Old timer check in on espresso workflow

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
Phobic

#1: Post by Phobic »

I've been gone for a while from the scene (~4 years) but thought it was worth a quick check in to talk through my current technique to see if there's any other things I could think about doing/including in my workflow.

I'm willing to try stuff but don't want to end up with a stupidly long workflow, ideally things that slot in and deliver a decent amount of additional extraction for reasonable time/effort.

Here's what I'm doing right now for espresso
1. Grinding directly into a dispenser so I can sieve the grinds - have changed the size of the mesh to make it faster. This works much better than distributor IMHO, even though it's slower it's worth it
2. Use a disc of Chemex filter paper in the bottom of the Portafiler - I've tried 1 on top/a metal version to help water distribution but the increased TDS is marginal and therefore not worth for me personally
3. Sieve into a jug then dump into portafilter using a funnel
4. Shake the grinds to level out - no stirring or distribution, shaking is better for me
5. VST basket, pertamp, bottomless portafilter, upgraded shower head (forget which 1 but tried a few ~4 years ago)
6. Running machine @ 6 bar

not planning on changing grinder or coffee machine - might at a push consider changing burrs if some new tech for the EK43 has come along in the past 4 years which has made a big different

are there any other new parts or things which have proven themselves in the past 4 years or so?

thanks in advance
Phobic

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Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

I don't know which burrs you have in the EK43, but it is still considered one of the worthwhile titan grinders if you've got the space. Sieving isn't much in vogue, that I know of. If you're sieving to remove fines, perhaps there are some alignment improvements that might reduce your need. Choice of burrs are somewhat personal. Depending on your preferences in coffees and in the cup, there might be some newer burrs like the SSP 98 HU that you prefer. I recall several people trying the Hemro-family Turkish burrs for espresso. (I don't recall if they were labeled Mahlkonig or Ditting.)

6-bar extraction is definitely a technique that many still use and some are just discovering.

Past that, the details of prep seem like they're working for you. If you're repeatable with them, they sound very reasonable.

baldheadracing
Team HB

#3: Post by baldheadracing »

I think the practice of sifting/sieving has fallen away, although I have seen a modern tool. (ETA: WPM Espcup ) I still have my Tala Mini-Sifter, but I haven't used it in quite a while. (Others can see Improving espresso distribution using a mini flour sifter for what I'm on about.)

What has become very common is to use a multi-pronged WDT tool such as Levercraft's or JKim's but it is simple enough to make one yourself using accupuncture needles and, say, a wine cork. The use of the multi-pronged tool replaces your step 4 and drops the need to do sieving in steps 1 and 3.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada
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GDM528

#4: Post by GDM528 »

If you're accustomed to dropping in disks of filter paper... you could try adding another disk about midway through the puck. I theorize it stops top-to-bottom channels from forming. It gives me steady and uniform extractions over the duration of the shot, and never 'runs away'. It might not make a difference for everyone, but it protects me from lapses in my puck prep technique.

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mrgnomer

#5: Post by mrgnomer »

Get a scale.

After about 8 years of being away from progressive espresso extraction I've found much has changed. I like the changes. Dose weight and extraction ratio is so much more the focus for quality and consistency. Instead of ball park volume dosing and hail mary extracting there is now the possibility
of 0.1g dose and extraction weight control and the ability to real time monitor flow rates, shot weight and extraction time. The ability to achieve extraction ratio targets consistently means consistently really good shots when you dial in. I was not a convert at first and got a cheap weight scale that only did dosing weight. It made such a difference I've since bit the bullet and got an Acaia Lunar. Dosing by weight, timing preinfusion, targeting extraction by dose weight in to extraction out over a target time is making all the difference. Light roasts that were hit and miss are now much easier to consistently control. I look forward now to tweaking parameters to see what pulls the better shot. Good WDT helps along with single dose grinding if you're into switching your roasts and grinds on the fly. Lattes used to be my preferred espresso. Now it's straight double shots.

Espresso extraction has branched off to explore beyond the traditional roast, volume dose/extraction and time definitions. I really like the idea of turbo shots, allonges and sprovers especially if you're into light roasts. My old school puck prep techniques still seem to work really well for even extractions. Giving up gorilla tamps to go lighter and maybe grind finer is something I'll do more of with light roasts.
Kirk
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love

MatGreiner
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#6: Post by MatGreiner »

Agreeing with Jeff and most of the above.
WDT, and specifically WDT with a tool using the right needle size (.35 - .4 mm seems to be the answer), makes things better, and more consistent. I use a funnel during the whisking. The lever craft tool is the best I've found.

Adding paper discs (top or bottom) seems useful to some, but they don't add much for me.

And yes, absolutely, positively a 0.1 gram scale for dose and yield. +/- a few tenths of a gram in dose probably not a big deal in practice, but a full gram of scale resolution is too coarse to know what's happening.
LMWDP #716: Jeez, kids! Don't swing on that!
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Phobic (original poster)

#7: Post by Phobic (original poster) »

Jeff wrote:Sieving isn't much in vogue, that I know of. If you're sieving to remove fines
I should have been clearer, I'm not sieving to remove fines, I'm only sieving for distribution, I use a fairly coarse mesh which increases speed but also produces a significant extraction improvement over WDT.

I've tired Kruve sifting for espresso and hell no, life is just to short for all that messing around! The extraction improvement isn't worth the additional time in the workflow for me personally.
Jeff wrote:perhaps there are some alignment improvements that might reduce your need.
I invested in a burr alignment tool and shimmed the burrs on the EK a while back, though I'm a bit lazy to bother checking it again.

if I were going to realign I think I'd use the gernan sandpaper method instead of shimming - shims are a PITA.
Jeff wrote:Choice of burrs are somewhat personal. Depending on your preferences in coffees and in the cup, there might be some newer burrs like the SSP 98 HU that you prefer. I recall several people trying the Hemro-family Turkish burrs for espresso. (I don't recall if they were labeled Mahlkonig or Ditting.)
I went for coffee burrs when I bought the EK and I have looked at aftermarket burrs in the past and concluded that the cost v benefit of them isn't worth it, I like espresso, however I mainly drink filter/emersion/moka so no point investing in Burrs for how much use I get, unless they are going to give a big extraction boost (which I don't think they will).
Jeff wrote:Past that, the details of prep seem like they're working for you. If you're repeatable with them, they sound very reasonable.


good to hear thanks, always worth checking if there's anything new to consider though :)

baldheadracing wrote: I still have my Tala Mini-Sifter, but I haven't used it in quite a while. (Others can see Improving espresso distribution using a mini flour sifter for what I'm on about.)
this is what I started doing with the flour sifter but I've evolved the technique so it's streamlined, faster, and has less mess with almost as much extraction benefit. I wouldn't suggest people try to shift directly into the PF though, better to do it into something else then pour it in.

baldheadracing wrote:What has become very common is to use a multi-pronged WDT tool such as Levercraft's
I've tried a few WDT tools, they're faster and better than doing nothing, but it's simply not as good sifting for distribution.

Phobic (original poster)

#8: Post by Phobic (original poster) »

mrgnomer wrote:Get a scale.

After about 8 years of being away from progressive espresso extraction I've found much has changed. I like the changes. Dose weight and extraction ratio is so much more the focus for quality and consistency. Instead of ball park volume dosing and hail mary extracting there is now the possibility
of 0.1g dose and extraction weight control and the ability to real time monitor flow rates, shot weight and extraction time. The ability to achieve extraction ratio targets consistently means consistently really good shots when you dial in. I was not a convert at first and got a cheap weight scale that only did dosing weight. It made such a difference I've since bit the bullet and got an Acaia Lunar. Dosing by weight, timing preinfusion, targeting extraction by dose weight in to extraction out over a target time is making all the difference.
agree with this 100%, I'm on my 2nd set of Acaia Lunar scales, used them since they were released and would never be without them.
mrgnomer wrote:Giving up gorilla tamps to go lighter and maybe grind finer is something I'll do more of with light roasts.
for me personally the most important thing for a tamp is size tolerance and fit with the basket, that's why I've stuck with the pertamp and VST combo for so long

Phobic (original poster)

#9: Post by Phobic (original poster) »

I should add that I've done extensive tests on water and dabbled with water recipes, finally settling on just using a single origin spring water from a UK supermarket (waitrose lockhills for those in the UK, though I also like volvic)

blended water is best but it's too much hassle for it to be worthwhile for espresso.

I should also say that I usually drink Espresso with milk, and only occasionally drink it neat as a shot - personally for me the milk just means that it's not worth all the additional effort, hence why I don't want a big impact on workflow and why I'm looking for big extraction improvements to consider any chances.....the milk just masks everything so it's not worth the effort IMHO :)

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mrgnomer

#10: Post by mrgnomer »

I did some looking into portafilter engineering and quality then looked at my go to portafilter under a magnifier. Awful hole size consistency. Have since switched to a VST quality basket to go along with a showerscreen upgrade. The extraction rate changed. I'm still playing with dose and grind setting for the basket but the shots look better and have more clarity.
Kirk
LMWDP #116
professionals do it for the pay, amateurs do it for the love