differentiate between "warm" and "hot" than it is between "very hot" and "ouch!"). I normally fill the mug to halfway, then purge the steam wand to expel lurking jets of water. Then poke the tip in at an angle as described above, get some bubbles spinning round, watch as the bigger bubbles go back under the wand and become tiny bubbles. Keep this up until all foam is suitably 'micro', and as the mug starts to feel warm, go deeper and get the vortex spinning to bind the foam and the steamed milk together, and get some texture into the milk. This is possible even using a lowly DeLonghi EC702, no special wands. But the thing that made the biggest difference was realising that the stupid "cappuccino attachment" or whatever it's called that came on my machine is just a waste of time. Like playing guitar with gloves on to paraphrase Walter Trout. Once I binned the plastic attachment and could see what I was doing with the bare wand, all became a lot easier.

 

The freshness of the milk is a big factor – milk that's been kicking around a few days doesn't foam as well.


Rocket R58Ceado E37SAeropressAerGrind • Puck Puck cold brew widget • VST 18g basket • Torr Goldfinger 58.5 convex black Ti/walnut tamper • Torr Goldfinger 58.5 flat sharp edge tamper • Big bag o' beans • Triumph Street Triple 675R

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