Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 7:57am Subject: Silvia debugging
I just upgraded from a failing Breville BES250 ("Cafe Venezia") to a Rancilio Silvia V3. (Side note: I do understand that the Silvia may not have been the best choice, but given availability / price ranges in South Africa, it seemed like my best bet at the moment.) The steam wand is a massive improvement; I'm still going to need some practice, but my first two tries produced far better microfoam than I ever got with the BES250. However, I'm struggling to pull anything resembling an espresso shot with the Silvia. The problem is, I'm not sure where to start adjusting things and in what direction in order to fix the problem.
I have a Baratza Virtuoso grinder; I was previously grinding with this at around the 9 setting for use with the BES250's double wall filter basket, and pulling a double shot in around 15 seconds. I realise this was probably "too fast", and that a finer grind would be required for the Silvia's single wall baskets, so I adjusted downwards to around the 5 mark. I'm tamping fairly firmly. I don't have a scale (on my list of things to correct, but...), so I've just been dosing by volume. Unfortunately, so far, every shot I pull basically starts out as black-coloured water, going clearish after around 10 seconds. I would say "blonde", except there's nothing really recognisable as crema at all. I tried adjusting the grind even finer, which may have produced a slight bit of oil on top, but didn't seem to make too much difference. The puck has a visible indentation from the screw in the centre of the grouphead (I understand this is normal), but other than that, there doesn't seem to be any disturbance of the puck, so I don't think there's channeling occurring (unless it's in the centre indentation); I'm not 100% sure I know what to look for.
My problem now is, I just don't know where to start figuring out what I'm doing wrong; there is lots of room for improvement, obviously, and I understand that a lower-end machine like the Silvia is a lot more "finnicky" than a better machine, but I'd like to at least get something resembling an espresso shot before I start worrying about the finer points of flavour and extraction. Any help would be appreciated!
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:01am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
One last note: I decided to try two more shots for the day before giving up, grinding at a "3" and then a "0" (finest) setting on the Virtuoso. The first attempt was about as bad as the previous attempts, with possibly a hint of very weak crema. The second attempt (on "0") produced what seemed to be a very thin/weak crema, which at least basically covered the top, but still pretty pathetic. This sort of suggests to me that my grind still isn't anywhere near fine enough?!
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:04am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
Oh, *another* note about the Virtuoso: I found Click Here (www.coffeegeek.com) which talks about an 11 setting for espresso grind; however, I believe I read elsewhere that newer Virtuosos come with the Preciso burrs fitted, whereas I think that review covered the model with the older burrs, thus is probably not directly comparable to mine.
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:13am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
That is a puzzler. Are you using the stock filter basket? The double? When I had a Silvia, I mostly used a replacement ridgeless basket but the stock double was ok. I never got the hang of single shots.
Are you weighing the grounds? Someone can correct me if I'm wrong but IIRC, a double should be somewhere in the 14-17 gram range.
The usual advice for dialing in a shot is to standardize your tamp and vary the grind with a lighter tamp and finer grind preferred. I would have thought the Virtuoso could choke a Silvia on the finest grind. Does it have a fine adjustment as well? I've only used a Preciso and Vario.
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:26am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
I'm using the stock double basket, with a 58mm tamper from a local retailer (the stock tamper seems pretty useless, way too small?). I avoided the stock single basket as by all accounts it's very difficult to use, and my usual drink is a latte/cappucino with a double shot. The tamper seems to catch slightly in the double basket (although it looks like it fits the single basket perfectly), but I don't *think* this is the problem. I'm not weighing the grounds (yet), don't have a suitable scale on hand; my next step will probably be to procure one so that I can at least start dosing consistently.
The Virtuoso doesn't have a fine adjustment, just a single "ring" (actually, the entire bean hopper rotates). I expected it to choke as well, especially given how much finer it is than what I was using with the BES250, but... apparently not? Is there some other mistake I could be making somewhere to throw the pressure off completely? Otherwise, perhaps my dosing is just too far out for the Silvia; some of the things I read suggested that it's very sensitive to dose size.
LauraH Senior Member Joined: 14 May 2013 Posts: 16 Location: Xico, Mexico Expertise: Just starting
Espresso: Rancilio Silvia Grinder: Rancilio Rocky
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 8:46am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
I have a Sylvia and found for the coffee I was using I needed to reduce the amount of coffee in the basket. The screw impression ONLY happens AFTER the shot has been pulled. If you see the puck disturbed BEFORE you draw the shot, then there is too much coffee in the basket. Once I reduced the amount, I got GREAT crema. If your beans were roasted more than 2 or 3 weeks ago then your shots are not going to be very good no matter what you do. Even if you drink only one shot, use the double basket. You throw less coffee out as trying to make the perfect shot with a single basket on the Sylvia is to say the least HARD! Someone who has a Baratza Virtuoso can speak to the adjustment of the grinder but from what I have read on Coffeegeek it should be choking the Sylvia at the low numbers you are using. I question if the calibration is off. Again, someone with more knowledge of your grinder can speak better to that. FRESHLY roasted beans, less coffee in the basket, no more than about 30 lbs of pressure on the tamping, and a well calibrated grinder should be producing lovely shots. Perhaps trying a different roast may also help with more joy in your cup. The Sylvia has been a great machine for me and I hope you can find her sweet spot soon. Enjoy the journey!
tickandtin Senior Member Joined: 23 Sep 2013 Posts: 3 Location: nh Expertise: Just starting
Posted Mon Oct 14, 2013, 10:02am Subject: Re: Silvia debugging
I have also just purchased the Rancilio Sylvia and am new to the world of coffee. Although i am far from making a great espresso these are a few things that helped me. The portafilter basket was designed for 14 grams with a tamp the coffee comes up to the ridge mark. I have the same grinder as you and I understand that they are not calibrated the same I have been pulling shots with the grinder set to 3 micro I macro which gives me a 30g of espresso in 25sec. The coffee also comes out of the grinder with lumps so i break them down with a fork. I usually let the Sylvia warmup for 45 min and i do have a pid on mine. I do use a scale and have seen how much small changes do make. It would probably be best to get a scale so you can try to get some consistency. Like I said I am a beginner and this is what makes it interesting the journey for a good espresso.
My Virtuoso only has a single adjustment scale, not micro/macro; it sounds like you have the Virtuoso Preciso.
I do use a scale and have seen how much small changes do make. It would probably be best to get a scale so you can try to get some consistency. Like I said I am a beginner and this is what makes it interesting the journey for a good espresso.
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