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Support FAQs

After 15+ years as a home barista and 5+ years as a coffee machine retailer I know the questions that come to mind for new starters. And I have a rule. If I get asked a question 3 times I write an FAQ. This is great for me as it has allowed me to build up a collection of handy tips to share online. Please enjoy my Support FAQs.

Why isn't my coffee hot?

The secret to a hot drink is to warm your cups. You can warm your cups by storing them on top of your Italian coffee machine. If the cups aren’t warm enough you can use hot water to warm your cups a little more. Warming cups is important and this is why warming is part of Step 1 of my Espresso Workflow

Some misunderstand the role of brew temperature. Brew temperature plays no significant role in the temperature of your drink. The role that brew temperature plays is to influence the flavour of your espresso. In general, a cooler brew temperature will give you a fruitier and more acidic espresso and a warmer brew temperature will give you a more cholcolatey and bitter sweet espresso.

Just one more point. Never try to get a hotter drink by overheating milk. When steaming milk you should steam until the jug is hot to touch. Never overheat the milk as a little overheating will reduce sweetness and going even further will burn the milk.

Why is my espresso coming out too slowly?

  • Firstly, make sure that you are following every step of my Espresso Workflow

  • You may have too much coffee in your PF so check that the coffee dose is correct. To read my coffee basket FAQ which includes tips on coffee dosing click here

  • The coffee grind may be too fine so try a coarser grind.

  • Make sure that your tamp is even and firm.

  • Make sure that you are using fresh beans.

Why is my espresso coming out too fast?

  • Firstly, make sure that you are following every step of my Espresso Workflow

  • You may have too little coffee in your PF so check that the coffee dose is correct. To read my coffee basket FAQ which includes tips on coffee dosing click here

  • The coffee grind may be too course so try a finer grind.

  • Make sure that your tamp is even and firm, and only tamp once as over-tamping can break the coffee puck and cause channeling.

  • Check the grind distribution as poor distribution can result in water channeling and/or uneven extraction. For the best results I highly recommend using a Coffee Distribution Tool

  • Avoid supermarket beans. Supermarket beans are usually stale and this will generally result in quick, watery extractions. You can use them but tuning in your grinder can be tricky as you will need to adjust to a very fine setting.

Why is my espresso thin and watery?

Firstly, make sure that you are following every step of my Espresso Workflow

If you are getting a double espresso within 25-35 seconds and the espresso is thin and watery (without crema) there can be only one answer - the beans. Make sure that you are using fresh coffee beans. Beans less than 4 weeks old are recommended. To learn more about the importance of fresh beans read my coffee bean freshness and storage FAQ by clicking here

What doesn’t my coffee puck look right?

After you extract your espresso you will wack your portafilter on to you knock box to knock out the coffee puck. The perfect (text book) coffee puck looks like a compressed disk. This disk will crack up as you knock it out.

Of course you don’t need a perfect puck. Pucks vary in appearance and consistency. Sometimes they are a little hard, sometimes they are a little sloppy. This is not a problem at all.

Don’t worry about he puck. Focus on great extraction by aiming for your target ratio of coffee dose (g) : coffee volume (ml) : extraction time (s). Once you get this correct a decent puck should just happen. If it doesn’t happen don’t be concerned as it’s the coffee in the cup that matters, not the puck in the knock box.

Why isn’t my pump showing 9 Bar?

30 years ago a 9 bar brew pressure setting was typical for traditional Italian coffee machines. Now higher brew pressures are commonly used, with brew pressure settings ranging from 10-12 bar.

What is the best brew pressure? As with almost everything in this home barista hobby there is no indisputable “best.” My advice is to leave the pressure at the factory setting. The pressure setting will have no noticeable effect upon the results in your cup so just leave your Italian coffee machine at the factory setting and brew away with confidence.  

Why is my pump / my gauge misbehaving?

I am often asked about pump and gauge behavior.

All Italian coffee machines that I sell have low water sensors that trigger automated boiler filling. This will occasionally occur when the machine is sitting idle, and when this happens the pump will switch on for 2-3 seconds for a quick top up.

Very occasionally a low water sensor will be triggered as the machine is pulling a shot. The result is a short (2-3 second) dip in brew pressure as the boiler gets topped up. This has no adverse effect upon the results in your cup.

Another observation that I am occasionally asked about is the fact that after pulling a shot the brew pressure gauge doesn’t set back to zero. This is because the brew pressure gauge measures pressure in the brew line, not pressure as the group head.

Why is there low (or no) flow from the group?

The most likely cause of low (or no) flow from an E61 group is a blockage caused by water scale. Coffee machines have many water pipes as well as small diameter restrictors that regulate water flow rate. Without water filtration these restrictors can block up regularly. Even with water filtration this issue may still occur from time to time.

If you suspect that scale may be the problem, the best place to start is with the E61 group mushroom. Remove the mushroom, dismantle it and clear the small holes with a pin. Once you know how to do this it’s a simple 10 minute job.

Other possible causes of no flow from an E61 group are either a faulty pump or a faulty solenoid valve. Most coffee machines have solenoid valves which control water flow. Engaging the group lever causes these valves to open. When you engage the lever you should hear a click. If your don’t hear a click the valve may be stuck closed. Pump and valve problems are rare but they can happen.

Why won't my coffee machine turn on?

First check that the coffee machine hasn’t run out of water as all of my Italian coffee machines will automatically turn off when the water level runs low. If water is in the water reservoir, turn the machine off, pull the tank out and put it back in to re-set the internal low water switch, then turn the machine on again. If it doesn't work the first time, try it again. Note that sometimes the water tank will need a little jiggle to reset the low water switch.

If the machine still doesn’t turn on and your machine has a magnetic float in the water tank (eg, Profitec, ECM) the float may be unseated. To fix this simply remove the housing cap, re-seat the float so that it freely slides up and down, then replace the housing cap. Make sure that the magnet on the float is positioned upwards.

Why isn’t the low water light turning off?

All Italian coffee machines that I sell cut off when the water tank runs empty to prevent the boiler/s from running dry. 

Most machines detect water by sensing conductivity between two detectors near the water intake. Some machines (eg, Profitec, ECM) use an in-tank magnetic float sensor in addition to the water conductivity sensor. The extra sensor is a fail safe mechanism. 

Many machines also have a low water indicator light. This will switch off when a water conductivity sensor detects low water. However, the indicator light will not switch off when a magnetic float sensor turns off the machine before the water conductivity sensor comes into play. This means that there are times when the tank is empty and the machine is cut off, but the low water light remains on indicating that there is water. This is normal.

The automated cut off is helpful but don’t rely upon it. Best practice is to keep the water level up and refill before the low water cut off is engaged. This prevents those dreaded mid extraction cut offs as well.

Why is my machine making weird noises?

Firstly, there is a range of “normal” noises for Italian coffee machines including squeaks, hums and rattles. Even when comparing brand new machines there is a range of sounds that can be considered as “normal.” As Italian coffee machines are made by hand, not my robots, every machine is a just little different.

Over time its normal for sounds (squeaks, hums and rattles) to change and to come and go. When it comes to new sounds I’m occasionally asked about new loud squeaks. Squeaking noises on coffee machines with E61 groups are often a sign that the E61 group needs a little more lubrication.

If you are handy and willing take a look on YouTube. You will find plenty of step-by-step videos that show you how to disassemble and re-lubricate your espresso machine’s E61 group. All you will need are some basic tools and some food safe grease. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty take it to a local Italian coffee machine technician for a quick, basic service. It won’t cost much.

Why does this sometimes happen earlier than expected? A simple reason. Too much back flushing with back flush detergent. Back flush detergent dissolves not only coffee oils, it also dissolves the good lubricating grease in the E61 group. For tips on how to maintain your machine without over-maintaining see my Italian coffee machine Maintenance Guide

Why is there water in the steam wand?

All steam wands on Italian coffee machines will have some condensed water sitting in the bottom when sitting idle. Before steaming, purge water for 1-2 seconds until you get to dry steam.

If you are using a single boiler coffee machine, check that you have switched from brew mode to steam mode, and also, waited for the boiler to reach steaming pressure (> 1 bar).

How do I find my coffee grinder’s zero point?

It’s not necessary to find the zero point of a grinder but if you are interested in finding it then this is how you can do it:

  • Start with an empty and clean grinder.

  • Adjust the burr gap until the top and bottom burrs touch. This is the zero point.

  • Some expect the zero reading on the grinder to align with the zero point of the grinder but this is not the case. The numbers only used as a relative scale. ie, bigger number for a coarser grind and smaller number for a finer grind.

Why has my coffee grinder seized?

I see this from time to time. Don’t worry. It’s a very easy fix.

One cause is the gradual build up of coffee particles in the exit chute, resulting in a chute blockage. If your grinder seizes the first thing to do is to check that the chute is clear. Grab something like a straightened paperclip and stick it right up the chute. Wiggle it around to break up any blockages and to clear out the chute.

If the grinder’s chute is clear but the grinder is till seized, the likely cause is changing the grind setting from coarse to fine without pulsing at intervals. This can leave large bean fragments caught between the burrs and these large particles can seize the grinder. Follow these steps to fix the issue:

  • Back the grind size off to coarse so the motor can run again.

  • Slowly work your way back towards espresso grind.

  • As you adjust from coarse to fine, pulse regularly to prevent seizing.

  • Fine tune the grinder for by following the steps in my Espresso Workflow

If you still can’t produce a fine grind and cannot turn the collar there is a chance that a foreign object, such as a stone, has that made it into the grinder. If you are qualified to work with electrical equipment your can follow the steps below to fix this:

  • Unplug the coffee grinder.

  • Remove the bean hopper.

  • Unscrew the grinder collar to remove the top burr.

  • Clean out the grind chamber by tipping the grinder upside down, brushing the burrs, brushing out the grind chamber and clearing out the chute using an unraveled paperclip.

  • Reassemble.

  • Fine tune the grinder for espresso by following the steps in my Espresso Workflow