Posted Thu Jul 1, 2004, 4:03am Subject: Advice For A Newbie?
I'm a complete novice when it comes to coffee really, but I know that I love the stuff when I go to the likes of Starbucks etc, so I'm trying to get into it. I have a coffee machine which does filter coffee and espresso, and it's the espresso side that's frustrating me. I made sure it had a decent pump when I got it (I think it's 15bar) but no matter what I do, the shots come out so bitter that it's undrinkable. I'm learning bit by bit and I certainly was using coffee that wasn't ground finely enough until recently, but I got the guy at Whittards to grind it to espresso grade for me before rushing out to buy a good grinder, and still the espresso is bad. Having read stuff on this forum I've worked on improving the temperature and by telling the machine to heat the water for steam instead of espresso I've got hotter water. I also used a little less coffee yesterday and actually got a half-decent espresso, but still not great. What am I doing wrong?
When the espresso comes out of the portafilter it drips instead of flowing out smoothly, and the liquid is quite a light colour almost straight away. I think the coffee that comes out is quite a nice colour and I get some crema, although having seen some of the pictures on here it's not quite up to those standards.
Finally, I mentioned that I'm planning to get a better grinder (at the moment I have one of those cheap, blade jobbies), so long as I can get the shots tasting good with my shop-ground coffee to prove it'll be worth the money. Any advice will be very gratefully received!
AndyL Senior Member Joined: 31 Dec 2003 Posts: 1,337 Location: australia Expertise: Pro Barista
Espresso: 2 Synesso,1957 urania lever Grinder: 2 Robur E, Robur, K10 Vac Pot: Hario Roaster: 5kg Renegade
Posted Thu Jul 1, 2004, 4:22am Subject: Re: Advice For A Newbie?
If the coffee drips its ok. If it keeps dripping over 7 seconds you have a problem. But under 7 seconds is ok. It also depends on the beans too. Fresh vs old beans will vary. Its around 25 seconds for 25 mls. People might vary this theory but its an estimate. You do it to your needs. If you like 26 seconds then fine. Follow these rules if it is coming out too fast 1 tamp harder 2 more coffee if it is still too fast 3 finer grind if it is still too fast 4 repeat to 1
Keep doing this until you get the perfect shot. Pre heat Portafitlers, cups and heads.
Fine a good roaster that has fresh coffee beans Starbucks coffee...... a good starting point but when you go beyond starbucks you will never look back and you will laugh.
CaffeCaffe Senior Member Joined: 27 Oct 2003 Posts: 95 Location: Fort Worth, TX Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Livia 90 Auto Grinder: Rocky
Posted Thu Jul 1, 2004, 4:38am Subject: Re: Advice For A Newbie?
I agree with MAL305:
If you are using Starbucks espresso, it bitter from the start. Many espresso blands in the states is over roasted to the pont of being burnt. I'm not sure who started this terrible trend.
Usually, just throwing it out, lower end machines just don't have enough power to make good espresso. If the espresso has a metalic taste its usaully a sign of a cheap boiler, portafilter and not getting hot enough. On the other hand, maybe your grind is too fine and your tamping too hard.
Get some good Italian beans from Italy. The big guys like Segafreddo, Lavazza is half way decent, but you can do much better if you can find a small producer like Passalacqua.
If you don't want to spend alot of money on a grinder, look for a Braun grinder. It does the job, but what a mess.
Posted Thu Jul 1, 2004, 2:16pm Subject: Re: Advice For A Newbie?
Wow... Thanks all you guys. I really appreciate your help - keep it coming. I just feel so overwhelmed by all the variables and I'm fast beginning to see that like anything else you want to get really into, you really can spend any amount of money you want, with the quality seemingly improving proportionately. Where do you draw the line?
Possibly the biggest problem I find myself facing now is: Do I even know what a good espresso should taste like? If the ones they serve in Starbucks aren't that great and I've only had those and similar from Costa, Coffee Republic etc, then what do I have to compare my own to? Lots of people on here think that their espressos are better than the ones they get in coffee houses, so I guess I'm struggling for a benchmark.
And also, that post about the SYLVIA talked a lot about tampers. Don't tell me they're important too!? I'm only using the little plastic thing attached to my machine - how complicated can they get?
I'm glad there are patient, passionate people like you lot to talk to!
pillguy Senior Member Joined: 16 Dec 2003 Posts: 38 Location: Houston, TX Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Rancilio Silvia Grinder: Rancilio Rocky, with doser
Posted Thu Jul 1, 2004, 3:18pm Subject: Re: Advice For A Newbie?
I am not sure what Whittards is, so here is my advice. Go to a good coffee house, one that uses a Semi-Auto commercial machine. Beg them to grind you 1/2lb of whatever espresso roast they use in their grinder. Then bring it home, make sure you tamp properly, and try it.
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