I got a Delonghi Bar32 espresso maker for Christmas and so far haven't been able to get a non-sour shot.
I am have been using Illy medium ground espresso. I let the machine heat up for ~10 minutes and pull a shot just of water to heat up the machine. I then pack my espresso in the single shot porta filter and tamp it down with around 30lbs of pressure. I pull the shot for around ~22 seconds until I see the stream start to turn white. The crema is light colored with small and big bubbles. The taste is always super sour.
Things I have tried to remedy the problem: - Tamp the shot lightly (~5-15lbs) - Tamp the shot strongly (~40-50lbs) - Let the machine heat up longer - Not the let the machine heat up that much - Change brew time (low - 16 secs, high - 28 secs) - Use different tamper (attached plastic tamper and 49mm aluminum tamper)
I don't know what else I can do to make it less sour. Its definately sour much more then its bitter.
espresso is made with water and coffee.. Guess where the taste comes from.
To be serious about espresso, and to get the best taste possible you need to use whole beans, ground seconds before you need it. This means you need a grinder, and you need fresher coffee than some that comes from Italy.
Green coffee lasts for 12 months Roasted coffee lasts for 12 days Ground coffee lasts for 12 minutes
The espresso machine you have is limited in its ability to make good espresso, but by far, at least at this point, the coffee you are using is holding you back.
I'm curious as to why you are adamant that poor and/or old coffee beans can't make sour espresso. You have asked for advice and someone has given you good advice, but you state that you know better. Why are you asking for help then?
Having said that:
I can assure you that old, poor quality beans can make super sour espresso. I have a very old bag of supermarket beans that I keep to get a rough dial-in when I have changed a grinder's burrs. I once pulled ashot with this cofee, and it was almost unbelievablly sour.
From your description it appears that you are using pre-ground coffee. The problem with this is that there are 2 main variables used in adjusting the shot time; the courseness or fineness of the grind, and the amount of coffee you pack into the portafilter. By using preground you rule out one of these, and it may be impossible to get a good pour on your machine with a "medium" grind. (Whatever that might be)
White, thin crema can be caused by a few things. Too coarse a grind can yield poor crema, but you are unable to change if it is preground. Brew temperature that is way off can also be a cause. By far the most common cause is stale beans.
All the posts have been constructive annd the coffee is certainly the issue. I am somewhat curious why someone who is just starting out would reject the advice of someone with $4000 invested in a grinder and machine, with over 1000 posts and who roasts their own coffee? You can use the search feature on the site to see the same answer you got repeated many times...
You may have issue with your technique as well but that cannot be determined until you fix the coffee issue.
It may be the coffee and it may not be. The coffee is one possible cause. Another would be a brewing temperature that is too low.
For example, I just tried Black Cat Classic Espresso for the first time. I usually have my Mini Vivaldi II set for 93C (199.4F) for brewing espresso. That temperature works great for the three blends that are the mainstays of my espresso diet (Redbird, Cafe Fresco Ambrosia, and Marchristay Black Pearl). With the Black Cat I did a couple of test shots to dial in my grind and pour, and then pulled a shot for tasting. It was extremely sour. I had to bump the brew temperature all the way up to 96C (204.8F) in order to get a shot that wasn't sour.
I do agree that using a different espresso blend is probably the simplest thing to try.
If you try one of these blends and your shots are still turning out sour then the most likely cause is your brewing temperature. The thing is that neither of these roasters offer pre-ground coffee. You will definitely get better espresso with freshly roasted whole bean coffee ground just prior to brewing. The only other pre-ground espresso that I am aware of is Lavazza. You could try some of that.
Also, how much coffee are you dosing into your basket? Having a digital scale to weigh it out really helps when you are just getting started or getting set up with a different espresso blend. You may need to modify the dose and it's hard to do that with any precision without a scale.
Really... ? Illy is not the issue? Which ingredient in espresso creates the flavor? I'll wait.... YES! It's the coffee. Crappy coffee makes crappy espresso. Unless you have a cauldron, eye of newt, a black-cat bone, and a black, pointy hat, there is no way around that. Even very high-quality coffee that is allowed to go stale tastes horrible. I know from experience.
Have you tried ANY other coffee to eliminate Illy as the cause of the poor taste? Have you measured brew temperature of the machine? Have you allowed it to warm up sufficiently? Have you researched that machine to find the best way to use it? Are you sure you are using it correctly?
I am not sure why I am responding to you at this point, because with two posts here to your name you seem to have it all figured out. With my mere ten years of making espresso at home and roasting all my own coffee during that time, I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to this subject. I wish I could have learned in my decade of experience with coffee as you have in the last two weeks, but I will give it one more try to help you.
Illy coffee is roasted in Italy. They then grind it and put it into a can. By the time it arrives in California it is old by espresso standards. Being that it is preground it is not even fit for making espresso by even the most basic standards. Within seconds of opening the can, regardless of how the coffee was packed, it was stale. Stale coffee tastes bad. I mentioned in my first reply to you that ground coffee needs to be used in a very short time after grinding if it is for espresso. I can say that The coffee may not be the ONLY cause of the problem, but it most likely (dare I say, undoubtedly?) is A cause. Illy whole bean, ground on a quality grinder, is OK for the first day after opening the can, but by the next day it tastes stale. Pregound Illy? Unsuitable for espresso. What you are calling sour can be a number of things, but you will be chasing you tail trying to get decent taste out of this coffee.
If you are SURE that the coffee is not the problem, then it is either the machine or you. Easiest thing to change then is the coffee to verify that it is not the coffee causing the problem. But I have to assume that since you are using preground coffee that you do not have a grinder. I downloaded the manual and this machine also appears to have crema-enhancing portafilters that allow it to use just about any grind of coffee. These create an artificial crema with a wide range of grinds. The manual even calls the "crema" this machine creates "froth." This enhancement is a definite strike against the machine. In regards to the machine, it can be purchased new for around $100, including shipping. That's less than the burrs for grinders that some of us use. I don't mean for you to look a gift horse in the mouth, but don't expect too much from this machine.
I started out in much the same place you are. I originally thought that $125 should be PLENTY for an espresso machine. It really is not. Espresso is a very complicated beverage, and creating delicious espresso happens within a very narrow set of parameters- brew pressure, water quality, water temperature, grind, grind particle distribution, distribution of the coffee in the basket, the roast, the bland, and more all have to be just right. Making espresso is not like microwaving a Weight-Watcher's meal. It takes high-quality equipment as well as quality coffee and a knowledgeable operator to get there. While there is no way for us to evaluate your preparation technique through words, your VERY basic espresso machine, no grinder, crema enhancing portafilter baskets, and stale coffee are all combining to make your task such that Sisyphus is saying, "Wow! I'm glad I'm not her."
Sour typically means either stale coffee, and/or underextracting soluables from the coffee due to low water temp or too coarse of a grind.
You can check and possibly address a water temp issue with the styrofoam cup method and some temp surfing. But for everything else, your ideally going to need a good grinder and some good beans to correct things.
I apologize for discounting the bad coffee theory. I don't presume to know that it could not be the coffee that is the problem, but from reading reviews of people using illy preground successfully with this machine, I did not think that the coffee could have such a sour taste. As stated by many, its an easy trial so I will get some new freshly ground coffee from a local shop and try it out.
As to temp surfing, I was hoping not to spend anymore money on a temp gauge, but again very possible solution so if the new coffee doesn't work I will try it out.
The solutions that I have already tried have been the result of a lot of research on my machine. That is why I was turning to you guys since you know a lot more then me.
I know this isn't a quality machine but from this research I was able to see that a lot of people have had gotten at least a semi-decent espresso from it. That is all I'm looking for at this point so if the solution doesn't work then I'll be returning it and saving money to buy a better machine.
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