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Spill the Beans Trick
Here's the scoop: I got a new multimeter with a thermocouple probe. So it's cold outside and I'm roasting in the downstairs utility garage in the breadmaker. (I'm not as brave as Kaffee Bitte to use my BBQ drum at -1F outside.) I still have my analog turkey fryer thermometer mounted in the breadmaker, and I'm watching the temperature difference between the analog and digital. I get through first crack and the real temperature is somewhere around 420F, then I start messing around with the thermocouple and watching how it changes the temp depending on where it's stuck in the breadmaker... all the while not paying attention to the analog thermometer (you know, the one I'm used to referencing durnig a roast) and I hear a snap of second crack! I completely lost track of time and temperature!!! I didn't want to hit second crack with this coffee!!! I panic. Off goes the lid of the breadmaker and I reach in and grab the metal handle on the inner basket so I can throw the beans in the cooler speedy quick and stop that roast! HEY STUPID!!! THAT'S 450 DEGREE METAL!!!

It takes about as much time to get the basket out of the breadmaker as it takes 450F to burn through the callouses on my fingers...then...BAM! My lightening-quick reflexes drop the basket to the concrete floor and spill under the riding lawnmower! OH NOOOO! I like this Panama Typica coffee and only have about a pound left! What to do?!? WHAT TO DO!!!! Of couse, I scrape all the beans up as fast as I can into a pile then throw them into my 5-gallon-bucket-leaf-blower-cooler! I guess most of the dirt will fall through the screen, right? And the rest will get pulverized then scalded away durning brewing? Right?

Gee whiz. The plyers are right there between the breadmaker and the cooler.

There are still about a pot's worth of beans all over the place. I don't feel like vacuuming them up tonight. My fingers hurt.

seedlings attached the following image:
Spill the Beans[676].jpg

Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
Kaffee Bitte
This is an incident you won't forget. Also a mistake you won't make again.

I used to burn my fingers on the various poppers I used regularly. Now that I am drum roasting the Ove Glove is my best friend. Well maybe my second best, the coffee itself being my BFF.

One of the popper burn incidents was also one of my greatest failures in roasting. I had bought a couple pounds of Jamaican Blue Mountain to see what all the hype was about. So roasting away and kind of spacing a bit as well. Oh better pull it. Grab the popper, grab my cooling device and bam fingers a fire! Spill a rather large batch of $34 a pound coffee all over an ant pile. I do believe the ants were rather angry about it too.

"Some days it's spice, other days it's bitter dirt."
Ouch! That is bad on several levels.

Note to self-- buy those welder's gloves and start using them. Good for the woodstove also.

2nd note to self-- always use your least-favorite beans when trying out new toys!


Build yourself a modified (larger) beanie vac...

It's easy. It works great, and no more (well fewer anyway!) burnt fingers and beans... :)


That's simply brilliant. I could just get a "lid" for my downdraft cooler and attach a hose.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.


P.S. I'm not doing the Gaggia any justice, Jim.
Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
Kaffee Bitte
Espresso can be quite the learning curve Chad. You have only been at it a month or two. The thing to remember is that there are a lot of variables in making espresso and most of them are very hard to pry apart. Which one caused this flavor to come out? Hmmm.

Here is a link to a little reading that might help you, or might not. Either way it is an interesting read and gives some insight into a few of the big variables.

"Some days it's spice, other days it's bitter dirt."
Unfortunately I've read that. There's also a tremendous video tutorial thread of dialing in an espresso machine that has great info, plus videos of how each variation changed the shot. I fee like I know how the variables relate to each other, but the knowledge won't work it's way out into wisdom, or practical application of knowledge.

Here's that great thread I was talking about:


Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover

Using the vacuum to put the beans in the cooler has reduced a lot of similar accidents for me.

The key to not driving yourself crazy with espresso: At first: Consistency in everything *except* the one variable you are experimenting with. After a while: you can combine different variables as you get accustomed to the 'feel' of what the different effects are.

Some things that may help:

1. Too fast a pull:
a. Slightly finer grind.
b. Slightly firmer tamp.
c. More coffee in the basket.

2. Too slow a pull:
(the oposite of the above.)

How much coffee is too much for the basket? This is to taste, often, but you never want so much that the coffee touches the shower head *after* tamping.

How to learn to tamp consistently? You can use a bathroom scale on the counter. (Might want to wash it up a bit first - You never know what was on that counter... :) ) That way you can know about how much push you are using and how to replicate it.

If you are still all over the place: (slow, fast, inbetween, etc.)
1. examine how you are treating the coffee between the grinding and the pulling.
a. Avoid tapping the basket on the counter or banging it around either before or after the tamp.
b. Never put the basket in the portafilter and then put the portafilter in the machine before you are ready to start the pull. (This will 'steam' the puck (in short order) and wreck your shot, every time.

2. Check your shower head and make sure it is not blocked with old coffee - this will cause channelling and unpredictable pulls.

3. Could be it is time for burrs - your grind isn't consistant.

For most of the people who have had a hard time getting their shots right, it tends to be lack grind consistancy that drives them 'over the edge'. You can deduce this problem by having consitency in everything else. Then again, it seems like burrs are only about $30 for the Rossi (if memory serves) so it probably wouldn't hurt to just spring for a new set. Likely, for your non-commercial use, a new set of burrs will last you for a *really long* time...

Once you get the hang of it, you will never forget - and only mess up when you think about it too much.

Good luck,

Kaffee Bitte
Another thing that might help, with that commercial grinder of yours is to make certain to always have a good 80 grams of coffee in it. The weight of the beans above makes certain that the grind will be more consistent. If you are presently just loading enough for a few shots this may be the grind consitency problem you are having. Try this out and if it doesn't help go with the burr advice Jim gave you. It is quite sound and those new burrs will probably last your lifetime of espresso making.

Jim's other advice is truly sound as well. He definitely put it more succinctly than I probably would have.

"Some days it's spice, other days it's bitter dirt."
Hmmmm.... I usually just put two Gaggia-spoon scoops of beans into the neck, then put the hopper back on so the beans don't fly out. If I need to change from drip to espresso, I can't adjust the grinder with the beans in the neck, they bind up. This was one of my "constants," using the same amount of beans (although by volume and not weight. I don't have a scale.)

Shower head gets a toothbrush scrub after every pull, being sure to clean around the gasket too.

I realized the other day that I don't have a "retainer clip" for the portafilter basket. I always wondered how anyone could use a knock box. Duuuhhhh. I need to get one of those, but it shouldn't affect anything taste related.

I'll try keeping weight of the beans on top, Lynn.

Roaster: CoffeeAir II 2# DIY air roaster
Grinder: Vintage Grindmaster 500
Brewers: Vintage Cory DCU DCL, Aeropress, Press, Osaka Titanium pourover
Kaffee Bitte
You could also do a pretty simple mod to your grinder. This involves very little cost. (do I have your attention yet?) Remove the hopper. Yes remove it. Measure the neck of the grinder for diameter. Once you have that find something that is the same size as the neck in a cylinder shape. Many people find an old plastic cup and cot a hole in the bottom. Then just place the amount of beans in the new specialized hopper that you will be using. Weigh these beans down with a tamper (do you have a hefty tamper?). The tamper is truly the important part of this mod. Without some weight to the tamper it won't weight the beans down enough to effect the grind consistency. Then again you could probably find something flat bottomed of similar size that has some weight to it to use.

The reason for this mod is that commercial grinders are designed to be used with a full hopper, like they would be in a restaurant or coffee shop. My macap gets fussy when the beans aren't at least an inch above the beginning of the curve of the hopper. Makes for some wildly inconsistent grinds from a grinder that normally would do amazing things.

"Some days it's spice, other days it's bitter dirt."

I routinely grind down to no beans with all 3 of my Rossi's. It doesn't seem to matter much with them, although you do want a cover of some sort over the hopper opening or the risk bean-bits in the hair... My main Rossi at home never has more than about 10-11oz in it - one roaster batch. I often run it down to empty prior to putting a new batch in. At that time, if it's been a while since I did it last, I'll run some cheap uncooked minute rice through the grinder and then vacuum everything out (doser, outlet from grinder to doser, catch tray, etc.). I've made a small hopper out of black pcv water pipe as well. (you can build up the outside with black electrical tape so that it is a tight fit between the inner diameter of the adjustment ring - keep it near the end of the pipe and it won't show when installed.)

I think that you may be using too little coffee... For a standard 58mm, I will put ground coffee in until it is slightly heaping ( about 1/2" ) over the top of the basket. I will then use my index finger to gently place across the top and kind of push it and spread it down a little. (I place my finger across the basket to do this and then turn the basket 90 degrees and do it again.) Basically, I'm 'cramming-coffee' into the basket prior to the real tamp. (I'm sure the term 'cramming coffee' will come back to haunt me... Grin )

After tamping if, when you attempt to put the portafilter in the machine, you can't get it to go into the group head, you have too much coffee in the basket. The goal would be: have just enough head space so that if you do encounter the shower head that it is only the retaining screw that touches the puck.

I don't have a 58mm machine working right now or I'd make a small movie and send it. My San Marco has a 55mm and a lower shower head than most of the 58's so it requires a different method.

By the way, a toothbrush on the outside of the shower screen is not enough. About once a month, pull the phillips head screw that holds the screen in there and go at the inside of the screen and above it with the toothbrush too. That class of machine doesn't have a 3-way valve or I would recommend that you backflush with cafiza or something similar.

Keep us posted. Hopefully you will have it sorted well before my 58mm machine is working. (Honey-Do list has grown so I'm hip-deep lately...)

Take care,

Edited by jimoncaffeine on 01/25/2008 2:59 PM
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