Astra and the no-tamp espresso

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rfc

#1: Post by rfc »

I visited the restaurant whose nonworking Mini Grimac (which I have now) was replaced with an Astra. I know all the usual stuff about not being able to get a good espresso in a restaurant blah blah, so let's go right past that.

Here's the weird thing I'd like comments on:

She has an Astra grinder. She grinds and doses into the portafilter and DOES NOT TAMP! Then, she locks the portafilter into the machine and pushes "go" (I would assume it is a semi automatic unit).

The thing runs for what seems like close to 45 seconds, if not a minute for a single shot, then shuts off. The cup has the appropriate amount (1.5-2 oz?).

How is that possible unless the pressure is like really really low? If I tried that with my Grimac I'd probably have 4 ounces of something, but I'm not sure I'd call it espresso.

Anyone with an Astra explain this?

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HB
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#2: Post by HB »

What you describe isn't that uncommon in Italy, the "no tamp" espresso. While many home baristas spend money on handcrafted tampers, most Italian espresso bars either use the plastic freebie tamper or the tamping appendage on the grinder. If you grind finer and overfill the basket, the grouphead does the tamping for you. At the last SCAA conference in Seattle, I got a mini lesson from Luigi Lupi who was demonstrating at the Elektra booth. He almost slapped my hand for tamping at thirty pounds and advocated a five pound mini-tamp (what I jokingly call "pillow tamps"). I've tried it at home a few times and it seemed more likely to promote channeling, but obviously some baristas prefer this technique.
Dan Kehn

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malachi

#3: Post by malachi »

so you have two questions.

1 - the no tamp espresso
2 - the minimal volume in the long time

we'll go to question #2 first.
if your grind is VERY fine then you can easily get minimal volume in a very long extraction time without tamping - especially if you're working with stale coffee.

as for questions #1...

it is entirely possible to get a decent espresso (with certain coffees) without tamping. but... doing so consistently is harder and doing so consistently unless using certain specific coffees - especially if using a rotary pump machine without preinfusion is VERY hard.
but Astra tells people they don't need to tamp due to their machine design. to which I say, "yeah, right."
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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HB
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#4: Post by HB »

malachi wrote:if your grind is VERY fine then you can easily get minimal volume in a very long extraction time without tamping - especially if you're working with stale coffee.
Not that I am trying to prolong the discussion of the finer points of stale coffee, but doesn't the extraction time decrease as the coffee ages? The beans I use for a clearing shot after a chemical backflush are old and the extraction barely lasts 15 seconds.
Dan Kehn

rfc

#5: Post by rfc »

I found out that the coffee they use comes in 1 lb bags from Starbucks. I estimate they do perhaps 20 drinks a night max, and they have maybe 3 lbs or so in the hopper, so the stuff is probably pretty old (for those who read this board) by the time the drinks are made.

As another reference, she ground me some to take home, and I tamped as usual and it seemed to take about the usual 9 seconds to start flowing but from then on the flow was usual, that is, the proper amount pumped in 25 seconds.

Just for grins, I am going to try no tamping in my grimac this morning and see what happens.

Finally, HB: thanks for the tip about using OLD coffee after a backflush...DUH! I've been throwing money down the sink! :oops:

gscace

#6: Post by gscace »

rfc wrote:I visited the restaurant whose nonworking Mini Grimac (which I have now) was replaced with an Astra. I know all the usual stuff about not being able to get a good espresso in a restaurant blah blah, so let's go right past that.

Here's the weird thing I'd like comments on:

She has an Astra grinder. She grinds and doses into the portafilter and DOES NOT TAMP! Then, she locks the portafilter into the machine and pushes "go" (I would assume it is a semi automatic unit).

The thing runs for what seems like close to 45 seconds, if not a minute for a single shot, then shuts off. The cup has the appropriate amount (1.5-2 oz?).

How is that possible unless the pressure is like really really low? If I tried that with my Grimac I'd probably have 4 ounces of something, but I'm not sure I'd call it espresso.

Anyone with an Astra explain this?
Newer Astras have a very robust dispersion screen fastened to a diffuser block that extends further into the brew basket than my 'zocco, my old Silvia, or usual e-61 group practice. Astra's intended use is that you dose, then install the portafilter without tamping. I'm not sure that I buy into this, but I'm open for new ideas. When I was in Italy last year I saw no one doing more than lightly compacting the coffee with the tamper attached to the grinder. So different methods exist and seem to work. I'm guessing that the important thing is to be consistent.

My '98 Astra Gourmet has a shorter diffuser block and I tamp with it.

-Greg

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malachi

#7: Post by malachi »

gscace wrote:When I was in Italy last year I saw no one doing more than lightly compacting the coffee with the tamper attached to the grinder.
This varies throughout Italy, actually.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

rfc

#8: Post by rfc »

I tried "no tamping" and "pillow tamping" and was somewhat surprised how little effect it had on the time of the pull. It did have an effect on taste however. Really serious tamping produces much stronger coffee than does lightly tamping for the same duration.

With so much "expert" knowledge out there telling one the "right" way to pull a God shot, it really does seem like this business comes down to experience--learning what works and what does not, then doing it repeatedly the same way.

Sam Gaxiola

#9: Post by Sam Gaxiola »

Hello, everyone, I just registered to HB today and hope to have good times and fun when a log in, I have an Astra Gourmet, direct water line, semi-automatic, got it on Jan, 2003. I always tamp and get shots on the 23-27 second range, my grinder is a Gaggia MDF, no problem at all to have good shots, I roast my own so the oldest coffee I get to brew is about 4 to 5 days old, I have tried some coffees from local roasters and I can tell just by the way the shot comes out that those are old beans, shots come out very fast (10, 12 sec.), no crema and imagine the taste...... I always use bottled water by the way.
I have been roasting my own beans since June 2002, my first espresso machine was a Krups Gusto, with a Saeco 2002 grinder, then I got a Gaggia Espresso with the MDF, since 2003 I have been using my Gourmet from Astra still using my MDF, hope to have a Rocky soon.

I live in Sonora, Mexico, so please forgive any mistakes in my writing OK...

kav

#10: Post by kav »

Welcome Sam!