Frequent Grinder Adjustment Shows Sub-Par Technique - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#11: Post by Bob_McBob »

I found this post of yours on the same subject from back in March quite interesting when I read it, Jim.

There are so many factors affecting the density of ground coffee: The particular coffee in question, its freshness, batch variation, the specific grinder or grinder design, grind fineness, humidity and static, dosing and distribution technique...

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#12: Post by JmanEspresso »

I agree here as well. And, as I said in the last thread Jim started on this topic, I THOUGHT, that I was just being lazy.. But, since I also was pleased with the results, I was more then happy to not fiddle with the grinder much.

But, aside from the fact that I dose with the basket out of the PF now, my technique has stayed the same since then.

I make my grind setting adjustments, while getting the grinder/blend dialed in for the dose I want. Then once its set, changes are made to the dose.

It simply works.. the coffee tastes as it should, from start to finish. Sure, the expected changes happen as the coffee ages, but, from day 4 to day 10-11, the shots pour the same, with no adjustment to the grinder. Generally, the largest fluctuation is a gram +/-, and sometimes no change needs to be made.

I dont single dose, I dose into a tared basket from a hopper of beans(1lb or so max), so this does work both ways.

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#13: Post by Bluecold »

So what should the folks with an electronic dosing grinder do?
Increase time a bit?

Either way, how much does the density of whole bean vary? In other words, how consistent would a doser be if it was filled with whole beans and sat on top of the grinder?
I can't on the top of my head think of an easy way to automatically and accurately dose by weight.

-A laser that counts individual beans based on average weight would -i think- be pretty accurate, but expensive and overly complicated
-A scale that weighs the pf has to be able to withstand constant hammering of staff and would have to be fast enough to be able to shut off a grinder to accurately detect changes within less than a tenth of a second. Also neither easy nor cheap.
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#14: Post by lsjms »

Unless you restrict your choice of coffee, I am not convinced bean counting based on average weight would be more accurate than dosing by grind time or volume.
A variation on an automated bagging machine on top of the grinder could deliver single doses of beans, but I see no way for this machinery to be smaller than a grinder.
A roaster/packer could produce single serve bags of beans.
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#15: Post by Bluecold »

There are easily 100 beans in a double. I'm not good at statistics, but i think it'd be accurate to within a quarter of a gram.
Since weight is more important as a qualification than a quantification, you could set the bean counter to a specific number of beans, which you could change per blend.

This is all hypothetical of course since i guess a bean counter with lasers would be prohibitively expensive and complex.
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#16: Post by TrlstanC »

If I got to choose how my grinder would be setup to give a consistent dose everytime it would have a scale attached either to the portafilter holder, or to a little platform you can put the basket on. It would have a setting for the weight I want to add, and it would grind beans until the additional weight in coffee was added.

And that's something that would work just as well in a cafe setting too.

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#17: Post by Bluecold »

As i stated, the scale needs to be able to detect changes of around 5g/sec accurately to 0.1g and 0.1s. It needs to do that for 5 years on end (minimum), while being smacked hundreds of times a day.
To my limited knowledge, that would be one expensive scale.

Based on my also limited imagination, timed grinding and increasing/decreasing time to accommodate for grind density variations is the easiest way to dose consistently by weight.
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#18: Post by Phaelon56 »

I'm inherently lazy when it comes to my morning routine and don't bother weighing my doses. That being said - I do have a distribution methodology that seems to work well for me and given a particular blend that's been dialed in, I make minute adjustments a couple of times each week (no more than two little ticks on a Mazzer ring). Those occasional tweaks are usually necessitated by aging beans, reduced volume of beans in the hopper, or both.

I'm certain that I would get more consistent results by weighing. At home I could do that with minor adjustments to my routine but in a commercial environment..... not so easy. Who will be the first grinder manufacturer or home tweaker to introduce a grinder that weighs the dose? It would be really cool if Schectermatic Laboratories was working on that in their uber-secret Area 51 like development lab but thus far my satellite photo surveillance has not revealed that to be the case. I need to send in drones that fly low with high-res-see-through-concrete cameras aboard.

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#19: Post by GC7 »

Espresso production is a controlled (temperature, time, mass) chemical extraction. If you wish truly quantitative reproducible results then limiting differences in weight of coffee from drink to drink is essential. There is NO other answer.

Whether one can taste differences to a certain leeway in dose (0.? gram) is real and perhaps an excuse for sloppy habits from those who don't want to take the extra few seconds to weigh the coffee or in a shop where it is not a feasible routine but the above facts are not in question IMHO.

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#20: Post by malachi »

another_jim wrote:With all due respect, there isn't any other good way.

It's proof to how backward grinders really are that we are even arguing about this. Nobody doses drugs by anything but weight, nobody buys groceries by anything but weight (except count for some fruit -- a grinder that counts beans would work too), and every competent baker weighs rather than using volumes. A doser filled with staled grounds might be accurate to 1/3 gram; but eyeballing the basket, in a busy work setting -- there's no way.

I know you want to stick up for baristas, but this is not the way -- they don't have microscopes for eyes or scales for fingers. To ask for consistent dosing in a busy cafe setting is to ask the impossible; to assert it can be done, is to set up working baristas for failure.

I can't even see how this is up for argument. Except for dose and blend changes, I haven't had to readjust the grinder for over two years. All others who weigh their dose have had roughly the same experience. Therefore, every occasion the grinder is reset in a cafe in response to flow irregularities is further proof that dosing is not consistent.

It's not up to baristas or cafe owners to fix this, it's up to grinder manufacturers.
Some topics to consider:

1 - (current) grinders under heavy load behave problematically and more importantly inconsistently. Partially this is heat related. Working around this is required. Yes.... as you point out this is something that manufacturers need to address. But until they do you need to still pull shots.

2 - different combinations of dose and particle size result in different flavour profiles for a specific coffee. Experimenting with these variables can be revelatory.

3 - specific (edge case) environments present significant challenges. Working in SF or PDX or Chicago is one thing. Working somewhere with 50+ degree swings day to night, extremes in low humidity or humidity swings (coupled perhaps with high elevation) can create huge challenges to address. Again... this could be addressed through environment control, yes, but rarely is.

But the above are the minor points of difference.
To me the major point is as follows.
Switching coffees IMHO usually requires grinder changes.
Example.... I was pulling shots of a lovely pulped natural single origin coffee from Brazil. I found it best at around 17g and a moderately high flow rate yielding almost 2oz in 24s. I then switched to a high elevation washed El Salvador bean that I found best at around 19g and a slow flow rate yielding a little less than 1.5oz in 28s. To do this - I had to adjust the grind. Now.... I absolutely COULD have left the grind the same and simply changed the other parameters.... BUT.... this would have resulted in coffee that tasted worse to me.

If your idea is that all coffees should be pulled at the same dose and flow rate, regardless, and coffees that don't taste good at that dose and flow rate are simply bad coffees -- then sure, I can absolutely see not having to touch the grinder (in a home setting).

Otherwise.... no. Doesn't work for me.
What's in the cup is what matters.