Need Help For Poor Espresso
Q: I am trying to learn how to use my Salton cappuccino machine. It's an entry-level model. I use a Braun blade grinder. I ground the coffee just before brewing, to a fine grind, almost powdery. I use cold tap water run through a built-in water filter. I am using espresso roast coffee from my local gourmet grocery; it's sold in bulk, I don't know where they get it. I put the ground coffee into the holder and tap it on the counter a couple of times to even it out, but do not pack it. I am using the maker according to manufacturer's instructions, which is to add an extra couple of shots' worth of water to allow enough for steaming the milk, turn it on, wait for the espresso to be expressed, and then open the valve to steam the milk. I made a cappuccino that *looked* beautiful. But the taste was overly bitter and had a kind of tobacco-like pungency. (This is very unwelcome especially if you're a non-smoker.) I tried again with a slightly coarser grind, which improved matters but that nasty taste persisted; it was milder but still didn't taste like cappuccino. The machine appears to behave properly. I have had the grinder for years and have had no problems grinding coffee for my drip maker or french press. Am I (check one): Buying the wrong coffee? Buying the right kind of coffee from the wrong source? Grinding too fine/too coarse? (I know, "Hold it closer to the keyboard...") Using the cappuccino maker wrong? Drinking it wrong :) ? Thanks for any pointers. I have not seen the FAQs for this group--if this is answered there I will await their pending appearance.
A: The flavor you described usually comes from over-extraction. This can be caused by one or more of the following: 1) Water too hot 2) Grind too fine for water pressure of 3) Tamp too firm 4) too much coffee in porta-filter Number one is an inherent problem with steam machines, which you probably can't do anything about, so you'll have to consentrate on numbers 2-4. (I don't wish to dismiss a steam machine--this is simply why they cost a lot less than pump machines). The effect of any or all of 2-4 is that the water passes through the grinds too slowly, extracting too much of the bitterness that is an inherent component of coffee flavor. Since you don't seem to be tamping at all, you'll have to try adjusting points 2 and 4. Are you putting precisely the indicated amount of coffee in the porta-filter? If so, then you may need to try putting in a little less. Also, make sure that the water isn't flowing through the grinds for more than 20-30 seconds. You may simply be pulling shots that are too large and therefore overextracted. Hope at least some of this is helpful!
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