Getting the Most from your bean to cup machine
June 28, 2017

Getting the Most from your bean to cup machine

For many households a super-automatic bean to cup coffee machine is used to produce a consistent, great tasting espresso shot for that caffeine filled jolt to start the day. However just like a traditional semi -automatic and volumetric espresso machines, they require tweaking and dialling-in to ensure you get the most from your machine.  By experimenting with the various settings you can learn about the variables that affect coffee taste and ensure you achieve the taste you enjoy the most. All of our coffee is great for bean to cup machines

Remember though that the freshness of the coffee beans and the water quality are two of the most important factors in making a good espresso. None of the guidelines below can compensate very much for stale coffee and chlorinated or hard water.  It’s also important to clean your machine on a regular basis following the manufacturer’s specific instructions using the correct coffee machine cleaning products, we recommend at least once a week.

Here’s an overview of the variables you can adjust on most machines to control the final flavour and strength of your coffee.

Coffee Grinder Settings

Adjusting the grind is an often-neglected part of setting up super-automatic machines, but it has a huge effect on the espresso quality.  Some experimentation is generally required as different beans react best with different grinds.  In general, the darker the roast, the coarser the grind should be.  You can tell when your grind setting is right if the espresso is coming out thick with plenty of crema and neither too fast or too slow.  You are aiming for a 4oz shot in 25 seconds.

The grind is ultimately changing the length of time that the water is in contact with the ground coffee, called extraction time.  A coarser grind is easier for the water to move through, so it will pour out faster.  A finer grind will slow down the pour.  The longer the water is in contact with the grounds, the more it will absorb out of them.  The first things it absorbs are aroma and flavour, then caffeine and tannic acid (tannic acid is responsible for stomach problems some people experience and makes the coffee bitter).  If you let the water absorb too much, it will run out of the good things to absorb (flavour and aroma) and then over extract the tannic acid or even burn the coffee.  If you don't let it absorb enough, it will taste very weak and not have any crema.  So, calibrate your grind to a balance where it absorbs the full flavours but less caffeine or tannic acid.  This doesn't mean the centre setting on the grinder generally, but the perfect point is usually closer to the finest setting.

In summary, if the espresso is coming out very quickly, with little or no crema and little or no taste, the grind is quite likely too coarse.  Try turning it a few notches finer.  If the espresso is coming out very slowly, or barely coming out at all, and the taste is harsh and bitter, the grind is probably too fine.  Try turning it a bit coarser.

Water Volume 

Obviously, if you want to make a larger or smaller sized drink, you would adjust the water volume setting.  This can also be used to change the strength of the drink.  By keeping the amount of coffee that will be ground the same but adjusting the water, you can make a smaller, stronger drink or a larger, milder drink.  But don't forget about extraction time!

If you have a lot of water going through a small amount of ground coffee, it will have the same effect as a smaller amount of water going too slowly through the coffee (as discussed above in the grinder section).  Too much water will therefore extract not only the flavour and aroma but also the caffeine and tannic acid, resulting in a bitter drink.  Making the grind coarser to speed up the flow of water can improve the result if you find it tastes bitter in a long drink.  Or try making an Americano if you want a larger drink - brew a regular shot of espresso and then top it up with hot water.  There are a couple of models that don't allow you to adjust the amount of coffee so if you need more in order to get a stronger taste, you might have to cut the water volume in half and brew twice.

Coffee Quantity

Most machines allow you to adjust how much coffee gets ground per cup.  Sometimes it is a dial, sometimes with markings to reflect the amount in grams, sometimes all you have is button options for mild, medium and strong without an actual amount in grams.  Adding more coffee will make it harder for the water to flow through, so this will slow down the extraction time as well as increase the coffee to water ratio, thus making a stronger cup.  Again, if you want to make a larger drink, like a mug of coffee, you will probably want to add more coffee and make the grind a bit coarser to reduce the bitterness from a too-long extraction.

Some customers have experienced a bitter taste from their Delonghi Magnifica machine, we have suggested to try our Signature Blend and the feedback we have received from using this coffee has been very positive. 

Extraction Time

Extraction time is the time hot water is in contact with ground coffee.

For Espresso or short coffee, try to adjust all the previously mentioned variables while keeping the extraction time between 20 and 25 seconds. Keep an eye on the crema. Once white dots start building, over-extraction occurs.

To make regular pressure brewed long coffee, we recommend to brew no longer than 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, unwanted solids will start extracting. Again, keep an eye on the white dots on the crema. Stop the brewing at 30 seconds and add hot water.

By using these few key tips to calibrate your machine you will be confident in the knowledge that your machine is producing the best coffee it can. If you have attempted all of this and the brew is still mediocre, it may be time to experiment with different coffee beans to ensure they are fresh and suited to this style of brewing.