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Why are all my shots bitter?
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Why are all my...  
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RonMJ
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Mar 2014
Posts: 5
Location: OH
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Dream T
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cuisanart
Posted Thu Mar 20, 2014, 6:28pm
Subject: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

So I've had my Dream T for almost two weeks.  I've run almost two pounds of coffee (Ethiopia Harrar - local roaster, and Toscano from CCC) through it.  The grinder is a Vario.  I've tried 14, 15, 17, 19 grams.  1 oz, 1.5 oz, 1.8 oz., all in about 25 seconds.  196 and 198 degrees.  Frustratingly, there is not much difference between all the shots, probably because every shot is characterized by a sharp bitterness and a not so good aftertaste.  No fruit, caramel, chocolate and all the other flavors I've read about and expected from a $2,200 espresso machine.  I bought the machine from Chris' so it should be properly calibrated.  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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TheRealScubaSteve
Senior Member
TheRealScubaSteve
Joined: 22 Feb 2014
Posts: 97
Location: Massachusetts
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Delonghi EC155
Grinder: Baratza Encore
Posted Thu Mar 20, 2014, 8:51pm
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

I'll leave the diagnostics to other, more experienced forumites, but what is your experience with espresso? I only ask because when I first started with my (cheap) machine, my results were either extremely bitter or extremely sour. After making some modifications, I found that my shots were much better, but I am still noticing that with each shot I appreciate the taste more and more. When first starting, I could barely describe the differences between bitter, sour, or other flavor notes, but as my palate becomes accustomed to such strong flavors, it has been much more tolerable and pleasant.

Have you tried any other roasts? My experience with Ethiopian tends to be quite bright - certainly not my taste for espresso, but very nice for drip.

 
"But it is not a perfect world and none of us are god-shots.  As for me, I am a little over extracted and therefore slightly bitter and my crema is thin..." -Buckley
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frcn
Senior Member
frcn
Joined: 23 Dec 2001
Posts: 3,405
Location: Northern California
Expertise: Professional

Espresso: Vibiemme Domobar Double
Grinder: Mazzer Kony, Baratza...
Vac Pot: Hario, 2 Cory pots, 1 Cory...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Bunn A10 mod...
Roaster: computer controlled Hottop,...
Posted Thu Mar 20, 2014, 10:11pm
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

1 - Forget extraction time. It is complicating matters at this point.
2 - Stick with one dose. Something that leaves sufficient headroom when locked in.
3 -  Find a grind that is close and vary temperature until you get the best taste
4 - Keep that temperature and change the dose SLIGHTLY and repeat #3
5 - Read Chapter 139 "Once Again Variables Are King" on my website and see that you are not alone.
6 - On my website www.EspressoMyEspresso.com, check out this article: 12 - EASY GUIDE TO BETTER ESPRESSO AT HOME.

 
Visit My Website
www.EspressoMyEspresso.com
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SproBro
Senior Member


Joined: 11 Feb 2014
Posts: 66
Location: Topeka, KS
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: CC1 v1.5
Grinder: Compak K10PB, Vario
Posted Thu Mar 20, 2014, 11:38pm
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

If you do not have a bottomless portafilter, I highly highly recommend that you acquire one. Visual analysis of how your shots develop and pour is extremely valuable into resolving issues.
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RonMJ
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Mar 2014
Posts: 5
Location: OH
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Dream T
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cuisanart
Posted Fri Mar 21, 2014, 4:26am
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

SproBro Said:

If you do not have a bottomless portafilter, I highly highly recommend that you acquire one. Visual analysis of how your shots develop and pour is extremely valuable into resolving issues.

Posted March 20, 2014 link

I have a bottomless.  Came with a triple basket.  My extractions do need work:  some look good, some look, well, pretty bad.
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brianl
Senior Member


Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Posts: 473
Location: Chicago IL
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quick Mill Vetrano DB
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: chemex
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Fri Mar 21, 2014, 6:56am
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

Are you 100% confident that it's bitter? I know plenty of people that when it comes to espresso get the two mixed up. I would expect that your beans are a lighter roast and would therefore need a little higher of a temperature to get out the 'fruit' tastes. I usually like to drop it in a french press to see what kind of tastes are in there first.

Then again, like others said, it takes awhile to figure out what you actually taste in espresso.
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boar_d_laze
Senior Member


Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 1,259
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 Fri Mar 21, 2014, 9:28am
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

There are many reasons coffee can be bitter.  If the cause is technique, as seems extremely likely, than the coffee is over extracted.  

Randy (frcn) is right.  Do what he says. My own approach is slightly different.  Randy like to move in small steps, I like to start with big ones and then bracket.  But let's not clutter this up with confusing distinctions which won't lead to ultimate differences.  Do what Randy said, and you'll fix your problem.

RonMJ Said:

I have a bottomless.  Came with a triple basket.  My extractions do need work:  some look good, some look, well, pretty bad.

Posted March 21, 2014 link

It's possible that at least some of your over extraction results from distribution.  A bottomless pf will reveal if one part of your puck is denser than another, or whether your pucks channel and/or crack.  Bottomless pfs are also easier to keep clean and will net you slightly better mouthfeel.

But, channeling, side channeling, spritzing, and cracking are all signs of sour, under extraction. Bottomless pfs typically aren't much of a help in solving over extraction problems.

HOWEVER, triple baskets suck.  Pop it out of the pf and replace it with one of your double baskets.  

There's a lot of variance in baskets -- even those from a given maker, of a given size and shape.  The only real consistency is from VST and Strada baskets.  I think the consistency is worth their high price (about $30/basket) but you may not.

Hope this helps,
Rich
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RonMJ
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Mar 2014
Posts: 5
Location: OH
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Dream T
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cuisanart
Posted Fri Mar 21, 2014, 10:14am
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

Problem solved. Mostly.  Chris' Coffee Service did NOT set the boiler offset before shipping, which is what they told me over the phone that they do on all these machines. I guess that they just missed it on mine. A member of the S1 Café suggested I check, and it was set at -10 instead of 0. So the brew temperature was off by 10 degrees from what I had selected.  I verified this on the phone this morning with CCS.  The taste is a lot better now since the temp is not off by 10 degrees.  Now I can focus on how to go from okay to good to great shots.  Thanks for all the help.  The suggestions give me a lot to use to improve.
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TheRealScubaSteve
Senior Member
TheRealScubaSteve
Joined: 22 Feb 2014
Posts: 97
Location: Massachusetts
Expertise: Just starting

Espresso: Delonghi EC155
Grinder: Baratza Encore
Posted Fri Mar 21, 2014, 10:29am
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

Thanks for the update. I would've never known there was such a thing.

 
"But it is not a perfect world and none of us are god-shots.  As for me, I am a little over extracted and therefore slightly bitter and my crema is thin..." -Buckley
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RonMJ
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Mar 2014
Posts: 5
Location: OH
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: La Spaziale Dream T
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Cuisanart
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 4:37pm
Subject: Re: Why are all my shots bitter?
 

frcn Said:

1 - Forget extraction time. It is complicating matters at this point.
2 - Stick with one dose. Something that leaves sufficient headroom when locked in.
3 -  Find a grind that is close and vary temperature until you get the best taste
4 - Keep that temperature and change the dose SLIGHTLY and repeat #3
5 - Read Chapter 139 "Once Again Variables Are King" on my website and see that you are not alone.
6 - On my website www.EspressoMyEspresso.com, check out this article: 12 - EASY GUIDE TO BETTER ESPRESSO AT HOME.

Posted March 20, 2014 link

Maybe I'm missing something but in #3, find a grind that is close to what, without using a fixed extraction time? As I'm varying the grind, without a fixed extraction time I'm dealing with two variables, not one.   Do I just look for blonding without regard to time?  Unless I know when to stop the shot I can't determine what the change in grind is doing.
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