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1st post and some questions
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Discussions > Espresso > General > 1st post and...  
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Allnighter
Senior Member


Joined: 3 May 2012
Posts: 4
Location: Netherlands
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 1:38am
Subject: 1st post and some questions
 

Hi everyone!

Since this is my first post here, I'll briefly introduce myself. I'm a twenty-something male living in the Netherlands. I study at a well known university in the Netherlands, where I'm currently majoring in physics. As you may have guessed, college is what got me into coffee in the first place. My parents were never big coffee drinkers (just a morning kick-starter), so I never got the habit from home. This all changed when I moved half-way across the country to attend the university, where i started enjoying lots of coffee, and learnt the meaning of the word ''all nighter'.
I used to drink coffee from a Philips Senseo machine (i'm not sure how well-known they are outside the Netherlands/Europe, the machines are however incredibly popular here). It's a incredibly easy to use machine that brews coffee from pods, available at every supermarket, in a great variety of blends and brands. While the machine is easy and fast, it produces lousy coffee, using a mere 1.5 bar to push our beloved black liquid into your cup.
After reading CoffeeGeek for a while i decided to get rid of my useless coffee pod machine, and start learning about real good home espresso.

Since I'm a student I don't have a whopping amount of cash laying around to spend on coffee, so I decided to start small and cheap. After reading some reviews, I decided to buy myself a Saeco Armonia, I got it for 30 euros second-hand. The machine still has a year of warranty left and looked clean enough to confirm the statement "I rarely used it" from the previous owner. I know it's not much compared to the big shiny stuff some espresso lovers here own, but at 30 euros I figured this would be a nice start in the world of better home espresso.

However, when I tried to make my first shots I wasn't that impressed. While the crema was decent (I think), the espresso turned out to be very 'watery'. I'm not sure how this happened, but I suspect not using enough coffee and/or pulling a too big shot. I measured the cups the Senseo produces are are 175 ml, which is 5.9 oz (please tell me if people here expect imperial units). I tried to make an equally large espresso, with approximately of 6 grams of coffee.
Regarding the coffee I use, i don't grind my own coffee, I buy grounded espresso coffee from the supermarket (shoot me if you have to). Currently I'm using Illy medium roast espresso blend, but I also have a yet unopened can of Lavazzo espresso ground laying. Furthermore i have a bag of 'The Golden Coffee Box' coffee, ground by the shopkeeper himself.
The machine has no timer, it just keeps going until it runs out of water. This is in contrast with the Senseo, which automatically shuts of, always giving a set amount of water.
The machine has a pressurized portafilter, something I know not everyone here is too fond of. I also read it's possible to remove the pressure part of the filter, which should lead to better shots. But this requires a tamper which I don't own, and I know next to nothing about tampering. At lot of questions from this newcomer, but I'm willing to learn how to improve my shots and as a physics student, I love figuring things out :)

So my questions are:
  1. How 'big' is an espresso supposed to be? And how much grounded coffee do I need for a good shot?
  2. Will my shots improve if I don't use the pressurized filter but instead switch to tampering?
  3. What brands do you recommend for me (e.g. affordable, yet decent quality)?
  4. How lang should it take for the espresso to be made?
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,056
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 2:31am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

We all had to start somewhere. With a a little practice you can get decent espresso with that machine. It may not be great, but better than Senseo anyway.

Allnighter Said:

How 'big' is an espresso supposed to be? And how much grounded coffee do I need for a good shot?

Posted May 3, 2012 link

As a rule of thumb:
A single shot ought to be 25-30 ml extracted in around 25 seconds, a double shot ought to be 50-60 ml also extracted in 25 seconds. For a single you need 7-9 g of freshly ground coffee, for a doppio 14-18 g. A properly extracted espresso should be full boddied, i.e. have an oily consistency.

If you don't want to use a scale for dosing, you might fill the portafilter until there's a small heap of coffee, so that the filter is full to the rim when you level the ground coffee. Then you tamp. Also dosing spoons can be fairly accurate.

It's very important to use freshly ground coffee. So you'll need a grinder. The cheapest way to accomplish that is a hand grinder. Do not use pre-ground coffee!!!

Allnighter Said:

Will my shots improve if I don't use the pressurized filter but instead switch to tampering?

Posted May 3, 2012 link

Most defenitely! A pressurized portafilter for people who don't want to be bothered with correct grinding and tamping, because you can get seemingly good results without it.

In a pressurized portafilter the plastic device located below the filter basket or double walled filter basket forces the coffee to pass through small openings, thus generating pressure. That way it creates foamed coffee (bubbles made of air) that has nothing to do with a real crema.

Crema is an emulsion of water and aromatic oils that forms tiny bubbles around carbon dioxide released during extraction when water is pressed through finely ground fresh coffee at around 9 bar and the right temperature. The resistence for building up pressure lies within the tamped puck. Since extraction has already taken place when pressure develops in a pressurized portafilter, no real crema can arise. It may look like it, but it certainly doesn't taste like it. It's a fake!

As far as tamping is concerned, you can get a decent tamper for a few bucks. Maybe you'll find a used one. Many CoffeeGeeks have several tampers, and someone might be willing to part with one. More important than how hard you tamp is that you tamp consistently hard. As a rule of thum by the time you feel that the puck cannot be compressed much more, it's hard enough.

Allnighter Said:

What brands do you recommend for me (e.g. affordable, yet decent quality)?

Posted May 3, 2012 link

There's no general recommendation to be made, because it all depends on your personal taste. However, you should use fresh coffee beans (best no older than 15 days after roasting!). You usually cannot get those at the supermarket. The coffee of the industrial brands sold there (Illy, Segafredo, Izzo, Lavazza etc.) are usually anything but fresh. The "best before" date printed on the packages can give you an easy hint, because it's usually two years after roasting. Try to find a local roaster that can provide you with really fresh beans. You might also order online from a microroaster. Again, do not use pre-ground coffee.

Allnighter Said:

How lang should it take for the espresso to be made?

Posted May 3, 2012 link

No matter if it's a single or double shot, a ristretto or lungo it should always have an extraction time of around 25 seconds. You acchieve the proper extraction time mostly by choosing the right fineness of grounds. That means, you'll have to dial in your grinder. Do not use pre-ground coffee.

If it's faster, the espresso will be underextracted and taste thin and flat. If it's slower, the expresso will be overextracted and taste bitter and burnt.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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alanfrew
Senior Member
alanfrew
Joined: 19 Dec 2001
Posts: 643
Location: Melbourne
Expertise: Professional

Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 3:15am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

You have your very own expert on your doostep, so talk to Ivo first. http://www.ongebrand.nl/english/

Alan
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Allnighter
Senior Member


Joined: 3 May 2012
Posts: 4
Location: Netherlands
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 3:21am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

Thank you for your fast reply. I see i have to get used to smaller numbers, the cups of coffee my Senseo produces are around 5oz, this is what i drank all day...
I've just pulled a shot of about 50 grams (roughly 50 ml) using almost 14 grams of ground coffee. The machine filled this cup in under 15 seconds, way too fast according to your advice. However, I don't own a tamper and I still use the pressurized portafilter. Something wrong here? And is it just me or are single shots of espresso incredibly small? The smallest cup i could find in my house is already 50 ml, meaning I have to use almost 14 grams of coffee each time, just to get a tiny cup.

\edit: I forgot to mention I also own a 'moka pot' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_pot), could this yield better results perhaps?
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,056
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 4:57am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

Allnighter Said:

... I've just pulled a shot of about 50 grams (roughly 50 ml) using almost 14 grams of ground coffee. The machine filled this cup in under 15 seconds, way too fast according to your advice. However, I don't own a tamper and I still use the pressurized portafilter. Something wrong here? And is it just me or are single shots of espresso incredibly small? The smallest cup i could find in my house is already 50 ml, meaning I have to use almost 14 grams of coffee each time, just to get a tiny cup ...

Posted May 3, 2012 link

50 ml using 14 g of coffee means it's  a (week) double espresso. However, 15 seconds is too fast. That shot was terribly underextracted. Until you get a tamper, a capable grinder and get rid of the pressurized portafilter try using a higher dose. You can get a decent tamper new starting at €20.

You don't have to fill your cups to the rim. A regular espresso cup is only about half full with a single shot (25 ml). That's the way it is.

Allnighter Said:

... I forgot to mention I also own a 'moka pot' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moka_pot), could this yield better results perhaps?

Posted May 3, 2012 link

A moka pot brews coffee at around 1.5 bar and very high temperatures. The result does not qualify as espresso.

The Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano has a very strict definition of espresso in order to assure good quality:
• Necessary portion of ground coffee 7 g ± 0,5
• Exit temperature of water from the unit 88°C ± 2°C
• Temperature of the drink in the cup 67°C ± 3°C
• Entry water pressure 9 bar ± 1
• Percolation time 25 seconds ± 2,5 seconds
• Viscosity at 45°C > 1,5 mPa s
• Total fat > 2 mg/ml
• Caffeine < 100 mg/cup
• Millilitres in the cup (including foam) 25 ml ± 2,5

This is all very technical and theoretical, and it's only a guideline not a general law. But it gives you a pretty good idea what good espresso should be. It's a starting point. In the end, maybe you'll like your espresso better with a dose of 9 g. Who knows?

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,947
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 6:27am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

Hi and welcome, until you get a grinder that is able to grind for espresso, do not take the mech out of the pressurized porta filter. The reason it is there among other things is to kind of make up for poorly ground coffee and without a grinder that is espresso able, you will NEVER get anything good from that machine.

Fresh coffee is a must, less than two weeks from the day it was ROASTED.
a espresso able grinder is MANDATORY, not just a good idea, it is much more important than the espresso machine!

PLEASE read the how to buy an espresso machine FAQ to get a basic understanding of how this whole process works. Read the whole thing it is fairly long and is broken into several sections.
http://coffeegeek.com/guides/howtobuyanespressomachine

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
Anything I post is personal opinion and is only worth as much as anyone else's personal opinion. YMMV!

Feed the newbs, starve the trolls and above all enjoy what you drink!
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,056
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu May 3, 2012, 6:39am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

This hand grinder will do the job: click here.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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Eiron
Senior Member
Eiron
Joined: 12 Nov 2007
Posts: 343
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill 0930
Grinder: Quick Mill 031,...
Drip: TechniVorm KBTS
Roaster: Behmor 1600, Presto Poplite
Posted Fri May 4, 2012, 9:51am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

Hi Erik! The Armonia appears to be a capable (if not great) starter machine. It's definitely better than the machines I started with when I was in college. And at 30 euros, it's definitely a good price for a student on a budget!

I'm not going to get into the fresh coffee side of it, as I feel that's a separate issue from what you're trying to work out about your machine. So here's what I think (take opinions for what they're worth):

1) If you're looking for more coffee, then your moka pot may be a better solution. Another alternative would be...

2) Brewing a "cafe crema" in your Armonia: short cafe crema thread I actually brew these all the time in my Quick Mill machine as my after dinner coffee. I get about 100-120 ml from 14g of coffee. I enjoy these more than my moka coffee, & they're quick & easy to make. The "slightly coarser" grind is important so that you're not over-extracting the coffee & getting lots of bitter flavors.

3) I'll also recommend looking for a used tamper & removing the pressure thing out of your portafilter.

4) Ultimately having your own grinder is the way to go. A used hand grinder is probably going to be the best value for you. But remembering what it was like to be a student on a budget, I can sympathize with not being able to afford one right away. Having your shop grind for you is a good way to go for now & will probably provide better tasting coffee than what you'll get in a can. But tastes vary. If you enjoy the flavor of canned coffee then there's no urgency to spend more until you can afford it.

5) I think your Armonia machine must be a "semi-automatic." This means you have to stop it yourself by turning off the brew switch. The Senseo is designed to brew up to 240ml cups of coffee, so it's really quite different from the 30-45ml (single) or 60-90ml (double) goal of the Armonia. Now you get to tell the machine "Enough!" :-)

6) What do you mean by "what brands do you recommend for me"? Brands of coffee? Brands of machine?

7) Most importantly, enjoy experimenting with your machine! Many of us have learned from our own experimentation & that of others. What you learn on your machine will likely help the next new person to join CG.

Welcome & have fun!

Greg

 
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..."
- my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence

Good, affordable espresso: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/355707
Coffee's hot enough for OCD: www.coffeegeek.com/forums/coffee/machines/330079
Personal & global health: http://www.broomfieldenterprise.com/ci_12802509
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,048
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun May 6, 2012, 9:07am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

So how is it going?

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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Allnighter
Senior Member


Joined: 3 May 2012
Posts: 4
Location: Netherlands
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Wed May 9, 2012, 4:45am
Subject: Re: 1st post and some questions
 

Many thanks to everyone for the replies, you guys are real helpful! I didn't have a lot of time to experiment and post my findings the last few days, deadlines for my study are eating away my time. However I did find out some things. Last week my can of (very old) Illy coffee ran empty, and it was time to try out my bag of "Golden Coffee Box". I got it from a friend whose father owns a kitchen supplies shop. They buy the coffee as beans, and grind them themselves just before selling it. I asked for a very fine grind to make it suitable for espresso. First thing i noticed was that the grind was indeed more fine than the canned Illy stuff, but it also had some 'lumps'. Using this coffee gave much better flavor to my shots than the Illy coffee, so this is a keeper for now.
However, my machine has trouble with it! The grind is much finer and even the slightest pressing with my spoon causes the machine to moan and shake, trying to squeeze the water through the coffee. It seems it can't handle it! I solved it by carefully placing coffee in the filter, taking care not to press it at all. But this gave me unconcentrated poor espresso! I think the bloackage thing is caused by the combination of good, fine grind coffee αnd the pressurized portafilter. I probably should have both at the same time.

In conclusion, I think it's time to remove that thing and start tamping, this should solve the problem and give me better shots. What are your opinions on this? As for the grinding, for now I will stick to buying that pre-grinded coffee, but I'm willing to invest in a good hand grider, I don't mind buying things that will last me long :)

P.S: Another thing I noticed, my girlfriend thinks I'm obsessed and I should just stick to drinking Senseo (the horror!). She doesn't drink coffee by the way so little does she know ;-)
P.P.S: Thanks Eiron, the cafe crema thing looks great, seems like a very good drink for me :)
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