Basket Science or Propaganda

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
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cafeIKE
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#1: Post by cafeIKE »

Over the years, I've collected many baskets of various sizes and shapes in singles, doubles and triples. Some are precision and some are 39¢ specials that came with machines. Over ≈20,000 shots over 15 years, it's become my firm belief that yes, baskets do make a difference but try as I might, no discernable consistency has appeared. [No cheap shots slagging my taste acumen...]

My coffee consumption is the same roast for a month or so. Typical purchase 5 pounds, parcel into 2-3 day units and freeze at optimal post roast. If something is particularly spectacular, I may repeat the same roast. NEVER have the [logged] identical shot parameters held on a new roast. Very occasionally, I may change dose, grind or switch baskets late in a roast, but it's very rare.

It can take a week to dial in an uncharacterized roast from a consistent roaster, trying various combinations of basket, dose, grind and age. At different times of the year, ostensibly the same roast might prefer a different basket. This could be CBLF related. No TDS or EY or TMD recorded.

With Wolf Coffee Organic Espresso Blend:
LM 0.014 17.5g 30.0g / 25s - ideal classic northern Italian shot.
IMS 0.012 16.5g 29.5g / 25s - a bit less intense. Less mouthfeel, finish a bit flat. Some might rate it best.
Syn 0.016 17.5g 30.5g / 25s - more intense than the IMS, OK mouthfeel & finish. Just a tiny bit pale relative to LM.

I'm pretty sure most everyone would find the above shots to be much better than acceptable.
Local long time espresso drinkers give it a big TU, that's Thumbs, not T_ts. :wink:



another_jim wrote:The new generation of baskets, including IMS baskets, are designed for lighter roasted coffees, and therefore require finer grinds for a given dose.
  1. Other than manufacturer say-so, what evidence is there baskets are designed for a particular roast level and the taste data to back it up?.
  2. Why do light roasts require finer grind as opposed to a different basket / higher dose / lower pressure?
  3. The IMS basket has about 75% of the hole area of the LM, so why grind finer? To achieve the same shot volume with same grind as dinosaur baskets, ≈5% dose reduction required. Grinding some light coffee finer may not be preferred relative to higher dose / narrower basket / pressure reduction.
Re 1: The one constant in espresso groups is there is none. Screens, diameter, gaskets, pressure profile, etc. all vary significantly from machine to machine. Add in the vagaries of installation, wear, hand, etc. and the permutations become a very large number.

Re 2: I drink roasts from Agtron #85 to about #35. The one consistent item is there isn't. Admittedly, my gear is pretty plebian, but I'm currently drinking a blend that close to #30 [med-dark+] [17.5g in a LM ridgeless "double"] and grinding 10 marks finer than a recent lightish #75 [light] blend [17.5g in an IMS ridged nominal 15g]. The IMS has about the same number of holes which are two thou smaller on average than the LM 0.014.

Given that coffee is a melange of beans of various ripeness, size and thus roast and it's unlikely two doses are identical, and certainly not if a blend, posted EY on much higher tech equipment vary about 5% with ostensibly identical shots, how much of the precision basket mania is confirmation bias :?:

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wkmok1

#2: Post by wkmok1 »

[No cheap shots slagging my taste acumen...]

Nice pun :D
Winston

MNate
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#3: Post by MNate »

No idea. But I'm glad you've tested things and shared them. I have several basket options but haven't really officially tested anything.

It seems to be another example of the basic difficulty of comparative tests. Do you make every other parameter the same so you can see the difference (but here the baskets require a different grind so it won't really work) or do you make the best possible shot with that equipment and risk adding other variables that skew the results?

Man, now a bunch of people on the DE1 with high uniformity burrs are talking about coarser grinding fast-flowing shots to get the best results on lighter roasts. It seems the "old" principles keep changing as people keep experimenting. So much to try... but it's nice to know basket may not be the first thing to change!

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Paul_Pratt

#4: Post by Paul_Pratt »

It is an interesting (and brave) topic to discuss, and although I will not offer any thoughts on a particular basket I would like to comment on an overall worrying trend. But let me preface by saying that anyone who wants to move things forward with manufacturing techniques and with the ultimate gain of more consistency is doing good work and should be encouraged.

The worrying trend I see is that the more tools, baskets, profile mods and gizmos that enter the market, the more confused people are. In particular someone who has just bought their first machine and is just getting into coffee does a bit of reading on blogs and forums and suddenly the ONLY way to make coffee is with RDT, WDT, OCD, spring loaded levelling tamper, with a puck screen, a VST/IMS basket, with flow control and pressure pre-infusion. It seems to me that the very basic facts are being glossed over, in particular the relationship between grind size and extraction.

I must be getting old now as over the years I have become more simplified in my approach to coffee, less is more. The KISS approach is my coffee mantra over these last several years.

TLDR I do think baskets have been hyped, new users believe the only way to make coffee is with the new XYZ basket when in fact we all know they are trickier to use even for experienced users. Keep it simple and use a standard basket, think of them as your stabilisers on your bike (training wheels). Once you feel comfortable with making consistent espresso then experiment with other things. But using those things from day 1 is crazy. Of more importance is knowing and understanding the relationship between grind and shot time.

The past 3-4 years of selling an espresso machine has been a real eye opener, I don't mean that in a bad way, just that I try and emphasise people keep it as simple as possible. At the end of the day we are just pushing hot water through ground coffee, no need to over complicate things.
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wojtowip
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#5: Post by wojtowip »

Good point, it's so easy to get lost in the weeds and details when learning. I fell for a similar trap and upgrade my basket when I was learning. I didn't get better shots and instead had a harder time getting anything good. Went back to stock and was able to get better practice. It wasn't until much later that I was able to make the "better" baskets work for me.

Coffee, maybe espresso especially, is like any other hobby. Sometimes we spend more time collecting gear than making coffee. I also do wood working and have to catch myself that another tool is not going to actually make the piece for me. It's better to practice with the basic tools that you have and upgrade as you outgrow them and are struggling with their limitations. It's easy to spend more on the next gadget, but that usually just makes learning more complicated. Start with a good set of basic tools and build up your skills.
LMWDP #694

TenLayers
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#6: Post by TenLayers »

The new Victoria Arduino Black Eagle Maverick machine comes with a portafilter that the company explains as.....

The Maverick's Pure Brew system involves a portafilter equipped with a conical, dual-layer, steel mesh filter. The machine's variable flow rate and temperature capabilities allow baristas to create low-pressure extraction recipes with different grind sizes, doses and ratios for cups that the company has described as "more syrupy and full-bodied" than manual pourover, but also quite distinct from traditional espresso.

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civ

#7: Post by civ »

Hello:
TenLayers wrote: The new Victoria Arduino Black Eagle Maverick machine comes with a portafilter that the company explains as.....
Hmm ...
I think the right definition is malarkey.

CIV

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BodieZoffa

#8: Post by BodieZoffa »

Paul_Pratt wrote:It is an interesting (and brave) topic to discuss, and although I will not offer any thoughts on a particular basket I would like to comment on an overall worrying trend. But let me preface by saying that anyone who wants to move things forward with manufacturing techniques and with the ultimate gain of more consistency is doing good work and should be encouraged.

The worrying trend I see is that the more tools, baskets, profile mods and gizmos that enter the market, the more confused people are. In particular someone who has just bought their first machine and is just getting into coffee does a bit of reading on blogs and forums and suddenly the ONLY way to make coffee is with RDT, WDT, OCD, spring loaded levelling tamper, with a puck screen, a VST/IMS basket, with flow control and pressure pre-infusion. It seems to me that the very basic facts are being glossed over, in particular the relationship between grind size and extraction.

I must be getting old now as over the years I have become more simplified in my approach to coffee, less is more. The KISS approach is my coffee mantra over these last several years.

TLDR I do think baskets have been hyped, new users believe the only way to make coffee is with the new XYZ basket when in fact we all know they are trickier to use even for experienced users. Keep it simple and use a standard basket, think of them as your stabilisers on your bike (training wheels). Once you feel comfortable with making consistent espresso then experiment with other things. But using those things from day 1 is crazy. Of more importance is knowing and understanding the relationship between grind and shot time.

The past 3-4 years of selling an espresso machine has been a real eye opener, I don't mean that in a bad way, just that I try and emphasise people keep it as simple as possible. At the end of the day we are just pushing hot water through ground coffee, no need to over complicate things.
ABSOLUTELY spot on as I've been saying that sort of thing for some time and it gets old reading the constant suggestions. Before a machine/grinder is barely unboxed and in use enthusiasts will suggest immediate replacement of parts like the shower screen/baskets in favor of 'performance units', bottomless portafilter, a scale that reads in nanogram increments, specific WDT tools with a wire/strand of ___ max diameter, a distributor, high uniformity burrs, replacing parts to help minimize retention to the nanogram, etc. Espresso can be a bit involved and tedious no doubt, but some make the process way more involved than needed and usually end up scratching their heads as things don't just come together as they've seen on YT vids, etc. **I will say I'm not bashing comments/advice on this forum, but a few others in general as some spend more time getting ooohs/ahhhs over just spending $10K on a first setup then a few months later it's all up for sale as espresso isn't for them. To each their own, I just do precisely what works for me.

BaristaBob

#9: Post by BaristaBob »

Paul_Pratt wrote:
The worrying trend I see is that the more tools, baskets, profile mods and gizmos that enter the market, the more confused people are. In particular someone who has just bought their first machine and is just getting into coffee does a bit of reading on blogs and forums and suddenly the ONLY way to make coffee is with RDT, WDT, OCD, spring loaded levelling tamper, with a puck screen, a VST/IMS basket, with flow control and pressure pre-infusion. It seems to me that the very basic facts are being glossed over, in particular the relationship between grind size and extraction.

I must be getting old now as over the years I have become more simplified in my approach to coffee, less is more. The KISS approach is my coffee mantra over these last several years.

TLDR I do think baskets have been hyped, new users believe the only way to make coffee is with the new XYZ basket when in fact we all know they are trickier to use even for experienced users. Keep it simple and use a standard basket, think of them as your stabilisers on your bike (training wheels). Once you feel comfortable with making consistent espresso then experiment with other things. But using those things from day 1 is crazy. Of more importance is knowing and understanding the relationship between grind and shot time.
I resemble that remark...except I stopped using the obsessive compulsive device (OCD) some time ago, but the others you mentioned are part of my routine. 8) Over many years and many experiments I've found what works for me on my 5+ year old machine. I zeroed in on VST baskets once I secured a top-notch grinder. I've even sifted my grounds to remove the fines in search of even better flavors...not something I want or will do three times a day! Recently I did invest in a 14g EPHQ basket with far fewer holes than my VST. I use it when my grind setting gets so low that the flavor profile of my coffee turns "muddy". The slower flow basket allows me to grind coarser and bring the flavors back in line. Nothing high tech, just the laws of fluid flow dynamics taking place. And the cost, $3.99 for the basket...just to prove an accessory does not have to cost a fortune to improve flavor.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..I've come to drink you once again"

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cafeIKE (original poster)
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#10: Post by cafeIKE (original poster) »

civ wrote: I think the right definition is malarkey.
Basket Science or Malarkey was the original topic title :D