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Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Brand new to...  
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Markarian
Senior Member
Markarian
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 658
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:05pm
Subject: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Okay, so I'm brand new to making espresso. I'm a Seattle area resident who has recently gotten into coffee, and I'm sick of pouring money into my latte habit (same old story, I'm sure). So I originally got a used Mr. Coffee steam "espresso" machine and started making coffee at home. It produced really rich, frothy milk and good, strong coffee with even a tiny bit of crema. However, I wanted to kick it up a notch and wanted to try "real" espresso, especially since I was brewing for others in my house, so I just got a used Saeco Classico on CL. It came with a tamper, non-pressurized PF, two sizes of brew baskets, and pretty much everything else you see in the photo.

While the coffee I make tastes great, I can't often get a consistent crema. I'm using Espresso Roast beans I'm grinding myself at the grocery store on their grinder's "Turkish" setting, which gives me a better hit rate of a good crema. Also, I'm on a low-carb diet, so I'm using a mixture of water and half-and-half instead of milk. On the Mr. Coffee steam moka, the frother worked perfectly every time and I got this rich, foamy lather that I could even do rudimentary latte art in, but with the Saeco, the milk doesn't seem to froth as heavily, though it does get hotter. Can anyone offer me some tips or let me know if there's something obvious I'm doing wrong? I'm hardly ready to give up, but I'm feeling pretty confused and slightly overwhelmed and would rather not waste any more coffee than I have to. Thanks!

Oh, I should also mention I haven't had a chance to buy demitasse cups yet, so I'm using this little plastic container (on top) as it's the only thing that'll fit under the PF. How many ounces should I let it pour into it for each of the two size brew baskets?

Markarian: IMG_0317.jpg
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rotwang
Senior Member
rotwang
Joined: 22 Sep 2010
Posts: 150
Location: New Mexico USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Pure
Grinder: Pharos, KyM,  Sözen, PeDe
Vac Pot: nope
Drip: No..Cezve
Roaster: nope
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:25pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

You should be pouring 1 oz. for the small "single" basket and 2 for the larger "double".  Before worrying about anything else re crema, you need a grinder.  Not want, need.  Getting the right grind for your machine at the store is always going to be a crap shoot, and the coffee will go stale very quickly.
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,450
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:45pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

The beans in the chutes at the store are already stale, and generally crappy beans anyway. And those grinders the stores use suck, Publix and other stores here use those Bunn and Grindmasters or similar grinders which even their "turkish" setting is too coarse for espresso. Also your machine and other small boilers machines need a decent warmup time including using the steaming function as a lot don't even get to the temp for espresso in general, read up on here on that. I have a bar32 that's similar, and it could make a decent shot for a cheap machine but was tricky.

Get fresh roasted beans (or buy from a good coffee shop as they'll generally stock fresh beans, shouldn't have a problem finding one in Seattle lol). And get a a good grinder, if you don't want to spring for even a used one, get a hand grinder. It can be a pain but even my Hario Slim has nice ceramic burrs and can grind fine enough to choke out high end machines. Was around $30, Kyocera makes one, Porlax etc, all under 100
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takeshi
Senior Member
takeshi
Joined: 12 Oct 2002
Posts: 999
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Alex Duetto 3.0
Grinder: Super Jolly
Roaster: Amaya Roasting
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:45pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Markarian Said:

I'm using Espresso Roast beans I'm grinding myself at the grocery store on their grinder's "Turkish" setting

Posted June 27, 2012 link

There's a major problem.  If you're not grinding per pull then your beans are stale.  You need to get a grinder and fresh roasted beans.

Also, crema is not a goal in and of itself.  While crema's a good sign you need to think of it as gravy.
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Markarian
Senior Member
Markarian
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 658
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 6:05pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Wow! Thanks for all the advice, though I have to admit I'm going to have to do more research. I had the opportunity to pick up another machine, this time an Estro Vapore (Starbucks Barista?) for $60. It came with a pressurized portafilter. I tried it out and it really seems to be giving me better results and and much better tasting espresso (drinking the espresso roast turkish ground was especially delicious straight) than the Saeco. So the question I'm pondering is which one to keep?? To complicate matters more, the PF's are interchangeable it seems. Thanks for being patient with a newb.
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TheSunInsideYou
Senior Member
TheSunInsideYou
Joined: 16 Feb 2012
Posts: 206
Location: NJ and NYC
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Breville BES900XL
Grinder: Laranzato HC-600, OE LIDO,...
Vac Pot: Yama 3
Drip: Hario V60, Chemex
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 7:56pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Don't go with the pressurized portafilter. It will give you better results with crappy beans and a bad grind, but it can't match what you can do in the non-pressurized with good coffee. There is only one thing more important than having a grinder (as if the importance of a grinder hasn't already been beaten to death in the responses), and that is the coffee. It's a good sign that you already like what you're getting from your set-up. This just about ensures that your jaw will drop when you get a decent grinder and some good coffee and learn how to pull it well.

A hand grinder is perfect if you're on a budget. Budget wise, you can get the best of the best, the Pharos from OE (barring the HG-One until we know a little more about it), for $250. You just can't beat that, as you'd be spending AT LEAST $250 just to get the same results from a beat-up, used commercial grinder that you would need to put some work into first. But a $40 Skerton will do the trick for now.

But coffee is the most important. If you have a good local roaster, or a shop around you with good coffee, go get it fresh there (fresh is within the first 15 days after it is roasted). Otherwise, you can get it mailed to you. Verve has free shipping, and they're reasonably priced. Redbird is pretty cheap shipping, and they're real cheap and have a great reputation. These are just two good starting points, but there are A TON of great places to get coffee. (just not your grocery store :))

-Dave-
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Markarian
Senior Member
Markarian
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 658
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Wed Jun 27, 2012, 8:12pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Cool, well since the portafilters are interchangeable, I can do some more experimentation. Being in this area does give me some advantages into getting good coffee, I would think. Another thing I'm trying to figure out is how to steam half-and-half. I'm on a low-carb diet, so milk is right out, as it has too much sugar. With my little toy steam moka machine, I would steam the h/h in the mug first then pour in my shot and it came out very rich and foamy. I steam the h/h on my pump machines and it gets frothy, but the froth stays on the top and I end up pouring out weak steamed h/h underneath it :( Any tips on this?

In the meantime, I'm going to look into that little hand-grinder you mentioned.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,056
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 Jun 27, 2012, 10:04pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Markarian Said:

... I'm using Espresso Roast beans I'm grinding myself at the grocery store on their grinder's "Turkish" setting, ...

Posted June 27, 2012 link

Using pre-ground coffee for brewing espresso practically never works right. Apart from going stale within minutes, the chances of getting the right fineness for proper extraction are like winning the lottery.

As far as the crema is concerned, the amount of crema doesn't necessarily correlate to taste. However, it can be sign of freshness and correct extraction of espresso. Crema is an emulsion that occurs when hot water is pressed through finely ground fresh coffee at around 9 bar and the right temperature and forms tiny boubles around carbon dioxide released during extraction. Since older (=stale ) coffee contains less carbon dioxide there's less crema.

What you need are freshly roasted beans and a capable grinder.

+1 for not using a pressurized portafilter. In a pressurized portafilter the plastic device located below the filter basket or its double bottom forces the coffee to pass through small openings, thus generating pressure and creating foamed coffee (bubbles made of air) that has nothing to do with a real crema. It may look like it, but it certainly doesn't taste like it. It's a fake. It's for people who don't want to be bothered with correct grinding and tamping. You'll never get great espresso with it.

 
***
"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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Markarian
Senior Member
Markarian
Joined: 27 Jun 2012
Posts: 658
Location: Seattle Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: ECM Technika IV Profi WT-WC
Grinder: Baratza Forte AP, HG One
Vac Pot: Bunn Trifecta MB
Drip: Moka, Aeropress, Hario V60
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Thu Jun 28, 2012, 3:59am
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

NobbyR Said:

+1 for not using a pressurized portafilter. In a pressurized portafilter the plastic device located below the filter basket or its double bottom forces the coffee to pass through small openings, thus generating pressure and creating foamed coffee (bubbles made of air) that has nothing to do with a real crema. It may look like it, but it certainly doesn't taste like it. It's a fake. It's for people who don't want to be bothered with correct grinding and tamping. You'll never get great espresso with it.

Posted June 27, 2012 link

But wouldn't you agree that I'm better off with the pressurized PF (I have both kinds) until I can get a good grinder? When I try tamping into the non-pressurized PF with the finest grind I can manage at the store ("Turkish") I still get a weak crema and an inconsistent taste.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,056
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 Thu Jun 28, 2012, 11:44pm
Subject: Re: Brand new to coffee and confused with my Saeco
 

Markarian Said:

But wouldn't you agree that I'm better off with the pressurized PF (I have both kinds) until I can get a good grinder? When I try tamping into the non-pressurized PF with the finest grind I can manage at the store ("Turkish") I still get a weak crema and an inconsistent taste.

Posted June 28, 2012 link

You probably are. However, you don't really need to tamp with a pressurized PF. You can attribute the weak crema and inconsistent taste to stale coffee.

 
***
"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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