Common Espresso-Related Problems and Troubleshooting Guide
First things first, make sure your machine is dialed in to our espresso recipe. This is the most important step you can take to ensure a consistent, delicious espresso. We like to start dialing in a coffee using a basic recipe of 24g of coffee in our portafilter and then an extraction of 42g out of our espresso machine. You may need to adjust the grind, coarser or finer, as necessary so that your shots are falling within 28-36 seconds. Don’t forget to use scales when dialing in!
Now onto the troubleshooting guide..
We supply all of our franchisees with Precision VST 22 gram baskets at the start. Make sure your baskets have not changed back to standard baskets during trading and maintenance.
Many stock baskets are designed to hold 19 or 20 grams as standard but they do come in a variety of sizes and the best way to find what’s appropriate for your basket is to experiment with a variety of doses. Your doses should be low enough that if you were to put your portafilter in and out of the machine, it shouldn’t leave an impression on the shower screen.
Precision baskets won’t disappoint! They’re built to a tighter design standard and the holes at the bottom are evenly spaced out thanks to lasers. They’re consistent in size so it eliminates as many variables as it can which is the best thing you can do to extract a better tasting espresso.
The consistency of your puck once you’ve extracted your coffee shouldn’t be hard! If this is the case, then you’ve overfilled your basket. As the basket is filled tight with coffee, the water has no choice but to take alternate routes, often steering clear of the puck entirely which can cause extraction to run fast leaving a bitter tasting espresso. The little headspace that is available also causes the coffee to expand and come in contact with the shower screen, making the group heads dirty. Try dropping your dose and taste the results.
A sloppy coffee puck after extraction is a sign of under packing. Even after the water comes in contact with your espresso, the headspace (space between the portafilter and shower screen), is too large which stops the coffee swelling to an even shape. This produces the wet mushy puck. It’s not too serious but to dilute the problem, increase your dose.
Check the roasting date of your coffee!
If your coffee is too fresh, your coffee will not have enough flavour and will be gassy. When coffee is roasted, it produces carbon dioxide as a by product and so you will notice that fresh coffee will produce a bubbly crema that breaks down a lot quicker.
Oppositely, coffee that has aged for too long (more than 21 days) will start causing the crema to become thin and disappear quickly. Coffee will become flatter and staler with the flavor also changing.
It is possible to consume our coffee between 7-21 days, however we recommended to consume between 9-17 days from the roasting date, as this is the Golden stage of our bean, seen as below.
Based on the bean mixture of our current house blend and its roasting profile, the following graph shows the development of flavour over time.
In the case that you need to use very fresh coffee (less than 7 days resting), use approximately 0.5g less as the coffee still holds a lot of gas and so it’s volume is larger. On the other hand, if your coffee has aged more than 21 days since the roasting date, add approximately 0.5g more to your basket.
Channeling is the result when water from your espresso machine, finding cracks or small inconsistencies to flow through the ground coffee in your portafilter.
The espresso in the portafilter should always be flat and evenly distributed. If this isn’t the case, channeling usually occurs and results in an uneven extraction. As the water finds pathways of least resistance, it does not extract the fats and oils from the ground coffee its supposed to. The espresso shot is under extracted and most likely watery without the full bodied flavour and a weak crema. There are several reasons for this occurring making it at times, a difficult problem to diagnose.
Check the following to avoid this issue:
- Make sure the basket is not wet as this encourages the water to go around the puck rather than through it.
- Distribute your coffee evenly prior to tamping.
- Ensure tamping is level or the water will take the easiest path which is through the thinnest part of your puck.
- Don’t tap the side of your portafilter after tamping since it risks breaking the coffee puck as well as the seal of coffee with the edge of the basket.
Sour tasting coffee can be caused by three main factors:
- Fresh Coffee. Age your coffee for a couple extra days for de-gassing but for no longer than three weeks.
- Under Extracted Coffee. A finer grind can slow down the shot time.
- Cold Brew Water. The temperature of your machine should be above 94 degrees Celsius.
Bitter coffee can be caused by three main factors:
- Dirty Equipment. Your porta filters and group heads need to be clean of any coffee residue. We recommend wiping everything down including the inside every 30-60 minutes during service.
- Over Extraction. A coarser grind will speed up shot times.
- Brew Temperature Too Hot. Your machine should be below 96 degrees Celsius.
If you’ve taken the time to read through all of that, you’ll be able to see that most of these problems can easily be avoided by following a brew recipe, using fresh coffee and employing the appropriate techniques when preparing your espresso.
Remember, if you’re still struggling to extract that perfect shot, don’t hesitate to contact us! The team at Leaf Café & Co are able to drop by to take you through the above content with first hand demonstrations and proper guidance.