I have a Baratza Vario and Rancilio Silvia I just purchased from WLL, but I am having trouble coming up with the correct grind...

Firstly, I am not using fresh roasted beans. I know this is not ideal but I have a huge bag of beans left over from my last espresso machine I want to start with. I understand there is a difference so let me know if this is the primary issue. It seems like the videos on WLL using Lavazza beans that I assume are also not fresh roasted are pulling adequately though, so I don't think this is the only problem or the only thing I'm doing wrong.

So, I set my vario on the finest setting on the right dial, and the coursest setting on the left dial, which is what the videos and references I have seen seem to prefer. I did test the calibration and it seemed okay (when set on the finest on the right and about midway on the left dial, the motor labors). When I grind 14g of this (measured on a kitchen scale) and load it into the portafilter, the machine doesn't seem to remotely be able to push anything through it. The Silvia just labors but not a drop of liquid comes through. I tried various tamp pressures, but even with a very light tamp it still could not penetrate.

I started making the grind more and more course. I seem to be getting about a 1 minute shot when the right side (course adjustment) is set to about a 4 (numbered from the top) and the left side is set to the coursest adjustment possible. This seems way off of what other people are seeing. What could I be doing wrong? Could it be that my pressure needs to be increased on the Silvia (I see instructions in the manual on how to do this but it says only service techs should attempt it)?

2 Answers

Sean, I am not personally familiar with the machines you bought, but there are common elements to getting good shots. How recently the beans have been roasted is not your biggest concern here, or even a concern. It sounds to me that you are proceeding properly, but maybe you will have quicker success if you reverse your course and start from a course grind, and work your way finer. I have often read that 30lbs is the ideal tamp pressure. For many people, specially men, that is a lighter tamp than you would think. I actually prefer a heavier tamp much of the time, and grind accordingly. That is the point. WLL videos are really good for information. Probably some of the best. But, that said, you are still finding your own personal route to the perfect espresso shot, so don't get too caught up in the numbers on the machines working out according to what is recommended in the manual or the videos. There are many variable, including water quality and condition. For example, everytime I move, I install an Easy Water system because it improves my coffee, showers, and my shaving a lot. It takes 6 months or more to become fully functional and I have to make several adjustments over that period. You have to consider that you have an unseen variable effecting the outcome, and you have to experiment to compensate.

The one variable that can be difficult to overcome are beans that are too oily. Whenever you buy beans from WLL, you can call and talk to someone about the suitability of the bean you are interested in, to the machines you own. In the past, before I finally convinced myself that it's worth paying for good beans, I purchased from Costco, Sams Club, and Trader Joes. Costco and Sams Clubs beans are very often oily. I feel as if the name brand manufacturers know this and are dumping unsatisactory product there, because of the lower prices. My personal opinion! Trader Joe beans, specially the French Roast, can sometimes be too oily as well (because of the darkness of the roast). You will find most Lavazza from WLL to be fine, but there is a roast (can't remember which) that is oily, and the staff will tell which ones are which. WLL has a vast selection of beans to try, and it's just fantastic working your way through the garden, so to speak. Good luck.

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Thanks Daniel,

I am actually using some beans from Costco! They were some Kona Coffee beans, which I really liked when I was in Hawaii. :) I want to run through this bag, then I'll break open the Lavazza ones that WLL sent with the machine. I know there are mixed reviews of those, but I can't waste coffee! Then I found a place down the street that roasts fresh for only about $12 a lb (which amazed me, as most fresh roasted places around here want $20+). Then maybe I'll try some WLL variants. I have to try the Black Cat ones that everybody raves about at some point.

At any rate, I'll stop worrying about the numbers. It just seemed odd that my grind was so far off what I was seeing others using with the Vario. I was worried that maybe something was wrong with my Silvia.

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