I’ve had my Lelit Bianca/Niche Zero combo for about 9 months now and still struggling a bit with it and looking for a bit of advice.
What I’d like a suggestion on is if from anyone who has the Lelit/Niche set up and has a go-to coffee where they have a pretty set recipe that works that I can try to replicate (ideally this would be without using the paddle initially to keep things simple). I know everyone will have a different palate but one of the things I’m really struggling with is trying to learn when I need to go coarser/fine, higher/lower dose, lower/higher ratio, etc. based on taste. This is leading to me using up a lot of coffee on what I feel are average/poor taste shots and not knowing how to fix them. I think I’ve been making this harder by wanting to try lots of different coffees rather than sticking to one to learn…so I guess I’m looking for one that I can try to learn on whilst minimising the risk that I’ll be trying to do that with a coffee that’s very difficult to work with!
Appreciate the help/suggestions with this. I’ve included more details below for why/how I’ve arrived at this point in thinking the above would be a good way forward.
I’ve had the machine 9 months and I’d say I have made some progress over time. I was pretty new to brewing my own espresso before I got the Lelit, I had a Sage Barista express for about a year before selling it as I wasn’t getting anywhere with that! I think it has partly taken me so long as I had my wedding and a new job this year so didn’t get many periods where I could focus on improving my coffee brewing technique/knowledge.
At first, I had a lot of issues with what I think was channeling where I’d get some decent shots and some that were not good at all. After a lot of practice and buying a WDT tool I think I’ve managed to mostly get rid of this issue now - at least from a visual perspective my pours through a bottomless look much better than before. I think this issue made it really hard for me to dial in at the start because I’d get confused as to whether to go coarser/finer as I’d end up with astringent shots (due to channeling) and mistake it for bitterness.
I did make a post a while ago when I first got the machine about dialing-in where I got some advice that I should do this by taste rather than visuals and I have been really trying to do that now that the channeling issues seem to have been sorted out (or made better at least). Some things that I have noticed/info:
- I am generally sticking to 18g dose regardless of the coffee I use in the Lelit double basket (I think 16g-18g). This is because I’m already struggling with the other variables of grind size and ratio.
- I haven’t tried the paddle yet because that is another variable which I feel like is only going to confuse things until I can get the basics right (good future proofing hopefully for when I get there…). The machine is set at 9bar at the pump, the pressure gauge on the group head tends to get up to about 9.5bar and drops off to say 8.5 bar through the shot.
- I find if I target a ratio of 2:1 at a shot time of 20s-30s then the result is pretty much always bad (taste is pretty astringent). This caused me a lot of frustration at first as I thought this meant it was too bitter so I’d go coarser which made things worse. The pour also tends to look quite uneven/fast(?). I know this is rule of thumb can be unhelpful at times…but I’m not sure if there’s a better starting point when dialing-in?
- When I went finer and ended up with shot times closer to 40s-45s then the pour looked a lot better and the taste was certainly better in that the astringency was gone. However, I found it often tasted a bit bland at this point (perhaps over-extraction?) as there was not much acidity but also no sweetness. I’d then usually try and reduce the ratio which sometimes gave some success. I found one coffee where I got this to work pretty well but unfortunately it was a short-run and very expensive (I bought it from a local coffee shop and they imported from Norway I think).
- It also feels like this has led me down a dead end at some points and then not sure how to reset. As some of the coffees I used were lighter roasts (which generally I think need longer rather than shorter shots). So all in all feel like I’m overcomplicating things!
- I’ve also wondered if I should turn down the pressure on my machine further to make things easier as I know that can help.
- Any guidance on obvious mistakes above would be appreciated!
I guess where I hope to get to is just being able to consistently get a good espresso out of my set up a couple of times a day. And to be able to try new coffees every now and then without ending up getting through a whole bag without getting anything particularly good. It feels like others have found this very do-able…so I’m pretty sure its my own shortcomings and just trying to get up the learning curve.
I fully appreciate this will need work/practice (and potentially money 🙃 ), just want to make sure I’m directing it to the right place. So this is why I thought if I could replicate with a coffee that others are able to get good extractions out of then I can at least start learning what the pour should look like, how to taste/distinguish different flavours and know a bit more which was to course correct when things go wrong.
I have tried using the espresso compass and other useful tools which I think have helped a bit, but I still feel like I’m ending up at dead ends quite a lot of the time (and/or I’m using a whole bag of coffee and ended up disappointed with the outcome).
Sorry for the very long post…just trying to give as much info as possible!