Posts Tagged ‘troubleshooting’

The 5Ms of coffee

Posted in How to make good coffee on February 28th, 2010 by admin – 20 Comments

Somebody once told me about the 5Ms of coffee preparation. I could never remember what they were exactly as each and every M was an Italian one. So today I looked it up and I will tattoo it on to my forearm lest I ever forget.

1. LA MISCELA – The blend

This is a little bit obvious. If the coffee you have is not good, there is no way you’ll get a nice cup of coffee out of it. So get some advice from somebody who knows about coffee, or at least buy a reputable brand. As a maker of coffee at home,  make sure the coffee you use is fresh and tightly close the packet after use and put it in the fridge or freezer if you have. use it within a couple of weeks. Best to buy fresh from ground beans in small quantities and use within a week or two.

If you are in a café, check they are grinding the beans freshly for you. Somewhere near Thapathali there is a young guy an a coffee shop grinding beans to put in a plastic box to be stored on a sunny windowsill. You can always ask them where they get their coffee from and how fresh it is.


Not much you can do about this without equipment. However, espresso grind and filter grind are not the same. Try to get the right one for your needs.

3. LA MACHINA – The machine

Given a good blend, ground properly to the right fineness, the machine is the next factor. The temperature and pressure of the water passing through the coffee directly affect the flavour. With your espresso pot, just try to put hot water on the bottom chamber to shorten the heating time and take off of the gas when the bubbling noise has started.

4. LA MANO DELL’OPERATORE – The human touch (of the operator)

If you are in a café, it never harms to ask the person making your drink which their favorite cup of coffee is. “No sir/ma’am, I don’t like coffee!” This is not a good sign. Leave.

You may also want to take ‘La Mano dell’operatore’ (the hand of the operator) literally for a minute and and read this. Worth thinking about.

Anyway, much of the flavour of your drink is in the hands of the operator. Let’s hope they know what they are doing.

5. MANUTENZIONE (maintenance)

If the coffee machine is not maintained properly its performance is going to decrease. That’s life. While you can’t jump over the counter and check out the big espresso machine, you can check the toilets, the cloth used to clean the tables or the size of the dirty-finger ring around the light switches and deduce how well maintained the machine is.

With your own coffee pot, rinse with water after every use and use your fingers only to remove old coffee and excess oils. Dry with a soft cloth and store in separate pieces.

So if your coffee tastes no good, it’s going to be down to one of the reasons above. Have a go at working it out!

What if the coffee doesn’t rise up to the top of the pot?

Posted in blog on February 26th, 2010 by admin – 6 Comments

If you find the coffee is not brewing correctly, check first to see if steam is escaping from the area where the top and bottom are screwed together. Sometimes you’ll a little water bubbling out of here. If the connection here is not tight – if steam can escape out the side – the pot will not work. Try to screw the parts together more tightly next time. Hug the pot close to your chest and twist the top and bottom together as tightly as you can.

We had a similar problem with our old Bialetti machine bought in Italy. Turns out I’d been banging the coffee basket out of shape every time I threw the old, used coffee grounds in the compost bin.

The wonkiness meant that the steam generated could escape up past the coffee, so no pressure builds up and no water gets pushed up throught the coffee. Our solution was to put a rubber band around the coffee basket and that worked nicely.

You might also check that the filter-screen is clean – if this is clogged with coffee grounds or oils – it could prevent the steam/coffee from rising to the upper chamber.