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.
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.
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)
One of our most popular machines, the Semi-Automatic Rancilio Silvia is an excellent value for its functionality and class. Featuring all brass components and a traditional steam wand (unique in this price range and essential to making latte art), the Silvia is a durable, mid-class home espresso machine.
If you are new to using a Rancilio Silvia, it’s well worth the time to follow our step-by-step guide on how to use the machine to get the best possible results. Learning the basics will improve the overall taste and presentation of your drinks — and you’ll impress your friends and family with your professional style!