comeonprovy Senior Member Joined: 26 Oct 2013 Posts: 2 Location: Montreal Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Mon Oct 28, 2013, 10:46pm Subject: Quick Mill La Certa - need help!
I recently picked up a new Quick Mill La Certa - and it must be new since there is almost no info on this machine anywhere in the forums. From what I understand, the La Certa replaced the Alexia. In any case, they seem to have similar features but are not identical. For one, the temperature knob on the La Certa is located under the machine. It also does not have three settings for the 'ON' switch.
After playing around with it a little, three little issues came up:
1) Where is the expansion valve located? Also, when adjusting the expansion valve on the Alexia, some report that the silicon tubing should be removed from the valve when adjusting it to avoid having the tubing torque and eventually revert back to the initial valve position during use. Isn't the advantage of having an easy-access expansion valve not having to open up the shell?
2) My spent pucks are turning out wet and sloppy, with channeling. I have adjusted my grind to pull a 2oz from 16-17 gr of beans that starts to blond at around 25 seconds. The grinds, after distributing, do not completely fill the basket before tamping but at 17 grams the level is quite close to the top of the basket. I use (what I estimate to be) around 30lbs of pressure in tamping, using a 58mm flat tamper. The brew pressure gauge rises to around 9.6 while brewing (is this too high? I have not yet measured with a blind basket). I have read similar complaints from people with QM E-61s, some saying that a wet puck is normal, some saying that lowering the brew pressure to around 9, coarser grind and more coffee resulted in dry pucks, others saying who cares - enjoy the coffee. I know that beans can have an effect, and I will admit that I had a drier puck after my first brew with the machine, though those beans were a much lighter roast and not particularly freshly roasted (tail end of the last bag). The beans that I am currently using are darker and slightly more oily, but without a roast date on the package I cannot determine how fresh they are (though still taste great). I will try new beans this weekend to see if this makes a difference.
3) Lastly, I can't seem to get hot water going through the steam/water wand. When switching the pump on with the steam valve open (steam switch off), all I get is steam for a good while - albeit wet steam. This is also after having just filled the boiler after steaming.
Try going the opposite way. Grind finer and lower your dosage and see if the channelling goes away. Another thing to do is use the Weiss distribution method. I've had my own pucks come out wet and sloppy, but I don't honestly care as long as the coffee tastes good. :-)
The grinds, after distributing, do not completely fill the basket before tamping but at 17 grams the level is quite close to the top of the basket.
That sounds normal. I've noticed that I can fit as much as 20 grams of coffee into an 18 Gram VST basket. What matters more is that the coffee doesn't touch the screen of the brewgroup. Try the nickel test. Place a clean washed nickel ontop of your bed of coffee, lock in the portafilter, then remove it and the nickel and see if it leaves a dent in your coffee. It shouldn't. If it does, the screen could be "cracking" the puck and causing channelling. Although, in all honesty I don't think that 17 grams of coffee should do this.
The brew pressure gauge rises to around 9.6 while brewing (is this too high?
uscfroadie Senior Member Joined: 2 Aug 2008 Posts: 363 Location: San Antonio Expertise: I live coffee
Espresso: Olympia Cremina, Breville... Grinder: HG One (71mm), Forte, Zass... Vac Pot: Nope Drip: Nope Roaster: Behmor
Posted Tue Oct 29, 2013, 4:47am Subject: Re: Quick Mill La Certa - need help!
Try the nickel test. Place a clean washed nickel ontop of your bed of coffee, lock in the portafilter, then remove it and the nickel and see if it leaves a dent in your coffee. It shouldn't. If it does, the screen could be "cracking" the puck and causing channelling. Although, in all honesty I don't think that 17 grams of coffee should do this.
Just want to point out that though intended to help, this information is incorrect. The nickel test SHOULD show a slight indent in the puck but should not bury the nickel or crack the puck. A slight dent shows that the dose is high enough to not expand too much to cause a gusher and early blonding while still leaving enough room for the slight expansion. The puck at the end of the shot should be dry, and if the dose is correct, should show a slight impression of the shower screen.
Your wet puck tends to point to too low of a dose, provided you have a three-way valve and it's functioning properly, which I'm sure you do with a new machine.
As for your questions...
You need to remove the outer shell to get to anything you need to adjust. On the Alexia I had 5 or 6 screws and the shell lifted right off. Very easy to work on with so much room inside. Go to Home-Barista's review of the Alexia to see pictures of the OPV and how to adjust it [edit: just went to the review, and the shortened recap version does not show it]. It's very easy to do and is right on the side of the boiler. I'll try to find a picture and post it in a separate reply.
Could be a few things. Low dose is my first guess as the age of beans has nothing to do with whether or not a puck is dry or wet at the end of a shot. Also, oily beans usually mean old, unless roasted to a really dark level. A full city will not show any oil on fresh beans, but if you let them sit for weeks you'll see oil emerge. Another thing that would be helpful is what grinder you are using.
My Alexia was PID'd, so the temp controller (had a big black knob on the inside of the machine according to stock photos) was gone. if I understand you post, this controller is now on the bottom of the machine? If so, and you have easy access to it, if you open the steam wand with it in brew mode and get some steam your controller is set too high. This should also result in espresso pulled at too high of a temp (should see darker colors versus nice flecking.
As for the 9.6 bar pressure. It's totally typical to rise to this at the beginning of the shot and to fall to a steady 9 bar. Where to set it is your choice and done so by taste. 9 bar is a normal set point though not the be all end all. If you adjust it and are trying to hit 9 bar during teh shot, you will need to adjust it using a blind filter to about 9.5, as the pressure will be lower when pulling a shot because water will (hopefully) be flowing through your puck, thus yielding a lower pressure.
Thanks. I actually read that review before buying the LC. I think that's the older Alexia - the Alexia redesign relocated the expansion valve right under the lid on the top of the machine. I was hoping this would be the case with the LC as well but no valve adjustment there. I also dont have a complete manual - only a 6 page insert in 3 languages with very basic info.
You hit the nail on the head with your suggestion that I was brewing hot. In moving the machine around on the counter, the knob was accidentally pushed towards the high end. I lowered it to around 96C and am getting lighter colours (crema was copper before). I also updosed to 18gr, ground slightly coarser and pulled a shot at 8.5 bar. Puck came out more dry than before but still wet. I may just give up on dryness and enjoy.... Although if I like this temperature and grind level, I guess the next adjustment should be the OPV to get it brewing at 9 bar.
Regarding dosage, am I wrong to think that I should be able to brew a 15 or 16 gr shot in my double basket without excess water and channeling, especially with a 3 way valve?
Posted Tue Oct 29, 2013, 10:49pm Subject: Re: Quick Mill La Certa - need help!
Read my info considering that i'm speaking about an European model which i don't know is the same in Canada or USA The La Certa should not has the OPV valve, the opv function is made by the NON COMPRESSION steam/hot water valve, and you can't adjust it. Your La Certa should has 3 switches on right side, the first should be the ON-OFF, the middle one should be the manual boiler thermostat bypass to allow your boiler to reach the proper temp to brew steam, the third one ( with a P mark) should be the manual refilling boiler or hot water brewing once open the steam/hot water valve. To know when the boiler is already filled just open the steam/hot water valve, than switch on the machine and the P switch and once water will flow from the steam wand your boiler is filled so switch off the P switch. If you already got a good espresso with your previous set up you will not miss the OPV ;-) By the way a call to your seller will clear your questions.
Bummer the expansion valve isn't easily accessible. Still, removing the cover is not hard should you want to adjust the brew pressure, and it's nice to see what it looks like inside. If you do take the cover off, please post pictures. I tried the net but could not find any.
As for your shot, when I had mine I never weighed the beans, so I'd be lying if I told you I dosed xx.x grams into the basket back then. When you have 16 grams in and you lay the nickel on top of your prepared puck, does it make a dent in the puck when you lock in the portafilter? If not, up your dose or move to a smaller basket if you like the taste of a smaller dose. Too little coffee will indeed leave your puck wet.
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