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Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Talk me out of...  
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:20pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

It seems to me you are just posting to help yourself via advertising your machine rather than help other people. Since that is an uncommon, vintage machine, it is probably not a realistic starter machine for most people.  It is more practical info to tell them that heating a thermal mass (i.e. an espresso machine) takes time than about the rare exception to the rule.

 
Coffeenoobie

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crazy4espresso
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crazy4espresso
Joined: 18 Jan 2008
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Location: Toronto
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Espresso: Silvia, La Pavoni...
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Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:27pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

dyqik Said:

It's not 30 minutes to get hot, it's 30 minutes to warm up and stabilize, with all parts reaching their long term, stable, idling temperatures.  You can only get consistent shots during an operating session if all the parts have approached thermal equilibrium before you start.  Some parts will be hot long before the rest of the machine has stabilized.

Posted November 30, 2012 link

Hi,

Yes, I'm aware of warm up times as I own a Rancilio Silvia and have owned several other machines.  It's hard to believe I know but this is a small machine with few parts that need warming up and after a few minutes you actually need to cool it down with a cooling flush before you attempt to make coffee.  The thermoblock weighs several kilos and sits right above the group.  I really should do a vid before I let the machine go.
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crazy4espresso
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crazy4espresso
Joined: 18 Jan 2008
Posts: 148
Location: Toronto
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia, La Pavoni...
Grinder: Pharos
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:29pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

It seems to me you are just posting to help yourself via advertising your machine rather than help other people. Since that is an uncommon, vintage machine, it is probably not a realistic starter machine for most people.  It is more practical info to tell them that heating a thermal mass (i.e. an espresso machine) takes time than about the rare exception to the rule.

Posted November 30, 2012 link

Was just trying to point out that there are exceptions to rules.  I'm not trying to sell my machine, it's sold already but I apologize if it came across that way.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:36pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

I apologize for misunderstanding your post.

Thermoblocks in general are an exception and stating that is helpful.  The CC1 and the nocturn are both thermoblocks.  They have other downsides though.

 
Coffeenoobie

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

My coffee treasure map...
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Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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biochemgawd
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Joined: 26 Mar 2006
Posts: 85
Location: Canada
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: BDB
Grinder: Vario
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:45pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

I am betting you would not have the resale value from that breville set up so you would have to think of the 550$ and the machine disposable.  Right now I could sell my used machine for what I paid for it and it would move fast and I could probably recover a lot of the grinder cost as well.  

But I would be glad of more starter set ups to pick from. Right now there is a huge market opening there.  I wish the Nocturn guys would get going.

Posted November 30, 2012 link

You're talking to the guy with a Silvia V1, a Lelit PL041 w/i PID and a Rocky collecting dust in his basement ;-)

I don't disagree regarding resale, but I would argue that you should be able to pull a much better shot from the 840XL if it has the temp stability of the BDB.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 1:50pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

You should sell all your stuff in the basement.  Noobies would like it.  And I have only played with an BDB and not an 840 so I have no way to judge its power to make espresso.

 
Coffeenoobie

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

My coffee treasure map...
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calblacksmith
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Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 2:22pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

I apologize for misunderstanding your post.

Thermoblocks in general are an exception and stating that is helpful.  The CC1 and the nocturn are both thermoblocks.  They have other downsides though.

Posted November 30, 2012 link

Yes they do, I took the parts from a BRAND NEW Expobar thermoblock to rebuild a Sylvia, the best use of the parts on that machine were to rebuild another machine. I tried many times to get the thermoblock to brew well and it was the worst machine I had ever used, including my "pump driven" Krups. YMMV!

 
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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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CMIN
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Joined: 14 Jun 2012
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Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Fri Nov 30, 2012, 3:30pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Coffeenoobie Said:

I apologize for misunderstanding your post.

Thermoblocks in general are an exception and stating that is helpful.  The CC1 and the nocturn are both thermoblocks.  They have other downsides though.

Posted November 30, 2012 link

CC1 is only thermoblock for steaming ;)
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apinstein
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Joined: 26 Nov 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville 840XL
Grinder: Breville 800XL
Posted Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:20pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

Ok, my Breville stuff came in and I've had a chance to pull some shots. I am such a noob and need some help. And by such a noob I mean I've never pulled a shot until I unboxed this thing, though I have been drinking espresso for years.

A few notes about the machine first. It seems very well made. It looks great, it's quiet, it's easy to clean, and I've gotten great results from the steamer. The only issues I've run into are:

  • The quick-start guide asks you to run a single-shot program through the grouphead after you turn it on the first time. No water came out despite multiple tries, and I was getting worried that it was a broken machine, but in the end I think it just took a while to prime the pump. No similar issues at all once it finally got going for the first time. I am not sure what finally primed it, but I did remove the tank and put it back on a few times and also ran the steam & hot water features a couple times (briefly) trying to get it to prime. Just an FYI for anyone else that might experience problems with their new Breville machine and water not coming out.
  • You can't easily see from the front when the water gets low. Not really a huge problem, but one of my shots stopped running in the middle of a pull and it's because the tank was totally empty.
  • There is some water getting into the storage drawer. I am not sure if it's a leak or just some of the steam discharge condensing back there. It's not much (maybe 1 tablespoon) after a decent amount of use.

So, now on to my espresso-making problems. If these should be moved to another forum please LMK but I think for now they still might be related to the machine so I'll start here.

The shots are coming out almost undrinkably sour. I've mostly been using the single-shot double-wall filter b/c I thought it was supposed to be "more forgiving for beginners". When I first started, some pulls had almost no liquid that actually came out of the portafilter. I started getting a decent shot volume out of the programmed single-shot mode, so I think I'm making progress.

I have read a ton and watched a ton of videos and things have improved a little, but I am just so inexperienced that I might be way off-base on my diagnostic capabilities. Besides that there are way too many variables to play with.

Since reading/watching I've switched to the double-shot single-wall filter as that seems to be what real baristas use, and I figure that their advice will be more applicable to that setup. Also it seems doubles are easier than singles (I suppose having more coffee in the shot makes it more forgiving on grind/tamp/pull). However I am still getting shots that at least to me seem to be quite sour (though no longer painfully undrinkable). It has really given me new respect for how hard it is make good coffee! It's also made me more impressed with the Krups Espresseria Super-Auto I bought for the office. That thing puts out consistently good straight shots.

Since my blast of reading/watching, my shots have started to get good "mouse tails" and more reasonable volumes, and the last shot I pulled I ran about 1/2 through the espresso grind range on the Breville smart grinder, tamped as well as I could based on the videos I saw, warmed up the machine until I was getting 185F out the portafilter, and used a single-wall double-shot filter. For the first time I think I got a shot on the bitter end of the range instead of the sour end. I think the shot ran too long (I didn't count exactly but it ran way longer than I've ever gotten so far). So I think I might finally be getting close to a "decent" espresso but I'm just not sure.

I am not sure if it's the machine holding me back (incosistent/low temps or pressure).

So, in an attempt to make sure I'm not doing anything grossly wrong, or that the machine isn't horribly broken/useless, a few basic questions:

  1. When people "time" the shot, is it from "pressing the button", or from the end of "pre-infusion" or what? It seems the pros on the YouTube video's I've seen start from flipping the switch on the machines, but all those videos are on commercial machines and I don't know if pre-infusion affects when I should start timing. Sometimes it takes 5s or so before the pressure shoots to espresso range.
  2. Water temperature - where do I measure this? So far I've been running empty shots with the portafilter on and measuring the water as it comes out of the portafilter spouts. When you first turn the machine on those numbers are 150-160F. If I run 5-6 shots then it ends up around 175F. If I run the steam for 15-20s and then immediately pull a shot, I am getting 185F. All of these numbers are obviously well below the 195-202F range people suggest as optimal, but I am not sure if that's in the basket or post-portafilter. From what I read you will get really sour espresso with low extraction temperatures, and the shots do taste better when I pull one in the 185F range, but I just want to be sure I'm measuring the right thing before I trick myself into thinking I'm making progress.
  3. I understand physics pretty well, so I understand that too-fine-grind, over-dosing and over-tamping could cause under-extraction due to preventing water from flowing through the puck, but I am not sure really how those three inputs affect it.
  4. The Breville comes with double-wall and single-wall filters. It's not clear to me whether they're pressurized or non-pressurized, and I'm not sure which to use.
  5. Should I ever use the pre-programmed shots? Or just always run manual (the Breville has a very easy to use manual override). If I do use manual, how long should I run pre-infusion for before letting the shot go?
  6. Are singles way harder to get right than doubles? Does anyone routinely make singles or are they just a bad idea in general?

So do you guys think I'm on the right track? Anything else you'd verify about the equipment? I am pretty sure the blame lies on the barista (me) and not the machine.

Is there a particular order you'd recommend to walking through the variables? What are the basic equipment choices I should use for training?

Thanks in advance for all of your advice/help!
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,052
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Dec 2, 2012, 1:00pm
Subject: Re: Talk me out of the Breville 860xl as an entry-level setup
 

I don't know your machine but I can give you some rough guide lines that should help.

The temp in your basket should be the 200 range the temp in the cup should be the 170 range.  A good drinking temp is the 140 range.  So your warmed up pulls with the water in the cup in the 170+- range is probably good temp at the group head.

Get a second timer- the dollar store has them if you can't find one. I set mine for 27 second count down.  Time the same way every time, I time from when I turn the pump on.  Just be consistent.  Most pre fusions are seconds I think most talk about 3-6 seconds.

Get a good scale that can do .1 and grams.

Singles are harder than the doubles to me.

If there is a 3 way value in the machine, after you pull a shot, there will be a little spray in the drip tray.  I am guessing that is what you are talking about.

Start with a good timer and weigh the beans and use the timer. This will make your more consistent. The more you are consistent- the more you can figure out what variable does when you change it.

 
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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