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Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Bitter taste and...  
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naso
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Joined: 16 Sep 2012
Posts: 5
Location: CA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Sep 16, 2012, 11:34pm
Subject: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

Hi guys,
I have been trying to pull a good espresso shot on my new machine (old, but new to me) with no luck. The espresso tastes bitter, and I know it's supposed to, but  the shots that I pull are very very bitter.  I think I have been doing everything right (tamping at 30lbs then 15lbs of pressure, grinding fresh beans each time etc) and I just can't figure out why the shots taste the way they do, and why I can't get the shot to "drip" the right way-it goes to fast at first, pouring black espresso at first and then the nice light brown color, I thought it was supposed to start very slow at first?  I tried the machine for the first time today, and used "bad", non potable water just to test it until I hook up the plumbing for good water, but is the water to blame or is something else wrong?  I'm posting  a couple videos for you to see what I mean, and get an idea of how the espresso shots look. Is this normal? I will really appreciate any help!
ps. I apologize for the unpleasant noise, I've yet to find to why it's doing that


Click Here (s1157.photobucket.com)

Click Here (s1157.photobucket.com)
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MJW
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Joined: 25 Jul 2012
Posts: 179
Location: Silicon Valley
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Sep 17, 2012, 12:02am
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

You are right, the shot is very fast.  Use a finer grind setting.  If you can, weigh your coffee grounds before brewing and your shot after brewing, compute the ratio (coffee / liquid), and aim for a ratio of 0.5 in 25-35 seconds.  If it's 0.4 or 0.6 frankly that's fine too, you'll be in the ballpark compared to where you are right now.  But you can get there without weighing, just by using your taste.

I'll pretend I didn't hear that noise... do you know if your machine has a rotary pump, or a vibratory pump?  Maybe you can say what your equipment is?  It might help.
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Mandheling
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Joined: 31 Aug 2012
Posts: 35
Location: United Kingdom
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Evolution
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Instantaneo
Posted Mon Sep 17, 2012, 2:38am
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

That really is a scary noise...

As MJW said, it would be helpful to know what the machine is. The shot looks fast to me too, but I'd expect it to be sour rather than bitter given the speed.

It could be that the brew water temperature is too high which would make it bitter whatever - it may be possible to adjust but it depends on the machine...

Simon
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NobbyR
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NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,023
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 Mon Sep 17, 2012, 3:33am
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

That shot is indeed underextracted, i.e. too fast. So what's your set-up? What kind of beans and how much ground coffee did you use for that shot?

 
***
"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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frcn
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frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,352
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
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Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Mon Sep 17, 2012, 5:54am
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

There is so much more that we need to know to give you any specific information. You say the beans are fresh. What are they and how do you know that they are fresh?
What is the machine, what is the pump pressure set at, what is the brew temperature, what is the grinder, how old are the burrs, and so much more. Then there is the fact that you tell us the least important thing about preparation, the tamping force, but little else.

On my website www.EspressoMyEspresso.com, I suggest you read this article: 12 - EASY GUIDE TO BETTER ESPRESSO AT HOME. It might take a day to read, but it will take a week or two, or a month or two to apply. There is a LOT of reading in that article.

As far as the noise, it sounds like a bad pressure relief valve (which could cause too much brew pressure, or if the machine has a rotary pump, a very bad motor bearing or relief valve in the pump body, or a bad pump bearing... or a cat in a blender.  ;-)

 
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naso
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Joined: 16 Sep 2012
Posts: 5
Location: CA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Sep 17, 2012, 5:15pm
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

Thank you for all the replies, I truly appreciate your help guys!

I don't know if I can answer all the questions to determine the problem, there is only so much I know. I do know the machine is a 25yr old Mr. Espresso Faema (I was told exacty how old it was when I showed a picture at the place a bought the portafilter for it).  The grinder that I use is a la pavoni zip, which I purchased along with a la pavoni pub2. I had my la pavoni machine professionally tuned up and everything was ready to go and then the transformer board went bad. The mechanic told me that it would not be worth fixing considering the part alone costs $850 new, so a guy that I know just gave me his old machine for me to use (the one in the video).  I have no idea what kind of pump it has or if there is a way to adjust the water temperature (which is very very hot), but I was planning to call my mechanic to take a look at it.  

If i remember correctly, the dial on my grinder is set to 9. That was the setting when I bought the grinder, and the espresso shots were a lot better on my pub2.  Does the fineness of the grind really makes that big of a difference from machine to machine?  The espresso beans are fresh, purchased 3 weeks ago and stored in an air tight container. I don't remember what kind of beans they are as I threw away the bag when I put em in the container, but, when I smell the beans they smell a little "sour"-don't know if that helps determining the kind of beans they are. The fact that they smell that way probably explains the bitterness in taste, but the flow just isn't right (and i still think the taste is too bitter).

I forgot to mention that after I pull the shot, there's water inside the portafilter, does that mean anything? I always thought there shouldn't be any water left.
I also don't have the right size tamper for the Faema portafilter. I use the one I have for the la pavoni, which is a little smaller, and when I tamp there's some "untamped" coffee around the edges. I try to tamp everything down, but I can't tamp it down at the same time 'cause my tamper is not big enough. Could that be another reason?
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qualin
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qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 653
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Mon Sep 17, 2012, 9:22pm
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

You know, until today, I never thought I would hear an espresso machine cry out in pain like that... It is as if it is bleeding coffee..

If I were you, I'd get that machine professionally looked at ASAP.

Another recommendation, go to a proper coffee shot and drink a straight single or double espresso. See how it compares in taste to what you are making.
Let us know what you find. Stay away from any place which has a super automatic.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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fwtechwiz
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Joined: 19 Feb 2010
Posts: 530
Location: Fort Wayne, IN
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Evolution
Grinder: Hario Skerton
Posted Tue Sep 18, 2012, 3:26am
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

Yes the grind setting makes a huge difference from machine to machine, every machine takes a different grind setting to dial it in.  You mention the water is 'very hot'.  I suspect that's a major reason why the shots are bitter.  Try flushing the group for a few seconds to cool it down before locking in the portafilter and pulling the shot.  Your beans being three weeks since you bought them says they are already past their prime, thus the 'sour' smell.  They are stale.  When you bought the beans is of no consequence.  You need to know when the beans were roasted.  The rule of 15's applies here.  Beans are generally stale 15 days after roasting.  My advice, get some beans that are no more than 5 days post roast, dial the grinder much finer, until it chokes the machine, then back off just a bit, that should get you in the ball park for a good grind setting, and flush the group before pulling the shot to get the brew temp cooler.
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naso
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Joined: 16 Sep 2012
Posts: 5
Location: CA
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Tue Sep 18, 2012, 8:53pm
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

thanks for the advice, but I have to ask..what difference does it make if I let the head run for a few seconds? isn't the water temperature going to be the same since it's coming from the water heater?

I don't know if there is a way for me to know when the beans are roasted, I bought them from cash&carry and that's where I usually buy everything I need (easy stop on my way to work).  Is there a date on the bag that would tell me when they were roasted, or should I buy them from a specialty store?

And what does it mean "choke" the machine? and how do I do that? How low should I go on the dial? start from 1 and work my way up tasting espresso from each setting?

Back to the water being too hot, what is the ideal temperature? I thought to use the thermometer and pour water from the head into a cup to see how hot it really is
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qualin
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qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 653
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Tue Sep 18, 2012, 9:54pm
Subject: Re: Bitter taste and "flow" of espresso shot
 

naso Said:

what difference does it make if I let the head run for a few seconds?

Posted September 18, 2012 link

Read this: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs

You need to understand how a heat exchanging machine works in order to understand why you need to do this. To put it simply,
the brewing water in the heat exchanging tube gets superheated by the boiler if it has been sitting for too long. When the pump
is activated, this water flashes into steam as soon as it hits air. The water behind the steam also is too hot because the tube
containing the brewing water is still too hot.

As brewing water is run through the boiler, it cools down the tube and you get cooler water for your shot. This is one of the
fallacies behind heat exchanging machines. The only way to avoid this is either to go back to using a single boiler dual use machine
or to go to a double boiler.

This is what is called a cooling flush.

naso Said:

isn't the water temperature going to be the same since it's coming from the water heater?

Posted September 18, 2012 link

Actually, the whole entire concept of a heat exchanging machine is that a heat exchanging tube is run through the steam boiler.
So, to answer your question, not really.  

naso Said:

I don't know if there is a way for me to know when the beans are roasted,

Posted September 18, 2012 link

I find that personally asking the roaster is probably one of the easiest and fastest ways to find out. :-) If nobody knows or can tell you,
then realistically, those beans really aren't worth buying and will just result in a lot of frustration on your part.

naso Said:

I bought them from cash&carry

Posted September 18, 2012 link

There is a whole thread on another part of this forum about what to look for when it comes to buying beans. I can certainly tell you that
you are going about it the wrong way. You should be buying your beans from a roaster, not from a convenience store. Especially if you
want to put some nice high grade coffee through that machine of yours. :-)

naso Said:

Is there a date on the bag that would tell me when they were roasted,

Posted September 18, 2012 link

That all depends on who packaged the beans. If you can't see a date on the bag or you can't get the roasting date from someone, they're not
worth buying. You could probably use them for drip coffee, but that's about it.

naso Said:

And what does it mean "choke" the machine? and how do I do that?

Posted September 18, 2012 link

To choke the machine means that you used too fine of a grind and/or too much of a dose, you turned the pump on and barely anything is
coming out, if at all. If your coffee is taking over 40 seconds to extract, it's going to taste like Satan's bodily fluids. Been there, done that.
(Figuratively speaking, of course.)

To choke the machine is actually a good thing in some ways, because then you have a baseline to work from to help you dial in your shot.
Either reduce the dose or grind courser and make another shot. You should aim for 2 ounces of coffee in about 18-30 seconds, getting as
close to the 25 second mark as possible. (Stuff extracted between 18-30 seconds is drinkable, but it will affect the flavor of the coffee.)

naso Said:

How low should I go on the dial?

Posted September 18, 2012 link

As low as you need to go. Unfortunately, you will be making sink shot after sink shot until you become familiar with your grinder. Then,
after a while, you can start establishing mental baselines as to where to start whenever you switch to using another blend of beans.

Obviously, you are making sink shots which are too fast, so obviously your grinder is set too course. I don't know how your dial on your
grinder works, but here's what I found....

My Rocky has a numeric scale... now the numbers don't mean anything.. but I will toss the figures out there... I know that when the grinder
was calibrated, 0 was when the burrs were touching, so that's the finest setting. So "1" would be my minimum baseline.

When I started out, I used "20" as a start and looked at the grounds, they were like ground sugar, kinda sorta.. I could tell that this was way too
course. Espresso grind should be like a fine powder, kind of like icing sugar, not like regular sugar.

So, I reduced down to "15" and made a shot.. wayyyy too fast.. So, I reduced down to "10", still too fast. Reduced down to "5", this was
a choker, nothing was coming out of the machine at all. So I reduced my dose from 16 grams to 14 grams and made another shot.. this was
still a choker, with no noticeable difference.

So, I bumped the grinder up to "7".. Still a bit of a choker, it probably would have taken about 45 seconds to extract 2 oz of coffee.. I knew I
was getting closer.. So I bumped the grinder up to "8" and got a fast shot but not a gusher, 2 oz in about 12 seconds.

Then I decided to updose since 7 was too fine and 8 was too course.. So I bumped the dose from 14 grams to 16 grams and made the shot
again. This time, I pulled the shot in nearly 30 seconds flat. I drank that. Good enough.

The next shot I made, I reduced the dose down to 15.6 grams and that gave me the 25 seconds I was looking for.

As my coffee aged, I found that I had to keep increasing the dose... Before I reached the end of the beans, which at this point in time were
nearly 3 weeks old and starting to smell sour, I found that I had to dose about 16.4 grams to keep the shot at about 25 seconds.

Another coffee geek with a grinder that is stepless or has more settings would have just adjusted the grind rather than the dose.

naso Said:

start from 1 and work my way up tasting espresso from each setting?

Posted September 18, 2012 link

What kind of grinder are you using? I don't know what "1" means. I wouldn't even begin to taste any kind of espresso until you get an
extraction time between 18-30 seconds. Anything else just tastes like ... well.. you can find out the hard way if you want but believe me,
it's not very pleasant.

naso Said:

Back to the water being too hot, what is the ideal temperature? I thought to use the thermometer and pour water from the head into a cup to see how hot it really is

Posted September 18, 2012 link

Well, this depends on the kind of coffee you are using and the blend you are using. Again, your roaster will be able to tell you what temperature the coffee should be extracted at.
Realistically though, a good baseline for starting out with any coffee is about 201 F or about 94 C. At least, this is from what I've read.

With an HX machine, you can control brewing temperature by adjusting the steam boiler pressure, but I don't recommend doing that until you are familiar with the machine.
I believe for a lot of HX machines, about 1.1 to 1.2 Bar should be your target pressure. If it is reading too high, the shot will be too hot. Too low and it'll be too cool.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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