Dosing: Weighing vs. overfilling basket...

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
EspressoGirl

#1: Post by EspressoGirl »

I am trying to understand dosing and in all the good coffee bars, they just overfill the basket (sometimes tapping the portafilter on the counter to get even more in, but still overfilling ultimately) and then they smooth it out NSEW style. This seems like an easier dosing method than weighing beans so it appeals to me. Is it considered acceptable? Does it really produce consistency?

Also, if I were to weigh out a dose each time, and my dose ended up with grounds lower than the top of the basket, how would I properly smooth the surface of the grinds since they would be too low for the finger sweep?

Thanks all.

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Marshall

#2: Post by Marshall »

They (and many of the posters here) have enough experience to dose by eyesight. But, it is helpful to start out by weighing so that you get a sense of what dosage (in addition to what grind) produces what result. After that it's really a matter of how obsessive your personality is.
Marshall
Los Angeles

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim »

The technique you use depends on how much you dose.

If the amount of coffee you like fills the basket to the top before packing; it is easy to dose in the "finger swipe" fashion you describe.

If your dose does not fill the basket to the top, then finger swiping obviously will not work, and eyeballing will be very inconsistent. Most home baristas using such lower doses weigh, pro baristas and home ones who value speed swipe with a curved piece of plastic instead of their finger, so they can scoop out coffee below the rim of the basket. They cut the curve into something like a plastic frosting knife to get the dose they want.

In either case, you will know you have a consistent dose as you tamp, where you can feel with your fingertips how deep into the basket the tamper went. Starting over at this point, because the dose is wrong, is a PITA; so it's best to have a consistent method from the get go.
Jim Schulman

EspressoGirl

#4: Post by EspressoGirl »

If I just overfilled the basket each time as I have seen these baristas do--won't that be a consistent dose, since I will always be levelling off the overfill to be flat with the rim of the basket (I also tap on counter to level it before the swipe and final levelling). Since I would never get less than the full basket (before tamping and after swiping), won't that always be a pretty consistent amount of coffee grinds?

I hope it is possible to understand what i am trying to ask...

andrewpetre

#5: Post by andrewpetre »

Edit: Check out this awesome thread on dosing -- Some thoughts on dosing

I don't have any business posting behind Jim with an answer to this, but I can comment on your 'fill to the brim' method VS weighing VS variances in grind and beans.

If you change your beans or grind at all, you can easily get a different weight per volume of coffee. I've just been going through this. I started a few months ago with a cheap Maestro grinder as fine as it would go. I was only able to get around 15-second shots out of it (2oz cup filled up fast) with the basket packed to the max and tamped hard. I realized that I needed two things - a different grind for comparison, and a scale so I knew how much coffee I was actually using.

So I got both. I picked up a used commercial grinder on the cheap, and set that one fine. I also weighed both before and after grinding. Immediately I saw a difference between the two. The same weight of beans (around 15g) no longer fills the basket on the finer grind! Now I can compress it much farther into the basket and pull closer to 25 seconds with it. If I filled the basket with this finer grind, it would probably take 18g+ to get up to the level I was packing before.

Anyway - filling the basket doesn't really mean by itself enough or too much coffee. Lots of variables to consider. Also, not every machine is pleased with grinds packed up at the top of the rim. My little Solis SL70 likes a little room, otherwise the coffee crams against the shower screen and the shot's a disaster.

</newbie out>

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malachi

#6: Post by malachi »

Dosing consistently is the goal.
How you go about doing it is up to you.
For most people who don't have a lot of experience, the odds of being consistent without weighing are very low. Most people consider the maximum acceptable variance in dose to be 0.3g (with some pushing for tolerance closer to 0.1g). Doing this by eye is challenging and takes a lot of practice.

If, on the other hand, you can dose by eye with that degree of consistency it is obviously much (much) more convenient than dosing by weight. In addition, dosing by eye has additional advantages (including not worrying about 'the popcorn effect' and reduced time to build shots).

I'd suggest evaluating your current dosing consistency by grinding and dosing 10 shots (remove the clip from the portafilter) and then weighing all 10. If you are consistent to the above described tolerances, cool. If not, I'd start working on being consistent.
another_jim wrote:Most home baristas using such lower doses weigh, pro baristas and home ones who value speed swipe with a curved piece of plastic instead of their finger, so they can scoop out coffee below the rim of the basket. They cut the curve into something like a plastic frosting knife to get the dose they want.
While it sounds like a lot of home baristas do what you describe, I've actually never seen a professional barista doing this in a production environment. Instead, most dose by eye even at low or down doses and distribute by hand. Honestly, it's not as hard as some people make it sound.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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r-gordon-7

#7: Post by r-gordon-7 »

Marshall wrote:They (and many of the posters here) have enough experience to dose by eyesight. But, it is helpful to start out by weighing so that you get a sense of what dosage (in addition to what grind) produces what result. After that it's really a matter of how obsessive your personality is.
Also depends on how cheap one is. And I happen to be very cheap. I dislike grinding/dosing any more than what I need for a given pull. So, whether by weighing or by eyeballing, I tend to make sure that no more goes into my basket than will stay there through the tamp & pull... The thought of an overfill, followed by a NSEW leveling off w/the excess lying on the counter to be discarded, makes me shudder... Though, I suppose my cheapness could easily be diagnosed as a particular sub-category of obsessive, in which case, Marshall's post already has it covered... :lol:
r-gordon-7
LMWDP #188

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HB
Admin

#8: Post by HB »

r-gordon-7 wrote:Also depends on how cheap one is. And I happen to be very cheap. I dislike grinding/dosing any more than what I need for a given pull.
While this comment doesn't apply strictly to you, I'm reminded how often I read of someone who is contemplating spending $1500 to $2000 on espresso gear, and yet agonizes over "wasting" a few ounces of coffee beans each month. Relatively speaking, coffee is luxury on the cheap.
Dan Kehn

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JimWright

#9: Post by JimWright »

malachi wrote:Dosing consistently is the goal.
How you go about doing it is up to you.
For most people who don't have a lot of experience, the odds of being consistent without weighing are very low. Most people consider the maximum acceptable variance in dose to be 0.3g (with some pushing for tolerance closer to 0.1g). <snip>
I've heard this before here, and this has piqued my curiosity. Where did these numbers come from if I may ask? Did someone do a study and figure out that variances of more than 0.3g could be tasted consistently?

Color me the unreasoning skeptic, but I somehow have a hard time imagining how a 1% (in a triple basket) or 2% (double basket) variance in weight/mass could account for consistent, measurable differences in output given simultaneous variance in individual bean flavors, distribution and packing, plus temperature if not using a very temp stable machine.

Of course, I imagine it came from somewhere, and would be happy to have my intuition refuted - how were these numbers derived?

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HB
Admin

#10: Post by HB »

JimWright wrote:Of course, I imagine it came from somewhere, and would be happy to have my intuition refuted - how were these numbers derived?
To the best of my knowledge, these figures aren't carved in marble, but if you try it, I think you'll quickly affirm they're about right.

Start by dosing normally, then updosing 1.5 grams, 1.0 grams, and 0.5 grams. The first updosed pour will be clearly different and the taste profile shift should be quite noticeable; for some coffees, the pour may even stall. Repeat until the pour and taste profile returns to the original. My bet is it will be somewhere around 0.7 to 0.5 grams.

On a related note, lately I've stopped microadjusting the grind setting; instead I microadjust the dose. It's faster for fine-tuning the pour speed / extraction profile, and saves coffee. What's not to like? This trick works best on "forgiving" grinders like those featured in the Titan Grinder Project.
Dan Kehn