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Elektra MCAL best practices
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Discussions > Espresso > Lever Espresso > Elektra MCAL...  
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espressonewb1
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Mar 2012
Posts: 54
Location: NY metro
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Mini Vivaldi
Grinder: Nuova Simonelli Mdx
Drip: Technivorm Mocca Master
Posted Tue Jan 7, 2014, 7:08pm
Subject: Elektra MCAL best practices
 

Hello CG community.

I recently picked up a great used Elektra MCAL via TonyV. I was able to trade my Olympia Maximatic/grinder for this great looking machine and hopefully with experience and some skill I'll be able to pull great shots on it.

My first attempt at pulling shots were disastrous since I didn't tighten the portafilter all the way in. Baptism by fire. I'll never make that mistake again.

I've only had the machine a few days but am liking the more nuanced instead of blended taste as opposed to my Mini Vivaldi.

I have a few basic questions:

(1) I'm dosing 14 g of Black Cat roasted on 12/27. Tamping very lightly. When I pull the lever I waited a few seconds. First time I waited 10 seconds no drops. Subsequent times I waited about 6-7 seconds for pre-infusion and still no drops. I did make the grind coarser. I'm using a Nuova Simonelli MDX. Maybe I'll try a another notch coarser but does one always see drops on pre-infusion?

(2)Is it ok for the coffee grinds to appear on the dispersion screen after the shot is pulled?

(3) Based on seeing the coffee grinds on the screen after the shot was pulled I decided to use 13.5g and the screen was clean after the pull. Just wondering what everyone is doing in this regard.

(4) I tried the second pull when the lever was parallel (per Mark Prince's excellent review) but this shot turned out watery. More like an americano in a demitasse is the best way I can describe it.

(5) I'm a little apprehensive of choking this machine based on my experience with my very first pull. Although I didn't make certain the portafilter was locked in place very well I noticed a disclaimer on 1st line's site which indicated that if one grinds too fine it could cause the portafilter to detach from the group. Is there a way to relieve pressure by bring down the lever again but not all the way?

(6) Would a bottomless portafilter on this machine dramatically increase the crema production? Does it really matter? I think I want to invest in a RIchard Penney PF so that I can diagnose any channeling issues.

I'm getting good tasting shots but obviously not with as much crema/thickness.

Just wondering what everyone else who has this machine or a similar spring machine is doing.

For now I'm just practicing using a single pull.

Thanks in advance.
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johnboddie
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Nov 2008
Posts: 205
Location: Virginia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: MCAL, Brasilia Mini Classic,...
Grinder: Rossi RR45a,Rocky,...
Drip: Cuisinart (non-grinding)
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed Jan 8, 2014, 4:47pm
Subject: Re: Elektra MCAL best practices
 

There's a good chance that the MCAL will wind up as your long-time main machine if you are just using it for your own espresso. It shouldn't take you too long to get it dialed in.

(1) I'm dosing 14 g of Black Cat roasted on 12/27. Tamping very lightly. When I pull the lever I waited a few seconds. First time I waited 10 seconds no drops. Subsequent times I waited about 6-7 seconds for pre-infusion and still no drops. I did make the grind coarser. I'm using a Nuova Simonelli MDX. Maybe I'll try a another notch coarser but does one always see drops on pre-infusion?

>> I grind fine for my ristretto, but I'm used to seeing drops at the 9 to 11 second range. If you don't see anything coming through, your cup will (eventually) emerge as over-extracted. If you are looking for regular espresso, you should see drops in six seconds or so. You're on the right track by grinding coarser.

(2)Is it ok for the coffee grinds to appear on the dispersion screen after the shot is pulled?

>> Yes, since you're using a light tamp, you can expect them. I always do a quick wipe of the screen before my next cup.

(3) Based on seeing the coffee grinds on the screen after the shot was pulled I decided to use 13.5g and the screen was clean after the pull. Just wondering what everyone is doing in this regard.

>> I'm using the single basket and 9 grams and sometimes have grinds on the screen, sometimes not. I wouldn't worry about it. Pay attention to the taste of the final product to make your adjustments. Also - very important - take the time to let the MCAL warm up properly. I typically wait about eight minutes, at which I bleed off some of the boiler pressure, and then I wait about ten more minutes before pulling a couple of shots with an empty portafilter in order to get a little more heat to that. Then I pull my first real shot (which is seldom a sink shot, but which could usually stand a slight tweak on the grind).

(4) I tried the second pull when the lever was parallel (per Mark Prince's excellent review) but this shot turned out watery. More like an americano in a demitasse is the best way I can describe it.

>> I just use the single pull, perhaps somebody else can give you more feedback in this area.

(5) I'm a little apprehensive of choking this machine based on my experience with my very first pull. Although I didn't make certain the portafilter was locked in place very well I noticed a disclaimer on 1st line's site which indicated that if one grinds too fine it could case the portafilter to detach from the group. Is there a way to relieve pressure by bring down the lever again but not all the way?

> It is possible to relieve pressure by pulling the lever down slightly and slightly loosening the portafilter. You won't want to drink the result, but it shouldn't wind up painting the walls. 1st line must have hyperactive lawyers. If the portafilter is locked in place properly, the force generated by the spring isn't sufficient to dislodge it.

(6) Would a bottomless portafilter on this machine dramatically increase the crema production? Does it really matter? I think I want to invest in a RIchard Penney PF so that I can diagnose any channeling issues.

>> Bottomless PF's are fun (and can be a bit messy), but I've never been troubled by the amount of crema that I'm generating. I get more crema from the LaMarzoco Linea at work, but I'm looking for taste in the coffee, not the thin foam on top.

I'm getting good tasting shots but obviously not with as much crema/thickness.

>> Mouthfeel is usually connected with the beans and roast, not the crema.

Just wondering what everyone else who has this machine or a similar spring machine is doing.



For now I'm just practicing using a single pull.

>>That's what I do, and I'm extremely pleased with the result. In a few weeks, I'm certain that you will feel the same way about your MCAL.

All the best,

JB
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espressonewb1
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Mar 2012
Posts: 54
Location: NY metro
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Mini Vivaldi
Grinder: Nuova Simonelli Mdx
Drip: Technivorm Mocca Master
Posted Fri Jan 10, 2014, 11:53am
Subject: Re: Elektra MCAL best practices
 

Thanks JB for taking the time to reply to all of my questions. Appreciate it.

I wasn't making myself clear on the pre-infusion. When I would hold down the lever to let water into the chamber to pre-infuse I was thinking that I should see some drops per Mark Prince's review but this shouldn't always be the case. Immediately when I let go of the lever and let the spring do it's job I would see flow through the spouts of the portafilter.

I was pre infusing way too long.

So now I only hold the lever down for about 5-6 seconds for pre-infusion and then add to the count for the lever to go up. I'm pulling about 30 ml in 25 seconds.

When I was holding it down too long for 10 seconds and grinding courser the total time was about 18-19 seconds total. No wonder I was getting nice watery coffee.

Now that I've been playing around with the elektra I've been wanting to get another lever machine namely the cremina. I like the elektra and probably won't get rid of it anytime soon but want to try the cremina as well just because it gives you more variability.
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johnboddie
Senior Member


Joined: 28 Nov 2008
Posts: 205
Location: Virginia
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: MCAL, Brasilia Mini Classic,...
Grinder: Rossi RR45a,Rocky,...
Drip: Cuisinart (non-grinding)
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Fri Jan 10, 2014, 7:23pm
Subject: Re: Elektra MCAL best practices
 

Before you drop major dollars on a Cremina, think about getting a La Pavoni Europiccola. You'll have the same full manual control you do with the Cremina and you will be able to understand the difference between the spring and manual mechanisms and their effect on pulling shots while keeping a few extra dollars in your pocket.

Disclaimer -

I gave my Europiccola to my daughter and kept the MCAL.

JB
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