Home barista techniques that the pros shun (and vice versa) - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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HB
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#11: Post by HB »

malachi wrote:I did the math the other day and discovered that I average about 4 doubles from a 1/2 pound of coffee.
Yikes! My assumption is ~20 espressos per pound, maybe a few more if it's a blend that I am very familiar with. You're pretty motivated when it costs more than fifty cents for every failed attempt and once it's gone, you're waiting on mail order.
Are you tapping on the countertop?
No, I tap only the grinder fork and pretty gently. My target variance is 0.5 grams or less; if the error exceeds 3/4 grams, the chance of over or under extracting goes up markedly. I don't like admitting it, but if I sense that the dose is off, I'll attempt to cheat by increasing or decreasing the tamp pressure. That can save a shot that would otherwise be destined for the sink. Remember, it's three tries and out the door...
Also - In my experience, the first shot is almost always the least consistent.
Absolutely. Using the thermofilter, I've essentially shifted what used to be "third shot" quality into the second position. Although I've mapped out the flushing in the Elektra A3 to nail the desired temperature right off, the temperature drops more than it should. The result is mixed flavor; not sour, but flat and mellow compared to the second and third. I call these "dumb shots" for lack of a better term, i.e., inoffensive but not exciting either.
A lot of pros use this or the Clicker - but only for training purposes.
Interesting. Aubrey Morris, who placed 10th in the SERBC, mentioned that she uses one at work and considered using it in competition so her nerves wouldn't affect tamp pressure. Although there's no rule against it, she decided not to bring it because she felt the technical judges might consider it "cheating." Geoff Corey at Pheasant Creek Coffee uses one all the time to remind him not to gorilla tamp. He was a monster tamper and it started to wear on his shoulders.
Dan Kehn

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HB
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#12: Post by HB »

malachi wrote:I did the math the other day and discovered that I average about 4 doubles from a 1/2 pound of coffee.
I recently got 12 ounce samples from Batdorf & Bronson of Dancing Goats and Omar's Organic. I've finished about half of the former and just started the latter. Only a couple were sinkshots due to necessary grinder adjustments, the rest were good to very good. My attention on not wasting precious beans reminded me of this thread. I'm curious, what are you doing with those other half-dozen+ shots? Are they so far off that you toss them in the sink nary a sip?
Dan Kehn

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malachi

#13: Post by malachi »

Seasoning shots, major grind adjustment shots, burning through coffee when I switch coffees - but probably most shots that are just a bit off and require small grind adjustments to tune.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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jrtatl

#14: Post by jrtatl »

HB wrote:I recently got 12 ounce samples from Batdorf & Bronson of Dancing Goats and Omar's Organic.
Dan,

If you like the samples you got, I highly recommend you try the Vesuvio blend. I tried it last month, and found the straight shots to be silky smooth, with a great, lingering aftertaste. I don't drink many milk drinks, but the Vesuvio did cut through the milk very well on the few cappas I made.

The flavor is similar to the Dancing Goat, but more subdued, less bright, more chocolate. I thought it was a more balanced blend that the 'goat.

Jeremy

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HB
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#15: Post by HB »

jrtatl wrote:If you like the samples you got, I highly recommend you try the Vesuvio blend. I tried it last month, and found the straight shots to be silky smooth, with a great, lingering aftertaste.
Thanks, I am enjoying Dancing Goat and would like to try some of their other blends. On a related note, I'm reminded of the espresso blend descriptions on some e-commerce sites; many go over the top with superlatives, although they're more restrained than most wine labels. That's the case for Dancing Goat's description:
Batdorf & Bronson's signature coffee combines a beautiful floral aroma with an exceptionally clean acidity and a heavy nutty body. Dark, sweet, spicy, and smooth, with nuances of citrus fruits and fine chocolate. Its award-winning flavor is a consistent favorite of our customers.
A couple years ago I would have dismissed this blend as too acidic, but PeterG at Counter Culture Coffee has been coaxing me into expanding my coffee-tasting horizons since early last year. Peter suggests that many espresso drinkers limit themselves to "chocolate bar" blends while professionals lean towards more nuanced, complex, and generally less sweet / more acidic blends. Lately I've been looking for more "challenging" blends and Dave (OlywaDave) recommended this one as his personal favorite. It certainly has flavorful citrus and florals, especially if you keep the temperatures down. I haven't managed the sweetness promised above, but even so, it makes my recommended list for straight espresso.

Thanks for the recommendation of Vesuvio. Oh, let's see what they have to say about it...
An earthy, herbal perfume combines with malt and roasted nuts in this heavy-bodied blend. Its subtly dark character shines when it is prepared as a thick, rich and tangy espresso.
This sounds like the contrast Peter mentioned, i.e., a bolder, heavier blend versus a more acidic, complex blend. I lean toward the former for milk drinks since the latter blends tend to get lost in anything larger than a macchiato.
Dan Kehn

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OlywaDave

#16: Post by OlywaDave »

Yeah Dancing Goats is easily one of my all time favorite espresso blends and being fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest and work in this great espresso industry I get to try my share of espresso. For all those who haven't tried Dancing Goats it is a must, in fact all of the B&B coffees are worth a try if you aren't exclusively drinking espresso as I usually am ;)
David White
EspressoParts.com

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HB
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#17: Post by HB »

malachi wrote:On a related note... it seems like a lot of the things people do in coffee that seem odd are attempts to work around barista weaknesses rather than work on them.
I was mulling over Chris' comment that prompted this thread, and remembered my suggestion from an later discussion in Dosing to heap, distribute and pack = too much coffee:
HB wrote: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.
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?

Along the same lines, the last couple weeks I also tried the "distribution needle stir" (sorry, I don't know of an official name). It worked best when I dosed to about 3/4 full (no tapping to settle the grounds at this point) and then gently stirred with a pointy implement in small circles (about half the portafilter in diameter and edging along the basket's perimeter).

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Tracing circles in search of better distribution

The stirring action fluffed up the grinds to above the basket's top; I then simply cut a level edge across using said pointy implement. The finish was to tap down the grinds as I would normally do midway while dosing, which allowed about another 1/4 dose of grinds. Then I would finish with a light Stockfleth's move (rotational compression).

While it's hard to describe the motion, the needle stir appears to compensate for uneven dosing. Several of the extractions approached the exquisite evenness that Abe demonstrated in the Versalab M3 grinder review (shown below). The drawback is the dose amounts aren't as consistent as traditional dosing techniques. Although it was an interesting distraction, my focus these days is increasing efficiency, so in the end I returned to my usual routine (rotate three times while dosing one-half to three-quarters, tap tap, finish dosing, Stockfleth's move).

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From Day 7 of the Versalab M3 Grinder - it just doesn't get better than this
Dan Kehn

Abe Carmeli
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#18: Post by Abe Carmeli »

HB wrote: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?
Dan,

I saw Matt & Amber pulling shots at SCAA 2005. They have different styles altogether: With Amber, the Chicago Chop morphed into a piano tap using her hand and no tools. Matt did not chop at all. He formed a mound in the center of the puck and tamped, leaving me with two wide eyes that took 2 days to return to normal. :shock: Yeah, like that guy. I'm sure the Chicago folks can add more depth to this, I saw these two only twice, maybe they were just testing a new technique. :?
Abe Carmeli

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RapidCoffee
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#19: Post by RapidCoffee »

HB wrote:Along the same lines, the last couple weeks I also tried the "distribution needle stir" (sorry, I don't know of an official name). It worked best when I dosed to about 3/4 full (no tapping to settle the grounds at this point) and then gently stirred with a pointy implement in small circles (about half the portafilter in diameter and edging along the basket's perimeter).

The stirring action fluffed up the grinds to above the basket's top; I then simply cut a level edge across using said pointy implement. The finish was to tap down the grinds as I would normally do midway while dosing, which allowed about another 1/4 dose of grinds. Then I would finish with a light Stockfleth's move (rotational compression).

While it's hard to describe the motion, the needle stir appears to compensate for uneven dosing. Several of the extractions approached the exquisite evenness that Abe demonstrated in the Versalab M3 grinder review (shown below). The drawback is the dose amounts aren't as consistent as traditional dosing techniques. Although it was an interesting distraction, my focus these days is increasing efficiency, so in the end I returned to my usual routine (rotate three times while dosing one-half to three-quarters, tap tap, finish dosing, Stockfleth's move).
Yeah, well, I guess I should respond since I've been advocating this. Glad to hear you gave it a try and got decent results. No, not recommended for efficiency - I'm pretty slow. I haven't experienced the uneven dosing issue, but I dose differently. Here's my method:

Make a funnel by cutting out the bottom of a yogurt container, so that it sits neatly in the top of your filter basket. Now you can dose as much or little as desired, without grounds spilling everywhere. Dose directly into the funnel/basket/PF until you have a slight mound of coffee grounds. Then stir the grounds in the funnel/basket/PF with a dissecting needle (your circular pattern certainly works well).

The dose is determined by several things: how vigorously you fluff up the grounds with the needle, tapping downwards on the counter to settle the grounds before levelling, and whether you compress the grounds further with your fingers or the Chicago Chop during levelling. I typically tap a couple of times, remove the funnel, and then sweep the grounds back and forth to level. This gives me a fairly consistent maximum dose in my ridgeless double (any more and I hit the shower screen when locking in).

Using this method, I can bang out one pour after another like this on my Vetrano. (Apologies in advance if I'm breaking any site rules by posting espressoporn.)

Image

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OlywaDave

#20: Post by OlywaDave »

Wow that last picture is one of the best Naked PF shots I have seen photographed. I know there are a bunch of pics out there but this one just speaks to me. There may be something to this technique.
David White
EspressoParts.com