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Black And Lack of Crema
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Black And Lack...  
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drewhosick
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Joined: 26 Feb 2014
Posts: 9
Location: Winchester, ON Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 12:13pm
Subject: Black And Lack of Crema
 

Hi there,

I'm having a hard time figuring out where I'm going wrong in terms of my espresso shots.

I have a Breville Cafe Roma and I got the Breville Non-Pressurized Basket to replace the pressurized one.

I also use an HC-600 Hey Cafe Grinder which is the knockoff Mazzer SJ.

Anyways, for the longest time I've been using the included mini cups and filling them up 3/rds before stopping but I guess that was way too much because there's at least 2.5 to 3 oz per cup so 4.5 to 6 oz of espresso.  I bought shot glasses and am now aiming for an oz to an oz and a quarter for each glass(x2 for doubles).

I'm getting no crema barely at all.  It's black all the way to the top with the top having just a few bubbles but not enough to even cover the whole surface of the shot.

I think my time is pretty close and I know my tamper is the included plastic one(I have an aluminum one on the way.

I've tried reducing the pressure and then I just get a sputtering mess from the machine and if I tamp too hard with even finer grind chokes the machine's pump.  When it pours well the crema just isn't showing up.  I had more luck with the pressurized basket in terms of crema although flavour is better with non pressurized.

I am using fresh beans as well.

Any ideas or a guide on troubleshooting what I'm doing wrong?
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drewhosick
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Feb 2014
Posts: 9
Location: Winchester, ON Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 12:37pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

I was hoping there was a delete button but I guess not.  Looks like I might have figured out the problem.  I thought I wasn't fine enough but turns out I was too fine.  I had to really twist the grind to a coarser setting.  As soon as I did that I saw the colour and crema I see in Youtube videos.  I guess I was overextracting but I couldn't tell before because I didn't have a see through glass to see the makeup of the shot.
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,354
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 2:02pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

Don't use cups for measuring, you need a digital scale that weighs to .1 grams.
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Whitcoatsyndrom
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Whitcoatsyndrom
Joined: 25 Apr 2013
Posts: 166
Location: Roanoke, VA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Expobar Office Pulser
Grinder: Baratza Vario
Drip: Newco-OCS 12
Roaster: HG/BM
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 7:45pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

A few questions for you:

drewhosick Said:

Anyways, for the longest time I've been using the included mini cups and filling them up 3/rds before stopping but I guess that was way too much because there's at least 2.5 to 3 oz per cup so 4.5 to 6 oz of espresso.  I bought shot glasses and am now aiming for an oz to an oz and a quarter for each glass(x2 for doubles).

Posted March 22, 2014 link

I'm not sure what you mean by a few things you said here, you can clear them up by answering the following:
*Are mini cups the glasses/cups you are actually catching your espresso in when it comes out of the machine?  I think that's what you mean based on your volume estimate of 4.5 to 6 oz total
*Do you have any idea how much coffee you are grinding into your portafilter?  We usually talk about this in grams of beans but if you aren't measuring grams then perhaps you can give another measurement (tablespoons of beans/grinds etc.)

It sounds like you already know that 4.5 to 6 oz is wayyyy too much volume for a standard double shot.  Some people even consider 2 oz to be too much for a double; mine is usually between 1.4 and 1.8 oz but its all a matter of preference.  

I think my time is pretty close and I know my tamper is the included plastic one

*What is your shot-time?
*Walk me through your routing from grinding, getting the grind into the basket, and tamping


I've tried reducing the pressure and then I just get a sputtering mess from the machine and if I tamp too hard with even finer grind chokes the machine's pump.

*Try to change one thing at a time.  You should try to tamp the exact same every time.  This allows you to change the grind setting as the primary way of changing how long it takes for the proper extraction.  If you play with grind settings and tamp pressure at the same time, you won't really be able to make consistent changes as you need them.  Search on proper tamping technique if you haven't already and it'll help.
 

When it pours well the crema just isn't showing up.  I had more luck with the pressurized basket in terms of crema although flavour is better with non pressurized.

  • "Crema" from a pressurized portafilter isn't crema at all, its the product of a semi-viscous liquid being forced through a very small hole under pressure (it's frothed coffee).  True crema is the product of gas escaping from the grinds as water moves through it. This is why your crema-less coffee without the pressurized filter still tastes better than the pressurized portafilter with the fake crema.

I am using fresh beans as well.

*Most important question of all...what is fresh to you?  
*Where are you getting your beans and how are you storing them?

Looks like I might have figured out the problem.  I thought I wasn't fine enough but turns out I was too fine.  I had to really twist the grind to a coarser setting.

*If you were getting too much volume (4.5-6 oz), then making your grind coarser would increase your volume while making it finer would decrease the volume (this is assuming you are working in the same timeframe per shot...25-30 seconds or so).

I think you would really benefit from reading the following link.  It's a great tutorial on general techniques.
http://www.frcndigital.com/coffee/HowToEspresso.html
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IMAWriter
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IMAWriter
Joined: 4 Jul 2002
Posts: 5,841
Location: Brentwood, TN
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Bezzera Strega
Grinder: Forte, OE Pharos,...
Vac Pot: Adcraft SS, Yama 8 cup
Drip: Brazen, Kalita, Chemex,...
Roaster: Behmor 1600, CO/UFO combo
Posted Sat Mar 22, 2014, 10:31pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

Whitcoatsyndrom Said:

I think you would really benefit from reading the following link.  It's a great tutorial on general techniques.
http://www.frcndigital.com/coffee/HowToEspresso.html

Posted March 22, 2014 link

+1.

Your coffee needs to come from a good artisan roaster, roasted with 5 days to 10 days from the time you receive it. It's usually task for about 14-18 days post roast, though there might be a bit of reduced crema as the coffee ages.
Also, certain coffees will produce more crema than others. generally, DP (natural) coffees give you more crema than a washed coffee will, though it's not ALWAYS the case.

Lets also be honest here. Your grinder is very good, but your machine less so. Bravo for spending the bucks where it counts, but even a machine like a Gaggia Classic, or Lel.it would give you far better and more consistent results.

 
Rob J (LMWDP #187)
My Music Production web site:
www.robertjason.com
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drewhosick
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Feb 2014
Posts: 9
Location: Winchester, ON Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Sun Mar 23, 2014, 3:12pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

I'm not sure what you mean by a few things you said here, you can clear them up by answering the following:
*Are mini cups the glasses/cups you are actually catching your espresso in when it comes out of the machine?  I think that's what you mean based on your volume estimate of 4.5 to 6 oz total

Yes they are catching it and I used to use the mini cups to measure which were probably a perfect size to fit a triple or quadruple shot(3 or 4 oz cups I'd guess)

*Do you have any idea how much coffee you are grinding into your portafilter?  We usually talk about this in grams of beans but if you aren't measuring grams then perhaps you can give another measurement (tablespoons of beans/grinds etc.)

I normally am around 16 to 18g.  I don't have a balance that measures in .1 grams but it does measure grams and if I put the filter on there alone it always measures in at 19g so I usually get around 36 or 37g.

*What is your shot-time?

Now that I've adjusted it's too quick but if I make the grind finer than I get nothing but a dark colour and no crema from my pull.

*Walk me through your routing from grinding, getting the grind into the basket, and tamping\

I grind, then use the handle to drop it into the basket.  Tamp as hard as I can push down with the plastic tamper(I have an aluminium one on the way by Wednesday)

I find if I don't tamp as hard as I can I get sputtering which I read might be channeling although I'm not sure.


*Most important question of all...what is fresh to you?  

Roasted less than 10 days ago on the bag I'm just about done now and the other one will be a little bit older by the time I start it(maybe 11 days and I take about 5 to 7 days to go through it so it might be a little older than I'd like but this one should be fine.

*Where are you getting your beans and how are you storing them?

I store the unused beans in a lock and lock in the dark.


I'll read the link.
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drewhosick
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Feb 2014
Posts: 9
Location: Winchester, ON Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 2:29pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

So I'm now very confused.  I decided to practice using old stale beans which I read were actually no good to use because you couldn't grind them well for making espresso.

It turned out to be the best espresso pour I've had in terms of the look at time.  Of course the taste wasn't great and I only had a quick sip but I was just about exactly 25 seconds and there was some crema at the top along with a bit of a lighter colour in the middle with a heart at the bottom.  Only thing is after about a minute I looked and what was lighter coloured seemed to be black now.  Does the colour change after a short amount of time?

In the morning I'll try to see where I get from my much fresher beans.
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CMIN
Senior Member


Joined: 14 Jun 2012
Posts: 1,354
Location: South FL
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: Crossland CC1
Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 4:26pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

drewhosick Said:

So I'm now very confused.  I decided to practice using old stale beans which I read were actually no good to use because you couldn't grind them well for making espresso.

It turned out to be the best espresso pour I've had in terms of the look at time.  Of course the taste wasn't great and I only had a quick sip but I was just about exactly 25 seconds and there was some crema at the top along with a bit of a lighter colour in the middle with a heart at the bottom.  Only thing is after about a minute I looked and what was lighter coloured seemed to be black now.  Does the colour change after a short amount of time?

In the morning I'll try to see where I get from my much fresher beans.

Posted March 24, 2014 link

With stale beans that's what will happen, you may get a bit of crema with stale beans and then it will quickly dissipitate like the fake crema using a pressurized portafilter. Real crema will stick and stay and be thick. You really need a scale that measure to .1g, I'd be surprised if your getting 16-18g into the basket. Using measuring cups etc doesn't work as beans can be all different sizes and weights, I could use a 1/4 scoop for example from the same bag 5 times and get weights all over the place as you could also have more or less beans not really know. Only way to know your dosing correctly is a .1g scale. The Cafe Aroma has a small 53mm basket, my CC1 has a 58mm double and it's larger then the avg double and 18g is pushing it for  a dose (can go a bit higher depending), don't see how 18g could fit in the Cafe Aroma small double basket. Sounds like overdosing and the puck may be hitting the screen causing poor extractions as well.

Get a .1 g scale ;) , your grinder is a good I almost bought one awhile back too, it's basically the same thing as the Super Jolley. Still retention though so are you grinding some beans before use to make sure your actually shot is fresh? If the scale doesn't help, and fresh beans aren't either, more than likely something is wrong with the machine.
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drewhosick
Senior Member


Joined: 26 Feb 2014
Posts: 9
Location: Winchester, ON Canada
Expertise: I like coffee

Posted Mon Mar 24, 2014, 5:49pm
Subject: Re: Black And Lack of Crema
 

It's actually 51mm not 53mm from what I understand.  It's a Cafe Roma not Aroma.

With the stale beans I tried 15g according to scale and it just seemed to work better.  maybe I was overdoing it before in terms of grams.  I'll look into a better scale though.
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