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Billyj66
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Joined: 8 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Washington DC
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun May 27, 2012, 7:08am
Subject: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

I think I've been consistent but recently my espresso went from great to less great.  For some reason about 2/3 through my double shot my espresso turns blond fast and then starts to pour fast like a full 5 -6 seconds faster.  I was pulling 2 ounces at 25 seconds.  Now i have to shut it down at about 20.  the espresso is lighter in color and starts to get thin.  As long as i stop it early it still taste pretty good but not just to my liking like before.

First, I assumed I needed to grind finer or that my coffee (black cat analog) was old - I had just passed the 2 week mark.  So, I bought some very fresh espresso from my local shop that keeps fresh Counter Culture product.  I did like it for a change and after making some grind adjustments, finer, i still get the same thing.

what am i missing?

I use an expobar brewtus iv set at 199 deg/baratza vario.  I know a lot of people dont care for the Black Cat but I really like it.  I am ready to start experimenting with other roasters and coffees but once i found something i liked and had it dialed in, i was lothe to try something else.  considering Red Bird and Verve.  any reccommendations?
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AndyPanda
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AndyPanda
Joined: 12 Jul 2010
Posts: 769
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina, Various...
Grinder: Mazzer Major, Fiorenzato,...
Vac Pot: vintage Corey
Drip: AeroPress
Roaster: BreadMachine/HeatGun
Posted Sun May 27, 2012, 7:35am
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

By your description it sounds like channeling in the coffee puck when it starts to gush and blonds early.

Are you dosing/distributing/tamping the same as always?  Same baskets as always?

It's also possible that your brew pressure has changed (pump or OPV acting up) - and although this sounds counter-intuitive, lower pressure can frequently give faster pours. (pump acting up can give lower pressure, OPV acting up could go either way and would give higher pressure if stuck or lower pressure if seal is worn)

I do love Red Bird espresso and you certainly ought to try some - but I don't think the coffee is your issue.  Sounds more like something has changed in your equipment or your grind/dose/distribute/tamp ritual.
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Billyj66
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Joined: 8 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Washington DC
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun May 27, 2012, 8:05pm
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

Thank you for the reply.

Well, I think I must be doing something wrong.  Not sure I would know if some small issue with my equipment but I pulled a shot and watched to make sure the pressure gauge went to like 8.5 or 9 and I actually got better results this time.  It still poured a little fast but didnt have the same blonding and gushing as before.  I didnt think my technique had changed but its possible.

I like the Vario but feel i could get a better result.  I do get few and small clumps.  Could that cause it?

I appreciate the help and guidance - i start my day with two doubles and it kinda sets the tone for the whole day...
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Joel_B
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Joel_B
Joined: 9 Oct 2007
Posts: 1,823
Location: Pacific NW
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Astra Mega II
Grinder: Mazzer SJ, Virtuoso
Vac Pot: Yama 5 cup
Drip: nope, french press
Roaster: Behmor, WP, BBQ drum
Posted Mon May 28, 2012, 10:21am
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

Billyj66 Said:

First, I assumed I needed to grind finer or that my coffee (black cat analog) was old - I had just passed the 2 week mark.  So, I bought some very fresh espresso from my local shop that keeps fresh Counter Culture product.  I did like it for a change and after making some grind adjustments, finer, i still get the same thing.

Posted May 27, 2012 link

2 week is the "recommended" expiration date, but it really depends on the coffee. But generally older coffee will be a little more difficult to pull and will blond quicker even shortly as short as the 2 week mark.  So the change you experienced isn't out of the ordinary regarding the blackcat.

Regarding the CC, how fresh was it?  You mentined "very fresh", but really fresh coffee (under 3-4 days) can have some similar results; fast blonding and difficult to pull.

Be aware you are using a different coffee as well. Different coffees require differnt parameters.  Also some coffees can be difficult to pull.

But what I'm confused about is you say you changed the grind but get the same thing.  If you go finer, you really should get a longer pull.  Is your dosage the same? If you're using the timer on the Vario, a finer grinder can take longer to get the same mass. So if you didnt change the timer to compensate you may be grinding finer but dosing less (depending on how much you changed the grind).
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,967
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon May 28, 2012, 4:26pm
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

Billyj66 Said:

I like the Vario but feel i could get a better result.  I do get few and small clumps.  Could that cause it?

Posted May 27, 2012 link

clumping can ruin what would otherwise be a good distribution, and thereby lead to channeling.  This is when and why many people use WDT (Weiss Distribution Technique).  There are videos and written descriptions of it in great detail, but it's basically a method where one uses a needle to break up clumps in the pf basket before finishing the distribution and tamping.

If you are using a naked/bottomless pf handle, you can watch the extraction and see if and where your shots are channeling, and this can help you modify your distribution technique in a more logical fashion.  Also, make sure you're tamping level, not skewed off to one side.

 
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Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Billyj66
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Joined: 8 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Washington DC
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Mon May 28, 2012, 5:03pm
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

I'm responding to a couple of responses at once here but again thanks for the helpful hints, questions and suggestions.

The CC coffee is 7 days old.

I do use a naked PF.  I am able to see that something is wrong but not sure what that is and how to improve.

I did adjust the grind, slightly i was really just trying to see if it would help because I'm at a loss for what to do.

but I am still getting the same result.  Any change the slight grind adjustment would have made is paled by the bigger issue I'm having.

I will look at the distribution method - I'm hoping that it is something like that .  I actually prefer it to be something I'm doing and not my equipment.

I usually over dose a little then use the handle of a scooper to move the grinds NSEW and level off, then tamp.  I use a calibrated tamper.

I will check out the WDT method and see if that helps.

The thing thats frustrating is I feel like it's something I'm doing but that was not doing untill recently.

I will post my results but probably after a couple of days of experimenting.

Thanks again,

Billy
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,967
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Tue May 29, 2012, 9:23am
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

posting a video of your extraction would help people help you a lot (though I usually am unable to watch them myself because IT has successfully block them from playing).

Also, if you haven't already, give a read to "...guide to better espresso..." on www.espressomyespresso.com (article 12 under "how-to" - about midway down the right column)

you might also get something out of watching videos of extraction problems on you tube.

 
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Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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Billyj66
Senior Member


Joined: 8 Aug 2011
Posts: 24
Location: Washington DC
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Wed May 30, 2012, 7:17am
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

I will check it out.

So, I'm getting closer.  Yesterday, it was so bad i could not drink it.  I noticed that the bars of pressure was about 4 - 4.5 (which had not happened before).  So, I did not weigh the coffee but I did use the WDT method.  It just so happens I have a funnel from Orphan Espresso that I had gotten for the purpose of keeping grinds from spilling everywhere.  I also made one more slight adjustment, finer, and paid close attention to ensure a level tamp.

That did the trick.  I got about 2oz. in approx 24 seconds.  Pressure gauge was in the right range.  I had one very minor little spray for a second but otherwise poured and looked good.  Most importantly... tasted great.

BTW, i had attempted to take a video but didnt think it was coming through well enough to illustrate and diagnose.

I still have a lot to learn but you guys were a big help.

Thanks,

Billy
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,967
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Wed May 30, 2012, 8:20am
Subject: Re: Sudden change in espresso shots
 

awesome!  sounds like you're on the right track.

 
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Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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