Reducing waste: Is it possible to use less coffee for tuning espresso?

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

Hey everyone,
I'm a newcomer to espresso, and I'm having a blast timing espresso and finding what I enjoy. However, I find that i usually end up making between 4-5 pulls of espresso whiling tuning. I have an 18g VST basket, so that's roughly 90 grams of beans for tuning, and plus I only take 1 or 2 sips before tossing the espresso in order to avoid over caffeinating (I start my ratios at 18 grams beans in and 40 grams espresso out), so the tuning process feels wasteful overall.

Is it possible to halve my bean usage to 9g (and 20g espresso out) in an 18g basket and will tuning this way be scalable back up to my regular dosage? Or is my current process pretty much expected?

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#2: Post by Jeff »

At least for me, once I get used to a new grinder-machine combination, I'm usually better than 50/50 on the first for being enjoyable (different coffees can require very different grind, sometimes I guess completely wrong) and am dialed in very close in two or three shots. Getting to that point with new gear, especially a new grinder, can be a couple weeks of time, even with years of experience (at two or three shots a day).

I find writing down in paper helps me remember the changes that I make and how it changed the cup. That helps me learn faster what a half, one, or two marks in the grinder do in the cup. At a minimum, I logged the country of origin, roaster/level, weight in, grind setting, time, weight out, and some tasting notes. I also circle what I changed (grind/dose/ratio) to make it easier for me to see patterns.

(Even with a basket like the LM1, a 9 g shot doesn't scale perfectly to an 18 g shot.)


#3: Post by emradguy »

I don't think you will be successful trying to simply use a half a dose to dial in. In fact, I'd be pretty shocked if that helped you at all. As Jeff said, once you get to know your gear, you'll be able to dial in with only a few shots, and will likely find them drinkable by the second one, if not also the first.

One technique that might help you dial in more quickly, would be to use bracketing. Start with pulling a shot, move finer if it's too sour, or coarser if it's too bitter. Go maybe a little bit farther than you expect you need to on the first move. If you land on the other side of the spectrum on the next shot, split the difference between the two grinder settings. Keep splitting the difference until you get your shot where you want it.

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#4: Post by cafeIKE »

If you haven't, read Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste
aehernandez wrote:Is it possible to halve my bean usage to 9g (and 20g espresso out) in an 18g basket and will tuning this way be scalable back up to my regular dosage?
You need to understand the relationship between grind and dose. As one goes down, the other must go up. Grinding fine enough to use 9g in an18g basket would in all likelihood be so awful as to be undrinkable and thus provide zero information for making an 18g shot.

Festina lente
Don't expect new baskets, tampers, doodads, etc. to provide salvation.
Unless a shot is just horrible, drink it. Appreciate what you enjoy and what you don't. Then make adjustments for the next shot. Keep tuning until you achieved nirvana. Keep extensive notes until you've mastered the art...

What brewer?


#5: Post by Pressino »

One thing that can reduce the amount of wasted coffee whilst dialing in your espresso is using flow control during the extraction (on machines that let you do that). Using an open portafilter makes it even easier to spot just how the extraction is proceding so you can adjust the flow to compensate for problems due to grind size, puck prep, and even dosing. The first trial shots may not be stellar, but more often than not would be drinkable. :)

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#6: Post by MatGreiner »

Lucca Atom 75 Espresso Grinder Review

In post #4 of the new Lucca grinder review, HB compiled 8 of the many forum threads exploring this topic. +1 for Jeff's description: It will get better with experience, new equipment takes a while to get used to, which can be frustrating.

"Comfort blends"-usually dark-medium to dark roasts, tend to be more flexible regarding demands on equipment and technique, and also in flavor. If your skills are new, it may feel good to get comfortable using a bean that is good, easy, and less expensive. Teodoro's Nosso Familia is one that comes up a lot for exactly this reason. (I haven't had it. Searching for comfort blends in the forums will find options.) Red Bird would also fit the bill.
LMWDP #716: Jeez, kids! Don't swing on that!