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First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
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noobespresso
Senior Member


Joined: 4 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Toronto
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Sep 4, 2011, 8:18pm
Subject: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Hello fine people of the coffee world!  

I just acquired an old Riviera espresso machine about a month ago.  I took the whole thing apart, cleaned it all out, replaced a few things here n there and finally got the chance to plug it in yesterday.

First, the good news:
  1. Heater works!
  2. Heater works!
  3. Its in pretty decent shape.
  4. No leaks (well, anymore!)
  5. It was mostly complete - only thing missing is the tamper and the little lid thingy.

Now, the not-so-good news.  Or maybe what I-am-not-sure-of news.  So, I went to whole foods, bought some freshly roasted espresso blend, used their grinder to grind it to "espresso" level, gave my arm and leg at the checkout and ran home to try it out!!!

I turned on the heater, waited till the pressure stat kicked in and turned off the heater - pressure reading here was about 1.5 bars - in the middle of the "green" zone on the meter.  I then did a little pressure purge by opening the steam valve for a few seconds.  Waited for the light to go off again and I was ready for my first "pull".

Now, I have seen a couple of videos on the information super highway (e.g. hxxp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReUFnXKQPlQ) that show people using this machine and similar ones.  My understanding of how this process works is - You wait till the machine is ready, pull the handle and let the water fill the gap between the piston and portafilter, and then let the handle go.  The spring pressure will help push the water through the coffee and the lever should gradually rise to its original resting position.

Unfortunately, as soon as I pull down the handle, the water just rushes through the coffee.  In other words, instead of slowly filling up the chamber with water and then having the piston push it through, the water simply flows right out!!

Any ideas on why this could be?  When I opened up the group head, the seals looked to be in decent shape - not hardened or cracked or leaking.  I did a leak test by trying to blow through the water intake pipe with and without pulling the lever.  I didn't hear any leaks.  Of course, I'm sure the steam pressure is probably a little bit higher than my blowing ability!!

So, any ideas on what could be causing this?

Thanks - look forward to reading your replies and starting my expensive journey in this hobby! :)
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donnydregs
Senior Member
donnydregs
Joined: 6 Dec 2009
Posts: 126
Location: Australia
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra A3 / MCAL / E61 Two...
Grinder: Mazzer Mini / HG-One (soon)
Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 6:31am
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Welcome to the Geek house of coffee.

First thing that comes to mind is the grind is way too coarse. If it's not rushing past the group seal it's all it could be really. I think...

And congratulations. I've always hankered after one of these machines. I have the Elektra equivalent which works the same and you have to grind very fine also.
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noobespresso
Senior Member


Joined: 4 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Toronto
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 8:34am
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Hmm.  Thanks for the tip.  I have been looking for a vintage machine for a long time, also!  So when I finally found one, I was overjoyed to bring it home!!  

As for the coffee, I tried with a "cheaper" store bought fine grind coffee and unfortunately, same result!  I'm thinking maybe the steam pressure is too high - pushing down on the water so much that as soon as the piston moves up to allow water through, it rushes out with a lot of force.  I will try adjusting the pressurestat and see if lowering the water pressure makes a difference.  I suppose I could also try opening the steam wand a bit to ease the pressure while the water pours into the little chamber opening.
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samuellaw178
Senior Member
samuellaw178
Joined: 22 Jan 2011
Posts: 377
Location: KL,Malaysia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Arrarex Caravel
Grinder: Rosco Mini
Drip: French Press, Aeropress,...
Roaster: DIY Copper drum roaster
Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 9:26am
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Hey Ash, welcome to Coffeegeek!

First thing first, 1.5 bar is a little on the high side. I would adjust it down to about 1.1 bar or even lower. Keep in mind that there is a possibility the pressure gauge on the machine itself is not accurate due to the age. An external steamwand pressure gauge could be a good idea.

Second, the pressure in the boiler by itself is not enough to make the water flow through the coffee too fast. Steam pressure is only 1.5bar, but to make espresso you need 9 bar. So if 1.5 bar is able to make your coffee flow too quickly, there must be something wrong with your coffee grind size- too coarse as mentioned. In your case, pressure only affect the brew temperature, not the flow rate. Higher pressure=higher temperature.

Thirdly, your main problem is with the coffee. Assuming it's freshly roasted within 15 days, anything preground at the store wouldn't work well unless you rush home within 5 minutes and use it up. Otherwise, the aromatic compounds and CO2 in the coffee will be released as soon as it was ground - equivalent to stale coffee. Stale coffee almost always will cause a fast flow in extraction. Plus, little crema and stale flavour. Think apple, after it's cut, you would try to eat it up as soon as possible right?Otherwise, it just doesn't taste as good and will be oxidized.

Fourth, are you tamping?Without tamping, the flowing water from the group head might create a hole in the coffee bed and that could potentially causing fast flow.

Lastly and most importantly, I honestly think you need a capable espresso grinder. To make great espresso, you need to be able to adjust the grind size in the micron ranges on the fly. You can't do that using store grinder.  Each machine(or rather basket) requires different grind size. There isn't one-for-all grind size that would make good espresso. Brew coffee, yes, but not espresso.

All in all, I think your main priority on the list is to get a grinder and a proper fit tamper (what brand doesn't matter). I think your machine should be good. On my Cremina, when I pull up the piston, the water flow violently. But that's only natural because of the higher pressure inside on the boiler.

Addition: Also, for espresso, you need a very capable grinder because espresso grind is so much more demanding. The normal $50-$70 grinder you see in store wouldn't work well either. I would advise spend at least 150+ to look for a used but good condition espresso grinder. If budget is definitely a problem, under $100, a Capresso Infinity could take the task pretty decently provided it can grind fine enough. This I am speaking from my experience.
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compliance
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Joined: 9 Aug 2008
Posts: 89
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Brewtus IIIv
Grinder: Compak K10, formerly Le'lit...
Drip: Hario doo-dads
Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 10:05am
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Welcome noob!  I will put my vote behind the issues already identified.  First the coffee.  Whole Foods does roast coffee and put it out fresh, and then they leave it there.  It could be old already.  Even fresh WF roasts are not really good.  There are lists on the internet of great local roasters all over the place.  I am sure you can find one in Toronto.  Most importantly though, you will need a grinder.  It is the first mistake everyone makes, because no one realizes how important it is till later.  The grinder is more important than the espresso machine itself.  The reason you can't use the store grinder is first, the staling issue, and second, the grinder has to be dialed in to your machine.  You will only be able to accomplish this with the grinder in your home, next to your Riveira (with a little trial and error).  If you are out of budget there are hand grinders which are acceptable for espresso for under $100.  Buying a grinder is a whole other research project, so I suggest you start reading.  I would not get something in the Capresso Infinity range.  It is a hold-me-over at best, and is really not suitable for espresso, particularly with a nice machine such as yours.  

Summary:  Beans roasted within the last 2 weeks from a reputable local roaster + a capable espresso grinder at home + your Riviera = espresso bliss!

Lets see some pics!
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noobespresso
Senior Member


Joined: 4 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Toronto
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 4:14pm
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Thank you, gentlepersons!  I did pick coffee that was roasted the same day I went to the store.  I used the store grinder there to crush them down to "espresso" size - or at least, going by their standards!  I did tamp down the coffee, although not with an "official" tamper.  I have a little spice jar that is the exact diameter as the inside of the basket - so that will have to do till I find the time to go machine one out of aluminum :)

Earlier this morning, I tried the little trick I mentioned in my previous email - I lowered the pressure inside the boiler prior to pulling the shot.  No luck there.  

So you guys think its all just because of the coffee not being the right grind?  If the water was seeping through some holes in the coffee, then I should see some signs of this in the "puck" - no?  

Search is on for a proper grinder! :-)  I will post some pics of the machine soon, once I figure out how to post pics here! :)
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donnydregs
Senior Member
donnydregs
Joined: 6 Dec 2009
Posts: 126
Location: Australia
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra A3 / MCAL / E61 Two...
Grinder: Mazzer Mini / HG-One (soon)
Posted Mon Sep 5, 2011, 5:41pm
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Samuel is correct about the pressure being too high. Some say .9 is about right which is where mine is set. And forget about aluminium tampers. Do a bit of reading and get yourself a nice heavy steel one. Orphan Espresso sell them for your machine I believe.
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noobespresso
Senior Member


Joined: 4 Sep 2011
Posts: 5
Location: Toronto
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sat Sep 17, 2011, 5:56am
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

Ok thanks guys.  I tried different grinds and got a bigass ss tamper. So far, getting better but not quite there yet.  Also purchased a nice KA burr grinder so I'm getting there!
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Prof
Senior Member
Prof
Joined: 10 Sep 2004
Posts: 671
Location: Seattle
Expertise: Pro Roaster

Espresso: PV Lusso
Grinder: Pharos 696, Zass
Drip: Aeropress, Brazen
Roaster: Behmor, TO/SC, Poppery I
Posted Sat Sep 17, 2011, 9:06pm
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

You might have to bite the bullet and get a good grinder, like a Vario or something in that class.  Or save money and get a good German hand grinder (mine is a Zassenhaus).

 
LMWDP # 010
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IMAWriter
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IMAWriter
Joined: 4 Jul 2002
Posts: 5,700
Location: Brentwood, TN
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega
Grinder: Forte, Preciso/Esatto, KyM...
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Drip: Brazen, Kalita, Chemex,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600, CO/UFO combo
Posted Sat Sep 17, 2011, 10:58pm
Subject: Re: First Experiences with Riviera - WHELP Please! :P
 

noobespresso Said:

Ok thanks guys.  I tried different grinds and got a bigass ss tamper. So far, getting better but not quite there yet.  Also purchased a nice KA burr grinder so I'm getting there!

Posted September 17, 2011 link

The KA is not really in the class of the grinder Samuel and others refer to.

Also, just so you know, coffee that is just roasted needs at least 4-5 days of rest, to degas. otherwise, your pulls will be full of co2 bubbling, which not only causes squirts and uneven pours, but actually tastes funky.

Store your beans in either a mason/ball jar, or 1 way valved bags. Not in the fridge.

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
My Music Production web site:
www.robertjason.com
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