Dosing to heap, distribute and pack = too much coffee

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
CoffeeAddict

#1: Post by CoffeeAddict »

Hello. I'm really new to espresso - have the machine for less than 2 weeks - so my question might seem a little silly but it's bothers me.

If I dose to a heap then distribute and pack, it seems like there's too much coffee. I watched David Schomer's video and he says there should be about 3mm space between the dispersion screen and the puck and also you should be able to insert the portafilter into the head and take it out and have no coffee grounds on the screen. If I do it - I have plenty of coffee on the screen.

However, if I dose less, then I can't seem to evenly distribute it and I get a disaster most of the time - swirling stream and little sputters on a naked portafilter.

What should I do? Disregard overdosing or just get better with distribution? Thanks.

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Balthazar_B

#2: Post by Balthazar_B »

Get better with distribution, but you may find tweaking the grind will help.

Also, you don't say what kind of machine you have, but it sounds like you have a naked portafilter, in which case a deeper basket might help, if you can find/accommodate one.
- John

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CoffeeAddict (original poster)

#3: Post by CoffeeAddict (original poster) »

I have Giotto premium. I tried adjusting the grind but that pretty much only affects the time. I do have triple basket but that doesn't change anything except requiring higher dose. The problem seems to be that when I distribute the grounds and the basket is not overflowing, I can't fill all the spots evenly with my finger so I end up with uneven puck. If that's just a matter of experience, I'll keep trying.

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HB
Admin

#4: Post by HB »

It sounds like you are tapping (settling) the grounds too much, resulting in excessive coffee in the basket even after distributing/leveling. A couple gentle taps of the portafilter on the grinder fork while dosing is enough. It's not uber-precise, but I "tap tap" at a different fill level to get the desired amount of coffee. Tapping the portafilter with the basket filled midway will increase the dosage by about two grams compared to tapping at 3/4 full.

The key of course is consistency in the force, number of taps, fill level, and distribution technique. I prefer the Stockfleth's move (rotational distribution) compared to Schomer's NSEW sweep, although it's easier to explain (and learn) Schomer's method.
Dan Kehn

k7qz

#5: Post by k7qz »

CoffeeAddict wrote:I do have triple basket
Have you found Jon's nice triple basket article on this site?

How to pull a beautiful "naked" triple shot

It was a big help for me when I first started using triple baskets!

CoffeeAddict (original poster)

#6: Post by CoffeeAddict (original poster) »

It sounds like you are tapping (settling) the grounds too much, resulting in excessive coffee in the basket even after distributing/leveling.

Well, I try not to tap too much but I do turn the basket sometimes and probably get more coffee in the basket than I should. However, the reason I do it because I can't get even distribution without stuffing the basket.
The key of course is consistency in the force, number of taps, fill level, and distribution technique. I prefer the Stockfleth's move (rotational distribution) compared to Schomer's NSEW sweep, although it's easier to explain (and learn) Schomer's method.
I've seen the video of that technique and I'll try use it. It's a bit frustrating for me at this point since I'm trying to get HX cooling flush worked out while not being too good with distribution/tamping.

But thanks for the help. Every little piece counts.

CoffeeAddict (original poster)

#7: Post by CoffeeAddict (original poster) »

k7qz wrote:Have you found Jon's nice triple basket article on this site?
I just read this article but I'm afraid it doesn't help. At this point I'm too inexperienced to start adjusting the pressure. Also, if you look at the picture of the tamped basket, this is how mine looks more or less and it touches the screen, which is what I'm trying to avoid in the first place.

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HB
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#8: Post by HB »

CoffeeAddict wrote:Also, if you look at the picture of the tamped basket, this is how mine looks more or less and it touches the screen, which is what I'm trying to avoid in the first place.
Do you mean this one?

Image
That extra space above the puck can make a big difference (from How to pull a beautiful "naked" triple shot)

I agree that it looks very high in the basket, though it depends on the machine (Jon owned an Isomac Relax and upgraded to a Wega Lyra). Allowing the dry puck to touch the screen isn't a cardinal sin (some swear by "updosing" to the point that the dispersion screen is acting as a tamper), but generally speaking, a couple millimeters of clearance helps the water disperse more evenly over the coffee.

Try to avoid settling the grounds excessively during dosing and work on distribution. If all this NSEW / Stockfleth's move mumbo-jumbo is making your head swim, try the Chicago Chop (named by the crew at Intelligentsia Coffee): Dose as usual, remembering to rotate the portafilter as you dose (i.e., no "towering pyramid" allowed). Take a straight edge / back of a knife and gently "chop chop chop" across the grinds, simultaneously settling them and making a first pass at equalizing the distribution. Then simply pass the straight edge back and forth a few times to push the grounds towards areas needing filling, followed by a final sweep across to remove the excess. This should produce a nicely level, even density puck with the correct depth. Tamp and go.
Dan Kehn

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JonR10

#9: Post by JonR10 »

CoffeeAddict wrote:I just read this article but I'm afraid it doesn't help. At this point I'm too inexperienced to start adjusting the pressure.
Maybe try this: Use your double basket.
Tap it and rotate it frequently as you fill loosely with coffee.
Try to get the LOOSE coffee to set evenly in the PF before levelling or tamping...

Level the coffee with your finger (no pressing!). Just swipe your finger across the top edge of the basket to make the dose even with the basket rim (remember to leave the grounds LOOSE). NOTE: If that doses too much, then let your finger rest just under the rim of the basket when you level the coffee so the untamped dose is just lower than the rim.

OK, now tamp straight down - HARD and flat.
You should finish with at least 1/4 inch of clearance from the puck surface to the basket rim.

If the puck surface is higher than that (I judge by looking for the tamper edge to be just a scoche above the basket rim, but maybe you'll have better results with the tamper edge level with the rim of the basket). Again, if the dose was too much, then level below the rim before tamping.

Image
This picture shows my tamper edge close to the edge of the basket rim. Don't be fooled by the rim of coffee that's pressed between the tamper edge and the basket wall, that will just fall off and doesn't affect the shot.


The picture of my tamped puck may be misleading because of the coffee on the edges of the basket. The surface of my puck is usually just below the ridge for the spring.

So if you're willing - give that a try and then let us know what happens....

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RapidCoffee
Team HB

#10: Post by RapidCoffee »

In my experience, grind, dose and distribution are critical to excellence in the cup - far more so than tamping. I am much more impressed by the pre-tamp picture in JonR's article - wow, great distribution! Assuming the grind is correct, this distribution coupled with any reasonably level tamp practically guarantees an even extraction. So why do home baristi have so many problems? Let me humbly offer a few amateur thoughts on this subject.

Most "real" espresso grinders are designed for the high production commercial environment rather than home use. Consider the enormous bean hoppers and dosers, and the mods that people make in order to grind one shot at a time. Distribution is equally problematic, with clumping and static creating ongoing issues. The Versalab M3 grinder recently created quite a stir; from what I've read, its even distribution pattern may be more significant than its grind.

When I got my TagEx Mazzer SJ, I replaced the burrs and removed the doser - and immediately had issues with clumping. Clumping caused uneven distribution, which was obvious with a bottomless PF. With the doser removed, it was easy to see the grounds piling up and compacting in the chute below the burrs. IMHO this is a serious design flaw that needs to be corrected (and perhaps has been addressed in the Versalab). We need a grinder with vertically oriented burrs (or some other innovative design) that allows grounds to drop straight down into the PF rather than piling up in the chute. Dosers help reduce clumping as they sweep the grounds around, but it's hard to get an even distribution since the doser vanes inevitably pitch the grounds to one side.

We develop our own rituals to correct these design flaws. Some advocate removing the basket from the PF and rotating it 360 degrees while dosing (from a dosered grinder). Others start dosing while grinding. Some dose into a container and shake it up and down. Others recommend light mid-dose tamps and/or downward tapping, to settle and distribute the grounds partway through dosing. At least one CGer mounted his doserless grinder on a slant board to allow grounds to exit the chute more freely. Ridiculous, isn't it? As users, we should not have to resort to such shenanigans...

Anyway, I have not been able to achieve a consistent dose and distribution by sweeping grounds around in the filter basket with my fingers and hand. Perhaps if I worked in a coffee house and pulled hundreds of shots a day... but I don't. So one day I tried stirring the grounds around with a needle to break up clumps and even the distribution. I know it sounds odd, but it makes perfect sense to me. Not only does stirring declump the grounds, but the needle evens the distribution vertically, all the way down to the bottom of the basket. I simply cannot get this effect with my fingers.

Stirring is just another way of overcoming grinder design defects. After stirring, you can level using the Schomer method, the Stockfleth, or the Chicago Chop (my current favorite). If you want less coffee grounds, stir more to fluff up the grounds, and sweep off the excess to level without any downwards compression. If you want to updose, compress the grounds by pressing down gently with your fingers, or tap the PF gently downwards before levelling - either method will updose with even compaction. Then apply your favorite tamp.

To reduce mess in updosing, a yogurt container with the bottom cut off serves as a handy funnel that sits in the filter basket (see pic posted here). Dose into this contraption, stir to distribute the grounds evenly, and tap downwards to compact the grounds. Then remove the funnel and level, compressing further if even greater updosing is desired.

Call it a crutch, call it whatever you will, but I have not found anything else that approaches the consistency and flexibility of this approach. With good distribution, I can bang out one espressoporn-worthy shot after another. Granted, this is not recommended for pros in a commercial environment - it's much too slow, and probably unnecessary. But for the home barista, well, at least give it a try before telling me it's a boneheaded idea. :wink: