Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I can't get no satisfaction

Coffee. The best second best source of vitamins, minerals and all that wonderful goodness that drives the human body.

If you're anything like me, if you make it to midday on any given day without knocking one back then something about the day just isn't right.

One of my habits is that when I take a day off work I generally end up impulse buying something expensive. Like a Sunbeam EM6910 CafĂ© Series® Espresso Machine with a complimentary Conical Burr Grinder.

The Rickspresso Bar

This could possibly have been the best decision I have ever made.

I am now able to make a flat white whenever the heck I want, and generally it's better than what you'd get in most Brisbane coffee shops, with the exception of about half a dozen.

I must admit, my decision was not based on strong research. Walking in to Myer my criteria was simple.

  • must be able to steam the milk during the extraction (twin thermoblocks)
  • must be able to extract 2 shots at once
  • at least 15 bar pressure
  • ball joint steam wand
  • must be as manual as possible - that is, you must grind, tamp and steam all yourself

So I found the coffee machine section and went straight to the most expensive manual machine that had everything I had been looking for. Without any hesitance I took out my rectangular piece of plastic representing my entire measurable worth in this world and made a transaction to exchange some digits for the convenience of making my own coffee at home.

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Months passed and the machine served me well. But on the Saturday just past it just wasn't happening for me. Every coffee I made was horrifically underextracted. An espresso shot should take between 20 and 30 seconds to pour, and my EM6910 was achieving a dismal 7 seconds.

Unfortunately there is no nasal delivery technique to make the moment last longer.

We kept on trying, different positions (on the grind collar), different beans, applying more/less pressure to the tamp and I was just not satisifed. The extraction would just not last.

So after about 5 or 6 goes I gave up, and hoped that it would fix itself. But then I remembered that my brother has a De'Longhi KG100 grinder which he swears by. I gave this a shot and hey, presto, perfect extraction first time.

Was my grinder a piece of junk after all? I spent some time researching on teh interwebz and all reviews came back positive, although several users were experiencing the same problem. The general consensus was "take it back to Sunbeam for warranty".


It's like the Idiot's Guide to Following Simple Instructions

I took out the instruction manual just to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And there it was. A slip of paper dropped out as if to say "Hey idiot, are you too stubborn to read this manual? No wonder you aren't satisified with your extraction."

When replacing the top burr after cleaning ensure it is positioned Correctly. The top burr must sit flat on the bottom burr before returning the grind adjustment collar to its position on the motor base. For further instructions please refer to the Instruction Booklet.

How stupid can I get? Who would have thought the little white arrow you see when taking the machine apart for cleaning would align with the little white mark on the conical burr that sits on top and grinds your beans?

Obviously not me. And obviously not all those other people who posted on forums and sent their machines back to Sunbeam.

But now at least I can set my grind collar to around 11 (out of 25) and get a perfect extraction, without having to worry that the extraction might finish early. I look forward to getting some decent, freshly roasted beans. Christmas anyone?


  1. i was completely satisfied with this blog

  2. I could probably figure out what "ball joint steam wand" means, but I like the mysterious sound of it wedged in there between 15 bar pressure and fully manual.
    Who could have guessed that the technical component to servicing the addiction would be so compelling in itself?

    Glad to hear you resolved the extraction issues to your satisfaction. Crema all round.