stephendag Senior Member Joined: 13 Feb 2014 Posts: 5 Location: United States Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Thu Feb 13, 2014, 8:27am Subject: Breville 800esxl--slow extraction
I have had some trouble now for a while with my Breville espresso maker. Using the dual wall filter baskets, I was having trouble with the espresso not extracting at all. I shut the machine off before the pressure got to be too much. I tried cleaning the baskets in a variety of ways with no better performance.
Then I bought the single wall baskets. I've used them maybe 5 times, and now I have new problems. I have to tamp down the espresso more than I did with the dual wall filters or it runs through quickly. But even with the slightest tamp, I end up with a very slow extraction and usually only out of one hole. The espresso will flow OK from that one hole for a bit and then dribble. The espresso dribbles or doesn't flow at all from the second hole.
I've tried a couple of different grinds, but any coarser than what produced the results above ends up with weak espresso.
Also, it seems that the noise coming from the machine as of late seems a bit muffled, like it is struggling Obviously it is since it isn't extracting properly. Is something wrong with the machine, I wonder.
Coffee is stale esp for espresso brewing after about 15 days, FROM THE DAY IT WAS ROASTED. If there is a best by or a use before date on the bag, take it for granted it is stale. Just because it comes from a coffee shop that is not to say it is not stale, if they can not tell you the day it was roasted, buy your coffee some place else.
The grinder is MORE important than the machine esp in the starter machines, you should spend as much on the grinder as you do for the machine so if you spend $400 for a machine, think $400 for the grinder. Truth is, with a powered grinder, espresso able grinders START at $350 at the very lowest end of the range and they go WAAAAAAAAY up from there.
The grinder is mandatory for espresso. You MUST grind it for yourself and you must do it right before brewing. You can not have a shop do it for you, the grind requirement changes from day to day and sometimes hour to hour, you must have the ability to adjust for the specific conditions at hand. Each bean, blend and roast level will change the grind requirement as does the aging of the beans and even the moisture in the air, all these factors affect the shot.
The pressurized basket or double wall as you called them, are there to make up for poor grind and the beans being stale, they are most often referred to here as Pressurized Portafilter or PPF. They are found in nearly all lower end starter machines as the owners of those machines often will not want to invest in a quality grinder that frankly, for a lot of those machines, honestly, cost a lot more than the machine. The pressure system be it a double wall basket or a device in the Porta Filter (PF) is there to present a resistance to the flow of water. This sort of makes up for poor grind and stale beans but the result is not really espresso, it is quickly brewed coffee that is sprayed through a small hole to produce a foam on top of the resultant brew in the cup, true crema is the oils from the coffee in suspension floating above the brew, they look similar but are really very different.
It is a very very rare exception when you can buy a quality machine at a department store or kitchen store. You might find a Saeco Aroma in one of those locations and while it will produce espresso, it is really at the starter end of espresso able machines. For the most part, department store machines are given as gifts at weddings and the like, where they will sit in the closet after a few weak attempts at making espresso then sold at a yard sale or given to a charity.
You CAN get the lowest rung of pump machines to brew but it takes a lot of work and a espresso able grinder be it motor powered or hand crank. In order to keep the price down with these machines, the design must be simplified and that results in poor temp control, poor pressure regulation and very often short lives for the machines.
Tamping is the least important part of the whole process, as long as you are consistent you are OK. The whole job of tamping is to remove air spaces and to compact the puck of ground coffee so it will present a uniform resistance to flow of water through it. Once you have achieved this, additional pressure really will not do anything. You can not put near the same pressure on the puck with a tamper that the machine will put on it with 9 bar of water pressure. 9 bar of pressure is the desired pressure to brew with, more is not a good thing. When a machine manufacturer touts 15 bar pump, it is only advertising hype and if the excess pressure is not vented either to the drip tray or back to the water tank then you have too much to brew with and it will give you poor results regardless of what you do.
The vibe pumps in SBDU machines and other heating schemes in the starter class machines is pretty much the same pump used in all the machines and they are pretty much interchangeable to any machine that uses them. They all will produce apx 15 bar of pressure max, all need to be regulated down to 9 bar. When you hear the pump load up or get quiet but still humming, it is at max pressure, the water is not moving through it and no water is flowing in the system. The pump can take this for a little while without issue.
One hole or two holes in the PF, both start in the same place inside the bottom of the PF, so if the coffee is only going through one but not both holes, most likely one or both things are the issue. The machine may not be level or there is a deformation inside the splitter section of the double spout, the coffee all leaves via the single hole in the bottom of the PF and the splitter just sends it two ways. It is not an indication of anything going on inside the brew basket, it does not represent that one side of the coffee puck is getting more water than the other side, it simply means that the coffee is not being equally divided as it is leaving the PF.
So, now with all the above said, Stale coffee will cause issues with lack of crema, fast shots, poor tamping, thin espresso.
Poor grinding will cause bad flavor because if all the grounds are not the same size, some over extract very quickly while others will never give up the flavor in them in the short time given in espresso extraction of the nominal 25 seconds. Grinding to coarse will cause the shots to run fast, be under extracted and watery. Grinding too fine causes the shots to run long, be over extracted and nasty if the coffee leaves the PF at all.
A combo of stale coffee and poor grinding will be a nightmare of issues. Nearly all problems that new people have with brewing is with either stale coffee or improperly ground or long ago ground coffee.
That brings up another point. When you have your coffee ground other than just before brewing, it is stale in about 15 minutes from the time you grind it! Picture it this way. Coffee is a food product, all food products can and will go stale or rot. For example, an apple, when first cut open it has a clean white flesh right? When you leave the cut apple sitting on the counter, in 15 or so minutes, you see a brown film start to form on the cut flesh don't you? This film is the fruit reacting with the O2 in the air and oxidizing or staling. If you cut your apple into thousands of very very small pieces and left it out on the counter, the reaction between the air and the exposed fruit will be much greater as there is so much more surface area exposed to the O2 in the air. This is the same with coffee but because coffee is brown to start with, you do not see the oxidation but it is happening just the same and at just the same speed as on the apple, thus ground coffee is stale in 15 minuted from the time you grind it! If it was ground at the coffee shop, even with top line grinders, the odds of getting the exact correct grind for your particular set of variables at that specific time is very very small, add to that the fact that the coffee is staling the whole time between when you ground it and you got home, your chances of getting anything good fresh home from t he coffee shop with ground coffee are very poor indeed, let alone tomorrow or the day after!
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!
Cal pretty much summed it up. Thats your problem right there, not possible to make espresso with preground and if they find for you that'll be useless as its dialed for their machines (thats if they know what their doing lol). That plus beans that could be stale equals your issues. And the double wall baskets don't make espresso as they use a pressure clip to regulate flow, allows people to make coffee that don't have a good grinder/or one at all, or use preground etc. Best way to think of a double wall basket is to imagine a water hose flowing and sticking your finger over it to spray, that's what the double wall dose and it frothes the coffee making it look like crema but it isn't. On a regular basket the correct grind is what causes the right pressure to extract the puck.
An espresso capable grinder, fresh roasted beans, and single wall baskets will help you see a huge improvement and actually make espresso.
If I were to spend $1000 would I be able to get good equipment? What would you recommend at the price range. What would you recommend at any price. ' And also, how can I/where can I find good non-stale beans?
Stephen, you don't need to spend a fortune to get good equipment but you must spend something.
I am not a fan of thermoblock or in Breville terms, thermocoil, machines. They are too hard to be consistent with. If it is new, you may want to think of returning it, if not, we can help you to get the best you can out of it until you out grow it.
Everyone starts somplace and my first machine was what we call a steam toy, a class of machine below your machine, they are too hot and not near enough pressure as they only use steam pressure and do not have a pump. I can relate.
For your budget, you can get a pretty respectable starter setup with a quality starter grinder, an espresso setup that will have guests you have over drooling for drinks and a setup that is fast enough for you to make 3 or 4 drinks and still be done in time to enjoy them with your guests rather than drinking yours after everyone else is done.
Starting from scratch with that budget, my personal starting point would be a CC1 and a referb Vario, that should stay close to your cap. Budget creep is a big issue in this hobby some of us have enough invested to buy a nice used car. You need not spend that much to be happy, not at all, it just depends on how badly you are bitten!
Total may run a little over your budget but it should keep you happy for quite a while. Think of it like buying a Refer or a new stove, not a drip coffee maker.
As to coffee, your shop MIGHT be fresh, without asking you do not know but we do have a list of mail order that have proven to supply quality fresh coffee, at least it is a place to start. This is a link to another site but we have lots of crossover between them and one of our long time members here started this thread over there.
stephendag Senior Member Joined: 13 Feb 2014 Posts: 5 Location: United States Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Sat Feb 15, 2014, 2:18am Subject: Re: Breville 800esxl--slow extraction
You mentioned you can help me to get the best I can out of what I have until I outgrow it. Knowing me, I will be obsessed about getting a new espresso setup for months before I actually do it. So, while I am obsessing, what can I do to get my machine working for me properly?
I have had this machine since 2007, had to make a repair on it for 2010 because the motor kept running. Since then, I've used it just about every day. I know it probably doesn't make the best espresso, but it tastes okay to me. It's only just recently that it's been giving me trouble and making me think it's time to replace it.
Also, any additional tips on buying beans would be helpful.
I’d just like to point out there is a difference between a thermoblock and thermocoil. A thermoblock consists of 2 plates fitted together, each with a tortured path that water passes through and a thermocoil is a mass of metal with stainless steel tube cast directly into it and adjacent to the element.
Just a suggestion - If you are looking for a machine for under $1000 – The BES870XL has digital PID control for temperature stability, low pressure pre-infusion, a built-in burr grinder, single wall filters, SCAA approved for US$599.99.
As for coffee, look for a roasted-on date on the bag. Coffee is best consumed within 2 weeks from the roast date and storing the coffee in its bag, in an airtight container in a dry, dark place at room temperature will help prolong all the aromatics and flavour.
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