Blade distribution technique?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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Stuggi

#1: Post by Stuggi »

I saw something I've never seen before while watching is video on youtube, where the barista uses a piece of what looks like 6mm thick plexi-glass to distribute the coffee before tamping. I've also seen an other barista on youtube use a thin piece of steel sheet to do the same moves, but I can't find this video...
Sebastian "Stuggi" Storholm
LMWDP #136

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TimEggers

#2: Post by TimEggers »

Hello Sebastian that move is commonly called the Chicago Chop and is just another technique that some baristas prefer for distribution. There are several methods to arrive at a properly distributed basket and the Chicago Chop is just one of them.

I really like the fact that this method eliminates the barista's hands all over the ground coffee, something I just view as unsanitary especially in a public service establishment, but it remains quite common.
Tim Eggers
http://www.facebook.com/TimEggers
LMWDP #202

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Stuggi

#3: Post by Stuggi »

Well, I've never seen it before, but does it give any upsides to more common techniques?

The sanitary part is quite a bit rubbish when you start to think about at what temperature the coffee is brewed at, and for it to remain truly sanitary, the barista would have to grip the blade the same way every time, which is quite impossible with devises looking like that. And for any more sterilization than the espresso machine already offers you would have to apply the same principles as surgeons use in operating theaters. The baristas hands touching the cups as he handles them probably presents you with more bacteria than a dozen stockfeldts would have done.
Sebastian "Stuggi" Storholm
LMWDP #136

Phaelon56

#4: Post by Phaelon56 »

It's called the "Chicago Chop" and is widely thought to have been originated by someone at Intelligentsia in an effort to create more consistent distribution and reduce the frequency of grinder adjustments when multiple baristas were working on a busy bar and sharing a grinder.

I use a flat bladed metal restaurant style bottle opener about 7" in length (I believe this is the original tool that was used). I'm under the impression that Intelly has moved beyond that technique but I do it at home and it works really well for me. Prior to adopting this technique I was doing some form of the N-S-E-W Stockfleth type finger sweep and at one point I experimented with doing a chop distribution using a wooden chopstick.

The blade technique has yielded much greater distribution consistency for me - easy to spot because the pulls from my bottomless PF pull together into a beautiful single stream from the center much more rapidly than before and do so more consistently.

It may not be a good technique for everyone but I've been very happy with the results and continue to use it (happily - absent the obnoxious background music).

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HB
Admin

#5: Post by HB »

There's a good discussion of the Chicago Chop in Home barista techniques that the pros shun (and vice versa) where Matt clarifies the origins.
HB wrote:Ah yes, the Chicago Chop. Before you deride the moniker, recall that Intelligentsia's crew took four of the top six positions at the 2006 Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition. I'm always experimenting with different techniques, especially with ones that (a) are easy to explain, and (b) give a leg up to new home baristas. I tried it for a couple weeks and found the Chicago Chop was consistent and easy.

Meta-comment: Matt Riddle and the rest at Intelligentsia are clearly top-notch baristas. I wonder if they employ this distribution "crutch move" at their cafes, or if it's reserved for their less experienced baristas?
ThaRiddla wrote:Ah, the "Chicago Chop" or "Intelligentsia Chop" or the "Hassan Chop" (well, not really the Hassan Chop, but I'm a huge classic bugs bunny guy.)

I think someone on CG coined that phrase a while ago. We started using that when we switched over from the swift about 3 years ago, now. We needed to come up with something that was ultimately repeatable for the baristas. Since there are sometimes upwards of 6 people working at once, we needed something that wouldn't take the "art" out of making shots, but was still able to be used by more than one person on a shift without the lag time of changing the grind every time someone went on break. Enter the chop.

As for competition, none of us use the chop method. We have all developed our own techniques for distribution and leveling. Stephen "The Rog" Rogers uses an adapted Aussie/Sammy Piccolo method of knocking the pf on the tines of the grinder to pack additional coffee in. I personally mound the coffee and go back and forth a few times keeping the coffee on the pf, then level, but not level....it's hard to explain. I kind of make a dome on top. Someone asked me recently how many times i go back and forth....i didn't know. It was muscle memory and I had to do it and count it out to figure it out. I just know that i do the exact same thing every time, exactly the same way....even down to wiping my hand on my apron after leveling/tamping (above my towel which makes a quarter circle of grounds on my apron - old habit from college art classes.) I had to do that so I could forget about it...the whole wax on wax off idea - do it until you forget it.
That thread dates back to 2005. At the time I had little experience with the Robur, but now that I've used one for a few months, I'm not sure why they thought they needed it. Maybe to cut down on waste? The grounds from the Robur are clump free. Or maybe they didn't think to add The Shnozz? A little cone of paper makes a big difference on dosing evenly.
Dan Kehn

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TimEggers

#6: Post by TimEggers »

Stuggi wrote:The sanitary part is quite a bit rubbish when you start to think about at what temperature the coffee is brewed at, and for it to remain truly sanitary, the barista would have to grip the blade the same way every time, which is quite impossible with devises looking like that. And for any more sterilization than the espresso machine already offers you would have to apply the same principles as surgeons use in operating theaters. The baristas hands touching the cups as he handles them probably presents you with more bacteria than a dozen stockfeldts would have done.
I respectfully disagree as the coffee is not exposed to the high temps for nearly long enough to kill anything that may or may not be there. Secondly most professional Baristas that I've seen handle a demitasse by its handle rather than its rim. I'm aware that "germs are everywhere" and I don't want to come off as paranoid, but frankly not touching the coffee is far more "clean" than touching it, but this is a topic for a different thread, sorry to sidetrack the discussion.
Tim Eggers
http://www.facebook.com/TimEggers
LMWDP #202

Phaelon56

#7: Post by Phaelon56 »

HB wrote:At the time I had little experience with the Robur, but now that I've used one for a few months, I'm not sure why they thought they needed it. Maybe to cut down on waste? The grounds from the Robur are clump free. Or maybe they didn't think to add The Shnozz? A little cone of paper makes a big difference on dosing evenly.
I still haven't done the Durante Modification :wink: and although there is no noticeable clumping from my Major.... I still like the chop technique. It made a big difference in good distribution when I was still using a Super Jolly and still seems to help with the Major. Can't comment on the Robur.

But if I correctly understand the story of how this technique developed it had less to do with clumping than it did with consistent dosing. If multiple baristas are sharing a grinder and one use different techniques for distribution there will be an inherent tendency for people to want to change the grind setting to suit their dosing/distribution method. If instead there is a standardized method that deploys something a bit more consistent than the human finger (which does vary greatly from person to person) - then I see the value.

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sweaner
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#8: Post by sweaner »

I do the chop with a chopstick, especially when I am trying to up-dose some.
Scott
LMWDP #248

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#9: Post by cannonfodder »

It also avoids the dreaded 'Brown barista finger' disorder. Kind of like a mechanic that has permanently stained hands from oil/grease; you can develop a brown stained finger from basket dosing although you would have to dose a lot of coffee. It would make for an interesting interlude, stick you brown finger in your buddies face and ask him if it smells funny.

I have a host of videos I did when we were gearing up for the tamper roadshow a couple of years ago (has it really been that long?!?) There are embedded videos with different techniques as well as links to other resources. See Tamp and Dose Techniques Digest in the FAQ's for additional information.
Dave Stephens

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nixter

#10: Post by nixter »

I've always done this and thought it was normal! I use the back side of a kitchen knife.