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Support FAQs


When should I stop espresso extraction?

When using a manual Italian coffee machine you really need to understand espresso extraction. Don’t worry - I have made this simple.

To learn about espresso extraction and to understand the point where you stop extraction please visit my Understanding Espresso page.

After visiting my Understanding Espresso page simply follow my 10 Step Home Espresso Workflow on my Training Page and you will make amazing coffee time after time.

Why is my espresso thin and watery?

First, go back to my Training Page and follow my 10 Step Coffee Machine Espresso Workflow.

Check that you are getting a double espresso within 25-35 seconds.

If you are getting a double espresso within 25-35 seconds and the espresso is thin and lacking 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. Read my Blog about coffee bean freshness and storage by clicking here

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. Read my FAQ on Coffee Dosing

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

  • Check the grind distribution. I recommend using a Coffee Distribution Tool

  • Make sure that your tamp is even and firm.

  • It is always best to use fresh beans, not supermarket beans. Read my Blog about coffee bean Freshness and Storage

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. Read my FAQ on Coffee Dosing

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

  • Check the grind distribution. I recommend using a Coffee Distribution Tool

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

  • It is always best to use fresh coffee beans, not supermarket beans. Supermarket beans are always stale and this will generally result in quick extractions. You can use them but tuning in can be tricky as you will need to adjust your grinder to a very fine setting. Read my Blog about coffee bean Freshness and Storage

What are the pressure gauges for?

Most Italian coffee machines have 2 gauges.

  • Gauge 1 - Steam boiler pressure (typically 1.1-1.2 bar, but up to 2 bar on high end dual boiler machines)

  • Gauge 2 - Brew pump pressure (typically 10-12 bar)

You will find the gauges interesting when you first get a coffee machine as they will help you to understand how the machine works. They are also useful to technicians during machine set up, and they can come in handy when diagnosing technical problems.

I’m often asked I watch the gauges when making coffee and the answer is no. I may glance at them occasionally but I don’t drive with them. Gauges on an espresso coffee machine are a little like gauges on a car. When driving either a coffee machine or a car you only don’t need to look at the gauges but it’s good to be aware of them and to understand when they are there for.

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.

How do I use the lever on my E61 group?

Most manual Italian coffee machines have a lever operated E61 group.

When you first play you will notice 3 lever positions, but there are actually 4.

  • Position 1: down - water channel closed, pump off

  • Position 2: near 45 degrees - water channel channel closed, pump off

  • Position 3: near 25 degrees - water channel open, pump on

  • Position 4: up - water channel open, pump on

Positions 1, 2 and 4 are easy to find as they lock in. To find position 3 you need to have a play. Position 3 is where most E61 coffee machines will allow you to pre-wet the coffee puck when running off of a tank or to pre-infuse when running plumbed.

Sow you know how to pre-wet or pre-infuse. Next comes the important question: How useful are pre-wetting and pre-infusion? For the answer to this click here

Why is my machine making weird noises?

Unusual noises from a manual Italian coffee machines with an E61 group is usually a sign of the group running dry. ie, without enough lubricant.

If you are handy and willing, take a look on YouTube and 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

What is the best brew pressure for espresso?

As with almost everything in this home barista hobby there is no indisputable “best.”

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

My best advice is to leave the pressure at the factory setting as the manufacturer will have your machine set for optimum performance. 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 isn't my coffee hot?

Firstly, the brew temperature of your Italian coffee machine has a negligible effect upon the temperature of your drink. Brew temperature will only effect flavour of your espresso. eg, colder for more acidity and warmer for more bitter sweetness.

Secondly, when steaming milk you should steam until the jug is hot to touch. Never overheat the milk as overheating will reduce the milk’s sweetness and it can even burn the milk.

The big secret to a hot drink is to pre-warm the cups with boiling water. With pre-warmed cups you will get a hot drink to enjoy.

How do I use the portafilter baskets?

With most Italian coffee machines you will get a standard single basket and a standard double basket. I always recommend upgrading to a Precision Double Basket for the very best results.

Start with one of your double baskets (standard of precision) and avoid the single basket. The main reason for starting with a double basket is that with a double basket the coffee puck is thicker and less prone to water channeling. So start off with a double basket and master your espresso extractions.

After you have mastered your double basket extractions you can try out the single basket. With Italian coffee machines, using single baskets can be tricky to use because of the thin coffee pucks which are highly prone to water channeling. For this reason I highly recommend using a Coffee Distribution Tool

When it comes to dosing, the best approach for a single basket is to add the amount of coffee that gives you the same extraction speed that you get when using your double basket. You should find this sweet spot at around 12g. When you find the sweet spot you will be able to toggle between double and single baskets without any need to adjust the grinder setting.

Here is a guide to baskets:

  • Standard single basket - dose 12g of coffee and extract 18g of liquid in 30s

  • Standard double basket - dose 16g of coffee and extract 24g of liquid in 30s

  • Precision double basket - dose 20g of coffee and extract 30g of liquid in 30s

To learn more about coffee dosing and espresso extraction click here

Why is there water in my 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).

Do I need filtered water for my coffee machine?

Minerals in tap water will cause scale to build up inside your coffee machine. Scale can affect your machine’s performance and even damage your machine’s internals.

  • If you have poor quality tap water I recommend installing a water filtration system, using rainwater or using bottled water.

  • If you have high quality tap water (eg, Melbourne) you can go ahead and use it. Most of my customers (9/10) use tap water. Of course, even with the best quality tap water you will still need to descale periodically.

  • To learn about water filtration for Italian coffee machines click here

  • To learn about descaling domestic coffee machines click here

Note - Domestic coffee machine warranties do not cover damage caused by scale

Should I descale my home coffee machine?

What is scale and why is it a problem?

Scale is a term used to describe mineral build up inside a coffee machine. Scale will build up on all parts of your machine that come into contact with hot water including boilers, heating elements, pumps and brew groups. Scale build up can cause a number of problems. Common problems are reduced boiler heating rate, reduced steam strength and reduced brew water flow rate.

Prevention

Prevention is better than cure. The best way to prevent scale build up in your coffee machine is to use tap water that has been filtered and softened with a professional water filtration system. Learn more about my recommended water filtration systems by clicking here. Tank water and bottled water are other options to consider for scale prevention.

Cure

Most of my customers (9/10) use unfiltered tap water so this means that most of use choose cure instead of prevention. Unfiltered tap water can be used in your Italian coffee machine but all tap water contains minerals that cause scale. This means that your machine will need to be descaled periodically.

DIY descaling

If you decide on a DIY descale only use dedicated coffee machine descaling solution. I recommend Caffetto cleaning products. Do not use citric acid. The reason for this is that dedicated descaling solution will gradually dissolve scale whereas citric acid will dislodge slithers of scale. These slithers can then get pumped through the machine and cause blockages. The risk of scale slithers is the reason that some coffee machine manufacturers do not recommend descaling.

Remember that coffee machine warranties do not cover damage caused by scale build up or damaged caused by scale dislodged during descaling. Descale at your own risk. There are risks to DIY descaling but if you follow my advice you will reduce this risk. If you decide to descale your machine here are the steps to follow.

  1. Turn the machine on and wait for it to heat up.

  2. Fill the water reservoir with descaling solution.

  3. Flush descaling water through the brew group.

    • Single Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the boiler and the brew group.

    • Heat Exchanger Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the heat exchanger and brew group.

    • Dual Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the brew boiler and the brew group.

  4. Flush descaling water through the hot water wand.

    1. Single Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the wand.

    2. Heat Exchanger Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the boiler.

    3. Dual Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws descaling solution from the water reservoir into the steam boiler.

  5. Leave for 60 minutes then repeat Steps 3-4.

  6. Fill the water reservoir with tap water.

  7. Flush tap water through the brew group.

    1. Single Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the boiler and the brew group.

    2. Heat Exchanger Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the heat exchanger and brew group.

    3. Dual Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the brew boiler and the brew group.

  8. Flush tap water through the hot water wand.

    1. Single Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the wand.

    2. Heat Exchanger Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the boiler.

    3. Dual Boiler Coffee Machine: Draws tap water from the water reservoir into the steam boiler.

  9. Dilute the descaling solution by repeating Steps 7-8 several times.

  10. All done. Time to enjoy a coffee.

Professional descaling

If you are uncomfortable with the risk of DIY descaling you should first look at prevention. You can prevent scale build up by using filtered water, rainwater or bottled water. If you can’t prevent the scale from building up and you don’t want to try out DIY descaling you can take your machine to a coffee machine technician periodically for professional descaling and servicing.

Descaling Frequency

Descaling frequency will depend upon the quality of your tap water quality and the amount of water that runs through your machine.

There’s no one answer here but here’s a rough guide for an Italian coffee machine running unfiltered Melbourne tap water. If you choose the DIY approach it is important that you descale regularly, before thick scale can build up. An annual DIY descale should do the trick. If you choose the professional descaling approach a professional descale every 5 years or so should be all that you need to keep your machine healthy.

Why has my coffee grinder seized?

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

The main reason that this happens is that people move the coffee grinder setting from coarse to fine without pulsing at intervals, resulting in bean fragments getting caught between the burrs. The steps to fix this are:

  • Back the grind size off to very coarse.

  • Slowly work your way back towards espresso grind. As you adjust from course to fine it is important to pulse regularly to prevent seizing.

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

This will fix the problem in 9 out of 10 cases.

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 exit chute using an unraveled paperclip.

  • Reassemble

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

How do I setup my new coffee grinder?

Here are the steps to follow to tune in a new coffee grinder:

  • The first thing to do is to find the zero point.

    • Start with an empty and clean grinder.

    • Rotate the collar until the top and bottom burrs touch. This is the zero point.

    • Some expect the zero reading on the grinder to align with the actual zero point of the grinder but this is not the case. The numbers are a relative scale.

  • After finding the zero point.

    • Gradually move the burrs towards a coarser grind, pulsing the grinder for 2-3 seconds at small intervals.

    • Initially nothing will come out but you will eventually get to a point where very fine grind starts exiting from the chute.

    • Continue coarser until the grind is close to espresso grind then fine tune the grinder. To fine tune the grinder follow the steps in my Espresso Workflow

Note - You will need to run 100g of coffee through a new grinder before tuning in. This 100g will fill the burr cavities in the way they will be filled during daily operation.