I just recently got a job with a newer espresso shop that has a few issues to work out.
The shots they have are pulling extremely inconsistently.  I've tried everything from messing around with the dosing (anywhere from 17 to 19 grams) to the grind.  No matter what, the shots end up with way too much crema (no matter how hard or loosely I tamp) or end up with no crema at all.  The owner had no idea what crema even was, so comparing shots with the other workers is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

As for the machine, I'm working on a 2 group La Spaziale, but I have no idea what the actual model is.  It looks to be an older one with 5 different settings (single shot, single long, double, double long, and manual).  It's temperature has been consistent at about 195 degrees and it's keeping 9 bars of pressure.

Yesterday the owner asked me about how many ounces a shot was, and honestly, I couldn't tell her (it's been about two years since I've actually worked a coffee shop).  Do we count the crema or not?  Also, does high altitude (we're at 4100 feet above sea level) make a difference?

We make three different sizes: 12, 16 and 20 ounce drinks.  So I was wondering about how much would you put in each drink and how should I set the above settings?  I need to re-program the machine tomorrow and have no idea where to start.

Thank you!

Oh! And the beans we are using are the Mellelo Holly Street Arabica blend.  It tastes amazing in the drip machine and, if the shot actually pulls, it's pretty awesome from the espresso machine as well.

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A shot is .75 to 1 oz including the crema, if you are pulling a double-shot, using the double pf basket, it would be twice that - 1.5 to 2 oz. Lots of crema is usually a good thing -- provided it's the right color and the shot is tasting good. There is not any exact amount, it's a range that all comes down to taste.

195 is on the low side. At 4100 ft above sea level you should still be targeting a higher temp, 200 +/- 2 degrees depending on the espresso. You need to adjust temp, grind, and dose for the espresso you are using. It will change slightly to dramatically for every different espresso you use.

I would start by adjusting the temp a few degrees hotter and then start to test and calibrate.
Ditto for the temperature. Depending on the roast level I'd pump it up a little bit. How do you know it's 195 degrees by the way?

Sounds like you are still looking for the sweet spot of the coffee. How long are your extraction times? How does the coffee taste? When are the beans roasted? Is your technique steady and repeatable?

As long as the technique is adequate and we're working inside the "golden rules" there shouldn't be too much variance in the flow rate.

Yes, we do count the crema to the total volume. It's a bit tricky to measure the volume of espresso because it's changing all the time but usually it's roughly between 0,5 to 1,25 oz (i think, not used into these ounce-measurements). It might not be topical at the moment but instead of volume, you should talk about the weight of the coffee. The espressos I'm brewing are usually around 15 grams (+/-1 gram).

You should use the same size espresso for all of those drinks. If the drink needs more espresso, you simply brew two espressos in to them, not pull the poor one any longer.
Oh goodness.
I don't even think that we have a single pf basket. I'll have to have her get one. I completely forgot about that stuff.
Honestly there are a lot of things that I need to have them get. Also, how can I explain why keeping old frothed milk and re-steaming is bad? I mean, I know it makes it taste kind of gross, but no one seems to be getting that. There's a ton of things that give me the heebie-jeebies, so I'm trying to go about the best way of helping, rather than coming in and saying "OH! I know better!".

John P said:
A shot is .75 to 1 oz including the crema, if you are pulling a double-shot, using the double pf basket, it would be twice that - 1.5 to 2 oz. Lots of crema is usually a good thing -- provided it's the right color and the shot is tasting good. There is not any exact amount, it's a range that all comes down to taste.

195 is on the low side. At 4100 ft above sea level you should still be targeting a higher temp, 200 +/- 2 degrees depending on the espresso. You need to adjust temp, grind, and dose for the espresso you are using. It will change slightly to dramatically for every different espresso you use.

I would start by adjusting the temp a few degrees hotter and then start to test and calibrate.
All you can do is let them taste the difference between properly microfoamed milk and re-used milk. If they can't taste the difference, or if they don't care you have to put up with it or look for a better place to work. Too much knowledge can get you in trouble when you're not the boss.



Ronette Reynolds said:
Oh goodness.
I don't even think that we have a single pf basket. I'll have to have her get one. I completely forgot about that stuff.
Honestly there are a lot of things that I need to have them get. Also, how can I explain why keeping old frothed milk and re-steaming is bad? I mean, I know it makes it taste kind of gross, but no one seems to be getting that. There's a ton of things that give me the heebie-jeebies, so I'm trying to go about the best way of helping, rather than coming in and saying "OH! I know better!".

John P said:
A shot is .75 to 1 oz including the crema, if you are pulling a double-shot, using the double pf basket, it would be twice that - 1.5 to 2 oz. Lots of crema is usually a good thing -- provided it's the right color and the shot is tasting good. There is not any exact amount, it's a range that all comes down to taste.

195 is on the low side. At 4100 ft above sea level you should still be targeting a higher temp, 200 +/- 2 degrees depending on the espresso. You need to adjust temp, grind, and dose for the espresso you are using. It will change slightly to dramatically for every different espresso you use.

I would start by adjusting the temp a few degrees hotter and then start to test and calibrate.
There's a temp gauge on the machine that is telling me where it's at. It's off by about 1-2 degrees, at times, though, so I use a thermometer to check every hour.
I got the shots to pull at about 25-28 seconds to make a double shot (about 2 oz). Everyone else seems to be pulling way too long at 30-40 (YIKES). This is why she wants me to set the machine so the other workers have a little bit of an easier time.

Also, I think I meant volume. I'm measuring the grinds into a cup that I've tared into the machine and going back and forth between 17 - 19 grams.

So with the settings on the machine, should I set all four settings for everyone, or just two (one for a single shot and one for a double)? I have absolutely no idea what to set the settings for, and she didn't even know how to set it. Lol

Joona Suominen said:
Ditto for the temperature. Depending on the roast level I'd pump it up a little bit. How do you know it's 195 degrees by the way?

Sounds like you are still looking for the sweet spot of the coffee. How long are your extraction times? How does the coffee taste? When are the beans roasted? Is your technique steady and repeatable?

As long as the technique is adequate and we're working inside the "golden rules" there shouldn't be too much variance in the flow rate.

Yes, we do count the crema to the total volume. It's a bit tricky to measure the volume of espresso because it's changing all the time but usually it's roughly between 0,5 to 1,25 oz (i think, not used into these ounce-measurements). It might not be topical at the moment but instead of volume, you should talk about the weight of the coffee. The espressos I'm brewing are usually around 15 grams (+/-1 gram).

You should use the same size espresso for all of those drinks. If the drink needs more espresso, you simply brew two espressos in to them, not pull the poor one any longer.
Also, just got a phone call from my boss. She wants me to make a manual up and point out all of the things that aren't quite right. So, does this give me free range? Lol
I'm the only person working there with any experience in coffee.

I'm wondering if maybe we should just call the roasters and have them come train us.
As far as the inconsistent shots go, how old are the burrs on your grinder? Old dull burrs will make getting a consistent nearly impossible. From the sound of things, that may be a big issue.

For the milk re-steaming thing, I'm sure your local health dept. would frown upon you letting milk sit around within the "Danger Zone" for any extended period of time. It's probably in the owners best interest to remove any possibility of a lawsuit from someone getting sick after drinking milk that has been sitting around at room temp. The actual probability of this is pretty low, but it may help your cause for changing the habit.
this is what we base our shot on.
very good guide line and work very well
* Grouphead at 201° F
* 18-19 grams of freshly ground coffee
* Timer for 25-27 seconds
* Pull 25 grams of liquid espresso
Im not sure if this is what your talking about but, the setting on the espresso machine are for single short shot, single long shot, double short shot, double long shot and then a never ending flow. There pretty easy to set(at least the on the machine i was working with). You dont really need to set them all, all we ever hit was double long. If we were doing a ristretto(short) shot then we would just stop it early. Hope that helps some.


Ronette Reynolds said:
There's a temp gauge on the machine that is telling me where it's at. It's off by about 1-2 degrees, at times, though, so I use a thermometer to check every hour.
I got the shots to pull at about 25-28 seconds to make a double shot (about 2 oz). Everyone else seems to be pulling way too long at 30-40 (YIKES). This is why she wants me to set the machine so the other workers have a little bit of an easier time.

Also, I think I meant volume. I'm measuring the grinds into a cup that I've tared into the machine and going back and forth between 17 - 19 grams.

So with the settings on the machine, should I set all four settings for everyone, or just two (one for a single shot and one for a double)? I have absolutely no idea what to set the settings for, and she didn't even know how to set it. Lol

Joona Suominen said:
Ditto for the temperature. Depending on the roast level I'd pump it up a little bit. How do you know it's 195 degrees by the way?

Sounds like you are still looking for the sweet spot of the coffee. How long are your extraction times? How does the coffee taste? When are the beans roasted? Is your technique steady and repeatable?

As long as the technique is adequate and we're working inside the "golden rules" there shouldn't be too much variance in the flow rate.

Yes, we do count the crema to the total volume. It's a bit tricky to measure the volume of espresso because it's changing all the time but usually it's roughly between 0,5 to 1,25 oz (i think, not used into these ounce-measurements). It might not be topical at the moment but instead of volume, you should talk about the weight of the coffee. The espressos I'm brewing are usually around 15 grams (+/-1 gram).

You should use the same size espresso for all of those drinks. If the drink needs more espresso, you simply brew two espressos in to them, not pull the poor one any longer.


Ronette Reynolds said:
Also, just got a phone call from my boss. She wants me to make a manual up and point out all of the things that aren't quite right. So, does this give me free range? Lol
I'm the only person working there with any experience in coffee.

I'm wondering if maybe we should just call the roasters and have them come train us.

It sounds like your boss is interested in improving things, which is good.

If your roaster offers training, I would take advantage of it.

I agree with previous posters on all counts.

I also include crema when discussing shot volume - but this can be really tricky and inconsistent if your crema amount is all over the place. When dialing in, I pull a shot, noting where the top of the crema is when cutting off. Then I let it settle for a minute and note where the crema settles out. This is the volume that I use for discussion purposes, though I know some others do it differently. Ultimately, the flavor of the shot will tell you what volume is most appropriate for your dose.

Don't bother with the single basket for now. I'd say stick with doubles and just split shots - much easier to get a consistent extraction without an extra variable.

Inconsistency could be the result of a couple of different problems - grind consistency issues, dose consistency issues, channeling, cleanliness, and other prep problems. When faced with extraction consistency issues, it helps tp get back to the basics. (Some of these are very basic, so please don't be insulted):

1. Coffee should be fresh but not too fresh, 4-14 days from roast generally considered optimum, assuming it is stored properly. Very fresh coffee can kick off a ton of crema and taste harsh, old coffee will look and taste flat.

2. Grind fresh for each shot, using a good grinder that is kept clean and has sharp burrs. Grind only what you need and empty the doser every time. Many grinders are sensitive to the amount of beans in the hopper, so should be kept at least half-full to avoid inconsistent shot times.

3. Dose into a clean, dry basket, aiming for a consistent dose. Make sure you have a uniform bed of coffee with no voids. Tapping the portafilter in the forks or on the table will compress the bed and increase your dose, so should be done minimally and the same every time. Even 1 gram variations in dose can have a huge impact on your extraction time and quality, and this is the part that I see done incorrectly most often.

4. Tamp with a moderate amount of force (30ish pounds is a good guideline), checking to make sure that the tamper is level - not kicked to one side. Look and feel the position of the top of the tamper piston relative to the basket rim, you are aiming for a consistent position and a level piston. Despite what you were probably taught, don't tap the portafilter - this can cause edge channeling and goof up your extraction.

5. Make sure to flush consistently before every shot. If you run lots of water between shots your temperature can crash, not enough and your temp can be too high. Optimum flush varies from machine to machine, so I'd just start with a moderate flush and keep it consistent for now. Maybe 4ish ounces of water before each shot. I have a button programmed for this to keep it consistent.

6. When locking in the portafilter, try not to bump it against the group. Also, try to note if there is resistance to locking it in. If you really have to crank it in, there may be too much coffee in the basket. If so, the top of the puck will contact the dispersion screen and goof up your dry coffee bed. If you run into this, try reducing the amount of coffee you are using just a little bit.

7. Start the extraction as soon as you lock in. If it sits for a minute, the heat from the group will bake the shot and give you a dramatically different extraction than if you'd started right away.

8. Keep your machine clean by using a group brush several times per shift, backflush with water at shift change, backflush with detergent at the end of the day. Remove your baskets and scrub the portafilters nightly.

9. If you pay careful attention to all of the previous items and still have issues, there are other things we can check. Do you see variation on the same group? Using the same portafilter and basket? Sometimes a machine can develop a buildup in the plumbing for one group, which will effect water flow and temperature. Also, different baskets will extract differently, so make sure they match.

I know there's a lot of info here, so hope it wasn't too much. Bottom line - insure every aspect of your prep is as consistent as possible. Hope this helps.
Thank you, everyone!
I'm going in today to try everything out and do a general once over for the machine (check burrs, water temp, etc).
I'm thinking for now, and for all the sanity of the other workers, I'll be programming just one of the settings rather than all four and having them use that (we don't have enough traffic to the shop to worry about taking up both groupheads at this time).
I'll come back later and update with the things that I found to be wrong. :)
FWIW, when I install a machine I program the buttons to dispense 3/4 oz (short) and 1 oz (long) singles (using the single basket, of course) plus 1.5 total ounce (short) and 2 total ounce (long) doubles (using the double basket).

You'll want to get your grind set to pull a 20-30 second double prior to beginning programming. I'd also suggest that you settle on a standard dose first, as different doses and grind settings absorb different amounts of water.

This gives you options, though you'll probably want to instruct people to ignore the single buttons since you don't have a single basket.

Hope that helps.

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