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Sour single shot help (example vids)


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Hey guys,

Looking for some opinions and also help (I think!)

I drink my espresso shots with milk (flat white), and have never really bothered tasting the espresso I've made until recently. Why? Because I've recently got back into obsessing over this stuff and watching people pour shots, taste them and then comment on how they taste "sweet, nutty and chocolatey" etc and I wondered if mine did.

So I've got our my Red Brick Espresso from Square Mile (15 days after roast date), put 10g in the single basket and have been making my shots as normal (they taste great in milk) but then also sipping the espresso. Ugh - sour (or bitter?) but definitely not sweet, nutty or anything else people describe their shots as. The only tasting note I'm getting close to on the packet is Orange - a massively unripe one!

Do I just not have a sophisticated enough palette? 

I've just done a couple of shots for you guys to take a look at on my Barista Express:

Shot 1:

Grind size: 6
Time: 25 seconds for 20g

Shot 2:

Grind size: 5
Time: 26 seconds for 20g

Thoughts? Too fast...too slow? Just crap all overall?

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So i just did a double shot. Took a while for it to start coming out, but when it did it was flowing nicely through 1 side and dripping through the other initially - so there's channelling issues.

Shot definitely smelt better and I could actually taste something other than sourness, but there was still quite a bit of sourness there.

Is this just a channelling/tamp issue? Shall I go a bit coarser?

Thanks :D

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You probably shouldn't go coarser, not at the same ratio anyway.

Going finer might cause other issues but could be worth a try.

Could be best going to a longer ratio with things as they are.

Does the machine do pre-infusion? 

Singles are notoriously difficult to do. 

Edited by Rob1
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30 minutes ago, Rob1 said:

You probably shouldn't go coarser, not at the same ratio anyway.

Going finer might cause other issues but could be worth a try.

Could be best going to a longer ratio with things as they are.

Does the machine do pre-infusion? 

Singles are notoriously difficult to do. 

Yeah i gathered from reading around (RE: singles).

I'll carry on with doubles until I can sort this issue out then :) 

It does indeed do pre-infusion and can do it manually - is there a specific amount of time you'd recommend doing it for?

Thanks!

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30 minutes ago, Griffo said:

Yeah i gathered from reading around (RE: singles).

I'll carry on with doubles until I can sort this issue out then :) 

It does indeed do pre-infusion and can do it manually - is there a specific amount of time you'd recommend doing it for?

Thanks!

It depends on the grind really. Pre-infusion will make the shot run faster at the same grind setting. You don't want to be grinding too fine with the built in grinder so a short pre-infusion might help get a more even extraction, without needing to grind much finer. The extraction seemed to start pretty much straight away so I'd say try pre-infusion for about 8 seconds or something and see if it improves. Don't worry about time going over 30 seconds. 

As above too, work on distribution.   

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1 hour ago, Rob1 said:

You probably shouldn't go coarser, not at the same ratio anyway.

Going finer might cause other issues but could be worth a try.

Could be best going to a longer ratio with things as they are.

Does the machine do pre-infusion? 

Singles are notoriously difficult to do. 

Singles aren’t hard to do on sages at all.

However you need a relatively fine and very consistent grind in my experience. The sage grinder is pretty much incapable of this for anything other than a medium low density bean (going light or SHB seems to rapidly find the grinder out)

So essentially you need a different grinder. 
So I guess they are difficult if you use the sage grinder 

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3 hours ago, jonnycooper29 said:

Just watched the videos, seems to be a bit all over the place. Maybe try working on distribution?

Sent from my SM-A405FN using Tapatalk
 

 

3 hours ago, Rob1 said:

It depends on the grind really. Pre-infusion will make the shot run faster at the same grind setting. You don't want to be grinding too fine with the built in grinder so a short pre-infusion might help get a more even extraction, without needing to grind much finer. The extraction seemed to start pretty much straight away so I'd say try pre-infusion for about 8 seconds or something and see if it improves. Don't worry about time going over 30 seconds. 

As above too, work on distribution.   

Any tips for distribution before my tool arrives? - the coffee comes out of the grinder in huge clumps mostly!

2 hours ago, TomHughes said:

Singles aren’t hard to do on sages at all.

However you need a relatively fine and very consistent grind in my experience. The sage grinder is pretty much incapable of this for anything other than a medium low density bean (going light or SHB seems to rapidly find the grinder out)

So essentially you need a different grinder. 
So I guess they are difficult if you use the sage grinder 

Do you have any recommendations on a grinder? I’ve been looking at the Niche Zero, but this won’t be able to get here until September. Is there anything as good, or better, at a similar price (or less)?

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13 minutes ago, Griffo said:

 

Any tips for distribution before my tool arrives? - the coffee comes out of the grinder in huge clumps mostly!

Do you have any recommendations on a grinder? I’ve been looking at the Niche Zero, but this won’t be able to get here until September. Is there anything as good, or better, at a similar price (or less)?

I have a mignon which works very well. 
I wouldn’t bother with the tool, just grind into a cup and whizz up with a cocktail stick then dump into PF with funnel in place and level out with your finger

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Break up the clumps with a cocktail stick. I just tap to distribute and use one of the tools but the tool doesn't really do that much. What it does do it does consistently though, and I find the best way to use it is to try to prepare the bed as you usually would (get it fairly flat) and then the distribution tool really flattens the top out and/or effectively performs a really heavy tamp.

You won't get a better grinder or a grinder as good at a similar price point. A little more puts you into commercial territory, and you might find second hand OD large flats like the Ceado E37s. Doser versions of Mazzer Royals and Majors go for less than a Niche. Then you've got second hand Mythi (Mythos) for about £600-700. For less money a Eureka Mignon is ok and if you're just drinking coffee with milk there might not be much point in spending more.

 

Edited by Rob1
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13 hours ago, TomHughes said:

I have a mignon which works very well. 
I wouldn’t bother with the tool, just grind into a cup and whizz up with a cocktail stick then dump into PF with funnel in place and level out with your finger

 

13 hours ago, Rob1 said:

Break up the clumps with a cocktail stick. I just tap to distribute and use one of the tools but the tool doesn't really do that much. What it does do it does consistently though, and I find the best way to use it is to try to prepare the bed as you usually would (get it fairly flat) and then the distribution tool really flattens the top out and/or effectively performs a really heavy tamp.

You won't get a better grinder or a grinder as good at a similar price point. A little more puts you into commercial territory, and you might find second hand OD large flats like the Ceado E37s. Doser versions of Mazzer Royals and Majors go for less than a Niche. Then you've got second hand Mythi (Mythos) for about £600-700. For less money a Eureka Mignon is ok and if you're just drinking coffee with milk there might not be much point in spending more.

 

Thanks guys.

So this morning i made a double shot (grinded into a cup and gave the grounds a stir) and did 8 seconds pre-infusion and then let it run until i had 36g in the cup. There was still some channeling issues, but not as much.

Result? Way better. It actually tasted of something that wasn't just sour, or less sour. I can't quite put my finger on what the taste was, but it was pretty damn pleasant in comparison. My flat white was much better and sweeter for it, too. I guess i just need to work on distribution still!

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Hey guys,

So I have some more issues. I’ve just started on my Rave signature blend doing double shots (18g in and 36g out). Roasted on 15th this month.

Don’t seem to be getting channeling issues now due to stirring the grinds and funnelling them in. 

The shot I just did came out in 39 seconds and now just tastes bitter. 

Is that shot time way too long? Have I gone too far grind-wise? Currently on setting 4 on the grinder.

Thanks!

Edited by Griffo
Added roasted date
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Isn't espresso fun? You think you've nailed it and then you switch to a new bean and it's a whole new process.

It's pretty difficult to say re: time. The best thing you can do is try a few shots by ONLY adjusting the grinder, go back to a 5, even a 6 and just taste taste taste.

Wouldn't worry too much about time - some say some beans can take 20 secs for a good shot, some 50 secs... it's not an ideal of measuring.

Which basket are you using btw (pressurised or normal)? Can't see it mentioned in OP or in thread. I can't remember what the BE comes with.

Edited by Danz0r
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2 hours ago, Danz0r said:

Isn't espresso fun? You think you've nailed it and then you switch to a new bean and it's a whole new process.

It's pretty difficult to say re: time. The best thing you can do is try a few shots by ONLY adjusting the grinder, go back to a 5, even a 6 and just taste taste taste.

Wouldn't worry too much about time - some say some beans can take 20 secs for a good shot, some 50 secs... it's not an ideal of measuring.

Which basket are you using btw (pressurised or normal)? Can't see it mentioned in OP or in thread. I can't remember what the BE comes with.

Fun indeed! Normal basket.

You know what? I’ve had this machine around 3 years now and it’s only just occurred to me to clean the grinder...oh my god I’m so embarrassed it was all absolutely covered in coffee. I removed the top burr (think that’s what it’s called) and there was just really hard ground coffee at the bottom of it around the metal that does the grinding. I had to get a paper clip and also use the brush to get it loose. I’m surprise the grinder worked with how jammed it was.

I’ve always done the “clean me” cleaning cycle and also descaled it regularly but never bothered to clean this part of the machine.

Maybe not having a grinder full of 3 years worth of coffee will give me better results... I’ll report back!

Edited by Griffo
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Rave signature blend is medium dark right? 
Based on tasting notes I am guessing it is a blend of cheapish low grown Brazilian and maybe an ethiopian sidamo to add a bit of citrus, maybe with some Columbian in there.  (One thing I very much dislike about Rave is a lack of bean specifics in the blends) 

Based on my own roasting and blends I would do this. 

1. Rest longer, sometimes it can take 2 weeks for those bitter roasty notes on a darker roast to fad, particularly a porous bean like a low grown. 

2. Cut shorter, 1:2 max, maybe even 1.15, so say 18g in and 25-30g out. As a dark roast extracts longer it tends to bring out more bitterness. 

3. Drop the temp on the machine to it's lowest setting. On the Pro there are 5 temp settings, I use the lowest for Brazilian, my measurements put this around 89C, reduces the bitterness. And I use the top setting for a light roast SHB - about 95-96. 

4. Finally, medium dark roasts are bitter, it's what they are meant to be, bitter sweet. If you are not getting the sweet you may be getting too much bitterness and it masks it so try the above. 

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Thanks guys - lots to try out!

After cleaning out the grinder I made it a bit coarser and pulled a shot. Not totally disgusting and definitely had some flavour there that wasn’t just bitter and horribleness!

Gonna go one finer on the grind tomorrow and see if that nails it! Wish me luck!

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I think it’s a LOT better now, I’d just like to slow it down a bit more, so I’m going 1 grind size finer, but fear it will be too much.

I wish there was an in between grind sizes on this thing. Pretty sure I’ll order the Niche tonight!

Edit: couldn’t wait - just ordered the niche!

Edited by Griffo
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4 hours ago, Griffo said:

I think it’s a LOT better now, I’d just like to slow it down a bit more, so I’m going 1 grind size finer, but fear it will be too much.

I wish there was an in between grind sizes on this thing. Pretty sure I’ll order the Niche tonight!

Edit: couldn’t wait - just ordered the niche!

Slow it down more than 39 seconds?

The thing to remember is ratio sets strength, not extraction. Your grind sets extraction. You could be seeing defects by pushing the grinder too far/grinding too fine to try and achieve a high extraction at a low ratio. You are probably not over-extracting and getting bitterness, more likely getting bitterness from silt. The first thing to do in your case would be coarsen the grind a touch, pull to the same ratio and see if the bitterness went and you got a good espresso. If your shot becomes sour you're probably under extracting. There's a point between this and a good extraction that can be bitter which could be where you were before. If you push extraction up a little more you might get a good shot. Grinding finer (longer shot time) might results in problems with silt if they aren't there already so you might have to just increase the ratio to increase extraction instead. 

People mainly seem to have problems when they think of bitterness as over extraction. It probably isn't, not at a 1:2. Decreasing your ratio will decrease strength and extraction at the same grind setting. That might help get a shot that tastes acceptable but it isn't necessarily (almost certainly isn't) going to be the best you can achieve and it might not be what you want at all.

In short, with your existing equipment a 1:2 is probably pushing it -- you probably see quite a bit of silt in the cup when it's empty if you let it settle? Even with the Niche I think a 1:2 is pushing it. The coarser you grind the more you get away from this issue. If a 1:2 is bitter you might find you get past the bitterness by increasing the ratio, you may/may not grind a little coarser too.

https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2017/12/17/the-21-ratio  

EDIT: This is just a bit of general advice. Now you've cleaned your grinder you might not need it.

Edited by Rob1
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40 minutes ago, Rob1 said:

Slow it down more than 39 seconds?

The thing to remember is ratio sets strength, not extraction. Your grind sets extraction. You could be seeing defects by pushing the grinder too far/grinding too fine to try and achieve a high extraction at a low ratio. You are probably not over-extracting and getting bitterness, more likely getting bitterness from silt. The first thing to do in your case would be coarsen the grind a touch, pull to the same ratio and see if the bitterness went and you got a good espresso. If your shot becomes sour you're probably under extracting. There's a point between this and a good extraction that can be bitter which could be where you were before. If you push extraction up a little more you might get a good shot. Grinding finer (longer shot time) might results in problems with silt if they aren't there already so you might have to just increase the ratio to increase extraction instead. 

People mainly seem to have problems when they think of bitterness as over extraction. It probably isn't, not at a 1:2. Decreasing your ratio will decrease strength and extraction at the same grind setting. That might help get a shot that tastes acceptable but it isn't necessarily (almost certainly isn't) going to be the best you can achieve and it might not be what you want at all.

In short, with your existing equipment a 1:2 is probably pushing it -- you probably see quite a bit of silt in the cup when it's empty if you let it settle? Even with the Niche I think a 1:2 is pushing it. The coarser you grind the more you get away from this issue. If a 1:2 is bitter you might find you get past the bitterness by increasing the ratio, you may/may not grind a little coarser too.

https://www.scottrao.com/blog/2017/12/17/the-21-ratio  

EDIT: This is just a bit of general advice. Now you've cleaned your grinder you might not need it.

Kinda.. ratio sets strength for sure, it will also effect how much you can extract. It’s very hard to get a shot around 20% extraction yield that is balanced with a brew ratio of 1:1 for example. 

The more water you put through the puck , the weaker that resulting shot ,but it will also increase the chances of the extraction being higher. 

At the other end you can only grind so fine with most grinders before you have a detrimental effect on extraction , so going finer it not always the best option for everyone. 

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