Espresso Techniques Applied to Levers

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#1: Post by yakster »

I'm splitting off a topic from the Nutation: how to do it right thread based on a question on how espresso prep techniques map to levers. After I commented that I'd added nutation to my prep for my new La Peppina, Lyndon asked:
KnowGood wrote:Can I ask how you were doing it before? I found everything that has been mentioned on what to do and how to pull shots has no play when it comes to using a lever.
I think that this is an interesting question that deserves it's own topic. I also think my reply probably doesn't belong in the nice nutating thread so I'm going to move it over here.

So, classic espresso dosing, distribution and tamping and troubleshooting techniques like:
  • Staub (NSEW) Tamp
  • Stockfleths
  • WDT
  • Nutation / Nutating Tamp
  • 30 pound tamp
  • Naked Portafilters
Are these effective / necessary / used with levers? Do you use these techniques? I'd imagine that this is going to vary greatly with all the different variations on lever machines.

Here's my reply to Lyndon. I apologize for the rambling nature of this, but I really haven't settled into one procedure yet with my lever so I'm still very much in flux.

Hmm, how was I doing it before... that's a good one.

I read just about everything that I could on the forums on levers in general and La Peppina specifically first before I even received the machine a few weeks ago. I'm about 2/3rds the way through reading the Lever Espresso forum. I'm still feeling my way around the lever, but I'll try and put something together that makes sense.

When I had the soupy pucks with about 1/4 inch of water on top, I was grinding very fine, maybe one click out on the Kyocera. Grinding fine, tamping light, dosing 12g in the double, and pulling about 3 ounces through the filter and portafilter before making the shot. I was grinding overly fine to try and restrict the flow rate to what I thought it should be based on my experiences with my pump toy.

I would bring the lever down all the way and hold for about 10 seconds to allow some water to trickle onto the puck, bring the lever back up about 1/3 and then back down and then release the lever, sometimes adding pressure on the spring return to get a darker extraction.

Now with a double, I grind coarser (about 3 clicks from tight) put the filter basket over the grounds chamber and then flip it upside down, sometimes shaking it up. The grinds coarseness has returned to about what I was using on my pump toy, but I no longer time my shots. I tap the filter basket to help level the grounds, do a nutation and a very light leveling tamp using just my finger tips on the La Peppina plastic tamper. I use 12 g for doubles and 7 g for singles and still run about 3 ounces through first.

Now, for a double, I've been bringing the lever down and start several small pumps up and down about 1/4 way until I start to see the first drops leave the portafilter and the bring the lever all the way down and allow the spring to bring it back up. The flow is much faster and I don't generally assist the lever, but the espresso tastes really good. I feel resistance right away when I release the lever at the bottom so while the spring is returning to the top it is pushing the water through the puck the whole distance of the travel.

For a single, I bring the lever down and only bring it up 1/4 of the way once and bring it back down and guide it up for the return. This limits the pre-infusion and I'm not feeling any resistance on the final rise of the lever until about 1/4 of the way up the travel, but I'm looking for less volume anyway and I'm finding that I'm getting decent single shots with this technique, where before I was only getting sink shots.

As for the nutation, I really just tried it on a lark, but I think it's just helping me set up a grounds mound before leveling with the tamper.

I have changed my technique greatly and changed my criteria a lot and am focusing on the impact to the taste. It's really nice to be able to have such good temperature control with this open boiler and I'm finding a lot more clarity in my shots then with my pump toy, and I'm definitely enjoying pulling the shots a lot more, but I know that I still have a ways to go to improve technique, taste, crema, etc.

And last night, I pulled a single of 14 day Sweet Maria's New Classic Espresso roasted to Full City and had a nice shot, but a soupy puck. I then pulled a double of a very young 1 day old Colombia Royal Select WP Decaf roasted to FC+ just to try this decaf as espresso. I haven't made up my mind yet on this. I didn't dump it, but it's not quite what I wanted... we'll see in a couple of days (I don't expect much from this one anyway, it's roasted for my in-law's perc pot). Again a soupy puck.

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#2: Post by timo888 »

Do I infer correctly that you think something is amiss with a soupy puck?

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#3: Post by yakster (original poster) »

Not necessarily. If the taste is good it doesn't really bother me. It only really came up because I had noticed that I was getting pucks without standing water on top after changing beans, grind settings, and adding a nutating tamp. Pretty much changing just about everything at once so I'm not able to say anything about what affected the outcome. It started as an observation.

Right now, I'm going for taste and crema. I think I'll roast a new batch for espresso and stick to one bean starting next week to try and dial things in using the same bean and taking things one step at a time. I've got some time off now so I'll be able to do more then the evening shot or two after work which should help.

But as for Lyndon's question, it is interesting. Personally, I think that a lot of the guidelines and things I was looking for with my pump toy either don't apply or need a lot of modification with La Peppina.

So to answer my own question above:
  • Staub (NSEW) Tamp -- Did this with the pump toy, not with lever
  • Stockfleths -- never really did this
  • WDT -- Same, never bothered as my grinds seem fluffy, not clumped from hand grinder
  • Nutation / Nutating Tamp -- Started, not sure the effect
  • 30 pound tamp -- very light leveling with just the fingers
  • Naked Portafilters -- thought about it, but portafilter design precludes this, had with pump

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#4: Post by michaelbenis »

I'm afraid I disagree. I think a naked portafilter is every bit as useful on a lever machine as on any other and will make it easier to find out which grind, dose, distribution technique and tamp works best for you.

You tend to get a soupier puck with any of the open boiler machines.


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#5: Post by KnowGood »

yakster, thanks for the response. I'm grinding by hand with the Kyocera as well. I modified mine so that you could actually feel the clicks. From what I considered tight, I would back off 2 clicks, giving me a spin count of 200. This is what Doug had his set at in the video. After changing my seals I noticed this was actually too fine and backed it off 4 clicks from my "tight" setting with a spin count of roughly 150-160 rotations. This is with 14.2g dose. I too dose by putting the filter basket on top of the Kyocera catch cup, and always "toss" the grinds a few times. I knock the basket on my counter giving a slight tamp, which also levels out the grounds, following this with a nutation. Now here is where it differs from the other thread - I do this to "centre" the grounds, not to seal the sides or what ever it is they are preaching about. I follow this with a light tamp using only my finger tips like yourself, and a few spins for a nice polish. Since the LaPav has a clearance of 7mm and my tamper has sidewalls of only 5mm, I let the grouphead do a final tamp. This leaves me with no headroom between the grounds, which in turn insures that I will not "disturb" the puck as I raise the lever. I have had amazing results using this method with two different coffees from the same roaster.
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#6: Post by roastaroma »

Since getting the PV Lusso, I've not had to do the Staub tamp -- the Thor tamper fits precisely. I also stopped doing the Stockfleth. Instead I updose a lot, which for me means starting with a great mound of fluffy grounds -- I don't level it off, I just tamp the mound (and there's always sufficient headspace after).

Re WDT, I still do it, only on clumpy days -- it isn't always necessary, even with the Rocky doserless. I gave up trying to figure out why clumps are less of a problem than before. Maybe I tend not to see them now because the basket is so deep & narrow compared to a 58 mm.

I would not even consider a 30 lb. tamp -- grind fine enough, and tamp pressure becomes a non-issue. And I do nutate in the initial mound-squashing tamp; it seems to help even out an inherently uneven distribution.

I use naked PFs on the Lusso -- not so much for the observation benefit, but because of the improved flow and hotter espresso in the cup. If one wishes to observe during the pull, it's easy enough with a spring lever; I suspect the benefit is harder to obtain with a fully manual lever.

Happy Brewing,
"Non è la macchina, è la mano."
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#7: Post by yakster (original poster) »

michaelbenis wrote:I'm afraid I disagree. I think a naked portafilter is every bit as useful on a lever machine as on any other and will make it easier to find out which grind, dose, distribution technique and tamp works best for you.
We don't necessarily disagree, Mike, but with the handle on the La Peppina portafilter is attached to the spouts so going nekid isn't really an option for me without resorting to using a strap wrench to lock the bottomless, handleless portafilter into the group (and don't think I haven't thought of this already).

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#8: Post by CRCasey »

The biggest problem as was mentioned elsewhere with thinking about doing a bottomless on the Peppina is that the sidewalls of the PF itself are just so thin. Without the support of the bottom and the spouts the ring of metal on the sidewalls would not stand up to the torquing force of locking and unlocking from the head.

The other big problem would be finding a PF holder that is not with a machine. Your only hope would be finding a old machine that the top boiler bowl had rusted out on and buy it for parts. That would make for one expensive experiment.

Now to drag myself back onto the point...

I find that when I start dialing in a roast on the La Peppina I personally start at the tight end and work towards a looser grind. I use 14g doses, as measured with a scale taring out the double basket. I will usually either choke or have a very long lever raise on the first shot, and sometimes a full pre-infusion pull will not show any drops. These shots always have soupy pucks for me.

As I work towards loosening the grind and keeping the dose at 14g I find a few things to be more or less constant. Pre-infusion is faster and takes a much shorter pull. The shot volume starts to stabilize. Crema development is richer and longer lasting. And lastly the pucks become drier.

When I hit this spot I figure I have the grind about as good as it will be for the time being and start adjusting the Temp and the dose for the best taste.

How does this fit with how you dial in a new roast of beans?


Edit: 14g on the Peppina leaves you headroom, so there is water space above the puck. I have not gotten into the nutation movement as of yet, a quick basket toss and a light tamp seem to be working. (at least well enough to choke the machine without undue effort) :?
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#9: Post by KnowGood »

CRCasey wrote:
Edit: 14g on the Peppina leaves you headroom, so there is water space above the puck. I have not gotten into the nutation movement as of yet, a quick basket toss and a light tamp seem to be working. (at least well enough to choke the machine without undue effort) :?

Give it try. I don't buy the "seals the sides" bit they are saying in that other thread (most tampers don't support their theory). I use it strictly to centre the grinds, which makes for a more even tamp.
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#10: Post by SwingT »

I don't do a nutation on the Cremina. It seems to give problems not solve them, for me.

I just do a light tamp, using my fingers around the edges of the portafilter to make sure it's level and press the tamper in with my fingers.

I wish I had one of Penny's naked portafilters, but I don't.

shots taste great with that technique though.
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