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My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
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smit0847
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jan 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Melbourne
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 3:29pm
Subject: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

Hi all
Recently bought the Delonghi Icona espresso machine together with a Baratza Virtuoso Grinder. The grinder works great - the beans smell beautiful when ground. There are a ridiculous amount of settings on the grinder - I've tried between 1 and 14 which it says is espresso but they all seem to come out looking the same consistency.

I've experimented with various ways of filling and packing the crema filter but every way results the same - the espresso is weak, watery and thin. Not dark and creamy and oily like in my local cafe. When I add frothed milk to make a latte the milk froths fine but it makes a very weak latte.

When I pack (i.e. push down) the ground beans lightly the water runs through quickly causing a very light watery espresso, if I pack the beans tightly espresso sometimes runs over the top of the crema filter and it only drips through the filter very slowly meaning it takes forever. This 'tight pack' method does create a slightly stronger coffee but it is still weak and watery with almost no crema.

Am I doing something wrong or do I just not have good enough equipment to replicate cafe coffee? I'm not really a coffee snob (though I detest the pods) but the results I am getting are not good and Im embarassed to have spent all this money on equipment that doesn't produce something worth drinking daily!

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,356
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 3:56pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

]Don't take this the wrong way, but lesson learned ;) . I owned a Delonghi Bar32 when I started.

1) Delonighi's or any similar machine don't make espresso, they use pressurized portafilters forcing coffee through a tiny hole. These are generally gifts or for people whom didn't know better to give the illusion their pulling espresso. What looks like crema is just frothed coffee/water like putting your finger over the end of a hose. That pressurized portafilters lets people make coffee with pre-ground, stale beans, inadequate grinders etc. Then you have the other issue of these machines not getting to the right temps for coffee nor stable temps for that matter.

2) Virtuoso isn't an espresso grinder, the Baratza Preciso and Vario and Forte are. Virtuoso and other cheaper grinders that say "espresso" are for pressurized portafilter machines like yours.

3) where are you getting your beans? Are they fresh roasted?

You can still make good coffee, but don't expect anything close to a good cafe, I made better coffee though then Charbucks with my Delonghi. Not possible. You'd need to step up to a real semi-auto machine and espresso grinder and fresh beans to start approaching a cafe/shop level. If your beans are fresh roasted, well your issue is the machine like I said, doesn't have the temp control and the pressurized baskets make what taste like more like a shot of watery drip then the creamy and tasteful feel of real espresso and crema. Plus cafes are using normal-large size baskets in 58mm size for the most part, Delonghi baskets are small and even the double if I recall on mine couldn't even handle more than 12g, I normally dose 16-18 on my current machine.

You can depressurize the basket and try your grinder and fresh beans to see if there's an improvement. Here's a pic of when I did mine. But then you'll have the issue still of the portafilter having just 1 hole vs a real machine/basket that coffee just comes out of the basket itself (bottom image). Try that though with fresh beans and see how you like it.
Click Here (i146.photobucket.com)

Normal Basket
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smit0847
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jan 2014
Posts: 3
Location: Melbourne
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 7:58pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

Thank you for your response - I appreciate your honesty.

To answer some of your questions:

I actually bought a Baratza Preciso not a Virtuoso (I understand while very similar the Preciso had additional grinding settings that the Virtuoso does not have? (please correct me if I am wrong).

My beans are freshly roasted from a very reputable coffee supply store in Sydney. I'll try your depressurize option. I have also been only using the small basket so will switch to the large. How tightly should I be pressing the grounds into the basket or doesn't this matter?

If I was to upgrade one machine, what would give the better improvement? Better grinder or better espresso machine?

What sort of machines should I consider upgrading to? I feel rather silly to have bought these new machines and be so disappointed with the product. I wasn't expecting the most amazing cup of coffee I have ever had but I did a fair bit of research and the feedback on these machines were that they were very good entry level machines with an excellent finished product. Maybe the people doing these reviews don't know what a real cup of coffee tastes like?!
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,356
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 8:40pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

Yeh if you got the Preciso then your set there, it's the same thing as the Virtuoso except it adds the micro adjustment arm to make it essentially step-less dialing. Use the larger basket, and get a digi scale that weighs to .1 grams, that way you'll know your dose. You don't have to really tamp on these types of machines, but if you depressurize you'll have to. You should see a much better difference depressurizing it (there is a Krups basket that will fit too, search on here as somewhere listed is the part #).

Preciso is an entry level espresso grinder but fully capable, you'll see a better difference at this point in getting a better machine but depends on your budget. Gaggia Classic is a great entry starter machine for the price and Wholelattelove sells refurbed versions under 300, but if you can swing a higher budget the standout in this class is the CC1. Single boiler machine (huge boiler for this class though, largest at 17oz), but adds a separate thermoblock for steaming so way faster when switching to steam then a normal single boiler where you have to wait for it to heat up and cool down before going back to brewing etc. Also has PID control for temp adjustment, preinfusion, dwell etc.

Then you have used machines, or way up into h/x territory and dual boilers. Depends on your budget lol. Don't be ashamed of the Preciso, full capable espresso grinder. But yeh all the good reviews you see on Delonghi and similar machines are from people whom don't know better, I fell for that too when I bought an Bar32 to start with lol. 99% of those reviews are people using preground, bad beans, poor grinders... they have no clue. These aren't reliable machines either, mine acted up after a year so I had to throw it out, there's no parts for these machines and dealing with the companies under warranty even is a useless.
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BarryR
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2010
Posts: 278
Location: Wilbraham
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Clever...
Roaster: Hottop KN-8828B2-K
Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 9:07pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

Others (more knowledgeable) can chime in. Not sure if you can get a non-pressurized basket for your machine and start there.
It certainly looks like this would work.
If so, you can work on "dialing in" the grind with your Preciso until a 25 second (or so) pull gets you about 2 oz of espresso.
Again, others who know your machine might have better info but I think this would give you an OK (but true) semiautomatic espresso machine.

Regarding upgrading: I have your grinder + CC1 espresso machine and am very happy with the results I get.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,023
Location: Germany
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Wed Feb 5, 2014, 11:59pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

smit0847 Said:

When I pack (i.e. push down) the ground beans lightly the water runs through quickly causing a very light watery espresso, if I pack the beans tightly espresso sometimes runs over the top of the crema filter and it only drips through the filter very slowly meaning it takes forever. This 'tight pack' method does create a slightly stronger coffee but it is still weak and watery with almost no crema.

Posted February 5, 2014 link

That's because you use a pressurized portafilter.

 
***
"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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peterkub
Senior Member
peterkub
Joined: 1 Aug 2011
Posts: 22
Location: Granger, Indiana, USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Espresso
Grinder: Compak K3 Touch
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 8:41am
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

CMIN Said:

Don't take this the wrong way, but lesson learned ;) . I owned a Delonghi Bar32 when I started.

You can depressurize the basket and try your grinder and fresh beans to see if there's an improvement.

Posted February 5, 2014 link



How about this one: http://www.ereplacementparts.com/cup-filter-p-692808.html
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,672
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
Grinder: Azkoyen Capriccio, Major
Vac Pot: 40s era Silex
Drip: Msl. Com. brewers
Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 4:26pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

Hi and welcome to the board!
Don't feel bad, we get your story and question very often.

  1. Few questions.

How recent is the purchase andis there room in the budget for an upgrade?

Your grinder is good to start with and should be able to keep you happy for a while.

If we need to work with what you have then we will.

At least it is a pump driven machine. The problems with the starter starter machines (yes I said starter twice) is the boilers are very small, the temp regulation is poor and most use too much pressure. When you spend more on a machine, those issues start to be better addressed.

The pressurized baasket really does not make true crema, the ground coffee is supposed to offer resistance to water flow aand you adjust the grind finer and more coarse to get the proper flow. With the pressurized basket, the small hole in the bottom is what offers the resistance to flow, your grind does little to change the flow, that is a bad thing.

You can disable or remove the device or you can buy another portafilter that is not pressurized.

There is little you can do about the pressure, espresso is brewed at about 9 bar pressure, more is not better!

There is a process called temp surfing which can help you to time when you pull your shots based on the heater light. It is a long way from perfect but it is much better than not doing anything.

Espresso is all about consistency in temp,pressure, grind, coffee volume and of course fresh beans, less than two weeks from the day they were roaasted, not a best by ou use before date.

Sadly, the people just starting out and who invest the least need the most help and the most stable machines and they only come with a large investment. How big of an investment? Well some of us could buy a nice used car for what we have invested.

You don't need to spend a fortune for good espresso but you do meed to spend something. We anc work with your machine but if you can a bit better machine will help a lot

 
In real life, my name is
Wayne P.
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
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,356
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 4:39pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

peterkub Said:

How about this one: http://www.ereplacementparts.com/cup-filter-p-692808.html

Posted February 6, 2014 link

I'm not a 100% sure, may be, looks like it's on backorder but way cheaper than SCG, I think they have the basket for these machines but it's almost $30 for the basket which is crazy lol. Thats custom VST Basket price territory on normal machines lol. I can tell you though depressurizing/replacing the basket, fresh beans, good grinder (set there with the Preciso) can make a huge improvement but then your still held back by the other issues (not right temp, tiny boilers, no temp stability etc), still... I made way better coffee then Charbucks with the Delonghi Bar32, but to show the difference, it couldn't come close to my CC1 with the same grinder.

I would see if you can return the Delonghi. Was it a store like Bed Bath Beyond etc, or an online retailer? Bed bath Beyond used to carry Gaggia Classics and others, but I don't think they do anymore, and only have the Delonghis and Cuisinarts etc for whatever reason now.
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BonsaiDoug
Senior Member


Joined: 10 Jun 2013
Posts: 50
Location: Canandaigua
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic
Grinder: Baratza Virtuoso Preciso
Roaster: FreshRoast SR500
Posted Thu Feb 6, 2014, 6:43pm
Subject: Re: My espresso is weak and watery - what am I doing wrong?
 

BarryR Said:

Others (more knowledgeable) can chime in. Not sure if you can get a non-pressurized basket for your machine and start there.
It certainly looks like this would work.

Posted February 5, 2014 link

Yes, this basket will work.  Seattle Coffee buys the La Pavoni Double Basket for Millennium models, then machines the curved lip flat so that it will lock into the group.  You can buy this basket, then simply flatten out that curved lip yourself.  Doesn't have to be perfect, just so that the portafilter locks into the group head.

One source for this basket:  http://espressocare.com/Qstore/Qstore.cgi?CMD=011&PROD=1193321840&PNAME=D3-28++Double+Basket+Millennium

BonsaiDoug: mc-doublebasket[1].jpg
(Click for larger image)
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