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islandlad

Having great difficulty in achieving the elusive ristretto

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Hi all, as the title suggests, I'm ripping my hair out chasing the ever elusive tasty ristretto.

 

My aim is to have a luscious, gloopy, sweet, chocolatey, short (1:1) shot. I know they exist as I've tasted them in the outside world so I don't think I'm chasing the unattainable.

 

My set up is a Gaggia Classic dialled down to 6 bar, PID (94C), Iberital MC2 grinder, and a reliable supply of freshly roasted (medium) beans. What would arguably be considered a decent starting point.

 

While I used to pull fairly decent shots (acceptable balance but not as gloopy and sweet as I've tasted elsewhere), everything went slightly haywire when I got my hands on some VST baskets (15g and 18g). I could easily go back to my stock (very poorly machined) basket, but I'm willing to go through the hassle of troubleshooting my new baskets if they translate into better and more evenly extracted shots.

 

I've tried both baskets and had a different experience with each. I briefly described these in another post but a) don't want to hijack original post and b) have more details below.

 

15g basket aka The Devil's Work/Finnicky Little B*st*rd

In an ideal world, I'd love to be able to use this basket. As I only drink short ristrettos, I figure that any more dry coffee would simply be a waste. Compounded by the fact that I regularly read that traditional Italian bar coffees (which I adore and am thus using as my benchmark) are based on 14g doses. As it works in the outside world, I'd love to get that dose to work for me.

 

My issues with this basket are many and, I suspect as with anything espresso, complex.

1) I accept that my starting point for my 'recipe' is dose and that I should start with 15±1g. However, there is no way in heck that I can get that much coffee in that basket without the puck touching the shower screen pre extraction. 13-14g will only fit if I tamp with super human strength, and that only leaves the slightest of clearances (sub mm I estimate). My suspicion is that the stated 15g is based on the use of light roasts. My medium roast may be occupying more volume for the same mass of light roast. I thus end up dosing something which is closer to 13g.

2) When I do dose around the 13g dose, I still have to tamp hard in order to get the portafilter to lock in without marking of the puck. Given the low dose, I end up having to grind very fine in order to avoid gushers. The end result is what I suspect to be micro channelling and a shot of absolutely atrocious taste. So harsh that it's pretty hard to tell whether it's bitter or sour.

3) As I haven't yet got my hands on a naked PF, the only diagnostic tool I've got beyond my tongue is the extracted puck (which I know can provide very little useful info). In any case, my puck is always essentially a fused mass (most likely due to extremely fine grind combined with hard tamping) along with a mini crater always at the same spot (may/may not be a post extraction thing).

 

Quite simply, my question is, based on the above info and given my aim, is the 15g basket the wrong tool for my job?

 

 

18g basket

This guy brought some respite. I still had to underdose (16g) due to the packing/roast issue but things seemed to be moving in the right direction (despite my reluctance to shift towards a larger shot). The crater was still present in exactly the same location but seemingly smaller. If I remember correctly, it pretty much vanished on doses closer to 17g. Again, the diagnostic value of a post extraction puck is dubious. Taste-wise, shots were strong but lacking any complexity (no chocolate, no caramel whatsoever). Strong yet zero depth if that makes any sense.

 

Would this be a case of under extraction? I'm quite sure that I'll end up choking the machine if I grind any finer though. Alternatively, much as I don't want a long shot, would I need to aim for one in order to achieve some degree of tastiness?

 

Any guidance or general direction would be greatly appreciated :D

Edited by islandlad

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Question your dose is weighed to 0.1g?

Re under extraction. Any ristretto at 1:1 will be nominally under extracted. That's not the point the, the point is how it tastes to you.

Your weak point is the grinder....

Whats the coffee? If its medium ish is would still have thought 14 g on a vst is achievable...

Lastly try your nominal stock basket. Using vst for 1:1 ristretto style shots isn't playing to their forte on terms of getting maximum extraction from a coffee.

Ignore the puck.

Re cafes you have been to where they pulling a 1:1 shot.

You don't have to drink by what's defined by one ratio perhaps pulling a little more water through would give you more sweetness and less strength. Say 1:1.5


I write a blog, it's nothing to do with coffee ...

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All your 1:1 shots are going to be under-extracted, it's just a question of finding the level of under-extraction you like. Bitter won't mean over-extraction, but sourness may oddly mean that you are exracting too much, as there is a sweet stage before sourness kicks in. I don't see any 1:1 shot being particularly complex.

 

If you're looking for chocolatey flavours, then make sure you are buying chocolatey beans (Brazil, Bolivia). There isn't really a level of extraction that screams "chocolate". What are the beans you are using?

 

Is that additional 2-3g in a 17-18g shot really a big deal in extra/wasted coffee?

 

+/-1g of dose is a fairly large variance, if your scales read to 1g they might actually be +/-3g. Use 0.1g scales minimum.

 

Not sure why you need to tamp very hard.

 

Why not pull a few more shots & tell us dose, output, shot time & what you think is wrong with them, one by one?


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

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Question your dose is weighed to 0.1g?

 

Yes dose is weighed accurately and precisely to 0.1g.

 

Your weak point is the grinder....

 

What exactly would you say the Iberital MC2 lacks for ristretto making purposes, and what should I potentially be looking for?

 

Whats the coffee? If its medium ish is would still have thought 14 g on a vst is achievable...

 

I knew that roast would affect dose density, but by golly it's a significant effect. This was a medium roast, approaching dark judging by the amount of surface oils. For the sake of experimentation I've also picked up some medium beans which are definitely lighter than my previous beans.

 

Lastly try your nominal stock basket. Using vst for 1:1 ristretto style shots isn't playing to their forte on terms of getting maximum extraction from a coffee.

Ignore the puck.

Re cafes you have been to where they pulling a 1:1 shot.

You don't have to drink by what's defined by one ratio perhaps pulling a little more water through would give you more sweetness and less strength. Say 1:1.5

 

All very valid observations.

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All your 1:1 shots are going to be under-extracted, it's just a question of finding the level of under-extraction you like. Bitter won't mean over-extraction, but sourness may oddly mean that you are extracting too much, as there is a sweet stage before sourness kicks in.

 

Very interesting, did not know that.

 

If you're looking for chocolatey flavours, then make sure you are buying chocolatey beans (Brazil, Bolivia). There isn't really a level of extraction that screams "chocolate". What are the beans you are using?

 

Re. beans I pick up freshly roasted (1 or 2 days post roast) Allegro Sierra beans directly from Whole Foods. I'm aware they're probably not the absolute best quality, but I thought they might be a decent option before upgrading to more serious stuff.

 

Is that additional 2-3g in a 17-18g shot really a big deal in extra/wasted coffee?

 

Not a bank buster, more of a niggling mentality probably.

 

+/-1g of dose is a fairly large variance, if your scales read to 1g they might actually be +/-3g. Use 0.1g scales minimum.

 

Yes, I always weigh to 0.1g. Was only trying to give a general idea of things.

 

Not sure why you need to tamp very hard.

 

My only reason for tamping hard is to attempt to fill to basket as close as possible to its rated dose. e.g. 14g of my medium-dark beans will never ever fit fit in the 15g basket without seriously jamming up against the shower screen were it not for very hard tamping (which obviously has its own serious knock on effects).

 

Why not pull a few more shots & tell us dose, output, shot time & what you think is wrong with them, one by one?

 

Indeed I will. Just figured I'd ask for some general direction/pointers. Already grateful for the replies :)

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Re the grinder. You should be able to make decent espresso with it. My point was compared to a cafe, its the weak link. Perhaps try and get some of the beans from. A cafe to use.

Personally I'd let beans rest 5-7 past roast date to more consistent results from them as espresso.

2days is a bit too fresh for me and you can find that the grind needs changing over those few days and the taste can be different.


I write a blog, it's nothing to do with coffee ...

https://rjwinc.wordpress.com

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Never thought about the importance of resting the beans. Everyone rightly emphasises the importance of fresh beans but I've somehow never read up on the pitfalls of taking it to an extreme. Thanks :good:

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Your weak point is the grinder....

This, you can perfect with it.


GaggiaEnthusiast

 

Buying expensive equipment won't make you barista!

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Ristretto ?? Almost each time I ask for an Espresso in a cafe/restaurant, I'm served a Ristretto. Aargh !!

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Never thought about the importance of resting the beans. Everyone rightly emphasises the importance of fresh beans but I've somehow never read up on the pitfalls of taking it to an extreme. Thanks :good:

 

Do you know how the cafes you go to making a ristretto

It is there base drink or is it a additional menu choice.

If it's not their base drink then I susoecy they are simply cutting the shot short rather than dialling in a one to one ratio for a ristretto then re dialling in for their base drink of a normale.


I write a blog, it's nothing to do with coffee ...

https://rjwinc.wordpress.com

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Why oh why would a ristetto produce a sweet goopy drink? A link to the beans you are using might help.

 

John

-


In Use Sage DB+IMS Shower Screen, Niche. Others Sage BE, Mazer Mini A,. Projects Little Gem, Gaggia M7D

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Why oh why would a ristetto produce a sweet goopy drink? A link to the beans you are using might help.

 

John

-

 

See post #5


Plumbed in Vesuvius - BWT Bestmax - Niche in Black. Aeropress and Aergrind

 

Live and Let Live

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Interesting and informative thread, thanks from me.

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See post #5

 

I don't see that it has to be like that which is why I asked which beans.

 

Also the OP seems to want 16g shots out so should have asked how he is drinking those - espresso, milk based or americano style.

 

John

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In Use Sage DB+IMS Shower Screen, Niche. Others Sage BE, Mazer Mini A,. Projects Little Gem, Gaggia M7D

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Kenny meant see post 5 for the link to the beans... I suppose information gets lost easily in really long posts...

 

___

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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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Kenny meant see post 5 for the link to the beans... I suppose information gets lost easily in really long posts...

 

___

Eat, drink and be merry

 

LOL Missed that. Can't say I am impressed by the choice. For a start they aren't intended for espresso machines.

 

I can understand some one wanting cheap initially but having a stock of beans about when I bought a machine I can say they are likely to taste very different via an espresso machine. Did I see decaf as well. Not used here much but understand that they can need finer grinding even for normal ratios.

 

Ok so chocolate and reasonably cheap is needed. This might suite and is intended for espresso machines

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000SDMFC0/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Stating that certain baskets always hold a certain weight may or may not work out. The density of the beans varies. I'd be inclined to say the above one is a bit on the light side.

 

It's a fairly strong bean and seems to me to like shorter ratios. Another bean they do likes very high ratios. It also grinds fairly easily but does tend to clump a bit. I was using 17g into a 300g americano. Can't remember the shot size clearly but thing it was 40 odd out. Something like 1 to 2.6 often works out for the correct taste but it can be all over the place.

 

I'd also wonder how a commercial outlet produces ristretto. They usually use volume machines with buttons that are programmed for a certain shot size. Suppose that they may have a ristretto button or discard some flow which would be more correct or they may simply increase the dose of grinds. Pretty probably I would have thought.

 

Personally I would expect a ristretto to change the taste. Say I have managed to tune some bean to give exactly the taste it should have in the usual 30 sec. I'd reduce the 30 sec to produce a ristretto. If then too weak I'd increase the dose. It may also make a drink sweet. It does on one I use a lot.

 

John

-


In Use Sage DB+IMS Shower Screen, Niche. Others Sage BE, Mazer Mini A,. Projects Little Gem, Gaggia M7D

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I get that the beans I'm currently using, and my grinder, aren't top notch. While I'm definitely interested in a Mignon, I won't be pulling the trigger till later this year. Beans, I'll eventually experiment with something else.

 

Can't say I am impressed by the choice. For a start they aren't intended for espresso machines.

 

Out of curiosity, what makes a bean specifically suited for espresso machines vs. say, drip? What does one need to look out for?

 

Given my current setup, the essence of my question is more related to the baskets I'm using:

Stock Gaggia 14g basket = Decent ristrettos with sweetness (using the same Allegro beans linked in post #5)

VST 15/18g baskets (with dose/grind/time adjusted accordingly) = Bad/tasteless ristrettos (same beans)

 

I was simply wondering whether the general consensus is that VST baskets are the wrong tool for this job (and I am thus fighting a losing battle and would be better off reverting to the stock basket), or whether they can be made to work for ristrettos and it's just a case of more work homing in on the right dose/grind/time. Post #2 seems to indicate that they're not the ideal tool for my current setup.

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I get that the beans I'm currently using, and my grinder, aren't top notch. While I'm definitely interested in a Mignon, I won't be pulling the trigger till later this year. Beans, I'll eventually experiment with something else.

 

 

 

Out of curiosity, what makes a bean specifically suited for espresso machines vs. say, drip? What does one need to look out for?

 

Given my current setup, the essence of my question is more related to the baskets I'm using:

Stock Gaggia 14g basket = Decent ristrettos with sweetness (using the same Allegro beans linked in post #5)

VST 15/18g baskets (with dose/grind/time adjusted accordingly) = Bad/tasteless ristrettos (same beans)

 

I was simply wondering whether the general consensus is that VST baskets are the wrong tool for this job (and I am thus fighting a losing battle and would be better off reverting to the stock basket), or whether they can be made to work for ristrettos and it's just a case of more work homing in on the right dose/grind/time. Post #2 seems to indicate that they're not the ideal tool for my current setup.

 

Assuming your coffee is roasted nominally, nothing makes a bean more suited to espresso over drip. If you are under-extracting, then darker roasts can be less sharp/tart, but if you're really under-extracting you can sneak in under this.

 

You mention grind & time being adjusted accordingly, but you haven't told us what these things are?

 

If you prefer the results from the Gaggia basket, use that. VST baskets are designed to pull 1:3, 1:2, 1:1.4 at the same grind & dose, the job you're trying to do isn't a commonly undertaken job.


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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I'm not getting into why certain sources of beans aren't suitable for an espresso machine. I've tried a number of sources, usually they aren't. Might be blend maybe processing. I suspect it's to make the bean easier to get a decent level of extraction using methods many people use eg french press. Result in many cases is a distinctive taste via an espresso machine that I don't see as coffee related. Maybe the bean linked to is an exception as there are a couple I have come across. ;) If it wasn't on pantry I'd try some - curiosity. Maybe when I try and find some decent marmalade.

 

I'm using a basket rather similar style wise on my DB except it's shallower and tops out at 14g maybe a tiny bit more. I don't have much of a problem with it. I take some care to get an even tamping pressure all over the top of the puck by part tamping with an amazon £20 and a bit chisel type distribution tool ideally directly onto a nice neat central heap of grinds without doing anything to them. I follow it with a similarly priced amazon calibrated tamper set to about 15kg - ;) semi light. The chisel tool has to be run around a bit off centre to do the edge. I also iron the edge of the puck by polishing with a BIT of pressure using the tamper the same way. Minor difference to just a straight tamp. Main thing seems to be the levelling tool. Some buy a certain sized tamper - not much good for me I'd need 2 so have to make do with 58mm.

 

Using Niche there's no nice central heap so I just take care to do the same thing with the grinds and can each time. Results low in the basket and lopsided so stick the chisel tool in at 90 degrees to that and rotate circa 180 each way then completely round, Then me usual tamp. I have tried tapping the side of the portafilter to level things first, not impressed but may change my mind.

 

Results. Some drips during infusion, might get 2 streams very briefly then one. Oddly I'm getting more straight into one from Niche :) I wouldn't be inclined to put that down as an advantage for the grinder.

 

Why do this - I don't want much variation when I press a button to get a 30sec shot. Tamping just cropped up as I was Nitched and needed to retune. As I was getting circa 38g out I upped the tamp to 20kg. Looks like it brings it down to circa 33. I wont be doing enough at that pressure to be totally sure.

 

John

-


In Use Sage DB+IMS Shower Screen, Niche. Others Sage BE, Mazer Mini A,. Projects Little Gem, Gaggia M7D

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I'm not getting into why certain sources of beans aren't suitable for an espresso machine.....

 

John

-

 

Oh, I rather think you are getting into it.

 

If the beans you have, 'have a distinctive taste that is not coffee related', it's because something you did made it taste like that. It's got nothing to do with espresso, per se.

 

More beans work as espresso, than say, work as filter.


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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I think you need to look at sourcing some freshly roasted beans before changing equipment. As already mentioned, an upgrade to grinder would help, however, a top of the range grinder would not make an old or un-rested bean taste good.

 

Look at some of the commonly used roasters as noted on the forum and pick up a few bags and go from there.

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Oh, I rather think you are getting into it.

 

If the beans you have, 'have a distinctive taste that is not coffee related', it's because something you did made it taste like that. It's got nothing to do with espresso, per se.

 

More beans work as espresso, than say, work as filter.

 

Sound like I have tried a lot more of them than you have :whistle:

 

John

-


In Use Sage DB+IMS Shower Screen, Niche. Others Sage BE, Mazer Mini A,. Projects Little Gem, Gaggia M7D

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Sound like I have tried a lot more of them than you have :whistle:

 

John

-

 

Doubtful.


“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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