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Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > Rancilio Silvia...  
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SaamJB
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Joined: 22 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Oct 22, 2012, 10:28pm
Subject: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

I recently bought my first espresso machine, a Rancilio Silvia, about 2 weeks ago. I was brewing amazing shots for about the first ten days. Then about three days ago I brewed a shot in the morning and the water flowed way too quickly: about a double shot in ~13 seconds. My initial reaction was that I tamped too softly. Ok, so I dumped the shot and decided to brew again. I tamped much more strongly this time, and the same result:  Watery shot with no deep, rich flavors. I think Ive brewed ~15 shots since then all with the same result. I think something went wrong with my silvia and I don't know what it is. I bought the machine new from Sweet Maria's and I am in an email thread with them to see whether or not they will exchange it but in the mean time I want to see if there are any ways to detect damage with the Silvia or to find a work around.
I have a Baratza Virtuoso and grind the coffee at 1 out of (0-40) grind settings. I always buy fresh roasted coffee and was drinking both a Klatch espresso blend and a PTs espresso blend when I first experienced the problem.
Inside the brew head there is a bit of scratching from twisting in the portafilter. Not on the screen but on the metal surroundings. This also doesn't seem to be the reason for a problem because the scratching isn't deep at all, it just seems like normal wear and tear. Though it is possible a good seal isn't being made because my shots are coming out too quickly and very watery.

My guesses at what may be wrong:
Too much water pressure
Too high of water temperature (I don't think so though because I'm temperature surfing)
Seal isn't being made between brewhead and porta filter.

I also read somewhere else on the forums here that someone lowered the water pressure on their Silvia but couldn't find any links on how to do it. If anybody knows of a guide on how to do this I would greatly appreciate it.

Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Cheers,
Saam
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Markarian
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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 Tue Oct 23, 2012, 12:15am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

I take it you don't have a PID on that Silvia? I never owned one, but I shied away from it because it really seemed like you needed to have a PID controller retrofitted on the thing to get the most out of it. Not trying to give you buyer's remorse. The Silvia is pretty much the standard by which all other home Single Boiler, Dual Use machines are judged.

I had a Virtuoso for a month or so before I decided it was too inconsistent and had to trade up. If you have the means to return it for a full refund, see if you can get yourself a Preciso instead. If not, the founder of Baratza, Kyle, will graciously work with you, so no worries. If you're having to grind at setting 1, you might want to try recalibrating it like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyQ_AywdBRQ

Best of luck, and welcome to the obsession.
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SaamJB
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Joined: 22 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 12:27am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

I've had my virtuoso for over a year and its been fantastic. I've always gotten a consistent grind out of it.

I do want to install a PID eventually onto Silvia but I don't think temperature is my problem. I may be wrong and It very well may be the temperature, but the fact that I was brewing perfect shots before makes me think something is wrong with the water pressure.
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Markarian
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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 Tue Oct 23, 2012, 12:40am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

The Virtuoso is a definitely a fantastic grinder. And you've gotten a consistent grind out of it enough for what, Moka or Pourover? You mentioned the Silvia is your first espresso machine, and that you've only had it for two weeks. Espresso grind consistency is frustratingly sensitive. I found the notches on the Virtuoso to be too coarse to work with easily. Since you're at Setting 1, dial it back to 0 and see what happens. Since you're producing nothing but gushers, you've got nothing to lose by seeing if you can choke your machine. The best way to dial in a grinder is choke the machine, then work your way slowly back. Everyone on this forum seems to be of the consensus that there isn't a single electric grinder that can adequately and consistently grind for espresso that will cost you under $300 after tax (buying new). Believe me, I was floored when I first came on here.

It very well could be the grinder is still fine, to be sure. It's just that you're not going to be able to accurately or consistently adjust your pump pressure, since the Ulka EX5 in your machine is set to pump at a single pressure and the OPV (overpressure valve) is hard-set to open only at a certain pressure as well. The only variables you can control here are your grind consistency, your dosing, your tamping, and your temperature (to an extent).
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NobbyR
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NobbyR
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Location: Germany
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Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete
Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo
Vac Pot: N/A
Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe
Roaster: N/A
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 12:52am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

SaamJB Said:

... I have a Baratza Virtuoso and grind the coffee at 1 out of (0-40) grind settings ...

Posted October 22, 2012 link

As mentioned before, your grinder is probably at least part of the problem. 40 settings ranging from espresso to French press is simply not enough to dial in the grinder correctly. I think it is generally agreed upon on this forum that the Preciso is the entry level grinder from Baratza that is fit for espresso.

 
***
"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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qualin
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qualin
Joined: 30 Jun 2012
Posts: 662
Location: Calgary, AB
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Izzo Alex Duetto 3
Grinder: Mazzer Mini Elect. Type A
Vac Pot: Looking to buy
Drip: Manual
Roaster: Considering?
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 1:45am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

Saam,

The first thing that nobody has mentioned or asked you about is the freshness of your beans. The fact that you said you were getting good shots before and you're not now isn't a problem with your Silvia and may not be an issue
with your grinder. The problem is that your beans have aged. As your beans age, you need to adjust the grind for your beans to a finer grind, which apparently is where your grinder isn't capable. (At least in its current state.)

Like the other members on this forum have said, if you can't choke your machine with a puck which is too fine of a grind and the coffee is fresh, it either means that your grinder isn't up to the task of grinding the coffee fine
enough for espresso, or that it needs to be recalibrated so that the meanings of the markings are different.

The second thing is, either consider recalibrating your grinder or upgrade to a much more capable grinder which can grind fine enough. Your grinder should be a few settings above "0" if you are dedicating it to grinding espresso.
The Baratza Preciso or Baratza Vario's are excellent espresso-capable grinders. They may seem somewhat pricey, but they make the biggest difference in the cup.

It has been emphasized on this forum that tamping hard is not a substitute for a grinding too coarse. You have to keep in mind that the machine is applying 9 bar or about 130 psi of pressure to the coffee, nothing you can do,
even tamping with a sledgehammer (To use an extreme example), would be enough to compensate for that. Even if the machine is supplying overpressure, you should still be able to choke it.

So, I'm going to recommend two things here...

The first thing is, buy some new beans. Coffee beans only have a "lifespan" of no more than 15 days. After that, no amount of very fine grinding will get you a decent shot with good crema. You will have to "Dial in" your grinder again
with the new batch, this is an unfortunate reality. Besides, making shots with stale beans isn't as enjoyable and doesn't make for a decent drink.

Second, Don't take back your Silvia yet! Adding a PID to your Silvia will not resolve your problem. All it will do is give you much more consistent shots. You have to keep in mind that Italians used to brew espresso with steam!
(Steam brewed espresso tasted horrible, but it had nothing to do with flow rate through the puck.)

So, let us know what happened when you tried a new batch of beans first, then worry about the grinder second.

 
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,051
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 Tue Oct 23, 2012, 2:13am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

qualin Said:

... The first thing that nobody has mentioned or asked you about is the freshness of your beans ...

Posted October 23, 2012 link

Bud's right, of course, aging of the beans influences the required fineness of grounds. You did emphasize in your initial post that you "always buy fresh roasted coffee", but that's a relative statement. How old are your beans exactly, i.e. when were they roasted?

 
***
"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
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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 Tue Oct 23, 2012, 4:37am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

+1 for bean age, sorry I forgot that. When beans get to be several weeks old, you can tell they get tired and stale. They lose their strong smell before they're ground and the crema turns into a pale puddle on top. Decaf is especially sensitive to this too. If you can get the roast date on your beans, it's easy to keep track of this.
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calblacksmith
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calblacksmith
Joined: 25 Nov 2007
Posts: 7,864
Location: Riverside, Ca, U.S.A.
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: ECM Vene. A1, La Cimbali M32
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Roaster: gave it a try, decided no
Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 5:49am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

My very first thought was beans aging. The first two weeks went OK then things change, yes beans age, they need to be ground finer. The grinder is marginal for espresso and you MUST be able to choke the machine when the beans age.

Too much pressure? When did it change? You did fine for two weeks, did the machine change or more likely did the beans change? Think about it.

How does water temp affect pressure? It does not. That is not to say that temp is not important, it IS but it does not affect the pressure of the shot. Temp surfing is a bit of a PITA in truth and it is not precise but it can get you someplace in the ball park if you are good at it.

Seal leaking, are you seeing a stream of water from the joint of the PF to the GH? I doubt it or you would have mentioned that you are getting water leaking.

You do not need to alter your machine, it is brand new, it more than likely does not have problems. As said, the grind is very fussy and a little change in grind or bean age can have big affects on the shot.

The tamp is the LEAST important part of the process, just be consistent and you are OK, most guidlines have you shooting for about 30 to 40 pounds of pressure, the important thing is to be consistent. Consistency is key, small changes can have very big affects, the grinder is more important than the machine IT REALLY IS and yours is iffy at best.

 
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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SaamJB
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Joined: 22 Oct 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Los Angeles
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012, 7:36am
Subject: Re: Rancilio Silvia Problem after 1 week: Water flow too quickly
 

Thanks for all the responses.

I never use beans that are older than two weeks old but I will keep in mind that as the bean ages I will have to adjust my grind.
I will calibrate my Virtuoso now and attempt to choke my machine.

I will also look into the preciso grinder. Does anyone know if it is possible to sell the Virtuoso back to Baratza?

I am about to brew a shot of some Verve Sermon espresso and I will let you all know how it goes.

Thanks
Saam
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