Bitter, weak, bland, no crème, over extracted, terrible smelling, just plain awful tasting espresso! Sound familiar? All too often I talk with people about the brew that they are getting and how it doesn't live up to standards. Nine times out of ten the first reaction is that the espresso machine is not working correctly. We hear all the time that "My machine is overheating", "it is brewing with too much pressure", "I'm not doing anything differently so it has to be the machine". But let's take a small step back......to the grinder.
Ever wonder what's in your grinder? Yes, yes I know... coffee beans. But what kind of beans? How long has it been since you've cleaned it? Have you ever cleaned it? These are all very important questions. They can also lead to all of the horrible smelling and tasting espressos that we are all too familiar with.
Recently in our break room most of our staff had the pleasure (or displeasure) of tasting what could arguably be the worst tasting coffee on the planet. Someone had refilled the bean hopper after noticing that it was getting low. Unfortunately, the bag of beans that was next to the grinder was not the same as the beans that were in the hopper. Of course it wasn't really any persons fault in particular, but the grind that came from the machine, I can assure you, was not good, not good at all.
While the freshly ground beans smelled great and the aroma and crème on the espresso was fantastic, the taste was terrible. It was so bitter and almost taste burnt. In some cases mixing beans can give a fantastic brew, but in this case, it did not. Had we known what was in the grinder, and properly cleaned it before switching the beans, we would not have had this experience.
Most people assume that the grinder just simply grinds and can in no way affect the taste of their brew. This is a very big misconception. Whether it be mistakenly mixing beans, or not cleaning the grinder regularly, it can lead to a huge headache, and not just from caffeine withdrawal. Experimentation in mixing beans can be fun, but be sure to use caution and try to stick to beans of similar roasts and origin.
Cleaning your grinder is also essential to ensuring that you get the best brew. A company, Urnex, makes a cleaning product specifically for grinders (not recommended for super automatic machines) called Grindz. The product is designed to remove any coffee oils and residue from your grinder's burrs. Over time coffee oils and grounds can become lodged between the burrs. The grounds can become stale and the oils can begin to change the taste of your brews. The cleaner is food safe and made form cereals and grains. All you need to do is simply remove any coffee from the machine and place the Grindz cleaner in the grinder. Set the grinder to a medium setting and grind away. The cleaning product will rid the machine of these terrible tastes and you'll be back on the road to making great espressos, lattes and cappuccinos in no time at all!