Basket Overdosing; time for a serious re-evaluation! - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » Jul 21, 2007, 7:26 pm

another_jim wrote:The habit of updosing in the US was based initially based on the requirement of making large milk drinks. When the better Seattle cafes started emphasizing straight shots from the late 90s on, the first generation of blends they used was based on this dosing practice. In a cafe, if 90 percent of the drinks being served are milk, then the blend needs to be tuned for that. Even if one has a second, straight shot blend, using a different dose for it would be a PITA.

Obviously, the time has come to reconsider this. There's no doubt that lighter roasted, more acidic coffees are better enjoyed at lower doses. Some machines develop severe taste problems if the puck hits the shower screen, which means the dose has to be well below the level of whatever basket one is using, and finger strike dosing won't work. Finally, some grinders seem to perform better at lower doses.

However, I'm not quite with Ken on this if I understand him correctly. I don't think substituting one rigid routine that's considered better for one that is considered worse is the way to go. I would prefer to get to the point where I'm comfortable with multiple baskets, multiple doses, and tasting the results. That way I can use whatever works best for whatever coffee happens to be up. This does have disadvantages, a rigid routine is going to produce more consistent shots than one with a lot of options and variations. It comes down to how much variation you want in your everyday coffees. If you are using the same coffee for long stretches, a rigid routine is going to work better; if you change blends a lot; you're better off being able to change baskets and doses as well.



I don't think there is anything "magical" about 14g, but at this point I think I'm prepared to say I prefer 14g to 20g. At the same time, I'm pretty sure even at this juncture that I'm not going to be constantly changing doses each time I roast or buy a new coffee; that truly fulfills the requirements for being a PITA.

So I'm not saying, choose 14g and do it exactly as I am proposing, and that is the be all and end all. What I am saying is that reducing the dosage significantly below the 20 or 18g we have been using is a very good idea, probably for all coffees. I am also saying that in the absence of baskets that will hold a lower dose and no more, dosed to the top which I think is the only really consistent way of eyeballing, that something else needs to be done to be consistent. I think a ramekin and a scale is one such approach, and I've found that surprisingly, at least for me, it doesn't seem to take much more time and is a helluva lot more consistent than what I've done before.

But to each his own on this, both as regards the amount of futzing around people want to do with the doses of each coffee, and the way that they get those doses in the basket consistently.

ken
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Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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RapidCoffee
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Postby RapidCoffee » Jul 21, 2007, 7:38 pm

We don't hear much from Chris Tacy these days (a real pity), but he might disagree. From his blog:

As a generic starting point I tend to go with the following parameters:
- LM ridged double basket,
- 200F brew temp,
- 9BAR brew pressure,
- 18 gram dose,
- 2oz extraction in 27 seconds.
...
At this point, I move on to establishing a dose starting point. To do this I look at the bean composition and the "signature taste" of the roaster and the coffee. If the coffee has a lot of naturals or pulped naturals I will adjust the dose down from the baseline. If the coffee is mostly high-grown arabica I'll increase the dose. So, for example, with the Terroir Daterra Reserve I'd go with a 17.5 gram dose. But with the Stumptown Hairbender I'd go with a 19 gram dose. The "signature taste" is a harder one and requires some knowledge of the roaster. Is the person roasting this coffee a fan of low acidity espresso? Are they a "chocolate bomb" aficionado? If you know what they like out of their espresso you can do minor adjustments to your dose. So, for example, based on this I would actually drop the Terroir Daterra down to a 17 gram dose but would up the Stumptown Hairbender to a 20 gram dose.


And from an old H-B thread:

malachi wrote:Personally, I've only found one coffee ever that (IMHO) tasted best with a 14 gram dose (in a LM basket). Just my taste perhaps.


Then there's the famous comparison of espresso machines by Alan Frew, in which he concluded that basket size was the most significant factor:

Now for the important bit; how were the espressos? Well, "out of the box" there was considerable variation between the espresso from a Silvia and the espressos from the Isomac and the Expobar. The HX espressos were richer and fuller flavoured, which turned out to be not that much of a surprise after I'd inspected the filter baskets that came with the machines. The Isomac and Expobar single filters hold about 11 grams, or a third more than a standard Rancilio single. The double filters hold over 18 grams, about 20% more than standard.



I generally drink cappuccinos, typically dose around 18g in my "LM" ridgeless double baskets, and enjoy the results. Correct dosing is absolutely critical to fine espresso, and overdosing can certainly ruin your pours. I've never found significant downdosing to be all that compelling, but de gustibus non est disputandum... :wink:
John

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another_jim
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Postby another_jim » Jul 21, 2007, 8:05 pm

RapidCoffee wrote:I generally drink cappuccinos, typically dose around 18g in my "LM" ridgeless double baskets, and enjoy the results. Correct dosing is absolutely critical to fine espresso, and overdosing can certainly ruin your pours. I've never found significant downdosing to be all that compelling, but de gustibus non est disputandum... :wink:



Try a straight wet processed Yrg. You may find that at 18 grams it's undrinkable, and at 14, it blows away everything you thought was great espresso.
Jim Schulman

Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » Jul 21, 2007, 11:04 pm

RapidCoffee wrote:
I generally drink cappuccinos, typically dose around 18g in my "LM" ridgeless double baskets, and enjoy the results. Correct dosing is absolutely critical to fine espresso, and overdosing can certainly ruin your pours. I've never found significant downdosing to be all that compelling, but de gustibus non est disputandum... :wink:


I could (and may have) posted more or less the same thing up until a week ago. I'd like to think that there is something in common between a taste in espresso, and a taste in fine food and wine. In retrospect, an 18 or 20g dose is akin to a piece of foie gras sauteed in butter, or one of those California wines that has spent simply too much time in oak; e.g., too much, or "trop," as the French would say.

I was one of the most resistant, and one of the last, to consider this "lower dosing" phenomenon; I put "lower dosing" in quotes because it is not really "lower" in dose, just lower in dose to what we N. Americans have become accustomed. I doubt that they do it this way very much outside of N. America, and I know that they do not do this in Italy, for example.

The fact that some blends originating in N. America seem designed to be used at high basket doses, does not disprove what I am writing. If you are used to having a huge slice of cheesecake for dessert, and someone then serves you a small and appropriately sized portion of a delicate French dessert, you are entitled to say you miss the cheesecake but hopefully on further reflection you might want to give the tarte aux pommes another try.

In my view, shots made from 18g or 20g of coffee are simply "trop." They lack balance. They are in your face. If you enjoy having your taste buds assaulted, then I'd say continue. If you are open to the idea that there might be something missing, e.g. a little "balance," then I invite you to try dosing lower for a few days, enough to become used to the technique, and then to reevaluate for yourself. This is something you should evaluate for yourself, with your own palate, rather than seeking "received wisdom" from anyone else.

ken
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Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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Jasonian

Postby Jasonian » Jul 21, 2007, 11:14 pm

Ken Fox wrote:I have no question that some blends and some coffees will not taste as "good" at 14g as they would at 20g, but then is this a reflection on the technique, or on the coffee or the blend? I think it is the latter.



ken


...and another one joins the club. Welcome aboard! It's a bumpy ride.
Owner - AJ Coffee Company
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RapidCoffee
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Postby RapidCoffee » Jul 22, 2007, 3:16 am

another_jim wrote:Try a straight wet processed Yrg. You may find that at 18 grams it's undrinkable, and at 14, it blows away everything you thought was great espresso.

Touche. Love Yirgs for drip coffee, but not espresso. Maybe downdosing will change that.

Ken Fox wrote:If you are open to the idea that there might be something missing, e.g. a little "balance," then I invite you to try dosing lower for a few days, enough to become used to the technique, and then to reevaluate for yourself. This is something you should evaluate for yourself, with your own palate, rather than seeking "received wisdom" from anyone else.

Been there, done that, most recently during the Titan grinder project stint. But I'm certainly open to giving it another shot.

In all fairness, I primarily make milk-based drinks and pull blends rather than SO shots. So I'm a prime candidate for updosing. :)

Ken Fox wrote:So, I went to plan "b" which was to use my gram scale accurate to 1/10g, by dosing into a ceramic ramekin which I'd preweighed and then "tare-ed" the scale to rezero it. Once 14g or thereabouts was in the ramekin, I transferred the coffee with a Teaspoon into the PF basket, which turns out to be much easier than it sounds, with the last bit out of the ramekin being literally poured directly into the PF. Then, I take the spoon and quickly distribute it in the basket, then quickly tamp, then pull the shot. The whole process takes very little more time than dosing directly into the PF.

Somewhat OT, but ridgeless baskets make this even easier:

Image
this was a 17g dose (sometimes I even remember to tare the basket :oops:)

You can dose right into the basket, then slip it gently into the portafilter just prior to pulling the shot. I've never understood the appeal of ridged baskets...
John

Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » replying to RapidCoffee » Jul 22, 2007, 10:20 am

The "problem" with tare-ing the basket is that to do so you have to remove the PF clip, or at least you have to do that on all the PFs that I own. This means that using a knockbox is a PITA, as the basket will fly out unless you consciously hold it at that point. It can fall off at other inopportune times as well, as I observed when I tried that approach a while ago.

My bias against weighing coffee was very strong, in fact I have called it "anal" in earlier posts, but now that I am doing it I'm finding that my overall routine takes very little if any additional time, and it is rewarded by a level of shot consistency I have never seen before.

ken
p.s. I do have a several scales that I could use to tare the PF itself, and one of them, a 0.5g scale, is probably accurate enough to work about as well as what I'm doing with the ramekin. But I'm really not missing the coffee mess on my counter after shot making sessions so on balance I think the ramekin may be here to stay. The ramekins are large enough that there is no side spray of coffee to deal with, and I like that.
What, me worry?



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jesawdy

Postby jesawdy » Jul 22, 2007, 11:01 am

Ken Fox wrote:The "problem" with tare-ing the basket is that to do so you have to remove the PF clip, or at least you have to do that on all the PFs that I own. This means that using a knockbox is a PITA, as the basket will fly out unless you consciously hold it at that point. It can fall off at other inopportune times as well, as I observed when I tried that approach a while ago.



Ken, the ridgeless baskets slide in just fine with the PF spring in place. I use these all the time for this reason. The spring still retains the PF for knocking out. Now that you've joined that "anal" camp that at least occasionally weighs the coffee, perhaps you might jump on the ridgeless bandwagon as well? :P

EDIT - Your buddies at Espresso Resource have them as well. They even have a 12 gram version. I have two of the 14g and 18g versions.
Jeff Sawdy

Ken Fox

Postby Ken Fox » Jul 22, 2007, 11:31 am

jesawdy wrote:Ken, the ridgeless baskets slide in just fine with the PF spring in place. I use these all the time for this reason. The spring still retains the PF for knocking out. Now that you've joined that "anal" camp that at least occasionally weighs the coffee, perhaps you might jump on the ridgeless bandwagon as well? :P

EDIT - Your buddies at Espresso Resource have them as well. They even have a 12 gram version. I have two of the 14g and 18g versions.



I bought 12g baskets from them, which Angelo told me would accommodate more than that, but that are industry standard 12g baskets. At least with my grinders, they hold 17g.

I underestimated how much coffee I was putting in my baskets when I simply used a scale with an accuracy level of 1.0g. If you don't have one, a 0.1g scale may be an interesting purchase. It will probably show most people that they "overdose" by a wider margin than they thought previously.

What exactly is the benefit of removing baskets from PFs instead of weighing into another vessel such as a ramekin? This completely escapes me, it makes no sense whatsoever. Once you are to the point where you are weighing ground coffee, whether you weigh into a ramekin and then quickly transfer, or weigh into a basket which you had to remove from the PF and then will reinsert, where exactly does the time saving come from? Not removing the PF basket and not reinserting it afterwards, is without doubt saving me as much time as weighing into a ramekin "costs" me. In addition, using the ramekin as the receptacle means that there is no coffee side splatter from the grinder because of the ramekin's wider diameter than the PF, and hence no cleanup is needed around the grinders, zip, zero, nada.

I have also found, the last day, that I don't even have to bother distributing the coffee in the PF. I can simply put a couple of teaspoonfuls into the PF from the ramekin, then dump the rest in, and then tamp with maybe 5-10 pounds pressure. Using these sorts of low doses appears to basically prevent channeling with the degree of distribution one gets from spooning in and lightly tamping, period. At least in my experience, it does.

This gets to a point I tried to make in my original post; a lot of the obsessive behavior and difficulty we home baristas have experienced in shotmaking is directly due to using "too much" coffee in the PF baskets. There is a much lower probability of channeling with lower doses than with the high ones we are used to using. I did not make this observation first, it is something that Jim Schulman told me in an email a few months ago when he was doing his original studies on solubles extraction and dosing.

Our peculiar N. American practices have led directly to the impression that making espresso at home is hard to do, and it is probably "our fault." I think that if people took a step back and looked at how they do it in Italy (with smaller doses) they might realize that the Italians actually have had a lot of experience with this skill, espressomaking, and they arrived at the smaller doses perhaps after a lot of trial and error, which showed that they got more reproducible and better "balanced" shots at 12-14 or maybe 15g doses, than they did with 18 or 21g.

ken

EDIT

I want to expand a little on what I'm saying about N. American "technique." We "owe" a lot of this approach, e.g. "updosing" and 30lb or "handstand" tamps, to David Schomer, whose book on the techniques of the barista has for many become like a religious tract. He and people following after him have had tremendous impact on what is considered to be high end espresso and "third wave" practices. But what if in fact all of this is a spectacular wrong turn?

If it is, and that is my thinking at this moment, then we have developed a set of practices with espresso blends to match, which produce the espresso equivalent of the now-detested overoaked California Chardonay that used to be all the rage but on further reflection was found to be basically unusable as an accompaniment to a meal.

And why is this all getting re-evaluated at this point? I think it is very much related to the newfound interest in single origin espresso, which we were all taught was a bad idea, because it produced "unbalanced" shots. But maybe it produced unbalanced shots because we were trying to use SOs with the same technique that we had used blends, which themselves had been heavily influenced by N. American "basket overdosing" technique.

We all owe Jim Schulman a huge measure of thanks because he is basically the pioneer with this stuff, and his motivation in working on it was directly related to his enjoyment of Single Origin espresso and related attempts to expand the number of such SOs that would be usable for espresso.
What, me worry?



Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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jesawdy

Postby jesawdy » Jul 22, 2007, 12:16 pm

Ken Fox wrote:What exactly is the benefit of removing baskets from PFs instead of weighing into another vessel such as a ramekin? This completely escapes me, it makes no sense whatsoever. Once you are to the point where you are weighing ground coffee, whether you weigh into a ramekin and then quickly transfer, or weigh into a basket which you had to remove from the PF and then will reinsert, where exactly does the time saving come from? Not removing the PF basket and not reinserting it afterwards, is without doubt saving me as much time as weighing into a ramekin "costs" me. In addition, using the ramekin as the receptacle means that there is no coffee side splatter from the grinder because of the ramekin's wider diameter than the PF, and hence no cleanup is needed around the grinders, zip, zero, nada.


At the risk of veering slightly off topic.... it's a po-TAY-toes, po-TAH-toes thing. With a doserless grinder, it is very easy to dose by eye a given volume/weight directly into the basket. With a dosered grinder, almost the same. Add a cup like John does in the WDT, and the mess is also averted. If I "underdose", the mess is almost avoided sans cup. I gave your ramekin method a run the last 24 hours/12+ shots.... I didn't much care for the business of transferring the grounds. My personal preference is to dose directly into the basket with it in the portafilter handle, pop it out to verify my weight is on the money (this is super simple in a bottomless as you you just push it out from underneath), return to the portafilter handle, distribute (WDT or otherwise), and tamp.

To be clear, I'm not belittling your method... it's just isn't my thing. I also don't like to dose a basket/tamp sans portafilter handle, but will do so for rapid succession shots or when doing side-by-side comparisons (as I am attempting to do right now, Silvia/Alexia).

I have also found, the last day, that I don't even have to bother distributing the coffee in the PF. I can simply put a couple of teaspoonfuls into the PF from the ramekin, then dump the rest in, and then tamp with maybe 5-10 pounds pressure. Using these sorts of low doses appears to basically prevent channeling with the degree of distribution one gets from spooning in and lightly tamping, period. At least in my experience, it does.

This gets to a point I tried to make in my original post; a lot of the obsessive behavior and difficulty we home baristas have experienced in shotmaking is directly due to using "too much" coffee in the PF baskets. There is a much lower probability of channeling with lower doses than with the high ones we are used to using. I did not make this observation first, it is something that Jim Schulman told me in an email a few months ago when he was doing his original studies on solubles extraction and dosing.



Back on topic. I agree this may be the case. In playing with "underdosing" awhile back, it seemed to produce a "suspension" of sorts that did not appear to channel, as Jim alluded to. In using the Alexia, I've settled in at 16g for a typical normale, as it seems to work quite well. That said, for many coffees that I've had recently, an 18g and even 20g ristretto was quite tasty.
Jeff Sawdy