Review - LeverCraft Ultra WDT Distribution Tool

Recommendations for buyers and upgraders from the site's members.
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mwebber

#1: Post by mwebber »

So, first things first- I received this WDT tool from Eric as part of my Ultra grinder pre-order. I paid full price, and although I am a frequent customer of Eric's coffee shop, I am not affiliated with his business in any way. The following review represents my impressions after roughly a week of using the tool with every espresso I made, several times a day.


Here is the Ultra WDT next to my old faithful "wine cork with sewing needles". As you can see, the Ultra WDT's needles are much thinner and longer. The website quotes .4mm each, and there are eight of them held on by a retainer screw in the body of the tool. The thinness of the needles makes it much easier to break up clumps while stirring, and the length of the needles makes it effortless. With my previous tool, I would frequently hit the wine cork against the coffee bed, causing more clumps than I was breaking. I didn't realize it at the time, but my needles-in-a-wine cork tool was only marginally helpful in breaking up clumps!


The Ultra logo is laser-etched on the top of the tool, which is available in either black or silver. I picked black, both because I enjoy the contrast of the logo against the body of the tool, and because it will match my Ultra grinder when it is delivered. The logo is a stylized view of the top of the Ultra grinder, which is a neat touch and reflects the overall attention to detail. For $32, the build quality is outstanding, and the tool feels very nice in my hands. I have medium-sized hands, and while they used to cramp while stirring with the wine cork, they do not cramp while using the Ultra WDT.



These are the coffee grounds as they come out of my grinder, a hyperaligned Forté with steel burrs. There is some clumping, mostly because I grind into the grounds bin to take advantage of the Forté's automatic grind-by-weight. The coffee is Praxis Coffee Roaster's Esperanza Aquiares, a fermented Costa Rican bean with a light roast.


These are the coffee grounds after a few seconds of stirring. I use a spirograph-type pattern (as suggested to me by coffee guru Jake), and move gradually from the bottom of the basket to the top. I was startled by how incredibly fluffy the grounds became. Not only did all the clumps disappear, but the coffee nearly doubled in volume. This is not at all like the result I was getting with my needles-in-a-wine cork WDT tool, and a significant improvement in both usability and distribution. Particularly impressive is the lack of retained grounds on the needles- my previous tool always retained a small amount of coffee.
This is a video of one of the first pours I recorded after receiving my Ultra WDT. Not perfect, but representative of what my first coffee in the morning looks like when I'm half asleep and in desperate need of caffeine. Anecdotally, the incidence of squirters has dramatically decreased, and my Linea Mini's backplate is much cleaner than it has been since I first got the machine. Since I started using the Ultra WDT tool, I have noticed a huge increase in the consistency of my pulls, with 18.0 grams of coffee yielding 36 grams of espresso within a second or two of my target time, every time.

For those of you who have also received the Ultra WDT tool, what do you think of it? How does it compare to your previous WDT tools?

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Shawnaks5
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#2: Post by Shawnaks5 »

Nice! Thanks for the review. I'm waiting for my Ultra as well. I'm looking forward to using this tool. I've been using the Londinium Distribution Tool for a while now and it works pretty well. It will be interesting to see how these two compare. It's definitely cool looking! By the way, how in the world did you get the Forte steel burrs to grind fine enough for espresso? I know that topic probably needs it's own thread though!

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jevenator

#3: Post by jevenator »

0.4mm needles for a WDT is great. I've been using the same thing recently with a 3D printed body and a screw cap to hold them into place.
I haven't been using the Londinium tool since. I like the feel of the Londinium tool a lot better though but you get a lot more control using thinner needles IMO.

I like the ergonomic design of the Lever-craft tool as well and I'm sure I will love it.

Shawn, once the Forte is aligned you shouldn't have a trouble grinding for espresso. I used to do it all the time.

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Shawnaks5
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#4: Post by Shawnaks5 » replying to jevenator »

Interesting. Yeah I'm looking forward to using the Lever-craft tool! I've heard about he Alicorn mod for the Forte, but I haven't had the time to do it yet.

Charlemagne

#5: Post by Charlemagne »

I used these to make my own. The included tweezers are great for pressing the handle end of the needles into a cork. Love the results!

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mwebber (original poster)

#6: Post by mwebber (original poster) »

Shawnaks5 wrote:Interesting. Yeah I'm looking forward to using the Lever-craft tool! I've heard about he Alicorn mod for the Forte, but I haven't had the time to do it yet.
It made a huge difference for me! The steel burrs are significantly slower for espresso (think 20-30 seconds to grind 18g, instead of 3-5 seconds with the ceramic burrs), but the flavor profile is incredible. Anecdotally, it seems the difference between microsteps on the steel burrs are smaller than on the ceramic burrs. One click on the ceramic burrs made a big difference on the pour time, but one click on the steel burrs only changes the time by a second or two.

Jeff
Team HB

#7: Post by Jeff »

Always exciting to get a box from Levercraft, especially when you know there's an Ultra inside.

OK, so I can't yet get myself to buy the grinder, but when I ordered some coffee, I added in the distribution tool. I wanted to try the "spread" format for the tines over the close spacing of my current cork and 4x 0.4 mm acupuncture needle creation. (I'll report back on my experiences once I've used it for a bit.)

One of my pre-sales questions (which was promptly answered through Levercraft chat) was how far the tines spread. I was also curious as to if it could be used in a Robot basket (which it seems to be able to do comfortably). The tines extend ~50 mm (~2") and spread ~30 mm (half a basket). and are 0.4 mm in diameter. This photo hopefully puts numbers into perspective in the very deep, nearly 58 mm ID Robot basket


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coffeemmichael
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#8: Post by coffeemmichael »

Love the WDT tool. It feels like an extension of my hand, rather than a paddle or sword

Jeff
Team HB

#9: Post by Jeff »

I like this tool in the way that it feels in my hand as well as how it has begun to work for me. It's the only commercial stirrer/WDT tool I've tried that I think has potential over $5-10 in 0.3-0.4 mm acupuncture needles and a cork. Since I'm not 100% sure on the technique to get great results, it is still "potential" for me.



It definitely needs a different technique than what I was used to, or have yet been able to develop.

Just a "spirograph" stir, starting at the bottom and working up relatively quickly (maybe 10-15 seconds total) left me with these slow spots that looked to be about the size of the spread of the tines.

First tries, not stirring very long





With more intentional and longer stirring (and the back-side iPhone camera)



DE1 owners can get very obsessive about puck prep. While not obsessive as some, I've definitely gotten more aware and picky about the signs of uneven extraction. So what I am already getting may be better than what you're striving for.

The "defects" all happened and filled in within a couple seconds and were selected as the "worst" point in my cell-phone video.

I've tried to associate them with technique, being conscious of where I started stirring and the like, but haven't really been able to figure it out. I'm now going a lot longer and a lot slower as I lift through the basket, spiraling at each of maybe three levels. This has improved things immensely, with either just a hint of unevenness, or occasionally a "picture perfect" wetting of the puck and a visually even extraction across the bottom of the basket.

If anyone has figured out a technique with this tool to accomplish the below all the time, please let us all know!


Jeff
Team HB

#10: Post by Jeff »

I wanted to follow up on this, as the LeverCraft tool has edged its way into my daily routine.

I tried reducing the number of tines to four to see if I could reduce the "light-spot" behavior, but found it awkward compared to my cork.

I tried to increase to six (which requires not quite even spacing as 16 can't be evenly divided by six), but found that I couldn't re-insert the needles easily. In talking with Eric at LeverCraft, I found that there is a thin strip of PTFE "plumber's tape" in there to help retain the needles. It can be easily replaced and made reinsertion of the needles easy.

I ended up going back to the original 8 needles and believe that a different change I had made in my puck-prep routine resolved the unevenness sufficiently. The change involved settling the bed after leveling and before tamping. (PM for details of that technique, as I think it's not related to the purpose of this thread, nor something I'd recommend blindly.) Use of the LeverCraft tool also seemed to reduce or eliminate donut extraction over my homemade tool.

The tool, with eight tines installed, leaves the bed sufficiently level for my level of obsessiveness (high, but not extreme as some) without needing any "raking" as was the case with my four-needle tool. Since raking is "not needed", my concerns about the spread turned out to be moot.

I can't comment on darker roasts or grinders other than the Niche Zero with medium and lighter roasts, but I'm happy with the ease of use in my workflow. I'm hesitant to say that this is a "must" tool, but if its cost is within your budget, I think it is definitely worth trying. (I've also had one of the LeverCraft coffees and enjoyed it immensely, if you want to consider something else with your shipping cost.)

Good enough for me at 7 AM