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I recently got hold of a Sage (=Breville) Barista express, which has a built in grinder.

I haven’t been getting great results with it so far. Also, there seems to be a kind of mismatch between the settings on the machine itself and what I am reading online.

The double basket takes 15 - 18g of coffee, but the double shot button pushes through 60ml of water for a ratio of 1:4 or just under. You can control extraction manually but that seems weird.

From what I’ve read I want 1:2 or just under if I’m making a flat white, so I have been going for 35g of espresso out of 17.5g of coffee in around 26s, not counting pre-infusion.

To get somewhere around those numbers, I have to be on the second finest setting (this is with beans that were roasted in the last 3 weeks) and the needle on the pressure gauge goes beyond the “espresso range” marked.

This all seems pretty bizarre – the shot is nothing out of the ordinary but the settings are at the extremes.

The shots I am getting still taste under-extracted to me. If I go a step finer my extraction time goes way way up, so I also have to reduce the amount of coffee. Is that the way to go, or should I keep the grind the same and run more water through?

I’m thinking the fact that everything is at the extreme (portafilter packed as full as it will go, grind setting more or less as fine as it will go, pressure out of range) should tell me something, but what? Just that they built the machine around a ratio of around 1:4? I don't understand why they would do that.

I have tried changing the beans btw – it didn’t really make any difference.

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I have a Sage with a built-in grinder as well. The grinder isn't great, it has some inconsistency that may clog part of your filter basket just enough to reduce the flow a bit more than you'll like.

I've solved this by adding a wet paper filter before adding the coffee. For this I use paper filters meant for AeroPress, which are only slightly too big for my portafilter (like 2 millimeters too large in diameter). My technique is as follows:

  1. Push some water through the filter basket to warm it up a bit, then dry with a paper towel.

  2. Add a pre-wetted paperfilter to the bottom of the portafilter, press it down with your fingers. It's okay if the sides of the paper filter go up a little bit against the wall of the portafilter.

  3. Add your ground coffee as you normally do and tamp. Then pull the shot.

For me, this allows me to push a bit more water through compared to keeping everything the same without the paper filter. My theory is that it keeps the holes in the filter basket nice and clear so the water gets pushed through more easily.

Seeing that this is a pretty cheap option, I'd give it a shot.

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