How to consistently dose coffee for a traditional espresso - Page 2

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

Just one more observation:
It should be obvious that espresso machines are not designed for one and only one dose, since they come with both single and double baskets. If the "proper" dose for singles is 7g, and 14g for doubles, then dramatic changes in dose are not only possible, but to be recommended. The "proper" dose depends, at least in part, on the size and shape of the filter baskets. I believe it also depends on the coffee, the grind, and the grouphead geometry.

Ken Fox

#12: Post by Ken Fox » replying to RapidCoffee »

This is undeniably true.

I would not apply words like "proper" (I realize it was in quotes above) to this discussion.

There are two major issues; those related to equipment and those related to taste.

As regards equipment, this is hugely variable and some equipment used in certain ways will be able to produce an acceptable looking shot over a very wide range of doses. We already know from an evaluation that Jim Schulman and I did (How to Preinfuse; Extraction Pressure Redux) that even simple modifications changing the pump pressure profile can markedly reduce channeling. If one were to use a larger PF basket and a more sophisticated pressure ramp up, the sky could be the limit on how much coffee you can appear to extract for a given shot size.

You are going to extract different things from a given amount of coffee with different grind sizes and doses, through which a certain amount of water is run through at a certain pressure over a defined period of time. (how's that sentence for a mouthful? :mrgreen: )

The result is that the taste and the flavors and what I might call the "balance" of the beverage will be effected. To give a non-espresso example, I've had the opportunity to drink a couple of different interesting Chateauneuf-du-Pape (southern Rhone red wines) recently. One was a 1989 from a highly regarded and famous producer (Chateau Beaucastel) and it came out of a magnum sized bottle. The other was a 2003 from another good producer which came out of a regular sized bottle. 1989 was a classic and excellent vintage and 2003 was a bit bizarre as it was a produced during a summer noted for its abnormally high temperatures which resulted in an earlier harvest than usual.

The 1989 was among the finest red wines I have ever drunk, perfectly aged and with a very fine balance between the "fruit," the acidity, and the complexity. The 2003 in comparison, although also very good, was very ebullient, in your face, full of fruit, but without the complexity of the 1989. I'll hazard a guess that most experienced wine drinkers (maybe all) would vastly prefer the 1989 however among new wine drinkers the 2003 would probably have been the favorite. To me, although I enjoyed the 2003 (and have more bottles of it so I'll be drinking it in the future, like it or not), it lacked what I will call "balance," or "equilibrium." I'd probably rather drink the 2003 by itself or with some very strongly flavored food, whereas the 1989 needed to be consumed with a more sophisticated and subtly flavored dish to appreciate its charms. Far be it from me to try to tell anyone that they should love the 1989 and dislike the 2003; they are both good for certain people at certain times and circumstances which are not the same.

Getting back to espresso, in addition to the questions about whether or not (and how) a given setup of equipment will extract varying doses of coffee, there are the questions of taste and "balance" (here comes that word again!) Far be it from me to try to tell someone else what is necessary to get a "balanced" taste out of an espresso. This is all going to depend on a person's taste and how they consume the espresso. If you drink primarily milk drinks, the intensity (of say) a 20g double shot may be very much softened by the milk, and for a given person (and depending on how much cow juice they drink with the espresso) a 14g shot might taste "diluted" to them. So be it. Drink what you like.

For me, 14g of espresso in a double basket in my equipment produces a "balanced" beverage for me, whether as a straight shot or in the sort of cappas that I make which are probably on the low end of the volume scale. One thing is for sure; if you use a blend that is designed for use in larger than "standard" doses, it will effect the taste if you use it in smaller doses. My own experience is that "headliner" blends that are typically used in large doses taste rather bland in 14g doses, so I'd avoid them if your intention is to use "Italianish" type dosing.

Finally, getting back to something that I suggested a long time ago in another thread, when we approach newbie home barista types (who typically have simpler and unmodified equipment) we should probably suggest to them that they start out with a "foolproof" approach that will bring them success rapidly in their own espresso adventures. To me, that means suggesting the use of ~14 doses with minimal basket preparation. There will be ample time in the future for them to experiment with other approaches, but it would probably be best for them to get a handle on the process and experience some early success with it. Only if they do so will most continue and modify their approaches as their tastes dictate later.

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#13: Post by HB »

Ken Fox wrote:Finally, getting back to something that I suggested a long time ago in another thread, when we approach newbie home barista types (who typically have simpler and unmodified equipment) we should probably suggest to them that they start out with a "foolproof" approach that will bring them success rapidly in their own espresso adventures. To me, that means suggesting the use of ~14 doses with minimal basket preparation.
Lately I've been using the simple level strike off method for volumetric dosing. For some coffees and grinders, I'll get 14 grams, for others I'll get closer to 16 grams. Neither will be above the mid-point of the spring retention ridge. This is a technique that's easy to explain, reproduce, and is consistent. If you want to experiment with lower double doses without fussing, Chris' Coffee sells 12 gram doubles (they accidentally sent them instead of the 14 grams baskets I ordered ;-)).
Dan Kehn

sjjan (original poster)

#14: Post by sjjan (original poster) »

First of all, I had trouble using the NSEW grooming technique in a single basket as the basket was not so deep and after grooming and tamping there was not enough headspace to fit underneath the brewhead. I have read about using a lid orso, but this is all not easy to reproduce consistently.

I am the last to tell or even worse to dictate to all of you what you should do, so don't get me wrong here.

What I am confused about is that as a fresh and newly trained barista I was told to fill the basket and groom using the already mentioned methods as a standard or 'best' way to do the job. Also Scott Rao promotes these methods in his book, but in the same book tells the reader to aim for approx. 7 grams for a single and 14 grams for a double espresso. OK, he writes about the different practices in the US as compared to other places like Europe in general, but the 2 suggested practices do not combine consistently and should in my belief not be promoted as the primary way to dose and tamp.

I can think of lots of situations where the dosing techniques like the NSEW methods are the best way to get consistency, but in the case someone has a grinder with a timer, has a sub-gram scale (which of course I use as well) to regularly check the amount of coffee going into the baskets, then I think this is a better way to promote promote dosing/grooming/tamping to newcomers than confusing them with this NSEW, WDT or Stockfleth's Move methods in combination with not knowing with how much coffee they end up in the basket (taking the sheer amount of different size baskets on the market). That would just not produce good and consistent results not newbies (like me?).

As compared to the wine, I am a wine lover as well and have this 400 years old wine cellar underneath my house with good wines from mostly the Bourgogne region (not too far a drive from our home). I agree that top Bourgogne grand-cru wines from good years and growers can have this superb but also subtle balance which makes such a wine outstanding. My personal opinion is that espresso's made with too much coffee in the basket are not balanced and overly flavored. But again that is my personal opinion. I can also see that if you make a lot of milk drinks, the espresso-making technique could be different.


Sjoerd Jan

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#15: Post by HB »

Sjoerd, given that your grinder has a built-in precision timer, it makes sense to use it.

I successfully redistribute below the rim of the basket using the Stockfleths Move for Dummies. Be aware that your grinder compacts the grounds more than most, resulting in as much as an extra two grams for a double if you dose by volume. Grinders like the Mazzer Robur and Le'Lit PL53 produce fluffy, even grounds and the level strike off method will produce a proper 14 grams for a double; darker roasts and stale coffee also grind to more weight for the same volume. The key is consistency and adequate headspace above the puck. Beyond these simple guidelines, the rest is adjusting to taste/equipment specifics.
Dan Kehn

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Randy G.

#16: Post by Randy G. »

Ask four talented, professional, respected baristas how they dose, distribute, and tamp and you are likely to get four different answers. The most important thing to do is find a process that you can duplicate with as little difficulty as possible. Some baristas will tell you that a leveling tamp is all that is necessary, and one barista that I highly respect use the "handstand" tamp, and that guy weighs more than two of me, I think!

I have never bothered weighing a dose. It would seem to me that the volume of the coffee is more important than the mass of the coffee used. But that's just me- there have been a number of folks who report that weighing the coffee works for them.

It was mentioned that this has to be adjusted for the equipment as well as all the other variables (taste, technique, coffee, brew temp, etc.). As an example, Nuovo Simonelli has a commercial machine that can make a drinkable espresso even if you fill the portafilter half full and leave it untamped. Then, without adjustments to the machine, fill, level and tamp and you get another excellent espresso. Try that on a Silvia!

If you can establish the same headroom each time, and then adjust the grind to that, I think that establishes an excellent starting point. Once you can pull consistently with your chosen or developed procedure then small changes can be made to adjust to suit your taste.

I could document in detail what works for me, but it is more important for you to find what works for you.

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#17: Post by cafeIKE »

IMO, the e61 12g double baskets are less than optimum. Too wide and too thin. An updose to 9 or 10g in an e61 single basket gives a better cup with the Northern styles preferred here.

Timed dosing with a relatively consistent bean hopper load using a yogurt cup funnel and a gentle side to side shake delivers more repeatable results for me. Strike off dosing maybe an overdose, lead to poor distribution and waste a lot of coffee, at least on an e61. I prefer to grind ~1-2g of stale coffee into the bin before I charge the PF with fresh coffee. [ As a 'test' :oops: this Monday at the office, I didn't clear the stale coffee that sat since Friday. Spritz-O-Rama :!: Next shot with fresh ground was fine. :roll: ]

The secret to timed dosing is that the time and the grind are interrelated. Rarely do I adjust one without the other. On the MaxH Supreme Bean Ring of Fire coffee was about 5.7s @ 0.75. My current roast is 5.0 @ 1.25.

I've come full circle on the tamp. Barely more than the weight of the tamper is applied.

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#18: Post by malachi »

sjjan wrote:What I mean is that with the described methods and having tried a dozen different baskets I get most often way too much coffee in a double basket and with one single basket I could twice not even get the basket/PF again attached to the espresso machine as there was not enough headspace above the coffee.
Are you whacking or tapping or shaking the portafilter (while dosing or before distributing)?
I can pretty easily dose and distribute 14 grams in a LM ridget double and I use the Stockfleth's style distribution.
The key is to not shake or "settle" the grounds while dosing or distributing.

When you say "most often" - this implies that sometimes you get the desired amount.
What are you doing differently when you do this?

My gut says this is less of a distribution issue and more of a dosing and consistency issue.
sjjan wrote:Now you grind to order for each drink you make and you have no clue when you have approx. 7 or 14 grams of coffee in your basket and using a scale in a busy cafe is not practical.
Actually, that's not true.
I've trained a lot of pro baristas. One of the areas of training (taught to me originally by Aaron de Lazzer) was around consistent dosing. The test was to dose 10 times and have all 10 be no more than 0.3 gram difference. There were experienced baristas who were significantly below this variance.
It's just a matter of practice and being consistent in each micro-step that makes up the dosing phase.
sjjan wrote:So, I think the NSEW and other grooming methods being promoted should not be promoted for situations like in the home where you have time and can use a grinder with a timer to get a proper dose every time or when someone has a doserless grinder setup with a timer like the M4D (which is propably too slow for use in busy cafe's).
I actually find dosing consistently to be easier with a doser grinder like a Robur - and without a timer. Timers are great at minimizing waste, but dosing by time is not the same as dosing by volume (approximated as weight often). Of course... I'm one of the "flicky doser" guys that many people here complain about (grin).
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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#19: Post by malachi »

GC7 wrote:I learned that 14- 14.5 gm. is what gives me the best flavor profiles (for my taste) in the cup for every blend I've tried.
emphasis above added to make a point
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

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#20: Post by shadowfax »

malachi wrote:I actually find dosing consistently to be easier with a doser grinder like a Robur - and without a timer. Timers are great at minimizing waste, but dosing by time is not the same as dosing by volume (approximated as weight often). Of course... I'm one of the "flicky doser" guys that many people here complain about (grin).
People complain about flicky dosing? My wife sure does. You can here me thwacking the grinder in the background of many of the little videos she took of my son shortly after his birth. :mrgreen:

On most coffees I have tried through the Robur, you don't even need to flick in particular. A 'slow' 4-count while flicking (and then turning the grinder off) gets me about the same dose every time, after a modified (lazy and compression-free) Stockfleth's and sweeping the excess (if any) off the top. It's really cured my desire for the timer, other than the times that I miss turning the grinder off in time and wind up with 4-5 extra (wasted) grams in the doser. Still, I get even more consistent pours and shots than even my dosing consistency would suggest. I suspect that the Robur is just less sensitive to small dose variations than other grinders I have used.

The Robur is also so fluffy that it's easier to dose lower, provided you don't tap. I can compress baskets lower on the Robur with my dosing method (above) than I can when I use the same on the Super Jolly, with the same coffee. I suspect lower dosing may be even more challenging with grinders that have worse "compacting" issues out of the throat than the SJ.

I'm still interested in trying a nice, easy-to-use timer, though. I know you're right about it not helping much with dosing, but I'd sure appreciate not having to turn the grinder off during my dosing, or worrying about letting the grinder go too long and wasting a bunch of coffee. Things happen so fast with the Robur (and the dura-mill SJ), that you waste a lot of coffee if your timing is just a little off.
Nicholas Lundgaard