Day 1 making espresso - first time ever


New member
Apr 22, 2022
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I've spent the past decade hobby-hopping... watches, cameras, TV/surround sound, vacuum cleaners, folding knives, fountain pens, etc... Espresso making has been on my radar and a couple weeks back my brother texted saying he was enjoying a wonderful French-press coffee with his wife in the garden room. Something set me off to start reading coffee forums and watching You Tube videos. I went down the rabbit hole.

Today, a Rancilio Sylvia espresso machine, Baratza 270wi grinder and $300 of accessories all arrived at the same time. The only thing that didn't arrive were coffee beans. I ran to the local store and against my better judgement bought a 2.2lb bag of Lavazza Espresso Italiano, knowing I would burn through it quickly as I experimented and "dialed" things in. First thing I did was dial back the Sylvia pressure from about 14 bar to 9 bar based on a lot of forum threads on the pressure subject. The first few pulls with ground coffee in the portofilter I barely got any flow, maybe 20-25 grams in 30 seconds using 18 grams of beans through an IMS 18 gram basket and Rancilio bottomless portafilter. My 270wi grinder was slightly used and the prior owner confirmed he had shimmed it and made espresso at a setting of 11. I realized I likely needed a courser grind to get 36G of espresso in under 30 seconds with my espresso machine. After 6-7 pulls I landed on 13-B on the Baratza to get the timing/flow right. The taste is much improved, but still a bit rough. Of course the machine arrived around dinner, and although I only took a sip here and there through the trials I'm now bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 11:30pm. I know the beans are dated even though the expiration date is July 2023. I spent most of my effort dialing in espresso pulls and decided for my last pull I would make cappuccino. It was my second attempt at frothing as my first attempt was practice on the Sylvia when I first got it out of the box. I realized only too late I was not opening the steam knob enough. The result was ok, but definitely room for improvement. Over the course of a few hours I advanced in skill from producing something completely undrinkable to making a kind of ok cappuccino with a spoon of sugar and frothed milk. We'll see what advances I can make in the morning.

I did order an Auber PID today as well so likely will do that install next weekend if the unit arrives by then. I knew there would be a learning curve with my brewing. I suppose it is a good thing I could not master the pour after only 1 evening... what fun would that be? I really need to get some better coffee beans. Tonight I started to explore roasting my own, but I don't think I'm ready to take that step.

Does my progress sound about par for the course?


May 30, 2022
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Don't get me wrong, but we could be related. Much of your hobby-a-holic journey sounds much like mine.

Way back when I got an "el-cheapo-minimus" espresso machine, yeah, it pushed tepid water through ground beans, but I knew there was better. It sat around for years as a "counter top accent", before my wife accidently lost critical parts for it.

At some point, it will be replaced. For now, I am trying to get my coffee roasting dialed in. At some point, I will pick up a new Espresso maker, which is not one of the "Humiliation in a box series".

I go around town and sample all the local coffee shop's efforts. Shania Twain summarized it nicely in the song "it don't impress me much". I usually order an Americana, as it gives a rather honest expression of how well they do things (similar to how Chef Ramsey has new hires make a simple omelet). If you can't get something basic right, then anything else is simply an attempt to mask the flaws. Living in small town USA also assures you will have no shop with premium coffees.

For the record, I have no desire to open a shop myself, I just want to be able to have a decent cup at home.


Well-known member
May 11, 2014
Kansas City
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Tseg... welcome to your new hobby :)

We all started in your same shoes. Ditch the Lavazza and find a local roaster (or online roaster like myself) for your beans. I find beans are best about a week old to 3-4 weeks old. After that, they start losing their sparkle, and creme production is greatly reduced. You appear to have a nice basic espresso setup so the beans and skills are where your improvements are needed.