Brew Tip: Anatomy of an Over-Extraction

We have written about the shot pulling/extraction process before, and thought it would be a good idea to show you an easy way of evaluating whether or not your shot extractions are ideal.

The secret is in your basket. Once you pull your shot, discard the coffee puck and examine the portafilter basket: If you see a caramelized residue sticking to the bottom of the basket, it’s highly likely that your shot was over extracted and may taste bitter or burnt.

So if your shot is looking a little bit on the long side and you’re not sure of your extraction, save yourself a taste test and check out the basket for clues instead.

How To: Brew Group Maintenance

You may be sensing a theme here…keep it clean! The best way to keep your machine out of the repair shop and performing optimally is to regularly maintain all of its components.

Your machine’s brew group is arguably the most important part, so taking the time to keep it in tip top shape means it will give you delicious espresso shots for years to come.

We’ve compiled some how-to tips for each of the basic styles of home espresso machines. If you need more assistance, refer to your user manual or give us a call.

Lavazza Tierra! – Sweet Beans with a Conscience

Agricultural sustainability is a global challenge — from biodiversity to non-toxic farming practices, there are significant issues that we face in regard to ensuring our food supply is healthy, scalable and, most importantly, fair to everyone involved.

To that end, Lavazza launched the Tierra! Project in 2004, which supports sustainable economic, social and agricultural development in three coffee growing communities located in Honduras, Peru and Colombia. The Tierra! beans are 100% Arabica, completely traceable and you’ll know your money goes toward supporting an overall increase in the standard of living in these communities.

While coffee is regaled the world over and is the 2nd highest traded commodity, the farmers that grow these delicious beans receive very little of the economic boon you’d expect given the place their product has in the market. Supporting fair trade and economically sustainable coffee outfits is one step that you can take to help change this global dynamic. Sure, it’s small — but will likely make more of an impact than you can imagine.

Tech Tip: Don’t Burn the Midnight Oil

We often see single boiler machines (such as some models from Rancilio Silvia, Ascaso Dream Up) that have suffered from one of the silent ills of home espresso machines: Heat element abuse.

Sure, this is a something no one wants to talk about — it’s ugly, it’s bloated and it’s burned out. This is not a sexy subject, but we can’t stand by any longer and watch as it’s so cavalierly swept under the rug! It’s time for us to take a stand…and let you know how you can keep your single boiler machine from becoming just another expensive statistic.

Our How to Brew & Steam – Rancilio Silvia article outlines the basic brewing process that you should follow for any single boiler machine: Namely, steam your milk first and then pull your shots. Following this process enables the machine to pump in and steam the appropriate amount of water necessary to first steam a 12 – 16 oz. quantity of milk and then brew an espresso shot. If you do the opposite and brew the shot before you steam the milk, it will empty out the boiler and, the next time you go to make your coffee, it will attempt to warm nonexistent water, fatiguing the element over time and eventually burning it out.

This burn out could be the end result of hundreds of tiny daily misuses or happen in one big event — like when you’re having a party and need to make many lattes at one time. For the latter, be sure to follow the brewing guidelines and serve your guests coffee in shifts. Make some jokes. Show them how charming you are. Do whatever you need to do — just don’t abuse your espresso machine.

Above Picture: Rancilio Silvia heating element burned out (top) and brand new (bottom)

Beautiful Crema, Stay with Me

There’s more to the bottomless portafilter than gorgeous crema and striking pours. In addition to giving you a three shot pull, this tool is fairly unforgiving in the extraction department, making it incredibly useful in helping you perfect your shot.

Without the spout on the bottom, you’ll be able to see your shot as soon as it begins, easily identifying any unevenness in tamp or grind. Once you are able to see an even distribution of the espresso as it pours from the bottom of the filter and coalesces into a thick, tawny stream, you’ll know your shot pulling skills are second to none.