FAQs – 9Barista machine

Is the 9Barista just a fancy moka pot?

No, it’s much more than that! Although they may look slightly similar and the espresso is produced upwards through the basket, that’s where the similarity ends. To make real espresso you need 9 bar of pressure and about 93°C – the 9Barista has both of these, whereas a moka pot only reaches around 0.5 bar of pressure and uses water above 100°C. The real difference is in the intense flavour and texture of the espresso it can produce, topped with thick crema.

Does it take a long time to learn how to use the 9Barista?

No, if you follow the user guide it’s quite simple to make delicious coffee from the day you receive your machine. It may take a few attempts to dial in the right grind size and find the correct heat setting on your stove, but once you’ve done that it’s a very easy, repeatable process.

How much espresso does the 9Barista make?

The machine produces a shot which weighs between 35 and 40g.

Are the materials used in the 9Barista safe?

Yes, all materials in the 9Barista are safe for food contact. There is no aluminium in the machine. It is made from brass, which is then nickel plated. The nickel plating we use is a food grade high phosphorus electroless nickel plating. It’s commonly used in the food processing industry, as it has excellent resistance to attack from acids. 

Other materials used are silicone rubber, which is used for the thermal break and basket cap, PTFE, which is used for the valve pin, and PEI which is used for the group insulator. All of which are safe for food contact. It’s also worth noting that the walnut handles are FSC certified.

Why is my machine difficult to unscrew, and why are my lower boiler o-rings coming out of place?

After brewing, there will be a vacuum in the boiler. If this vacuum isn’t neutralised it will be difficult to unscrew the machine and you may dislodge your boiler o-ring in the process. To neutralise the vacuum simply lift / pull the pressure release tab on the safety valve, but only do this when it’s cool enough to touch. You’ll hear a hiss, at which point the boiler will be easy to unscrew.

9Barista pressure release tab
Why is my extraction too fast?

The extraction time is dictated by the grind size of the coffee, and to a lesser extent the tamping technique. We recommend an extraction time of 25 – 30 seconds. If it’s faster than this, you’ll need to grind more finely, and if it’s slower, you’ll need to grind more coarsely.

A good quality burr grinder that has been designed for espresso will enable you to do this. Blade grinders do not provide the necessary degree of control, so avoid using these. We recommend some grinders here.

For more help brewing delicious coffee, this article may help.

How can I keep my 9Barista clean?

Cleaning your machine only takes a few seconds and is best done in the kitchen sink. Give it a quick rinse after every time you make an espresso and be sure not to use any abrasive cleaning products. Water alone is sufficient. The wooden handles of the machine are not suitable for the dishwasher. 

If your 9Barista is still hot, run it under the tap until it’s cool enough to grip. Then, unscrew the portafilter from the grouphead, remove the basket cap and knock out the spent grounds (a knockbox is a great addition for this part of the process). Then, press the pressure release tab on the safety valve and unscrew the boiler. Give everything a rinse and leave the parts to dry, or dry them with a towel. The handles are made from wood and should not be left wet, so we recommend giving them a quick dry with a towel.

If you plan to store your machine without using it, we recommend removing all the water from the machine and cleaning it prior to storage. After prolonged storage, rinse the boiler with water and run the 9Barista once without coffee in the basket.

How can I make two shots in a row more quickly?

When you’ve finished making your first coffee you can quickly cool your machine down by running the base of the machine under the cold tap (don’t worry, it won’t warp!). When it’s cool enough to grip, lift or pull the pressure release tab (see image below), and refill the boiler with cold water. Since the boiler still has some residual warmth, you’ll find it takes less time to get up to temperature on the next shot.

The next trick you can use it to put your 9Barista on the stove to heat up while you grind and tamp the coffee in the portafilter. Be careful though, you’ll need to get the portafilter back on before the machine starts to deliver hot water. Only attempt this once you know you’ll be fast enough.

With this technique you should find that you can make a double shot every 5 minutes or so.

9Barista pressure release tab
Will the 9Barista spit water?

No, the 9Barista should not spit water. Some very early machines did do this, but it was easily fixed and our new machines don’t have this issue. If your machine is spitting water, it’s very like that the boiler o-ring (see below) has popped out of its groove and simply needs to be put back into place. This article explains further.

9Barista boiler o-ring
How do I know when my extraction is finished?

There are two ways to be able to tell when your machine has finished extracting; the first is that the espresso will stop rising in the portafilter. You should also be able to see and hear a final, stronger flow of steam coming from the chimney, for one to two seconds, which signals that there’s no more water in the boiler and the extraction has finished. You should turn off the heat at this point and pour your espresso straight away.

Can I preheat the heat exchanger plate?

No, the heat exchanger plate should only ever be heated when the 9Barista is sitting on it. If it’s pre-heated or left on the heat once the 9Barista has brewed it’s likely to separate into layers or deform. If this happens it won’t be able to transfer heat effectively and your machine won’t be able to produce espresso. If that’s happened to you, replacements are available here. It’s also important that you never cool your heat exchanger plate with water. Further guidance is available here.

My machine seems to have some casting marks and surface imperfections, is this normal?

Our machines are hand cast in small batches, and then CNC machined to final form. Some of the surfaces are left in the as-cast condition, and so it’s normal to expect some slight variations in the surface finish. They won’t affect the performance of the machine – we like to think they make each machine unique, and reveal a bit about how they are made! If you’re concerned that your machine has marks or imperfections above what you’d expect, please send us a photo to [email protected] and we will take a look.

It’s possible you may also notice some slight watermarks on the inside on the boiler. Although perfectly safe, these can be a side effect of the plating process. We use a high phosphorus electroless nickel plating, which is a high-spec engineering grading plate not typically selected for its aesthetics. The plating will however give you far superior corrosion resistance to the chrome plating which is normally used on espresso machines. The marks should disappear if you clean them with warm soapy water or a light abrasive pad. 

Do I need a grinder?

The 9Barista will work with pre-ground coffee, but it might not provide a great experience. A small change in grind size can make a big difference to the results, and a grinder like one of those recommended here will enable you to make those small changes quickly and easily. This is important as you’ll likely need to try a few grind settings before finding the right one for the beans you’re using. A grinder makes this very simple, and in turn makes it much easier to hit the recommended 25-30 second extraction time, which is what gives the best results with plenty of crema. Pre-ground coffee may be too coarse, which would result in watery coffee with no crema, or too fine, which would result in bitter coffee, or even no coffee at all.

Do you make a dosing funnel/dosing cup/distributor for use with the 9Barista basket?

We don’t currently make any additional accessories for the 9Barista, other than the tamper, although we do plan to add these in the future. The machine uses a 53mm basket, so any accessories you buy should be designed to work with a basket of that size (they’ll usually be labelled with dimensions to fit the relevant basket e.g. a 53mm dosing funnel is designed to work with a 53mm basket). If you’d like a precision basket, IMS manufacture one which is compatible with the 9Barista, product code B652TH27.5M.

Can I use a pressurised basket or espresso profiler?

We don’t recommend the use of a pressurised basket with the 9Barista. Pressurised baskets commonly have a hole in the centre rather than off-centre or closer to the side. With a standard espresso machine that’s not a problem as the coffee is directed downwards into a cup, but the basket in a 9Barista faces upwards, which would not make for a pleasant experience! More to the point however, we want to help you to make tasty espresso with your machine, and the best way of doing that it to pair it with a good burr grinder, which would remove the need for a pressurised basket.

It’s not currently possible to attach an espresso profiler to the machine, although we’d love to introduce that option at some point in the future.

Can I put my machine in the dishwasher?

No, the wooden handles on the 9Barista are not dishwasher safe. The machine is easy to clean though, it just needs a quick rinse under the tap after each use.

How can I warm my coffee cup while I’m waiting for coffee to brew?

A good trick is to hold your empty coffee cup upside down over the steam coming from the chimney while your 9Barista is brewing. This method can quickly pre-heat your cup to a high temperature. Be careful when you do this not to put your fingers directly in the steam, as it will be hot.

My portafilter appears to have changed colour, is this normal?

Yes, this can happen. You may find that your portafilter develops a slightly blue-ish colour over time. The electroless nickel plating we use has some interesting optical properties, which we believe is due to a diffraction effect. You should notice that if you put a small amount of cooking oil on your finger tip and apply it to the dark patch, it will disappear! Over time the patterns of dark blue colours will disappear. We have done plenty of analysis on the chemical safety of the machine so there’s no cause for concern.

How often should I descale my machine?

If you live in a hard water area, you may find that limescale deposits build up inside the 9Barista boiler and around the heat exchanger coil. Small deposits of limescale are not a problem, but if too much is allowed to form it can begin to interfere with the function of the machine. If this is the case, we’d recommend running a descaling cycle to clear it. We have instructions on how to do that here

It’s important that these instructions are followed closely to avoid using too high a concentration of citric acid. Doing this every few weeks should ensure that your machine remains in good working order. If you notice large limescale deposits forming, or if there appears to be a restriction in the flow path through the machine, running a descaling cycle will help clear them. 

Does the 9Barista work at high altitude?

Yes, it does. 

The machine will work at any altitude but you may find that above around 3,000 metres the coffee it produces becomes a little sour. We have successfully brewed delicious espresso using a 9Barista at 3,000 metres (10,000ft), and some of our customers have used their machine at 4,400 metres (14,400ft), as you can see in this Instagram post

The reason for this change above 3,000 metres is that the boiling point of water drops by around 3.5°C for every 1,000 meters above sea level. This means that as you climb, the water in the upper chamber is boiling at a lower temperature, creating an increased cooling effect on the water from the lower boiler before it reaches the coffee. For this reason we recommend that the machine works best in locations where the boiling point of water is no lower than 90°C.

If you are finding that your shots are coming out a little sour, then quite often grinding your coffee finer and aiming for a longer extraction of 30-35s can fix the issue. By giving the water more contact time with the coffee you can offset the effects of the reduced brew temperature.

My machine made a loud ‘pop’ sound, what happened?

This is the sound of the safety valve opening. This happens when the machine is heated too quickly (if it’s producing coffee in less than 3 minutes, it’s too quick), or if the water is unable to pass through the coffee. This is most commonly because the coffee has been ground too finely. See this page for further help. 

Water is trapped under the orange plastic part at the top of my machine, is this normal?

Yes, this is normal. There is a narrow space, about 0.5mm wide where water will get trapped. If you want to remove this, you can follow the disassembly instructions here, then clean and dry the parts individually.