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Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Mon Nov 26, 2007, 8:15am
Subject: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

Hello everyone!

I normally will drink 4 espresso drinks a day (decaf due to health reasons) and they are normally Lattés and Cappuccinos.

I have been reading the boards for a few days, now that I have purchased a replacement espresso machine. I used to have a  Krups consumer pump machine. It worked ok for what it was though I was never able to get a good foam on the milk, mostly large dry foam.

The machine did give me a fair cup of espresso but the pump died on it and so I needed to replace it.  I was looking at Craig’s list and local to me was a F!F! X5. I was able to test it and pick it up for $125. I have since found that many here do not like these machines and that is not comforting to me but it is what I now have and due to $ at the moment I will be using it for a little while.

I found that if I pull a blank first to heat up everything or leave the machine on for about 20 minutes, I do get a better pull.. There is no sign of channeling in the puck and I usually pull the shot first then steam the milk. I have discovered on this site that the better way to do it might be to steam the milk then pull the shot. Well I did give that a try last night and I was not able to keep the foam from separating while I pulled the shot, I need to work on that.

Coffee ground in my old grinder, setup for a double (16g), pressed to over 50# will run through the machine and give me 4 oz of coffee (yes I know this is double what should be brewed) in about 12 to 15 seconds. I went by my local roaster last night and picked up some fresh beans, French roast. I had  them grind them properly and see what that did to the brew.  They ground it on the Turkish setting of a Bunn commercial grinder, it is indeed ground fine.

I went home and gave it a try. 16g of coffee (by weight), 75# of pressure on the tamp (by a scale) a hot machine and brew head and gave it a pull. It took 22 seconds to pull a longo double, again 4 oz of coffee. I did have about 1/8” of crema on the shot (for the first time on this machine) but it was very sour. I tried again this morning but had the same results. I checked the brew temp by pulling several shots through the portafilter without a basket in it and had the shots go into shot glasses. The second and third shots, in the glasses registered 178 F, there was likely a little temp loss due to how I set things up. I will need to do the Styrofoam cup method to see what is really going on I guess.


I had a reply to my other post to try a hand grinder while I need to regroup my $ and  I do remember now that I have a hand grinder, it cost a little bit of spare change if I remember correctly, I need to dig around and find it. It was put away due to the large amount of work it took to grind beans, lots of cranking!

I am able to get some OK foam on the milk as I am used to surfing the hole on the old Krups machine, and I was even able to get a little art by accident, That has never happened before!.

Any ideas on what might be going on here with this NUG? (NewGuy)

 
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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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Tue Nov 27, 2007, 7:00am
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

Good morning all.

I checked the brew temp using the Styrofoam cup method and my brew temp is 202.0F, using the altitude correction for boiling water, the thermometer measured 208, right exactly where it should be (well 0.5 F short) for boiling water at 2000 feet above sea level elevation.

(To find your elevation boiling water corrected temperature, try this link http://www.csgnetwork.com/h2oboilcalc.html)

I stopped by the local Sur La Table and they tossed me an unopened tin of Ili pods (used for demo purposes and were about to expire) for gratis so I could check the machine for brew time with them. While the coffee in them was indeed stale, the brew time for a single shot was about 12 seconds from the pushing of the button to start the brew cycle.

Still rather fast and there was no mouse tail though the crema was nearly a quarter inch thick.

I know this machine is not well liked but weather or not I like it, it is the machine I am stuck with for a little while anyway and your help to get a good espresso from it would be very much appreciated.

EDIT, the brew temp is 202, not 207.5 as I miss stated.

 
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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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Nov 29, 2007, 2:57pm
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

Good afternoon everyone!

I can tell by the views to this thread that there is some interest in my situation but apparently there is little experience with this brand of machine, so I will endeavor to sort this out on my own and will update you here.

As most of you know, the X5 is the same machine inside as the X2 and the X3 (the X3 has been reviewed here) so it should be able to produce a reasonable shot. I did have some moderate success with pre wetting the coffee by turning the pump on for 2 seconds then letting it rest for about 10 seconds with the coffee in the PF and loaded into the group head. The result was a good shot, nice mouse tails, crema through the top 2/3 of the shot glass and a nice cap on top…. SO IT CAN BE DONE!

I am going to take the machine apart to fix a vibration issue with the pump up against the metal side of the machine and producing a loud noise. A little padding should help out with this. Photos will be posted.

There is so much information here, that it is hard to take it all in, I will keep plugging along and posting to do my little bit to add to the knowledge base here.

CHEERS!

 
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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cjbrubaker
Senior Member


Joined: 12 Sep 2007
Posts: 172
Location: Providence, RI
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Rancilio S24, Silvia PID,...
Grinder: Mazzer Mini E type B
Vac Pot: Yama 4-cup
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2007, 3:24pm
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

It might help to clearly state what your problem is and what you're trying to do. I've glanced through your thread, but it's hard to tell what exactly you're trying to fix.

A couple things do jump out though. 1) 75 pounds of pressure to tamp is WAY WAY too much. 30 pounds is a good number to start with.

I used to have an X3 and it was a surprisingly capable machine. My routine was pre-heat the machine, fill up the basket with grounds, tamp with the included tamper, leave the tamper-head in (or not- didn't really matter, and only newer tamps had this little doohickey), hit brew and go.

All that stuff should be pretty constant. What most people have trouble with, and I suspect you do too, is getting an appropriate, consistent grind.

It's been said here before, and it's definitely true- the grinder is a lot more important than the espresso machine. The cheapest decent grinders are the Zassenhaus manual grinders, but they, like all grinders, require dialing in until you get a good, 25-second extraction.

So my suggestions- 1) bring your tamp pressure back to 30 lbs. 2) get a decent grinder, 3) work through different grind settings until you get an extraction between 20-30 seconds.

After that, an infinite world of tweaking awaits :), but those are the very basics, and where I would start. Until you have a decent grinder, or more clearly state what your problem is, it's hard to place any blame on the espresso machine.
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faaparasite
Senior Member


Joined: 19 Jun 2003
Posts: 290
Location: Dallas Metroplex
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Bezzera BZ99
Grinder: Mazzer Super Jolly
Drip: Technivorm
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2007, 3:31pm
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

calblacksmith Said:

Good morning all.

I checked the brew temp using the Styrofoam cup method and my brew temp is 202.0F, using the altitude correction for boiling water, the thermometer measured 208, right exactly where it should be (well 0.5 F short) for boiling water at 2000 feet above sea level elevation.

(To find your elevation boiling water corrected temperature, try this link http://www.csgnetwork.com/h2oboilcalc.html)

Posted November 27, 2007 link

Just a couple of notes here.  

First, it's actually much more accurate to use the barometric pressure side of the calculator to get your boiling water temp.  The altitude side assumes standard pressure and the barometric pressure is almost never standard.  The variance can easily be + or - 3 degrees F.  Your local pressure can be found by going to weather.com and entering your local zip code or finding the nearest ASOS or AWOS station.

Next, although you can get a rough idea about brew temp using the Styrofoam cup method, you're not going to get an accurate reading.  Unless you have a true instant read thermometer, your results could be quite far off.  The reason I say that is because all thermometers have some lag and the cheaper ones will easily lag by 5-10 seconds and sometimes much more (even if they advertise themselves as "instant read").  The F!F! doesn't have much temperature stability anyway, so you might want to experiment with different temp settings and see if it improves your results.
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thomzilla
Senior Member
thomzilla
Joined: 24 Sep 2006
Posts: 75
Location: Atlanta, GA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Pasquini Livia 90 Auto,...
Grinder: Rocky Doserless and Gaggia...
Drip: Presto & french press
Roaster: Behmor
Posted Thu Nov 29, 2007, 4:13pm
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

Hi Wayne,

Welcome to CoffeeGeek! I'll jump in and offer some advice. I don't have an X5, but I do have an older X1 that does a good job, an X3 that I really like, and a Rancilio Silvia that I love. Until recently my main machine was the X3 and I got great results with it. I still use it at the office and am very happy with it. I did some of the same things you did and had some of the same problems with fresh coffee from the roaster. If i use fresh roasted coffee (preferably roasting it myself) and properly grind it fresh, right before I do the shot, I get great results. I tried using fresh coffee ground at a local roaster and it just wasn't very good. It was always sour.  It's hard to know exactly how fine to grind it because you can't exactly dial it in if it's pre-ground. To get good results with ground coffee you're going to have to get fresh coffee and grind it at home yourself. The cheapest electric grinder you're going to be able to find that will guarantee proper results will be a Gaggia MDF. These cost around $200 new. Others will tell you that you need a Rancilio Rocky, and that will work probably a little better, but either would certainly work fine for you. The key is to have a grinder that will do it finer than you need so you can back off and get the grind right. It will vary slightly from one batch of coffee to another, so you can't guarantee it will always need to be ground to the same coarsness.

You will need to work on the tamping pressure. 30 pounds is what you want, and it's surprising to find out just how "light" a tamp that is. Espro makes a tamper that measures 30 pounds and it's a great way to get a feel for how heavy to tamp. Before I got one, I know I tamped much heavier than I should have. On another note, you should use the dispersion filter on top of your coffee in the portafilter. It helps disperse the coffee through the shot, and it also keeps the group head from coming into contact with the ground coffee and getting dirty with grounds. Since the group head is designed to accommodate pods, the dispersion filter helps fill in the dip where the pod would fit in. Note that some might think that this filter is also a tamper, but I wouldn't use it for that. You need a good 57MM tamper. Thor tamper makes some nice weighted wooden ones or you can find metal ones at many different places for a good price. Just make sure it's the right size. The older FF models use 52MM portafilters.

Just like ground coffee, pods are best when fresh. I don't generally use them, but if I've been lazy and haven't got any fresh roasted coffee, I'll use a pod at the office. The easiest to find for testing purposes are at Starbucks. They actually make fairly decent shots and are great to have around for an emergency. They are also usually a little fresher than Illy.  Illy pods are usually good, but just remember that they were roasted in Italy, then shipped over here, so they could be 3-6 months old before you get them. Even the freshest pods are probably going to be at least a month or two old and usually not anywhere near as good as fresh coffee. If you're getting a 12 second shot, it could be the age of the coffee, or you might not have tightened the portafilter enough. I haven't really timed a pod shot in a while, but 12 seconds sounds too fast. Just remember that a pod should do a 1 ounce shot, or slightly less if you're using the ristretto pod filter. (I assume you got 3 of them with the machine numbered 1, 2 & 3.) If you didn't you can contact their US office and they can get them for you, possibly even at a minimal charge. To get a 2 ounce shot you would have to use 2 pods, doing one ounce at a time.

Now when it comes to steaming milk, I usually do mine after the shot is made. I find that if I steam it first, and then get the machine cooled down enough to make the shot, the milk isn't as good as when i make it fresh after the shot. Of course if you make it after the shot, your espresso cools a bit while you wait for the machine to heat up and steam the milk. It's a trade-off either way. Until you get a machine that will steam and brew with no wait, you'll have to see which works best for you. I still have the same issue with the Silvia about steaming the milk before or after, but it's a little faster to heat or cool, and it definitely steams the milk better than my X3.

I hope all of this talk about needing a grinder and a tamper (and eventually a roaster) doesn't deter you from working to improve your coffee. It may not be cheap, but you'll definitely end up with better coffee than you'll be able to get in most coffee houses.

Good luck with your X5. I'm sure you'll get it working like you want it to soon.
Thom
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calblacksmith
Moderator
calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,775
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 Fri Nov 30, 2007, 1:25pm
Subject: Re: Hello! (help with F!F! X5)
 

A pleasant good afternoon to everyone.

I have belonged to an audio board for a long time and I know how the same subjects keep coming up, over and over again, from nubs. I thank you all for your patience with me here. My experience there has also taught me that when the same advice is given by several people you better LISTEN UP if you want to move forward with your situation!


I want to sincerely thank everyone for the replies. Your willingness to try to help me is very much appreciated.  I will try to respond to all the comments and will then comment on what I think I have learned this morning.


Cjbrubaker;
I guess I could have stated things a little more clearly, I’m sorry. I thought I had, but if my intent was not communicated, it is indeed my fault for the ambiguity. I will endeavor to do better.  
The 75# was in an effort to try to restrict the flow through the Porta Filter while using the finest grind possible on my cheep burr grinder, which clearly, is not up to the job of espresso. I do try to maintain a 30# tamp and I have been using a scale to verify this. I do leave the “head” of the tamper over the grounds to better disperse the water over the grounds. I have tried it both ways and with the “head” is indeed much better. A better grinder is indeed a high priority for a next purchase.

Faaparasite;
You are 100% right about the atmospheric pressure having more to do with things than altitude. I am a pilot and barometric pressure affects more than just the temperature. The altitude method is only good for a standard pressure of 29.92 inches of mercury on a standard day of 59 degrees F at sea level.
Any calculations using altitude must include adjustments for temperature, temperature lapse rate and the decrease in pressure due to elevation and the barometric pressure at that moment. However as a rule of thumb and as a rough guess as to temperature, I used altitude alone as this got me “in the ball park”. Which method to use, depends on how accurate one needs to be. I do have an aneroid barometer in the home so I can get an accurate reading of the barometric pressure (I wanted a mercury barometer but they are best near sea level, not at my altitude of 1980’).
The temp I recorded with the cup and thermometer was again not a definitive reading to be sure. Again, it is in the ball park though so that I can see that there wasn’t something major wrong with the machine.
I did use an instant read thermometer and though it is NOT an instrument grade device its lag time is about 3 seconds. A thermocouple would indeed be better as would a better setup for getting a reading. I was unaware of the lack of stability of the F!F! machine, thank you for that, I will take several readings and see what happens.
Will the temperature adjustment be easy to see with the machine apart? I will indeed try different settings once I figure out how to do it.

Thomzilla;
Thanks for your welcome! I am sure you know that the X3 and the X5 are brothers under the skin so your experience with that machine is MOST helpful!
I agree that fresh beans, freshly ground just before brewing is the best way. It is good to hear that you had similar problems with sour shots when you got your coffee from the roaster. It is indeed hard to know how fine it needs to be ground and that is a matter for experimentation.
I will look for the espro tamper, it sounds like it is a good way to go, one less thing on the counter is always good! As I said above, I do use the dispersion filter on ground coffee but I did not know that the group head was designed for pods, not ground coffee and that the group head had a shape that preferred pods over grounds without the filter. I guess the manual sort of states that but the manual that comes with the machine is WEAK at best! The manual DOES state that the filter is to be used as a tamper but I found that the small diameter of the end of the “handle” was a bit painful to press on and the hollow plastic does not instill confidence in the assembly to withstand the pressure of tamping. I will get out the trusty calipers and measure the grounds basket to get the proper size tamper.
The pods I was given were dated to expire 11-07 so they are indeed old but they were worth everything I didn’t pay for them ;) I am tightening the porta filter pretty well, I tighten until it stops, which is past the indicator line on the group head. If I use a full 16g of coffee, the PF won’t go into the group head with the filter in place. I need to reduce the coffee to two slightly less than full scoops of the supplied F!F! Scoop (for a double shot). I need to weigh this to find out exactly how much it weighs, I would guess that it is about 14g though. I did get three pod filters but they are numbered 1, 2 and 2 so there was a mix-up somewhere. I do know that a pod is only good for one 1 oz shot. I pull my shots into a shot glass (I have 3 of them) that is labeled for up to 1.5 oz so I can check that the volume is correct. How would the tightness of the PF affect the speed of the shot? If the PF is tight enough to not leak, isn’t that tight enough?
I have also found it better for me to steam after the shot is made. I agree with you that I would rather let the shot wait a little and have fresh milk. I wonder if I engaged the heater about half way through the shot, would that get a little jump start on heating for steaming without affecting the shot? I will have to play with that.
No this talk of grinders etc has not put me off. I am already liking my drinks better than *$ and things can only get better from here.

WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
Well,
1) RELAX, then practice practice practice. Only change one thing at a time so the cause and effect can be tracked.
2) Get a better grinder! Thanks for the recommendations, on which to get, I will be keeping a weather eye out for them!
3) Coffee makes a HUGE difference, though I didn’t want to get into roasting my own coffee, I can see that happening. I tend to get into things ALL THE WAY rather than just enough, so this is just more to play with! Perhaps I could start giving custom roast blends away as gifts to family and friends. Yah that’s it, I NEED to roast my own coffee!! ;P
4) To a point, the machine is on the lower end of the list as to variables. Yes you need a machine that meets the minimum requirements but grinders, beans and technique matters more.

 
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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