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Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Help Diagnosing...  
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Rico1919
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 8
Location: KY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sat Dec 21, 2013, 2:20pm
Subject: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

I have had my Silvia for about 3 years now, but have recently come back from taking a bit of a break from using it.  Upon returning to using the machine again, I am having some problems getting the results that I used to get and I was hoping for some guidance.  Just as some background, I am using a v3 Silvia (which I backflushed and de-scaled after the break) with a Baratza Vario grinder.  I have had an ongoing, minor channeling problem when using a bottomless portafilter for some time, but it has gotten extremely bad recently and I am unable to get even a palatable shot to come out.  I used to be able to achieve a nice 25 second pull, but am now lucky to get past 10 seconds with the gushers that I have been experiencing.  

I have spent several hours today playing with grind and dose but have come up empty-handed and frustrated.  I took the Vario through several iterations of grind settings (even adjusting the overall grind setting using the knob to get it as fine as I could without the burrs hitting) to try and at least choke the machine as a starting point, but with no luck.  I have dosed everywhere from 12-16 grams (double basket) trying to isolate if dose was the issue (my prime suspect given Silvia's temperamental nature with overdosing), but am still getting nasty channeling which I cannot seem to fix.  I even busted out my old, modified Breville BCG450XL, which I used before getting the Vario, but issues continued.

I am using an espresso blend from a local roaster which has a roasted-on date of less than 2 weeks ago.  I have tried a bottomless, triple-shot portafilter basket and the stock double-shot basket.  I started exploring some crazy options like the modified shower screen with the flat set screw and the OPV modification to drop it to 8.5-9 bars but I suspect that none of these will fix what seems to be a fundamental issue in the grind-dose-tamp-pull procedure.  I have read numerous tutorials to try and diagnose so far, but the wealth of knowledge on this forum has helped solve problems throughout my espresso journey and I was hoping that you could offer some guidance in diagnosing these latest hiccups.  

Thanks,
Mike
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,960
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 Sat Dec 21, 2013, 10:44pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Any chance you can post a video? You seem to have covered all the usual suspects, so it's either something you're doing or your grinder's got an issue. Assuming your Silvia is coming up to proper temp ok, that is.

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


Joined: 9 Mar 2013
Posts: 11
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Dec 23, 2013, 9:38pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Hi Rico,

I experienced a similar situation with my Silvia a little while back.  I first thought it was the roaster giving me old beans.  Then I tore apart the entire machine and cleaned it till it sparkled, although it was pretty clean anyways (I'm playing with controlling it over the net so I'm always in there tinkering, and while I'm at it I usually open the boiler to make sure things are okay in there), still no luck though.  Then I checked the flow through the OPV with the backflush insert in the portafilter - Bingo.  I had adjusted it before, to ~9 bar and it worked great.  Now for some reason it showed a flow rate as though the OPV was set to open at ~10 bar.  I quickly adjusted it back to around 9 bar using the flow versus pressure curve for the ULKA pump in the Silvia.  Brewed a double, no more channeling, no more horrible burnt rubber taste, just delicious espresso.

I would suggest you try the OPV adjustment if you feel confident enough (it's not very difficult).  Be sure to take lots of pictures along the way and mark the original spot where the OPV was set in case it goes awry.  The Silvia OPV mod is well-documented and you should have no trouble following the steps to get it done.  I think this is your culprit.

I hope this helps,
Have a great day,
-Jeff
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Rico1919
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 8
Location: KY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sat Jan 11, 2014, 3:13pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Thank you both for your responses.  With the holiday season, I never had a chance to get more beans and dig any further, but I have now grabbed some new coffee and have tinkered a bit more.  I have filmed prep videos as requested and also have close up videos with the stock and triple bottomless portafilter (the best to show the extreme channeling - I didn't realize how bad it was until I get right in there with a cameraphone so enjoy that).  

Triple Close Up (aka cameraphone hazard)
Triple Prep
Double Close Up
Double Prep

Jeff - thanks for the suggestion on the OPV.  I have considered that this might be an issue, but wanted to rule everything else out before I started tinkering with another variable.  I have seen a couple of guides on adjusting the OPV - how did you measure the pressure coming out of the grouphead?  Did you invest in a gauge like the one found here?

As always, the help is greatly appreciated.  I have been getting pretty frustrated with this machine as a good shot of espresso has been absent from my kitchen for far too long.
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faster
Senior Member


Joined: 27 May 2013
Posts: 88
Location: France
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Rancillio Silvia-PID
Grinder: Rossi RR45
Roaster: Homemade drum roaster
Posted Sun Jan 12, 2014, 4:36am
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Hi Rico,
this is much better    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/131042683528?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1423.l2649 and it is done for that purpose.

I made one from a DIY or plumbing supply store for 1/2 price, you need an elbow 3/8" F/F and a gauge 10-15 bar that handles liquids. you might need an adaptor.
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forgetcolor
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Jan 2007
Posts: 14
Location: usa
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Jan 27, 2014, 10:20pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Rico, did you get this sorted?

It really looks to me like too coarse of grinds, too light of tamp, and possibly too small of a dose.

First, on the grind. Can you adjust your grinder finer and finer and see what happens? You should eventually be able to choke the machine, and at least if that's the case you know that somewhere between the two settings is right.

On the tamp, it looks light. I don't think that's a big deal, but you might try a heavier tamp. Use a scale to approximately 30lbs of pressure if you like.

On the dose, what's your dose amount? On my stock Silvia basket, I dose about 16g. Yes, this doesn't leave enough headroom for the screen nut, but I honestly have no problem with channeling and always dose right up against it.

I'd say start with grinds.
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Burner0000
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Jul 2011
Posts: 1,051
Location: Cambridge, Ontario Canada
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Rancilio Silvia, VFA Expres...
Grinder: Macap MX/VFA N1464/Kyocera...
Drip: Manual Drip, French Press
Roaster: Behmor 1600 / Sonofresco
Posted Tue Jan 28, 2014, 7:24am
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Hey Rico,

If the OPV is fine then the Silvia isn't this issue.  I'd make sure the Vario adjustment isn't drifting when you grind. Your prep looks fine.  Also depending on how your supplier blends their coffee the bean might not be helping either.  A while back I tried an espresso blend from a local roaster and he/she blended after roasting so there was light, medium and dark beans in the blend.  I gave up on trying to pull bottomless with it.  The lighter roasted beans were causing weak points in the puck.  Not saying that that's your issue just a possibility.  My money is on the Vario.
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Dayglow
Senior Member
Dayglow
Joined: 5 Oct 2007
Posts: 67
Location: Greenville, NC
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Tue Jan 28, 2014, 8:09am
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

If you don't already I would suggest weighing each coffee dosing by itself and fluff the grounds with a needle or probe or something, I use a surgical probe. Ensuring that you have the full weighted dose is very important and the fluffing helps break up any clumps or inconsistencies. As others have suggested checking pressure and/or adjusting the OPV may also be helpful. A machine that sits for a while can have all kind of gremlins or -forgive the pun- sprites...
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Rico1919
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 8
Location: KY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Mon Feb 24, 2014, 5:13pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

Hey guys,

Sorry for the delay,  work has been very busy.  I have been trying to hunt down the parts to build the gauge locally to adjust the opv but have been coming up empty handed. I am just going to order the one suggested and go from there,  but that may take a bit to come in so will be delayed a bit longer. This espresso-less drought seems to be never-ending.

As for the other questions posed, I have checked the tamp with a scale and shoot for 30 lbs. I am dosing between 14 and 16g for a double,  which I check each time. I have tried under dosing to clear the shower screen as well but without luck. I have adjusted the grinder way,  way up (even adjusting the set screw per baratza instructions) to try and choke the machine,  but the channels continuously prevent me from succeeding. I have tried multiple local roasters,  but all seem to produce the same results.

As for the needle in the grounds, I have seen that method proposed and will give it a shot,  but the channeling is so bad,  I have a hard time believing that subtle enhancement will fix it. I am holding out a lot of hope for the opv adjustment,  but if that doesn't work,  will have to turn my attention back to the grinder. Thanks again for all the help.  Sorry for the delays,  but I will definitely follow up with any progress (success or failure).
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Rico1919
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 8
Location: KY
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Mar 23, 2014, 8:02pm
Subject: Re: Help Diagnosing Problems with Silivia
 

So the long-awaited update on this: the OPV was ~1 bar too high.  I adjusted it using the suggested gauge suggested by faster previously in this thread to about 9 bar (with the machine hot), and the channeling is still occurring.  Also, while using my Vario for drip coffee, I noticed that the grind adjustment was slipping when running.  I contacted Baratza, who very promptly sent me the shims to fix the issue.  Despite all of this tinkering, I am still unable to get a decent shot of espresso to pull out of the setup.  

I know most said that the grinder was their suspect.  As I have said previously in this thread, I tried my old grinder (a modified Breville Bar Aroma), but still had some bad channeling.  I am going to pull it back out and give it another shot. I also have a Hario Mini hand grinder at work that I may bring home to try and see if I can choke the machine with either grinder, but I am doubting it.  

I am more than open to any other ideas or suggestions that posters may have.  I tried the needle in the grounds, but no go.  I tried tamping the hell out of it and grinding extremely fine to try and choke the machine, but no go.  To add insult to injury, the knob on the steam wand cracked when I was turning it.  The thing still works, but can just be easily pulled out of the machine now.  I'm considering just buying an economy can of Folgers, trading in the Silvia for a percolator, and conceding to a life of simple pleasures.
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