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OK, I'm back but sadly no further forward. Beans still need a bit of de-gas time but longer ratios have not helped.

One theory I had was that we have a (whole house) water softener so I did some tests with the (filtered) hard water that bypasses the salt blocks. That made no difference.

Next theory I am focussing on is that I have been blindly trusting the reading on my newly-installed PID. I just tested the water coming through the PF (no coffee) using the thermometer from my milk jug. Even with the PID set at 100 degrees C this water is never above 70 degrees C (the needle never gets beyond the 'green zone' recommend for milk). I'm not sure what sort of temperature drop one would expect after the brew head but I would not anticipate 30 degrees? I appreciate the milk jug thermometer is probably not super accurate but, even so.

In case there's someone out there using Mr Shades' PID that can advise, then here are my settings, along with my latest 'history of failure(!)'

Cc: @MrShades

PID Settings.png

Tests to 13th Feb.png

Edited by CrazySnakeUncle
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I don't understand such dismissive attitude, it could be a great benchmark.. for how espresso should *not* taste like. 😅

All of the ratios are pretty much the same, you need more significant changes there.  To relate to the examples: The very first shot on the first seemed close based on the description. You note s

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If your water is low in alkalinity your shots will taste sharp/acidic. I don't know anything about filters but filtering the water could well be reducing alkalinity...so how have you come to the conclusion water has been eliminated as the issue, through testing it for alkalinity and hardness? 

You're grinding coarser when your shots are sour which strikes me as odd, unless you're obviously grinding too fine which from the descriptions it doesn't appear you are. By grinding coarser you're decreasing extraction. If espresso extraction goes like this Balanced low --> Sour --> Balanced normal-high ---> Bitter. Gritty, silty --> Sour what you're probably doing is trying to go from the first sour zone to the low EY balanced zone. 

If you pulled a 1:3 and it was still sour pull a 1:4 and a 1:5 and see at what point it stops being sour. There are things that don't really make sense, like you pull the 1:3 at the same grind setting as the next shot at a 1:2. The 1:3 is less sour than the previous 1:2. You give the preceding 1:2 a taste score of 2, the 1:3 a taste score of 3, and the next two 1:2 ratio shots with the same grind setting a taste score of 2 while noting "taste improved". Without changing grind setting and moving from a 1:3 to a 1:2 I'd expect to see more sourness, not less, unless you dropped extraction to the point you were avoiding even getting into the sour zone as you would with a tight ristretto.

RE temp, did you stick the probe into the portafilter after letting it heat up in the machine or did you put the probe in a cup and measure the temp of the water after it had fallen from the portafilter to a cup? If you test with a cup you'll get a big temp drop, you'll also be able to compare with a kettle if you pour from the same height and at the same speed.

Also the beans could still need to rest for about a week more.

 

 

Edited by Rob1
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10 minutes ago, Rob1 said:

If your water is low in alkalinity your shots will taste sharp/acidic. I don't know anything about filters but filtering the water could well be reducing alkalinity...so how have you come to the conclusion water has been eliminated as the issue, through testing it for alkalinity and hardness? 

You're grinding coarser when your shots are sour which strikes me as odd, unless you're obviously grinding too fine which from the descriptions it doesn't appear you are. By grinding coarser you're decreasing extraction. If espresso extraction goes like this Balanced low --> Sour --> Balanced normal-high ---> Bitter. Gritty, silty --> Sour what you're probably doing is trying to go from the first sour zone to the low EY balanced zone. 

If you pulled a 1:3 and it was still sour pull a 1:4 and a 1:5 and see at what point it stops being sour. There are things that don't really make sense, like you pull the 1:3 at the same grind setting as the next shot at a 1:2. The 1:3 is less sour than the previous 1:2. You give the preceding 1:2 a taste score of 2, the 1:3 a taste score of 3, and the next two 1:2 ratio shots with the same grind setting a taste score of 2 while noting "taste improved". Without changing grind setting and moving from a 1:3 to a 1:2 I'd expect to see more sourness, not less, unless you dropped extraction to the point you were avoiding even getting into the sour zone as you would with a tight ristretto.

RE temp, did you stick the probe into the portafilter after letting it heat up in the machine or did you put the probe in a cup and measure the temp of the water after it had fallen from the portafilter to a cup? If you test with a cup you'll get a big temp drop, you'll also be able to compare with a kettle if you pour from the same height and at the same speed.

Also the beans could still need to rest for about a week more.

 

 

Thanks Rob.

When I said I'd eliminated water, I meant that I'd tried the softened mains that runs through the softener (salt blocks) AND the separate feed for drinking water that bypasses those blocks and runs to a (3-way) kitchen tap via a separate cylinder filter. So, for sure, it is easy for me to do further tests with bottled water and bypass both.

I am almost certainly over-analysing with the ratings of '2' and '3' - none of these shots are drinkable - there is no real sense of moving towards something better. At first I was unsure if I was getting 'bitter' or 'sour' but I'm pretty confident this is sourness which led me to believe under-extraction, hence why I turned  my attention to temps.

Whilst it might not appear to be the most methodical test plan I have stuck to changing one thing at a time and have now tried grind settings in the range "1.4" through "2.25", temps in the (PID indicated) range of 90 through 100, ratios in the range 1:1.9 through 1:3 and brew times in the range 18 through 51 secs.

I'll try those longer ratios (1:4, 1:5) as you suggest, but at 1:3 they were already getting weak/over-diluted. My understanding was that the end of a shot was where the acidity came from so that's why a reigned back at 1:3.

Temperature test was a jug under the empty PF. For comparison, boiling water from a kettle into the milk jug hits 85. So a reading 15 degrees 'low' but still 15 degrees more than water passed through the brew head when the PID is set to 100. Dodgy science, but that might indicate the brew temp at the puck is well under 90?

Beans - Yep, they are quite fizzy still.

So, in summary, next up I will try:

 - bottled water
 - longer ratios
 - finer grinds
 - (de-gas the beans another 7 days)

 

 

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Your 1:3 shots shouldn't be silty, nor taking 45+ seconds. 

Your grinder adjustments seem to flip flop, coarser, then finer then coarser. Ratios go short, long, short.

I'm not seeing an objective, or methodical path.

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8 minutes ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

When I said I'd eliminated water, I meant that I'd tried the softened mains that runs through the softener (salt blocks) AND the separate feed for drinking water that bypasses those blocks and runs to a (3-way) kitchen tap via a separate cylinder filter. So, for sure, it is easy for me to do further tests with bottled water and bypass both.

I'll try those longer ratios (1:4, 1:5) as you suggest, but at 1:3 they were already getting weak/over-diluted. My understanding was that the end of a shot was where the acidity came from so that's why a reigned back at 1:3.

ITemperature test was a jug under the empty PF. For comparison, boiling water from a kettle into the milk jug hits 85. So a reading 15 degrees 'low' but still 15 degrees more than water passed through the brew head when the PID is set to 100. Dodgy science, but that might indicate the brew temp at the puck is well under 90?

Beans - Yep, they are quite fizzy still.

So, in summary, next up I will try:

 - bottled water
 - longer ratios
 - finer grinds
 - (de-gas the beans another 7 days)

 

 

If your water is hard alkalinity isn't going to be low I just don't know what filtering does, which was my point. If water is high alkalinity it should be muting acidity but maybe it makes getting a balanced shot much harder. i.e. it could go from sour, to flat and dull, to chalky and bitter. Water quality is an easy to thing to sort out if you mix volvic and ashbeck or something.

I suggest the longer ratios purely as a diagnostic to see if you ever get past the sourness. I've not heard about acidity coming out later in a shot and it makes no sense to me to think of things like that.

Boiling water from a kettle, poured at the same rate from the same height will heat the jug and thermometer up faster than 93c water from the group so you can't compare a 15c loss to a 25c loss and say there must be something wrong. The flow rate and height are key, as is the starting temp of the milk jug and thermometer. I wouldn't be surprised to see 75-80c in a cup from the group. 

 

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12 minutes ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

I'll try those longer ratios (1:4, 1:5) as you suggest, but at 1:3 they were already getting weak/over-diluted. My understanding was that the end of a shot was where the acidity came from so that's why a reigned back at 1:3.

Under-extracted shots will be weaker than ideal, at any ratio.

Acidity/balance come from the total shot, based on grind & ratio. Not from any particular phase. You can still under-extract at 1:6, or more.

Very low extractions can be balanced but simple, slightly low can be overly sour & occasionally have bitterness too, "big hump" shots are balanced, with clarity & interesting acidity (a plus, not a fault).

 

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If the puck is wet it may be worth checking your fill height. A so called 18g basket can hold a range of weights on different machines. Easiest way is to prepare and tamp as usual making sure it's level, place either a 5p or 20p coin on,  fit remove and look at the impression the coin leaves. You want rather slight to none. Only problem is that if you get none you need to add to find out. If when actually used there is slight signs of compression against the shower screen that is generally ok but too much and extraction reduces quickly. As weight is decreased problems can crop up - you might be having one of them.

I've not weighed beans into a mignon but the point about popcorning is correct but usually not that extreme in terms of effects. The usual problem is making sure all of the grinds come out, puffs via a rubber camera lens hood to blow them out is pretty popular. Not a mod I have seen done on your grinder and probably suites ones with a wide throat such as Mazzer. With the hopper on with beans and timed doses instead the grind setting usually needs to be coarser. It would be rather unusual if it wasn't. I have managed to keep a dose pretty constant via a timer but as unlike a cafe we don't make huge numbers each one needs checking. The other option is to set one shot time for a top up dose and the other a bit short.  If the top up has a manual over ride practice can make perfect.

😅 There is the possibility you have another problem as well. New grinders generally need some running in. They can tend to produce more fines until they have ground several Kg. I've found 1kg can make a difference but more is ideal. Start coarse and eventually try espresso levels visits more and more. Any junk beans will do and watch you don't overheat the grinder. Maybe some big Amazon bags. Usually fairly fresh for french press beans. ;) Tuning beans like that can be fun as all needs to be thrown at them maybe even overloading but results are usually crap.

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3 hours ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

OK, I'm back but sadly no further forward. Beans still need a bit of de-gas time but longer ratios have not helped.

One theory I had was that we have a (whole house) water softener so I did some tests with the (filtered) hard water that bypasses the salt blocks. That made no difference.

Next theory I am focussing on is that I have been blindly trusting the reading on my newly-installed PID. I just tested the water coming through the PF (no coffee) using the thermometer from my milk jug. Even with the PID set at 100 degrees C this water is never above 70 degrees C (the needle never gets beyond the 'green zone' recommend for milk). I'm not sure what sort of temperature drop one would expect after the brew head but I would not anticipate 30 degrees? I appreciate the milk jug thermometer is probably not super accurate but, even so.

In case there's someone out there using Mr Shades' PID that can advise, then here are my settings, along with my latest 'history of failure(!)'

Cc: @MrShades

PID Settings.png

Tests to 13th Feb.png

Your Psb needs to be -8.0 and not -0.8 - so it’s going to be at least 7.2c too cold.

its very difficult to accurately determine brew water temp - and using any normal thermometer and normal cup/jug is never going to work properly unfortunately.

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You can usually find me and all of my Gaggia products at Shades of Coffee

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1 hour ago, MWJB said:

Your 1:3 shots shouldn't be silty, nor taking 45+ seconds. 

Your grinder adjustments seem to flip flop, coarser, then finer then coarser. Ratios go short, long, short.

I'm not seeing an objective, or methodical path.

What's your expectation/guideline for a 1:3 shot?

"...flip-flop..." I started very methodically, bringing brew-time gradually down from 51 secs to 21. I think apparent 'flip flopping' in the latter tests arises because I began experimenting with other variables - OPV spring, water source, temps - and trying a few recipes each time. But since a) this approach has gotten me nowhere(!) and b) it makes it hard for people here to advise me I will "pick and stick" now and take the shots through the full range to see if I can pick out the "Balanced low --> Sour --> Balanced normal-high ---> Bitter. Gritty, silty --> Sour " described by Rob.

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3 minutes ago, MrShades said:

Your Psb needs to be -8.0 and not -0.8 - so it’s going to be at least 7.2c too cold.

its very difficult to accurately determine brew water temp - and using any normal thermometer and normal cup/jug is never going to work properly unfortunately.

Thanks - turns out there is a typo on my spreadsheet/screenshot 🙄. Sadly (because I thought you had found the silver bullet) the Psb is set to -08.0 (correctly). 

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42 minutes ago, ajohn said:

If the puck is wet it may be worth checking your fill height. A so called 18g basket can hold a range of weights on different machines. Easiest way is to prepare and tamp as usual making sure it's level, place either a 5p or 20p coin on,  fit remove and look at the impression the coin leaves. You want rather slight to none. Only problem is that if you get none you need to add to find out. If when actually used there is slight signs of compression against the shower screen that is generally ok but too much and extraction reduces quickly. As weight is decreased problems can crop up - you might be having one of them.

I've not weighed beans into a mignon but the point about popcorning is correct but usually not that extreme in terms of effects. The usual problem is making sure all of the grinds come out, puffs via a rubber camera lens hood to blow them out is pretty popular. Not a mod I have seen done on your grinder and probably suites ones with a wide throat such as Mazzer. With the hopper on with beans and timed doses instead the grind setting usually needs to be coarser. It would be rather unusual if it wasn't. I have managed to keep a dose pretty constant via a timer but as unlike a cafe we don't make huge numbers each one needs checking. The other option is to set one shot time for a top up dose and the other a bit short.  If the top up has a manual over ride practice can make perfect.

😅 There is the possibility you have another problem as well. New grinders generally need some running in. They can tend to produce more fines until they have ground several Kg. I've found 1kg can make a difference but more is ideal. Start coarse and eventually try espresso levels visits more and more. Any junk beans will do and watch you don't overheat the grinder. Maybe some big Amazon bags. Usually fairly fresh for french press beans. ;) Tuning beans like that can be fun as all needs to be thrown at them maybe even overloading but results are usually crap.

Thanks for the fill height tip - I'll try that 2moro (bit late for coffee experiments now 😳)

I can't be far off 1kg of beans having gone through this puppy now but I have some leftover supermarket beans so some extra "running in" is worth a try too.

There is a 3D printed single-dose mod for the Specialita and (in the US at least) a bellows to match, but I am sticking with the hopper for now - there is enough gadgetry here already not working in harmony!

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5 minutes ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

What's your expectation/guideline for a 1:3 shot?

My expectation for a 1:3 shot is balanced, reflective of the notes, but more concentrated than a 1:4/5 shot, less concentrated than a 1:2 shot.

I don't pull many at 1:3 or less.

8 minutes ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

I started very methodically, bringing brew-time gradually down from 51 secs to 21.

Assuming adequate prep, good distribution in the basket before tamping, this suggests that you either:

Give up on shots this short with this cofee & go longer on ratio. But, you are complaining about weak shots, so...

...with this coffee I'd go shorter on ratio 1:1.1 to 1.2, update a tad to 19/20g & pull it fast (maybe 15s?). You're trying to get a low extraction, so you won't be worrying about a longer brew time. Just fine enough so that you can hit the desired brew ratio, without overshooting.

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Thanks - turns out there is a typo on my spreadsheet/screenshot [emoji849]. Sadly (because I thought you had found the silver bullet) the Psb is set to -08.0 (correctly). 

Try going hotter - it may be that you need to adjust the offset more on your machine.

If go are at 100 and you let the machine heat up properly then when you first hit brew you should get steam out. If you don’t then go to 101, 102, 103, 104 etc until you do get the water flashing to steam initially (leave the machine for 5 mins or so between temp changes).

If you then determine that steam appears when you are at 104 then adjust your offset by -4 to -12.0 : so that at a displayed 100 you’ll have the same steam.

To illustrate what I said before about measuring water temp : if I use my Decent milk jug and Decent digital milk thermometer with the water from my Decent DE1 - producing brew water pretty accurately at 95.0c then the highest reading I get on the thermometer in the jug is 82c. If you’re using 93.0 brew temp then I’d expect a similar measuring process to give you a temp in the high 70s.
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You can usually find me and all of my Gaggia products at Shades of Coffee

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26 minutes ago, MrShades said:


Try going hotter - it may be that you need to adjust the offset more on your machine....

Thanks. I'm getting those steam puffs at 100 so I think the PID is on-point and eliminated from my enquiries ;) 

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31 minutes ago, CrazySnakeUncle said:

There is a 3D printed single-dose mod for the Specialita and (in the US at least) a bellows to match, but I am sticking with the hopper for now - there is enough gadgetry here already not working in harmony!

Just about all grinders have some sort of clump crusher. It might be called something else such as a grid on Mazzer. They have to be removed to single dose as they will prevent all of the grinds wont be swept out. I don't know what the retention is on a Mignon but with a clump crusher on it may be as much as when the hopper is on or near to it. That would mean wasting beans each time the grinder setting is changed just as it needs to be when the hopper is used normally.

I did wonder if you should increase temp but have no idea what the capacity of the boiler is.

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I struggled (and still sometimes do) getting an espresso that blows me away out of my setup (Bianca + Niche). I went through the same journey as you. From temp changes to puck prep. I spend literally hundreds of pounds on tools that should've helped. And tried different beans. 

Good espresso from a roaster, is a world on its own. I only progressed on my journey by going to a local roaster, pick the beans by tasting their espresso on the spot, go home and try to replicate it. Back the next day. I did some online barista-basic courses as well. Just to get the basics right. 

I noticed that my biggest mistakes were: 

a) letting beans not settle enough. I give them now +/- 2 weeks

b) puck prep. Often dry spots and then it does tastes sour. 

My recommendation is really to get beans from a good roaster, let them rest, test them on the spot and ask for a recipe. 

It's a fiddle, but isn't that part of the hobby?

 

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3 hours ago, Luca06 said:

I only progressed on my journey by going to a local roaster, pick the beans by tasting their espresso on the spot, go home and try to replicate it.

I have been thinking that I need to do this. I am beginning to understand the process, and how to work my machine without getting in a dreadful mess now. I don’t really know if I am making great coffee though. It tastes nice. Could it be better? I dunno unless I have something to compare it to.  I never drank espresso in coffee shops, only at home using a stovetop and that is so different in taste anyway. I can’t wait till my local independent coffee shops open again so I can compare what I have been making. Costa is still open near me, but I am not sure that should be my benchmark.

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21 hours ago, HVL87 said:

480B6199-1687-4980-BD19-657F956D8051.gif.6cd016b920b922f5f6575682894a62f4.gif

I don't understand such dismissive attitude, it could be a great benchmark.. for how espresso should *not* taste like. 😅

Edited by Baffo
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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

OK - I'm back - and 1.5kg of beans lighter. Still need your help team 😕

Two images here. The big one is my journey of discovery with Craft House Development Blend. My process definitely left a lot to be desired at times here - I got some unusual timings and I will admit that I ended up thrashing around a bit in desperation. But I have included it to show that - with a bean that is meant to be good for the beginner - I went through the full range of grinder settings from "1" (WAY too fine) to "2.75" (waterfall). Most of these tests were done with a 6.5 bar OPV spring. I tried both mineral water and softened tap water and played with temps 92-94 degrees C. Anyway these beans are all gone.

Smaller image is current experimentation with the "idiot proof"(!) Coffee Compass Brighton Lanes beans. I still have 0.5kg of these left and this is where I need to focus. My process/timings are quite consistent. I definitely found the "too fine" point ("1") but for everywhere between "1.1" (42 secs) and "2" (21 secs) I really would not rate anything above "drinkable". I appreciate that my tasting comments are not super-helpful - I still struggle a bit between "sour" and "bitter" except at the extremes.

Without disappearing too much into the attached detail my question is simply: What variable(s) would you change next / where would you head with the remainder of these beans?

Quick recap: Gaggia Pro with Shades' PID, Mignon Specialita, purging 3 seconds at each new grinder setting, stirring each shot (but not skimming off crema)

DevelopmentBlend.png

BrightonLanes.png

Edited by CrazySnakeUncle
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