Not all that important tips for espresso

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by Gus »

I am trying to make the best espresso I can with the equipment and information I have available. I have spent countless hours reading and practicing, and examining my results. My understanding of the processes and techniques at work and their individual effect on the outcome has gone through various stages of actual accuracy. There have been many "light switch on" moments along the way. I can't tell you how much of the content I have read, re-read, and then read again, and again a month and 10 pounds of coffee later and had a different understanding. There are so many variables and so much practice was needed before I could even become consistent enough to tell what might have gone wrong and what I might be able to do to fix it. One thing I have learned, it is fairly easy for me to come close to the mark visually, without being anywhere close in taste. In an effort to get closer to enjoying the fruits of my labor consistently, I examine the labor itself, probably to a fault. And that brings me to my point.

With all of the available tips and techniques I have noticed some irrelevant items, or items given more relevance than they deserve. For instance, Tamping Twaddle and Tamping Twaddle, Part Deux seemed to show that a practiced technique can make up for an ill fitting tamper. One could surmise from this that focusing on your tamp skills will have a greater effect than will a custom "made to fit" tamper. Is it possible to come up with a list of things not to focus on? Things like exact fitting tamper, or maybe the loose grounds that are left after tamping do not require a tap to settle. Puck postmortem also seems to be in less favor than it enjoyed once. Would that of list be helpful to anyone, other than me?

In my specific case I am currently pursuing a donut free diet. I had an issue with donut starts to every shot. I have begun dosing at 14 to 14.5 grams, and have started tamping by sight and feel with regards to the allowed headspace for the dispersion block, instead of tamping on the scale and shooting for 30. I am getting some of my best shots ever lately. I am currently annoyed by the knock out of the spent puck from these "better than they ever were" shots. While I can detect no serious signs of channeling in the pour or the cup, the pucks at this dosage never come out in one piece. Before I was dosing at 17 or 18 and getting donut starts and channeling, but the pucks came out in one piece. I know I am not drinking the puck, and the results in the cup tell me I should not worry about it, but I can't help but think that if I did something even "more right" I would have better espresso and a solid puck. If it is possible to have a list of not all that important tips for making espresso, can solid puck after knock out be added to it?


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John P
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#2: Post by John P »

A solid puck isn't the be all and end all of espresso.
Follow the taste. Repeat.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT

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#3: Post by HB »

Great topic Gus, what not to focus on!
Gus wrote:If it is possible to have a list of not all that important tips for making espresso, can solid puck after knock out be added to it?
So-called "puckology" is so far down on my list of important contributors, you'd need a bus ticket to get a good look at it. That said, even the SCAA barista competition tech judges agree that consistency does matter. If the puck is always dry, no problem. If it's always soupy, rock on. But if it's dry one time and soupy the next, points off.
Dan Kehn

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#4: Post by AndyS »

Gus wrote:I can't help but think that if I did something even "more right" I would have better espresso and a solid puck
It's not economics, but puckology that's the dismal science.
VST refractometer/filter basket beta tester, no financial interest in the company

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#5: Post by another_jim »

There's about a million espresso things that are unimportant or secondary. At any time, there's only one important thing. The first is being able to pull shots -- use a bottomless PF and get good extractions using whatever technique you like. The second is to pick a good coffee. It should taste good to you brewed, and should smell good to you when ground. The third is to find the dose which gets the espresso as pleasant as what you brewed and what you smelled.

That's it, everything else is pretty much secondary or nonsense.
Jim Schulman

Mtn Shot
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#6: Post by Mtn Shot »

There is a lot to be said for simplicity. Jim S - Thank you for the reminder.

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#7: Post by aindfan »

Mentioning simplicity here reminded me of the shots I pulled this morning: I don't have my scale with me now, so I just filled the PF, swept a finger across the basket, tamped, and pulled. After one test shot to get the grind dialed in, I got a delicious shot with no fuss (this was the espresso blend from Jojo's Coffee and Tea in New Haven and Hartford, CT ground on the Le'Lit PL53 and pulled on my Gaggia Espresso). I think I might have gotten lucky that filling the basket gave the desired dose, but either way, keeping it simple did no harm.
Dan Fainstein
LMWDP #203
PSA: Have you descaled lately?