How fine to grind and how hard to tamp?

malmsteen

New member
Aug 7, 2009
6
0
Hi,

I'm an espresso newbie and recently bought Gaggia Espresso Dose with Maestro grinder. (it's semi-automatic with 58mm pf, non-pressurized)
I've been experimenting with this machine and got so frustrated because I can never get a good shot.

First off, I've tried various settings on Maestro, and from 0-40 with 0 being finest and 40 being coarser, I tried from 0-14 like the instruction manual said for espresso grind but it still seems too fine for my Gaggia. At 0-5 fine grind, the machine would not drain the espresso but instead it will overflow through the sides of pf, causing a pop when I take out the pf. I tamped very lightly, probably around 5lb force. Using 6-10 grind setting, I get the espresso but absolutely no crema, same with 11-14 setting. The pulling time normally takes 15-20 seconds for single shot but I get really dark and bitter espresso with no crema. Obviously I'm doing somtehing wrong here but cannot figure out what.

Also I've read on the internet that I need to fill the pf with coffee to creat mountain and scrape off the top to start with and tamp, but when I do this the coffee level would be too high even after tamping and the pf won't lock into machine, creating a huge mess to the shower head.

Very frustrating. Could somebody help? What am I doing wrong?
 

ArabBeaker

New member
Sep 19, 2008
71
0
New Zealand
You do not mention the age of your beans, have you tried freshly roasted beans ?
Once you get the "correct" grind and your machine is producing an espresso that takes between 20 and 40 seconds per shot, you have the "correct" grind. If you are not getting a great crema, it could be your top seal (which sounds likely since its leaking) or your beans are way past it.

Try replacing your top seal, that way you can grind finer with no overflow. Once your machine will not overflow, you can begin your grind tests again.
 

jmeiss

New member
Dec 5, 2005
65
0
Lenexa, Kansas
Well, what beans are you using? Have you talked to the roaster to get their opinion? They would have formulated their espresso blend to certain characteristics (i.e. 20g pulled in 26-28 seconds to yield 3/4 to 1 ounce).... Get a gram scale (under $30 at Target but make sure it does grams) and go from there. Unless you are dosing correctly every time you'll never get consistent pulls. And if you don't know your coffee you are using, you won't get great espresso either.
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,724
11
Boca Raton
Try using 7 grams for a single shot and see if that works for you. Should take between 25 and 30 seconds. If you only have a double port a filter use 14 grams of coffee. If the shot is running as quickly as you say, it could be the grind. Adjust your grind finer and apply 30 lbs of pressure. If the shot is taking too long to brew and ounce to an ounce and a half grind more coarse. Tell us how you make out :wink:
 

topher

Super Moderator
Staff member
Aug 14, 2003
3,724
11
Boca Raton
funny guy :p Good to be back...I really want to bring this forum back to life! I told loads of people at the SCAA show and going to continue telling others...anyway, back to roasting :wink:
 

ArabBeaker

New member
Sep 19, 2008
71
0
New Zealand
like I said, if your machine has a top seal and its leaking under maximum pressure then it needs replacing. You're not ever going to get max pressure out of your machine and be able to establish your grind and tamp until that head stops leaking. Thats the bottom line.

eg. My machine won't leak over the top even when the grind is so fine it won't pour an espresso. That said, I realise machines may differ in the way they seal.
 

shadow745

Active member
Aug 15, 2005
1,588
2
Central North Carolina
No crema is almost always indicative of stale beans. For best results (well for any results at all) use beans that are less than 2 weeks OUT FROM THE ACTUAL ROAST DATE. Never go by when the bag was opened or an expiration date. Only grind what you need per extraction and only grind right before dosing.

Don't worry about the numbers on any grinder as every grinder will be different as will pretty much every bean origin. What I recommend doing is getting super fresh beans then grind finer (a small amount at a time) for each extraction while keeping all variables (dose, tamp, etc) as consistent as possible. Once the machine starts to choke and the flow is very slow, grind a bit coarser with each extraction until you find the sweet spot. Never go by a certain number on the grinder as things in espresso change so often your grind settings will also change often. You can use a number for a basic benchmark to start at, but nothing replaces dialing it in based on taste, texture, flow pattern, etc.

That "top seal" is commonly called a group gasket and should be replaced every 6 months to 1 year on a home level. It really depends on how clean you keep things, how tight you lock the portafilter in during extraction, etc. AND never leave your portafilter in the group when the machine is OFF as this only adds more wear/tear. Also keep the rim of your basket(s) clean as residue will act as sandpaper against the gasket.

Most espresso machines share the same basic group gasket function, meaning the rim of the basket seals tight to the gasket once the portafilter is locked into the group. If it leaks simply replace it. Might cost $8-10 and take 5-30 mins to replace. Don't compensate by cranking down on the portafilter in an effort to stop leaking. Later!
 

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