Is tamping needed with distribution tool? - Page 2

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
emradguy

Postby emradguy » Apr 15, 2019, 6:14 pm

I ordered the Motta 8350 leveling tool off amazon, since I trust the Motta name and it was less than $60. It's insane to me that most of the other similar tools cost as much as an OE Lido! Anyhow, the tool arrived Friday, but due to the shipper indicating required signature on delivery, I didn't get it until today. The thing weighs in at 400g...wow! I've been doing a pretty elaborate WDT pattern for years now. A couple of weeks ago, I received my Niche Zero, but wasn't super happy with the recommended distribution method, as I cannot seem to palm tap the pf and actually level grounds. For me, they always just bunch up on the far side of wherever I tap it. Anyhow, I pulled two shots this afternoon. Both with the leveling tool adjusted down to it's least protruding setting. After shaking the Niche catch cup over the pf and inverting it, I did palm tap to get the grounds as close as I'm capable of leveling them (which isn't very good - but the idea is to get away from WDT and simplify my prep routine), then dropped on the Motta tool and gave it a few spins. The puck was perfectly leveled! I put my tamper in and checked to see if it needed any more compressing, but it was at least as firm as when I typically stopped tamping before I got the tool (I'm a rather light tamper anyways). Both shots pulled perfectly for me.

btw: I use a naked pf with a LM Strada 17g basket...19g dry dose for most coffees. Right now, I'm using Nossa Familia Full Cycle, which is one of my 2 staple blends.

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iploya

Postby iploya » Apr 16, 2019, 6:57 pm

I frequently change my dose and/or coffee such that my puck height varies. I sometimes adjust my distribution tool to accommodate that change, but not in any precise sort of way. Bottom-line, I'd not be confident that my distribution tool completely replaces the tamp even though for some settings I'm sure it'd be close.
--AB

lagoon

Postby lagoon » Apr 16, 2019, 7:18 pm

iploya wrote:Bottom-line, I'd not be confident that my distribution tool completely replaces the tamp even though for some settings I'm sure it'd be close.


Yeah I agree with this. I think ideally after the distribution tool, a subsequent light tamp should allow about 2mm of compaction.

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bluesman

Postby bluesman » Apr 17, 2019, 10:21 am

iploya wrote:I frequently change my dose and/or coffee such that my puck height varies. I sometimes adjust my distribution tool to accommodate that change, but not in any precise sort of way. Bottom-line, I'd not be confident that my distribution tool completely replaces the tamp even though for some settings I'm sure it'd be close.

And that's the critical issue for this approach - it only works if you use the same beans, grind, brew recipe etc day in and day out. I rarely try new beans at home any more. When I do, everything starts from the beginning and I tamp.

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BaristaBoy E61

Postby BaristaBoy E61 » replying to bluesman » Apr 17, 2019, 10:36 am

+1

I agree completely. I just checked the validity of distribution tool only technique this morning by turning up side down the portafilter with using only the distribution tool and 'shaking'. The puck did not fall out of the basket; this provides my verification that 'all is good' with the puck. Any changes to weight, grind, and type of coffee would mean 'back to square one'.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

Garand

Postby Garand » Yesterday, 5:54 pm

I have been using the distribution tool almost exclusively for the last few months and although I was initially very skeptical of its use being anything more than setting up an even surface for my tamper, I am now a true believer it can do both very well.

Despite years of testing and practicing different tampers, methods, and pressures... nitpicking and refining, I cannot deny that I have seen significant improvement in my extractions using just the distribution tool. Maybe I just suck at evenly tamping but I have focused on that endeavor with very little improvement over the years.

I do adjust the depth of the tool occasionally when changing beans but it is a very unscientific adjustment, I just adjust until I need to apply light pressure to make the tool flush with the basket. This whole exercise has confirmed to me that actual tamping pressure is not particularly critical at all for my workflow and machine... YMMV

Occasionally, I may down dose, and in that case, I will use the tamper to lightly compress the puck after using the tool 'just cause' and still get good results. This simple tool has been the biggest upgrade in my extractions and it was only $15. I highly recommend trying one.

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iploya

Postby iploya » Yesterday, 6:40 pm

This discussion gave me an idea for an improvement to the distribution tool. It would be ideal if the piston part moves axially downward as you rotate the tool. That way, it would continue to distribute the grounds over a longer rotation. Currently, if your distribution tool has 3 blades, then the puck is already flat after 120 degrees of rotation (the angular distance between blades) and no more spreading occurs. But if it moved down (say, 2-3 mm) over a longer rotation (say, 360 degrees), it would continue to dig in and spread the grounds until it stopped moving down. That would make the distribution more uniform. That downward movement would also provide a tamping action, where you would know the puck is fully compressed when the resistance to rotation becomes significant. I'm dedicating that idea to the public if anyone wants to develop a tool around it. :D
--AB

Garand

Postby Garand » Yesterday, 6:46 pm

I think you are right about this. I actually emulate that motion with my technique. I hold the basket in my hand and tool in the other and start rotating them in opposite directions as a slowly move them together to avoid compressing the coffee much before it is distributed evenly. Once I have distributed with little to no pressure, I then continue to rotate and push them together flush, effectively tamping.

rg60614

Postby rg60614 » Yesterday, 8:52 pm

I've been using one of the cheap amazon-bought distribution tools (from SMKF) without any extra tamping and getting excellent results on my Linea Mini. I was at a La Marzocco event a couple of weeks ago and that's what they were recommending. According to them, traditional tamping only compresses the top ~15% of the coffee anyway so it shouldn't make much difference. I've been pretty happy with that process so far.

guydebord

Postby guydebord » Yesterday, 10:06 pm

I tried going tamper-less and use only my BT wedge but it was a pain in the ass since I always have at least 3 different beans in rotation plus use different grind settings according to the type of extraction I fancy, I was adjusting the tool too often... For me using SA's BT wedge + The Force Tamper has been an absolute perfect match.