What am I doing wrong - bitter shots

Ramboost

New member
Feb 13, 2008
1
0
Hi all,

I really need some help in determining what I am doing wrong. But first of all, my gear:
Machine: Rancilio Silvia
Grinder: ECM Manufacture - Casa
Coffee: Always newly roasted coffee

My problem is: I got my machine and grinder a little over half a year ago. It is my first real espresso machine and grinder. After the initial struggle to get it all right, I managed to get some really nice espresso shots, and I was doing them consistently.

My problem is, that during the last couple of months, the espresso shots is becomming more and more bitter (nearing the undrinkable). Here is what I have been doing:
- I have used the same coffee since the beginning
- I only use bottled water
- I backflush my machine (approx. every third week) using Ascaso backflush \"soap\".

I have not, however, cleaned my grinder since I got it. I don''t know if it is necessary and I don''t know how to clean it.

Do any of you out there have any good input as to what I am doing wrong, or what I should try get my god-shots back;-)

Thanks.

Ramboost
 

CCafe

New member
Aug 11, 2004
1,557
0
Des Moines, Iowa
Try switching from bottled water to filtered tap water. Some mineral content in the water is a good thing and it will help make the espresso taste better.

As for backflushing you should do that everyday. The whole purpose of backflushing is to clean the water passageways, valves, and the group itself. When you don't do it it allows coffee oil and residue to build up and wreak havoc on the inner workings of your machine. It can also change the taste of your espresso.

Cleaning the grinder is far less critical but has one major advantage. It can help extend the life of the burrs. I usually clean my clients grinders with Grindz once every 6 months or so. Some people do it once a month. The best time to use it is when you accidentally contaminate your grinder with say flavored coffee.
 

Davec

New member
Oct 18, 2006
314
0
Old England (UK)
I'm going to disagree (or clarify) slightly with some of the advice....no offence meant.

If you were in a commercial environment, backflushing every day with cleaner would be fine ( I think ccafe probably means a water backflush every day). In the domestic setting, backflushing once every 2-3 weeks with cleaner (plus a pure water backflush every day) will be fine. More often than that and you could create problems.

You say your using bottled water and my assumption is you have always used the same water and the shots have begun to taste bitter. you also don't say whether it's distilled water or simply mineral water. If it's mineral water, then a change to filtered tap water, won't make a lot of difference. besides, I read into your post, that it's not related to a change in water.

Normally the reason shots become bitter is due to too high a brew temperature. The other reason can be a cold affecting your taste.

Bottled mineral water can have significant amounts of dissolved solids and can cause scale (that's why it's called mineral water), unless your choosing one with low carbonate and mg counts. I am not sure with the Silvia, but this could have scaled things up, be affecting the temp sensor and the machine is getting too hot.

or

the temp sensor could be faulty and allowing the machine to get too hot.

either way, first give the machine a good descale and then see if that improves things, if not , then remove the shower screen etc.. and give it a really good clean there with a group brush, aand then a backflush.

If none of that works I suppose you could try adjusting the temperature slightly lower (if the sensor is adjustable), or simply replacing it witha new one.
 

ekimrayd

New member
Mar 4, 2007
20
0
Minneapolis, Mn
As I sit here reading this post I am sitting in a local coffee chain sipping an espresso that is bitter. Funny. I was wondering if operator error is responsible for this or the beans or temperature. Can espresso shots change from shot to shot? Barista to Barista? Does tamper pressure have anything to do with it?
 
Tamping does make a difference. The standard rule of thumb is approx 13kg of downward pressure during tamping- should allow extraction in 23-25 seconds. By understanding tamping, you then can work backward to see if your grind (degree of fineness) is correct or not. Bitterness can be caused by numerous factors. If you are using the same coffee as from dy 1, then I guess we can assume its not the blend. I would then look at either the way you are tamping or the grind. I think it would be doubtful whether it is the burr blades in the grinder- the volue you have drunk over the last 6 months would not justify new blades.

Sadly the quality of the shot does change with the barista. That is why highly succesful cafes have quality barista/baristi where there is som level of consitency at the top end. At the end of theday often it is the "Mano" or the had that makes the shot, that has the biggest impact on what you drink.
 

DixMay

New member
May 4, 2009
1
0
Yeah bottled mineral water can have significant amounts of dissolved solids and can cause scale...
 

DylanAsdale

New member
May 16, 2009
24
0
If it's degrading at a consistent rate (which seems to be the case) I would suggest cleaning it maybe 3? times in a row, and flush a really good amount of water through it afterwards.

The old oils from previous coffee are probably getting burned and running into your coffee.

If a good, thorough cleaning doesn't do the trick, or even improve it, I'd just suggest buying a new one =\

Sorry I can't be of more help =\
 

ferlyn388

New member
Nov 21, 2009
2
0
Re:

Davec said:
I'm going to disagree (or clarify) slightly with some of the advice....no offence meant.

If you were in a commercial environment, backflushing every day with cleaner would be fine ( I think ccafe probably means a water backflush every day). In the domestic setting, backflushing once every 2-3 weeks with cleaner (plus a pure water backflush every day) will be fine. More often than that and you could create problems.

You say your using bottled water and my assumption is you have always used the same water and the shots have begun to taste bitter. you also don't say whether it's distilled water or simply mineral water. If it's mineral water, then a change to filtered tap water, won't make a lot of difference. besides, I read into your post, that it's not related to a change in water.

Normally the reason shots become bitter is due to too high a brew temperature. The other reason can be a cold affecting your taste.

Bottled mineral water can have significant amounts of dissolved solids and can cause scale (that's why it's called mineral water), unless your choosing one with low carbonate and mg counts. I am not sure with the Silvia, but this could have scaled things up, be affecting the temp sensor and the machine is getting too hot.

or

the temp sensor could be faulty and allowing the machine to get too hot.

either way, first give the machine a good descale and then see if that improves things, if not , then remove the shower screen etc.. and give it a really good clean there with a group brush, aand then a backflush.

If none of that works I suppose you could try adjusting the temperature slightly lower (if the sensor is adjustable), or simply replacing it witha new one.


Yes, I really agreed on you. Because when you say that your using bottled water and you have always used the same water and the shots have begun to taste bitter. You also don't say whether it's distilled water or simply mineral water. If it's mineral water, then a change to filtered tap water, won't make a lot of difference.



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Espressopod

New member
Dec 5, 2009
3
0
New Orleans, Louisiana
Espresso brewing is a fine art. Many factors can affect the quality of the espresso. Correct tamp pressure could be the case. If it is, check to see if the espresso is divided into three levels. If it is, then check the timing. I think someone above talked about timing. The best advice is change a few things around and see what happens. Keep adjusting until you figure it out.

Hope that helps.
 
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