I'm from a cafe in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and we've been having a problem with shots with extremely bubbly crema that collapses to less than 1/8 inch in a few seconds. It seems to happen more frequently with the naked portafilter (which we use only for triple shots; our double baskets are divided), and it occurs sporadically - I can pull a great shot, and then with no change to grind, pull an extremely frothy one.

It doesn't seem to be the freshness of our beans - we've had the same problem with coffee that's everywhere from 7 days to a month old - and I haven't really been able to find any other reason why this might be. What's especially frustrating is that we've never had this problem before; we've been open for four years, and this has only started happening this summer. We've had our machine (a Faema E92 Elite) completely refurbished and even changed roasters, but nothing seems to help the problem. Any advice would be appreciated!

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Personally I would have to see what your working with. But things you may want to keep in mind.

1. How old. Fresh roasted beans need about five sometimes even ten days to gas, the espresso could be too fresh or too old. Depending on what the roast profile is.
2. Tamp technique. How much are you dosing? Try 18 to 20 grams. How are you tamping? It should be anywhere of about 35 to 45 lbs of pressure, and as even and level as you can make it.
3. Equipment. Check your Gaskets in the inner ring of each head, if they are worn out or damaged this could be affecting the seal.
4. Geography. This is ify, cause I don't know much on it. But it could be due to atmospheric conditions or even altitude. Something to look into.
What kind of grinder do you have? When was the last time the burrs were changed? Grinder quality can effect the quality of shots more than espresso machine quality in my opinion.
I think the really telling part of this is that it is a recent development. So I'm going to guess that it is not altitude, unless your elevation has changed recently :). I'm also going to say that it isn't that your beans are too fresh, as you clearly aren't taking any chances there.

Let's get some more info, if we could...
How fast are your shots pulling?
Any variation in time, good to bad?
How do the frothy shots taste?
What are you using for machine cleaner? how often? do you rinse thoroughly?
When was the last time your water softener/filter was changed?
Do you pull into shotglasses or into the cup? (thinking possible soap residue on the cups)

As an aside, you may want to review your stocking plan if you are using 1 month old espresso. This strikes me as being pretty old. I know we have crema problems (going flat quickly) with older coffee, meaning the other side of 2 weeks, which is a very rare occurrence for us. Also, is the age a guess, or is your inventory dated?

Looking forward to your replies so we can help you more...
Our grinder is getting a little old; we haven't changed the burrs since we opened, although they have been sharpened once. (I'll have to check the model when I'm at the cafe next) I'm pretty sure that it's not a problem with the machine's gaskets since we just had them changed (as well as completely dissembling and descaling the whole machine) Our tamp technique has been consistent - 30 lbs for approx. 22 grams, with an ideal extraction time of 25 seconds for 2 oz. of water. We don't have a water softener, although we probably need one.

The problem is that the shots can fluctuate in the space of a few minutes: we'll get a frothy shot that's very sour and impossible to use for latte art, followed immediately by an excellent, chocolatey shot with only a couple of bubbles in the crema, which stands at more than 1/2 inch for at least 45 seconds. The frothy shots might be about 5 seconds quicker, but not much. It's still possible to get good espresso, it just takes a lot longer than it should (and used to)

And our espresso is normally used within the 1-2 week freshness range; we just happened to have some bagged retail espresso that was a month old that we used for a comparison. Thanks for your help!
Good call Brady.

Brady said:
I think the really telling part of this is that it is a recent development. So I'm going to guess that it is not altitude, unless your elevation has changed recently :). I'm also going to say that it isn't that your beans are too fresh, as you clearly aren't taking any chances there.

Let's get some more info, if we could...
How fast are your shots pulling?
Any variation in time, good to bad?
How do the frothy shots taste?
What are you using for machine cleaner? how often? do you rinse thoroughly?
When was the last time your water softener/filter was changed?
Do you pull into shotglasses or into the cup? (thinking possible soap residue on the cups)

As an aside, you may want to review your stocking plan if you are using 1 month old espresso. This strikes me as being pretty old. I know we have crema problems (going flat quickly) with older coffee, meaning the other side of 2 weeks, which is a very rare occurrence for us. Also, is the age a guess, or is your inventory dated?

Looking forward to your replies so we can help you more...
Iwould want to know what kind of machine, and more details about your screens, seals- and particular the spray pattern at screen without portafilter...
Sounds like it could be a wildly swing temperature through the heat exchange. Do you have a process for flushing?

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