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(Just to be clear, I am aware of millions of questions on the internet about consistently bad flow but my question is about a situation where, most of the time, with ESE, it works very well... And ALL of the time, with loose coffee, it works very well)

I've been using the machine with loose coffee for years without problem. While chasing the perfect cup, I started experimenting with different ESE pod brands available.

So far, I've tried 4 different pods. One just sucked (very famous brand), the other three: When they work well, they make an absolutely perfect coffee: Resinous, almost like oil, beautiful aroma and crema, clear but very dark color and an amazing taste - just bitter enough and none of that weird sourness!

However, about 1 out of 3 pods flows really slow and makes no crema. Flavor is sour (you'd think if it flows that slow, it shouldn't be under-developed, right?) and generally not worth it.

1/10 pods, on the other hand, flows way too fast, result is a lot of crema but the stuff under it is basically water...

I reverted to loose coffee - the machine works the same way it did for years.

Is it possible ESE pods have such a high defect rate? You'd think that with the excellent coffee they make when they do work, it must not be a quality issue...

Perhaps the machine is not good (or old) and responds very badly to slight deviations from the ESE specification?

Would appreciate any thought on this matter.

  • Saeco Poemia HD-8423-71 (AKA: Gaggia Viva)

  • We have a water softener. So, very little limescale in our appliances. Anyway, appliance inside looks fine

  • I also tried loosening the coffee inside the ESE pod - doesn't appear to do much

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  • Welcome to Coffee! Are you using a pressurized basket? Is it a single shot or a double shot basket?
    – JJJ
    Sep 7 at 20:25
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I've been using the machine with loose coffee for years without problem. While chasing the perfect cup, I started experimenting with different ESE pod brands available.

Based on this, I suspect the problem may have to do with your filter basket. There are two types of filter baskets: pressurized and regular.

Regular filter baskets have many tiny holes through which the espresso drops down after the water has passed through the coffee puck. In this filter baskets, the coffee puck should provide enough resistance for pressure to build.

Pressurized filter baskets have a single hole (when looking at the bottom; from the inside it may seem like there's a mesh structure of holes) which builds pressure regardless of the coffee puck. For example, this allows you to brew an espresso with much coarser grinds because the pressure will build because of the basket.

ESE pods don't provide enough resistance on their own. As such, to use it in a portafilter machine you would need to use a pressurized filter basket. Whole Latte Love has a Youtube video showing how to use pods in a Gaggia espresso machine. In addition to using a (single-shot) pressurized filter basket, they recommend adding a 'defuser' between the filter basket and the spout of the portafilter to prevent coffee from spraying out.

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