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  1. #1
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    Espresso Noob - help?

    For Christmas, my family bought me a new Rancilio Silvia based on consistently good user reviews. I have read up on the basics. I'm using fresh beans, right after I've ground them. I'm using the double basket, tamping firmly, heating the machine up first, but I can't pull a shot with decent crema and the shots are pulling WAY too fast. I'm grinding as fine as possible, but the grinder is nothing special. Do I really need an expensive grinder to make decent espresso with a nice machine, or is it possible to pull an ok shot without? My shots are coming out under 10 seconds, even if I fiddle with the pressure, and almost no crema. Tips?

  2. #2
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    What grinder are you pairing with the Silvia? A decent grinder with a proper burr set is quite important. It's not just a matter of grinding fine enough.

    What do you consider fresh for coffee? Fresh to me would be less than 1 week out from the actual roast date. Bean storage is also key.


    Approximately how much are you dosing into the basket? The Silvia will probably do well with 14-16 grams for most coffees.


    How long are you letting it warm up? The typical 5-15 min. rating just isn't nearly enough for most machines. At that point the boiler water may be ready, but all the metal is going to be warm at best, not hot. I'd recommend a minimum of 30 mins.
    I'm a legend among my own kind... you my friend are just a legend in your own mind. Later!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadow745 View Post
    What grinder are you pairing with the Silvia? A decent grinder with a proper burr set is quite important. It's not just a matter of grinding fine enough.

    What do you consider fresh for coffee? Fresh to me would be less than 1 week out from the actual roast date. Bean storage is also key.


    Approximately how much are you dosing into the basket? The Silvia will probably do well with 14-16 grams for most coffees.


    How long are you letting it warm up? The typical 5-15 min. rating just isn't nearly enough for most machines. At that point the boiler water may be ready, but all the metal is going to be warm at best, not hot. I'd recommend a minimum of 30 mins.
    I'm using a Krups coffee grinder. Nothing special, as I said. Besides the fineness of the grind, what is also important?

    I used espresso that I just received yesterday from Green Mountain (a few days delivery). I'm not sure of the roast date, but I'm also unsure of my alternatives. I don't know of any local roasteries.

    I overfilled the basket the first time, per internet suggestion, but it was too full and couldn't fit. After a slight adjustment, it fit. It was full to the lip of the large filter. Forgive my ignorance, but how would I measure out a precise amount of grams?

    I warmed the machine up until the light went off. I ran water through first, waited until the light went on and off again, and it was also warming while I figured out espresso amount issues (not ideal, I know. I hadn't intended to wait so long after grinding to pull the shot.)

    Thank you so much for answering. I'm hoping I'll improve with time, but my question comes down to whether I'll be able to pull a decent, crema-laden shot with practice, or whether it's impossible without an expensive grinder.
    Last edited by Saraluna; 12-25-2011 at 08:03 PM.

  4. #4
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    Espresso (as you've seen already) isn't easy and reveals every apparent flaw in technique, equipment, etc. Grind a few grams of beans in your Krups and hold in your hand and look carefully at the different particle shapes/sizes. For great espresso you want those particles to be quite uniform so the water can flow through them evenly. With cheaper grinders you usually end up with boulders and dust, leading to very uneven extraction.

    Most coffees roasted for espresso will benefit from resting at least 3 days from actual roasting. There are many good online roasters, but something local would be better if you can find a few. Just don't pick up something off the shelf of a local Starbucks, etc. and expect great results. Any coffee (provided it was grown, processed, roasted with care) can be great as long as it's fresh, just some work better for espresso, etc. than others.

    A simply digital gram scale will work great. Not saying it's totally necessary, but will help with consistency and minimize waste. There are other ways to determine the best dose for your machine/coffee, but using a scale will minimize alot of aggravation along the way.

    Again, I'd let it warm up 30 mins... When the light shows it's ready that early simply means the water in the boiler is ready, highly doubt all the metal is. Run hot espresso through a cool-warm portafilter/basket/group and you have a weak/thin/pale shot.

    Also, get a decent tamper as that will make the process a bit easier. Not necessary to spend a ton on one either.
    I'm a legend among my own kind... you my friend are just a legend in your own mind. Later!

  5. #5
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    Ok. I am definitely going to use your advice and try to pull a better shot, even with this horrible grinder. Do you recommend a particular tamper for this machine? I am letting it warm up right now for this morning's experiments.

    Also, do you recommend any particular espresso? I am in a position where it would be best for me to buy online.

    Again, thank you very much for your kind assistance! :]

  6. #6
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    Provided you have decent coffee and all other variables fall into place, you should be able to produce something drinkable with your current grinder, BUT a better grinder will help achieve much better espresso.

    As long as you buy a decent 58mm tamper you should be good to go. Don't get too caught up in special wood handles, auto tamp clicking mechanisms, etc. as that is what adds to cost.

    Such as this one...

    Amazon.com: Rattleware 58-Milimeter Round-Handled Tamper, Long: Kitchen & Dining

    This is what I've had for several years and use it daily on a commercial level...

    http://www.amazon.com/Vanelis-Stainl...4917730&sr=8-6


    One of my favorites is Redline Espresso from Metropolis. If you start off with good/fresh coffee it will make dialing things in much easier. Some make the mistake of using less than great coffee and scratch their heads trying to wonder why things aren't working. Don't think of it as waste, but progress.
    I'm a legend among my own kind... you my friend are just a legend in your own mind. Later!

  7. #7
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    Felt better this morning; produced espresso with crema. Heating up the machine and tamping a lot harder than I had been helped. I will definitely be getting the tamper, and experimenting with espressos. Having a lot of fun with it! Perhaps in the future I can save up for a better grinder, but I feel heartened that I can produce something I enjoy regardless. I hope to continue learning. All best :]

  8. #8
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    For tamping just keep it consistent. Over time you will discover what works best with your setup and will develop a feel for it. I prefer to grind a bit finer and tamp less. Also, experiment with dosing as more isn't always better.

    Every day should offer something new on your way to better espresso.

    Have you tinkered with milk texturing yet? The Silvia should be quite good for that.
    I'm a legend among my own kind... you my friend are just a legend in your own mind. Later!

  9. #9
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    I'm absolutely terrible at it at this juncture. I've been looking longingly at online microfoam tutorials. What I really need is a smaller pitcher (12 oz) to fit under the silvia's wand, and with a pointed lip. I don't think I've been turning the steam high enough. On the tutorials it seems people mostly turn it all/most of the way up and then focus on holding the pitcher correctly. I was bringing the pressure up slowly because it seemed so explosive when I turned it way up.

  10. #10
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    Yeah I'd stick with a smaller pitcher as well. Never used a Silvia so can't comment on the steam potential, but I'd say using at least 75% of available steam would be right. Generally speaking you want to texture the milk rather quickly to the desired consistency and then maybe back off a bit on the pressure to finish it off to the desired temperature. That's what I prefer anyway. It's hard to explain and videos are only going to get you so far.
    I'm a legend among my own kind... you my friend are just a legend in your own mind. Later!

 

 
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