Having home barista machine problems? Fear not my home baristas, I’m here to help.
There are a few common home barista machine problems that people face when using one for the first time.
Whether you’re producing a bitter or a sour coffee, you have a wet puck, you keep producing ‘bubble bath’ milk, or it’s none of these, and you’re having problems with something else, I’m here to give you the solution to an awesome espresso every time.
Finding the sweet spot
The most common of the home barista machine problems we hear is finding the sweet spot in a coffee. Every home espresso machine is capable of finding it.
This sweet spot is a small window where the coffee extracts perfectly. Either side of this and you will taste either a bitterness or a sourness in your cup of coffee.
If the espresso is flowing too fast, this will create a coffee that is under-extracted, and if it is over-extracted, it will flow too slow.
You will find that an under-extraction will produce a sour tasting coffee and an over-extraction will produce a bitter coffee. If you are not sure if your home barista machine is working as it should, pour a shot and taste it. What do you get?
To fix this, first, check the grind size of your coffee. If you’re not sure what sort of grind you’re looking for, take a look at our ‘How to Grind Coffee’ guide.
If your grind is too coarse, the water will be able to pass through your coffee easily, and it won’t extract properly. This will lead to an under-extracted and sour tasting coffee.
On the other hand, if your grind is too fine, the water will struggle to get through your coffee and will leave you with an over-extracted and bitter tasting coffee. Now
Be careful how hard you tamp your coffee too. If you push too hard, not only will this give you wrist ache in time but it will change the density of the puck to a degree.
Instead, you should use medium pressure and concentrate more on producing a level coffee bed. If the bed is not level, the water will find it easier to work its way through the shallower bit and will lead to an under-extracted coffee.
Alternatively, look at the amount of ground coffee in the portafilter. If this bed of coffee is very shallow, the water will be able to pass through it easier than if the bed was very thick. Instead of changing the grind, try changing the dose instead.
I have a wet puck
This leads us nicely to our next problem. You can tell a lot about your coffee from the used coffee puck that is left in your portafilter.
A wet puck can be a little sign that there was not enough coffee in the portafilter.
When the gap between the coffee and the showerhead (where the water comes from within the home barista machine) is too large, this leaves room for the water to mash up the top of your grounds rather than extracting through them.
This, in turn, will leave you with a sloppy puck that can be hard to knock out.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, make sure you have the right amount of coffee in your basket before you put it into your machine. If you put too much in, don’t panic!
Simply brush it off gently until you are left with a neat pile that is at the very top of the basket and adjust accordingly for next time.
Another one of the common home barista machine problems we hear is steaming milk. Steaming milk correctly can be a very daunting task. Often, you find that your milk either has no texture at all or looks like a bubble bath! Alternatively, you may see that your milk gets too hot and effectively ‘splits.’
To steam milk correctly takes practice. Firstly, you will need a milk jug that is large enough for the milk you wish to steam, allowing room for it to ‘grow’. If your jug is too big, you will find it harder or almost impossible.
The milk level should be somewhere near the bottom of the spout.
Next, purge your steam wand to rid the water from its shaft. Place your steam wand into your milk, using the spout for guidance.
Using the spout helps to lock the wand in place. Adjust the angle of the wand so that when the jug is flat, the wand is touching the centre of the milk. Tilt the jug slightly, so the wand is now breaking the radius in the middle. ‘Bubble bath milk’ occurs when the steam wand isn’t far enough into the milk.
It allows the top of the milk to be filled with air, creating a bubble bath texture. You see, we don’t make these names up for nothing.
No texture at all is the opposite; the wand tip is too deep in the milk.
To create perfect milk, With the jug slightly tilted as above, turn on your steam wand. Keep the tip just under the surface, and you will notice that, because the wand is off to one side, the milk will start to spin.
Listen out for a ripping paper sound. When this happens, the milk is being stretched. Don’t ‘rip the paper’ for too long, just enough to add some texture to the milk. Next, sink the wand into the milk a little further. This should stop the texture changing and heat through the rest of the milk.
When the jug gets so hot that you cannot keep your hand on it for one second comfortably, your milk is hot enough. If you overheat your milk, the texture and the liquid can split, making it impossible to pour well.
Hopefully, I’ve given you the solutions to a few home barista machine problems you may have been facing.
Need some more assistance? Get yourself booked on one of our barista courses.
Having home barista machine problems that aren’t listed here? Get in touch with us today!