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Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Newbie having...  
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camheff
Junior Member


Joined: 8 Feb 2014
Posts: 5
Location: MD
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sat Feb 8, 2014, 5:00pm
Subject: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

Hi,
I recently purchased a new Gaggia Classic espresso machine. I have it paired with a Bodum Bistro grinder I got as a Xmas gift. I have done a lot of trouble shooting (not to mention research on forums, videos and sites like this) of many aspects of my espresso making: tried different beans, different levels of coarseness of grind, quantity of grinds inserted into the basket, the type of basket (single & double with crema perfetta filter and standard double filter basket), tamping pressure and brew time.
Just now I pulled what is likely the best shot Iíve done yet, but even then the amount and thickness is a bit off Ė maybe just a quarter of an inch or so. And I used high quality dark roasted beans that I had just ground.
I think that I am getting too much water flowing through the portafilter, as the finished product is a bit watery than I think it should be. A double espresso shot made with 17g of grounds yields about 3.5 to 4 ounces of espresso at the end, after brewing time of anywhere between 25 to 30 seconds. The crema is either non existent or less than one-quarter inch. Is too much water getting through and what do I need to do to remedy that?
Any idea what Iím doing wrong? My first thought was that the grinder isnít high quality enough. It runs about $120 new and was an Xmas gift. Do I need to go higher quality there? The beans were dark roast and about $14/pound from Caribou Coffee, so I donít think they are the cause. The Gaggia Classic seemed to get good reviews for its price, so I donít think that is the sole culprit.
Would be grateful for any help someone could lend, as I really want that thick, creamy crema.
Thanks in advance.
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GVDub
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 845
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sat Feb 8, 2014, 6:47pm
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

I believe you've got a couple of problems here. First the Bodum Bistro is in no way suitable as an espresso grinder. It just can't grind fine enough or consistently enough to make passable, much less good, espresso. The minimum level for an espresso-capable espresso grinder will be a Baratza Precisio (new) or a used commercial grinder (many choices out there) and they'll start at around $200.

Secondly, dark roasted stale coffee. Like Starbucks, any Caribou you buy is likely stale before it even gets on the store shelf. What's the roast date on the bag? Not the "use by" date, as that's worthless. Unless there's a "roasted on" date _and_ that date is less than two weeks prior, you've got stale coffee, and stale coffee doesn't make crema. And dark roast, especially something that's touted as dark roast from a large commercial roaster like Caribou, is likely to be closer to charcoal than coffee. If the beans are at all oily when they come out of the bag, es no bueno.
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D4F
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Mar 2012
Posts: 1,870
Location: USA
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Gaggia Classic PID
Grinder: Preciso
Posted Sat Feb 8, 2014, 7:05pm
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

As a Gaggia Classic user, I doubt that it is the machine.  Grinder is the likely culprit as mentioned.  Another problem is the tamper unless your have purchased and aftermarket one.  The plastic OEM one is too small to give an even tamp.  With that grinder and tamper you will have to use pressurized, perfect crema, baskets.

You need fresh beans to use within 15 days of roast.  Another need is a 58 mm tamper, and as noted the grinder.

Look at Baratza.com, and the refurb section.  Refurbs are posted on Thursdays until sold. That is the least expensive espresso capable machine other than used.

A great read

http://www.espressomyespresso.com/

    How To     12 - EASY GUIDE TO BETTER ESPRESSO AT HOME

 
D4F also at
http://www.gaggiausersgroup.com/
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Skylar
Senior Member


Joined: 15 Apr 2004
Posts: 119
Location: New Jersey
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: lelit espresso
Grinder: lelit grinder
Vac Pot: B. D. Electric
Drip: chemex
Roaster: wok roast and popper, heat...
Posted Sat Feb 8, 2014, 8:02pm
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

My fist sbdu was a Gaggia "Espresso" a plastic bodied machine with the usual weenie boiler and no three way valve. It came with a "free" tin of superannuated Lavazza beans which, when  used gave me thin black cremaless swill.

My next try was black-n-shiny "fresh" beans just delivered from the local roasterie who did every bean from whatever origin, the same way. Black-n-shiny. My espresso ground in a low end Barfatza  (spelling intended) had some crema but was, if I am being honest, swill.

My next foray was to find a good local roaster who gave me (or rather sold me) fresh and appropriatly roasted beans. This was better, but really hit-or-miss in great part because of that low end Barfatza Maestro.

Finally I sprung for a decent espresso grinder (a Lelit PL53) and got consistent crema replete shots.

This personal experience is meant as a how not to do it. Suggest fresh beans (there is a mail order list on home barista and findable on this site) or you can order trustworthy beans from i.e. gocoffeego (I have at times). Get a proper espresso capable grinder. If you want espresso save your current grinder for other coffee preps and get something that can be used for espresso.


Good luck, Sky
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,736
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, 2 Macap M4s, OE...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Sat Feb 8, 2014, 8:48pm
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

yeah, I started with a Maestro too...and agree it sucks for espresso. it's probably comparable to or better than the B Bistro though.

Add another guy to the list saying...get good quality fresh beans and a decent grinder...and you'll be most of the way there. otherwise, you'll just be wasting time and frustrating yourself.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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camheff
Junior Member


Joined: 8 Feb 2014
Posts: 5
Location: MD
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 7:41am
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

Thanks for all the helpful advice everybody.
I will seek a better grinder and get some fresher beans.
Is buying a good-quality 2nd hand grinder on ebay advisable?
Should a good grinder last me 5+ years?
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,284
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
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Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 8:35am
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

camheff Said:

Thanks for all the helpful advice everybody.
I will seek a better grinder and get some fresher beans.
Is buying a good-quality 2nd hand grinder on ebay advisable?
Should a good grinder last me 5+ years?

Posted February 9, 2014 link

+1 on need a MUCH better grinder (the grinder is far more important than the espresso machine.
+1 on need much better coffee (fresh and not black and/or oily). If the coffee says "best if used by..." it's junk.
+1 on reading my espresso article linked in a post above.

In regards to a "good grinder," it depends on your definition of "good." I think that it safe to assume that to most of the participants here on this forum, a good entry-level grinder, purchased new, starts in the price range of about $325 (Like the Baratza Preciso). How long do good grinders last? Grinders from companies like Mazzer, Compak, Macap, etc., in home use should last in the neighborhood of a lifetime. High end commercial grinders will last longer than that.

 
Visit My Website
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 721
Location: Monrovia, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: La Cimbali M21 DT/1 Junior...
Grinder: Ceado E92; "Bunnzilla"
Vac Pot: Royal Coffee Maker
Drip: Chemex + Kone; Espro Press
Roaster: USRC Sample Roaster
Posted Sun Feb 9, 2014, 9:45am
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

frcn Said:

How long do good grinders last? Grinders from companies like Mazzer, Compak, Macap, etc., in home use should last in the neighborhood of a lifetime. High end commercial grinders will last longer than that.

Posted February 9, 2014 link

LOL.  

To my wife Silvia, if she should survive me, I bequeath:
(1) A life estate in our beloved Robur with competition doser, and then to Bodum, our daughter....

BDL
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camheff
Junior Member


Joined: 8 Feb 2014
Posts: 5
Location: MD
Expertise: Just starting

Posted Thu Feb 13, 2014, 11:11am
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

Thanks everybody for your help and input.
I found 2 refurb options online from Baratza and am going to buy one of these:
Baratza Preciso for $239
Baratza Vario-W for $440

Is the Vario-W worth double the price for my first "grown-up" grinder for espresso?
I am happy to spend/invest a bit more in something if it will last me and prove worth it.
But if I am buying more than I need for my first serious grinder, maybe I'm ok with the Preciso.

would be grateful for any insight or opinions people have.

thanks very much
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 2,736
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, 2 Macap M4s, OE...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Thu Feb 13, 2014, 11:24am
Subject: Re: Newbie having difficulty getting crema on semi-automatic machine
 

worth it is so subjective, so take your responses with a grain of salt.

IMHO, yes it is very much worth it.  The two grinders perform in different classes...with the Preciso being entry level for home espresso and the Vario-W being a significant step up. Consider that most people who've used both the Baratza Vario and the Mazzer Super Jolly feel they produce relatively equivalent results in the cup.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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