New Starter’s Guide

Making your perfect coffee

The photo on the left showing the espressos flowing out like a nose bleed is what you want to achieve.

Here you will find out the steps to get that done.

Let’s begin

We gathered some of the better videos we found online. Methods that we think are practical, efficient and explained straight to the point.

On Youtube and Google, as well as many coffee academies outside Italy. The trend is moving towards making coffee with the third wave method. Which is making coffee by measuring the weight of the espresso and calculating the ratio of extraction to coffee used.

Here, we stick closer to the original Italian procedure which is short and sweet. If you are a fan of the classic coffees made in the classic way with darker roast coffee, which is more bitter than sour. Then I suggest that you stick with the Italians.

If you are an establishment trying to serve coffee to guests or sell coffee. We suggest learning this method too, because from the statistics we have, at least 70% of coffee drinkers still prefer darker roasts.

Bezzera demostration video

1. Use the right water.

VERY IMPORTANT:
Before you use ANY espresso machine, be it an automatic or a manual machine. You should always ensure that you are using soft water that is free of calcium and magnesium. Such minerals are like cancer to coffee machines and is the leading cause of machine failure

You will need to attach a water softener or have the water softened in advance before the water is fed to the machine. Not all types of water filters could soften water, check with your filter supplier to be sure.

To learn more about why and how to do water softening: Click here

You will have to replace your softener occasionally to make sure that they remain effective. Hard water can cause serious damage to any espresso machine and can lead to all sorts of failures. The process of descaling can also cause irreversible damage to the machine as well. As such, it is better to prevent scale formation from happening in the first place.

This is important because it won’t take long for limescale to damage your coffee maker seriously and there goes your chance in making any more coffee.

2. Read the instructions and keep yourself safe.

Safety is always the number one priority

Be careful of hot surfaces and steam.
Make sure all hoses that are connected to your water tank are not tangled or pinched. If there are any return hoses, they must be inside the tank.

You should never leave a pressurised machine unsupervised.

Some models have parts that can endure a longer period of operation time but all components have a lifespan and don’t last forever. Leaving the machines switched on continuously could subject the components to unnecessary thermal or electrical stress. That can be a problem if your power supply is unstable or ventilation is bad, which would greatly reduce the longevity of any components.

There are many safety precautions in place. In fact, Bezzera is one of the few companies that choose to install a full range of safety controls, like a mechanical pressure release valve, a thermostat that cuts off when too hot, low water sensors, water probes, etc. But it’s still possible that limescale formation or electrical conditions could render some sensors ineffective.

Important instructions for Bezzera Strega
Always keep your head away from the direction where the lever will spring up.

Be extra careful during the first use, especially when the grind setting for your grinder isn’t set right.

If nothing is holding back water in the portafilter, or it doesn’t hold enough resistance, it will spring back strongly! So set your grinder to grind much finer before using.

No matter what reason you have in mind, you should never put your finger into the grinder.

3. Leave your espresso machine’s pressure settings alone!


We always heard from users that they wish to tune their pressure or adjust some settings because they heard from someone or in the internet that it works better that way.

Different manufacturers and different models have different designs of hydrodynamics for their boiler. Their boiler design and configurations should have different algorithms or calculations for how they will thermally stabilise. Different types of pumps will have different flow rate and the condition of inlet pressure whether from a water tank or a direct tap connection is different.

We will suggest sticking to default settings and working on calibrating the grinder to get the optimal result.

The biggest cause for poor extraction is always:

1. Grind setting

2. Type of coffee used

Espresso Measuring Cup 60ml

4. Purchase the right cups


This is especially important for lattes and cappuccinos. If you get the wrong sizes, the proportions will be wrong.

For espresso cup size, avoid getting above 80ml capacity.
For standard lattes or cappuccinos, avoid getting above 240ml.

For lattes or cappuccinos:
180ml is suitable if you are using 1 shot of a dark roast espresso or 2 shots of a lighter roast espressos/ristretto.
240ml is closer to the American standard, you will need at least 2 espressos/ristrettos.

Espresso – 20ml to 30ml
Ristretto – About 15ml

Dark roast coffee is more bitter.
Light roasts are less bitter but far more acidic

Coffee is not a notably hot drink; a freshly made latte’s temperature is only around 60 degrees celcius and can reach room temperature in minutes. Espressos are around 80 degrees. Warm thick cups can help to last the heat a little longer though.

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5. Use the right beans


Get beans that are fresh enough and properly packed that can protect the beans from oxidation, humidity and light.

Always keep your bag of beans away from heat.

Whether you store the coffee in the hopper or not, it is better to dump the first few grammes of coffee every day. As those were left behind from the last use and had oxidised.

Also know the general character of type of beans.

Roast level:


Darker roasts – More bitter, less acidic, more CO2 which leads to thicker body and crema.
Ligher roasts – Less bitter, more acidic, less CO2 which leads to thinner body and crema. As you can see, they are totally inversed!

Type of coffee:

Arabica Coffee – More volatile compound, meaning more flavours. They deteriorate faster and last much shorter after roast.

Robusta Coffee – Less aromatic profiles, a higher chance of sharp intensity. Bitter but less sour. Thicker crema and more stable in storage for a longer period. Good stabilisers to persistent body with thicker crema.

Both Robusta and Arabica, have their own traits. Some baristas believe that pure Arabica coffee is superior. This can be true if we perceive it by measuring the genome of coffee. However, from most real-world data of coffee sales and public taste tests. Robusta coffee are still well accepted or even preferred. That’s because many cultures are more familiar with coffee made with robustas and may find pure arabica coffee unpleasantly sour.

Amount of coffee used:


Darker roasts – You can use lesser beans from 14g to 22g to produce 2 espressos.
Lighter roasts – Since the body is thinner, most prefer to use more coffee, 18g – 22g to achieve a more stable extraction.

Take note of this interesting fact that many assume that only Arabica has different grades. Robustas have different grades too and higher grade Robustas taste almost similar to Arabicas. They can also be refined with the same methods used for Arabica to enhance favours.

Bottomline is, if you dislike acidic coffee, avoid light roast. If you prefer deep and strong intensity, go for dark roasts and robustas. If you are looking for unique flowery and fruity profiles and don’t mind acidic, go for light roasts.

6. Set your grinder


If your extraction doesn’t look right, and if it’s not due to the coffee used. It’s more to do with your grind setting. It doesn’t need a lot of pressure to produce crema, so that’s not the cause in most cases.

The first time a user set his grinder is always the hardest and you will have to set the resistance from the coffee to be just right. Too little resistance and the coffee flows out quickly with a very thin viscosity. Too much resistance and the espresso comes out in drips or not at all.

How to set the grinders?

Video shows that the user tuned it much finer at 0:40 , the dose has a lighter weight.

It is also important to understand the relation between grind level and weight.

The finer is the grind setting; the lighter is the dose.

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It is not practical and necessary to achieve weight accuracy as the condition of the beans constantly change from oxidation. The user must actively tune accordingly, the easiest way is to increase resistance by adding more coffee than tuning the grind setting, as the coffee get stale.

For Quamar or similar grinders, you can also refer to this video.

7. Tamping

A video on distribution

The part most people think is complex, which is not.

The most important thing about tamping is not the weight you push onto your coffee. Is about how you keep the coffee flattened evenly.
If it is uneven, coffee will channel out from the thinner side first, leaving the thicker side unused.

If your basket is of the right size, you should not need to do any distribution techniques to push in the excess powder.

More videos on Tamping

TIPS

A convex tamper typically makes it easier for new users on a double basket.

If the puck is wet and muddy, there’s nothing wrong with the extraction or what you were doing. This normally happen for very fine grind setting and with very little dose amount. As excess water that remains in the brewing chamber can’t absorb into the used coffee puck.

8. Frothing milk


If you fail in latte art, it’s alright.
Latte art is wholly for decoration purposes and won’t improve the taste.

If it’s done incorrectly, it may cause baristas to be inconsistent in the foam proportion which directly affects the taste.

Pour from high, and pour the liquid milk out. Bring your spout closer and out goes the foam.

Common mistakes for frothing

TIPS

For a cappuccino, you will use less milk, half of what you use for a latte. During the frothing , you will have to stretch the milk to at least double its original size. A cappuccino should be a very foamy drink. The end result should be totally frothy, not much milk in liquid form left.

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9. Taste your coffee


The most important step.

One of the biggest mistakes in learning how to make a good espresso is we judge too much on how it looks.
This is no surprise as the brain absorbs 85% of what the eyes see as a message. As a result, there’s seemingly a huge assumption by many that espresso has to be as thick and dense as possible. This is often not true, and it might create an espresso that is too overwhelming for our tastebuds to accept.

This visual representation can also be deceived by using coffee that had not been degassed enough, this can create a seemingly thicker layer of crema. Coffee made in this way will not have a well-developed profile of aromatic notes until the ageing process is complete.

To taste the fruit of your effort, we will suggest that you first smell your espresso. Give it a swirl and break the crema, the smell should be different as the crema breaks, as the aromatic notes trapped under the cream release. Then taste it, and see if it matches the fragrance and is suitable for your palate. The bitterness will slowly dissipate and might leave an aftertaste of sweetness.

As everyone’s taste sensitivity is different and deteriorates as one ages. The expectation for a good espresso might differ between different drinkers.
A classic espresso should be balanced in bitterness and sourness, round with a complex spectrum of aromatic notes. Almost like wine.

You should also always try the coffee in your favourite recipe. If you are a latte drinker, there’s really not much purpose in trying it in its espresso form as they taste really different.

10. Tuning


If the coffee doesn’t taste right, you can adjust the grinder to transform the taste a little.
By adjusting the grind size, the amount of dose will change the flow rate of the extraction.
If it’s too bitter, consider making the grind size coarser to increase the flow rate a little, and end the extraction earlier. Vice versa if it’s too sour.

You can also adjust the duration of the shot a little to adjust the intensity, particularly for lattes.

11. Cleaning

Daily

For E61 or BZ grouphead:

Backflushing with water using the blind filter

For Bezzera Strega:

Pull the lever down to flush the screen.
The lever will flick back with force upon releasing it back, so hold the lever and return the position with care.

For small usage:
Once after the last cup
For commercial usage:
Once after the morning peak and once after the last cup

Occasionally

For E61 or BZ grouphead:

Backflushing with grouphead detergent

For small usage: 
BZ Grouphead: Preferably 1-2 times a month
E61 Grouphead: Preferably 2-4 times a month


For commercial usage:
BZ Grouphead: Preferably once every 50 extractions or at least once a week
E61 Grouphead: Preferably once every 100 extractions or at least once every 3 days

Flushing with just water

Flushing with grouphead detergent

Other occasional cleanings for espresso machine

Other cleaning

Shower screen and gasket
Pull down or unscrew the shower screen and gasket to clean it, do it while the machine is cold. You may need to replace the grouphead gasket every 1 to 2 years. You can also replace the screen if you think it’s necessary.

The links provided are for Bezzera machines, for Expobar and most other brands, use these: Expobar E61 screen, Expobar E61 gasket, Generic E61 gasket 

Steam wand
You are supposed to purge the wand before using and after using. Wipe off any milk on the wand immediately. You can also use a product like the Pulymilk to clean the wand more thoroughly.

Flush your boiler regularly

One of the things that we recommend users to do regularly is to empty the boiler and renew the tank with fresh filtered water. If you use the steam wand a lot, then you might want to do it more often.

For small usage: 
Preferably once every 2 to 4 months
For commercial usage:
Preferably at least once a month.

This will renew the water in the boiler so minerals won’t be as concentrated and limescale made of calcium sulfates won’t form easily.

To flush your steam boiler, simply heat up your machine till it builds enough pressure. Switch off the machine then purge all the water using the water wand. Then refill the boiler with a fresh tank of clean softened water.

Video on draining boiler for a heat exchanger

WARNING

If your machine is using a vibration pump, one thing you got to take note of is you should do it slowly while topping up the boiler, so the pump won’t overwork. We will suggest letting the pump work for one minute and rest for another minute before going for another minute of work.

If you had not flushed your boiler for a long time, don’t be alarmed that the water is a little brownish.

For Grinder

Use a grinder cleaner like Pulycaff Pulygrind, it’s not a critical step but recommended to do it once a month

For Bezzera BB005 Grinder, you can remove the nozzle by removing a screw. This allows you to vacuum the nozzle occasionally.

Refer to the cleaning videos by Pulycaff on the products page of our website for more information.

Overall


From the number of people who came to the experimental room, and feedback from new users.

Most people have no issues with the espresso extraction part, except setting up the grinder for the first time.
No problem with frothing milk, except for doing latte art.
Of course, if you still have problems, you are welcome to visit our experimental room, a free academy for our users and baristas.
We teach everything except latte art.

Important!


Many users kill their pump by overcleaning their machine.
Vibration pumps have a duty cycle of 2 minutes of work, and need to rest for 1 minute. Some users like to hold for too long and clean too much, which can over-exert the pump and kill it.

Disclaimer: Do note that this guide may not be comprehensive enough to cover all models and all issues, specifically the spring levers and single boilers.
Users are to take the guide as a brief introduction and should still adhere to the advice listed in the user instructions.

As the financial year ends and the festive season approaches, we expect a lot of orders and service requests. Please submit your orders earlier so we can avoid any delays or being out of stock.