In our latest youtube video, we touch on three popular Delonghi machines in the Specialista lineup; the Prestigio, the Maestro and the Arte. We walk through some common problems new users might encounter when it comes to producing a barista worthy espresso shot at home. Whether you have just purchased a DeLonghi machine or you're considering one, we hope these tips will help you create the perfect home espresso experience.
We are using a double basket, single wall portafilter but you could use a pressurized basket to make it easier. This won’t be touched on too much as portafilter types is a whole separate discussion!
When it comes to making the perfect espresso shot there are a few key basics to think about, no matter what espresso machine you are using.
1. Grind Size.
The size you choose to grind your espresso beans is an important aspect in espresso brewing. In general, a coarser grind allows more water to flow through. When it comes to espresso, too coarse of a grind could produce a watery or poorly developed shot. Too fine of a grind and water will not pass through easily, causing too much built up pressure in the machine. It might take a little bit of trial and error to find the perfect grind setting for your ideal espresso.
2. Dosing Amount.
The dose of coffee is key; too many ground beans can cause the machine to be over pressure, and limit water flow. Too little and you will produce a weak espresso. The industry standard is 7 grams of espresso powder for a single shot of espresso, or 14 grams for a double shot.
3. Tamp Pressure.
Finally, you must tamp your shot! This gives a proper surface for water to flow through consistently. You need about 30lbs of pressure for a good tamp, best done of a flat surface to make sure everything is even. Over tamping will not allow enough water flow and therefore cause the machine to have too much pressure.
For all grinders, you MUST always change the grind size while the grinder is in use! Changing the dose down to the lowest setting, will allow for the least amount of coffee to be used while you figure out the best amount for your shot.
Common issue: Too fine of a grind
If you've ground your espresso too fine, you will notice this by the over pressurization of the machine and slow water flow through the grinds. When finished, you'll find a soupy, drippy mess in your portafilter! Not what you want to see when you finish your shot. We've demonstrated this common mistake in our video, see 3:16 for our section on the Prestigio & what an over pressurized shot looks like!
To solve this common problem, we changed the grind size (with the grinder running) to a coarser dose. This allows water to flow more easily and keep the machine within the optimal zone of pressure. The Prestigio has an internal tamper, which makes tamping your shot foolproof! It should be noted that although difficult to screw up, it won’t always look perfect. If you are wanting a picture perfect tamp, you may have to add the addition of a hand tamp before brewing. When done, the discarded espresso puck should be very similar looking to two-bite brownies!
Common Issue: Overdosed and Over Tamped
For a shortcut on this machine, a grind size of 4 and a 21-point dialed dose pulls a perfect shot!
However, for the sake of this video we decided to change some parameters that would replicate some mistakes home baristas make. First, we overdose the coffee and over tamp (we made sure to bypass the internal tamp) using too much pressure with a hand tamp. We adjusted our shot to be too coarse of a grind. This made the machine operate under low pressure, and the water came out too fast causing a poor espresso shot. See 15:35 for a visual! To fix this problem, we adjusted the dose and grind size on the grinder. Then, we used the internal tamp to make sure the shot is properly tamped.
Delonghi La Specialista Arte
Common Issue: Overtamped & unevenly tamped
This machine does not come with an internal tamp, but it does come with a tamp guide and mat! The guide allows for a foolproof tamp with only a very small space between the guide and the tamp.
For this we are going to over tamp and tamp unevenly. See the La Specialista Arte demonstration at 30:53. Not only will this cause the machine to be high in pressure, but it also gives an uneven route for the water. The water will take the path of least resistance, which means that it will go through a small section towards the side of the portafilter, instead of utilizing all the coffee evenly. The beginning of the shot looked ok, towards the end only one spot was pulling espresso through. The shot came out fast and light in colour, meaning the water did not make good contact with the ground beans. At the end the coffee was soggy because the water was unable to pull through as normal.
To fix is simple, tamp properly and be mindful of your dose!
Making a barista worthy espresso at home does not need to be scary! Our Delonghi troubleshooting guide can allow you to fix simple mistakes you're having... and allow you to pull the perfect shot!
Click here to visit our Youtube Channel & learn more about your favourite machines.