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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Struggling with...  
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jordanklein
Senior Member


Joined: 16 Sep 2013
Posts: 2
Location: Oakland CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Mon Sep 16, 2013, 8:17am
Subject: Struggling with Silvia
 

Hi all,
I'm having a hard time pulling a great shot and was hoping for some advice. I'm using a 2011 Rancilio Silvia. I've adjusted the OPV valve to get to 9 bar. I grind, immediately before brewing, with a (calibrated) Rancilio Rocky at between 4 and 6 clicks above true zero. I've tried many types of espresso beans including from Blue Bottle, 4 Barrel, and Sightglass. I temperature surf. I measure out 18 grams of coffee (which is about the max I can fit in the double shot portafilter).

Still, I'm not pulling really great espresso shots; I think what I'm pulling are ristrettos. The shots come through within about 15 or 16 seconds. There's a decent crema that sticks around, but without much tiger modeling. The flavors are pretty nicely balanced, but without the deep richness that I came to enjoy with every shot when I was in Italy last month.

Any tips on what else I can try, or how I can improve my technique?

Thanks,
Jordan
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,119
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Sep 16, 2013, 8:55am
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

How long are you letting your Silvia heat up before doing this? If only 10 minutes, you should let it cycle through at least once more to allow ALL parts to come up to operating temperature.  This greatly improves performance.

If you're getting a full extraction in 15-16 seconds, you probably need to grind finer...particularly as you say you have a full basket. Another possibility is you're getting channeling. Are you using a bottomless or spouted pf? If you have a bottomless pf, you should be able to see the channeling effects as the extraction flows. Your full basket may actually be overfilled, which does indeed promote channeling. Try the nickel test (or since you have a Silvia, use a dime to account for the screw in the center of the shower screen).  If these tips don't get you fixed up in a jiffy, or if you want to read more, go to www.espressomyespresso.com and read article 12 Easy Guide to Better Espresso at Home, under the how to section.

Another option is to post a video...start it with your basket prep process and finish it with the extraction.

Good luck!

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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JasonBrandtLewis
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JasonBrandtLewis
Joined: 9 Dec 2005
Posts: 6,391
Location: Berkeley, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Elektra T1 - La Valentina -...
Grinder: Mahlkönig K30 Vario -...
Vac Pot: Yama 5-cup
Drip: CCD, Chemex
Roaster: No, no, not another...
Posted Mon Sep 16, 2013, 12:34pm
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

What Ron ("emradguy") said is crucial:

emradguy Said:

How long are you letting your Silvia heat up before doing this? If only 10 minutes, you should let it cycle through at least once more to allow ALL parts to come up to operating temperature.  This greatly improves performance.

Posted September 16, 2013 link

There is a HUGE difference between having the boiler hot enough for steam, and having the entire machine thermally stable.  The machine must reach a state of thermic stability before you start pulling shots.  This is as true for an SBDU machine like the Silvia as it is for a commercial three-group machine.

 
A morning without coffee is sleep . . .
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seagoon3
Senior Member


Joined: 16 Sep 2013
Posts: 14
Location: SoCal
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Bezzera BZ10, Silvia with...
Grinder: Pharos, Baratza Vario
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Mon Sep 16, 2013, 10:06pm
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

Hi Jordan

When you say the shots come through in 15-16 seconds, is this the time for the shot to finish, or the time for the coffee to appear after you hit the brew switch? If the former, the grind is too coarse. From what you say, though, it sounds more like the latter. If so, then the grind is probably too fine. On my Silvia, the coffee usually shows up on the underside of the bottomless portafilter after about five seconds, then it takes a few more seconds to hit the cup. To work out where you should be with the grind, you should weigh the brewed shots as well as the coffee (on a .1 gram scale) and try different extraction ratios. For an 18 gram dose, 36 grams of coffee in 26 to 28 seconds would be a classic normale, which is around a 50% extraction. Some people prefer around a 65% to 70% extraction, which would be around 26-28 grams of coffee from an 18 gram dose, pulled in somewhere around 30-32 seconds. Which type of shot you prefer is a question of taste, and could vary from coffee to coffee. Since you can tune the taste and balance of shots by varying the grind and dose, it is a good idea to work on being able to pull different types of shot with different doses. Jim Schulman has a post on HB setting out what this will achieve. It is called Espresso 101: How to adjust grind and dose by taste.

The other possible issue is that to get anything to work on a Sylvia, the distribution has to be good. Sylvias are known to be brutally unforgiving of bad distribution. A bottomless portafilter lets you see if you have issues, which manifest themselves as gushing from the side of the basket, spraying all over the place, sprites, multiple stalactite pours instead of nice regular cones, and donut extractions. If you have these issues, and your coffee is fresh, then you have to work on your distribution technique. A lot of people who get a bottomless portafilter discover issues that were previously invisible. The trick with distribution seems to be get the coffee as level as possible out of the grinder, and to mess with the coffee only to the minimum extent necessary to get an even bed. This is easiest to do with the basket out of the portafilter, while you grind and distribute. There seem to be two main options. The first is the Stockfleth's move for dummies. If you search HB for this, you will find the video. The other method is to drag your finger north south, ending in the center, then east west ending on the edge. The first method works better for lower doses. If your grinder makes clumps, the you could try WDT.

While different coffees, grinders and baskets do not give the same result, with my Vario and a HQ double basket, 17 grams is about my upper limit. A known issue with the Silvia is that if you overdose, the screw on the shower screen breaks the surface of the puck and causes trouble. So, you could maybe try reducing the maximum dose a bit. For me, the range between 14 grams and 17 grams works best in the HQ basket.

The last suggestion is to get coffee that is not very fussy, while you work the basic stuff out. Maybe something like Redbird would be a good bet. Very good espresso, easy to pull, very good deal, and a really nice and helpful owner of the business.
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NobbyR
Senior Member
NobbyR
Joined: 10 Jul 2011
Posts: 2,045
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 Sep 17, 2013, 12:15am
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

It can be quite difficult, if not impossible, to dial in the Rancilio Rocky correctly, because its steps are pretty wide, so it's not uncommon for the right setting to be in between two steps, which can be quite frustrating. In that case you'll have to work around this problem by adjusting the dose, e.g. slightly increasing the dose instead of grinding finer.

 
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"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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jordanklein
Senior Member


Joined: 16 Sep 2013
Posts: 2
Location: Oakland CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Sun Nov 24, 2013, 2:39pm
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

Hey everyone-
Just wanted to circle back and thank you all for your feedback. I'm continuing to learn through trial and refinement. We now make a point to try to heat up the machine for at least 20 or 30 minutes before brewing and have found that it makes a noticeable difference.
Happy brewing,
Jordan
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Coffeenoobie
Senior Member
Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,030
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Sun Nov 24, 2013, 3:01pm
Subject: Re: Struggling with Silvia
 

good to hear an update.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

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Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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