In my last blog post, I said "I should be grinding finer with the bottomless portafilter." I tried doing this and discovered the limit on my Baratza Encore. If I grind at the 6 setting my brew chokes and I cannot brew with the Flair. Interestingly, I noticed that the bottomless portafilter was starting to detach from the brew head when I tried brewing at the 6 setting. I had to use excessive pressure and, if I was not so careful, I would have reached the black range on the pressure guage.
So now I know one more thing about brewing espresso on the Flair with the Encore as my grinder: 7, which I tried before 6, is a good setting for my next experiments. At the 7 setting, I was able to achieve higher pressures -- even reaching nine bars -- and my flow rate was consistent. Grind sizes higher than that were a bit more difficult for me to use, causing sputtering and lower pressures. Unfortunately, the Encore does not give me much control over my espresso grind as the grinder is stepped (meaning I have to operate within a particular range of predefined settings) and the grinder was not built for espresso.
I am making do with what I have and I hope that soon I will be able to pull a good shot using my Flair and the Encore. My shots are all too sour at the moment. I have heard that pouring a good shot with the Encore is definitely possible. I just need to keep experimenting to find the right recipe for me.
I am probably going to try to extend my brew a bit longer to remove the sourness I am tasting in my shots. I will use a longer preinfusion and then pull a bit slower. This will give the water more time to pull flavours out of the coffee grinds and, I hope, cause a higher extraction yield for my brews. If that does not work, I will probably try to heat the brew head even more. I would perhaps place my brew head in something other than a ramekin, which is what I am using right now and I expect takes some heat away from the water that could be used to heat the brew head.
My coffee brewing workflow has completely changed because the Flair is so different to the other brewers I have used. I need time to figure out exactly what works with me. I should probably take a few more notes and weigh my outputs. This information may be useful as I continue to diagnose issues in my brew. For now, I am going to focus on using a longer preinfusion and pulling a longer shot. I should only change one thing at a time so I can measure the impact of that one variable on my brewing.
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