When to change the dose?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
Mookie_
Posts: 23
Joined: 3 years ago

#1: Post by Mookie_ »

Hi all,
"changing dose" has not yet clicked for me. I (think) I understand most of it, but I struggle to fully understand why sometimes a change of dose is recommended. Let me summarize my currrent understanding:
  • each basket has a certain dose, usually you can over- or underdose by 1g (YMMV)
  • different beans/roast level/grind size will result in different weight per volume, therefore height of puck will vary desite fixed input dose weight
  • it is usually recommended to leave ~2mm head space to shower screen which kind of puts an upper limit to the dose (depending on beans/roast/grind)
I know how to dial in a good shot, but I always wonder if I miss a little tweaking to make it a "better". Tinkering with grind size and ratio is clear, but why or when should I change dose?
Let's make a thought experiment: We have a 16g basket, dose is fixed at 16g, grind is adjusted until a fixed ratio of 1:2 (32g) is reached withing the usual 25-30sec. Let's say grind size is at "9" (with 1 being finest the grinder can produce) and it takes 28sec. Now if I would reduce dose to 15.5g but leave the other variables fixed, I would get a different shot because the puck will have less resistance, so maybe: 15.5g with same grind size "9", results in 31g out in only 24sec.
And here I struggle: Isn't it possible to adjust grind size again (going a bit finer) to come to the "same" result, so maybe 15.5g with grind size "8", results in 31g out in 28sec. Wouldn't that taste the same but just be a bit less espresso in the cup? I know that going finer could make channeling more likely or might mess with the upper limit due to head space, so in that case I understand that changing dose would be the only way to go. So to ask the question differently: Can I just fix my input dose and never change it (as long as adjusting grind size is still an option)?

Thanks,
Mookie

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB
Posts: 13812
Joined: 19 years ago

#2: Post by another_jim »

My feeling is that grind is the key variable when it comes to the coffee itself and its taste balance. Dose just makes sure that the grind you believe best works for that basket and machine, i.e. gets to the right brew ratio in the right time.

For espresso , finer grinds generally achieve more laid back, crowd pleasing shots with body and longer chain compounds -- in roast order: grain, umami, caramel, cocoa, & spice -- dominating the shorter chain compunds -- strong aromatics, acids, and distillates. Coarser grinds will get more "analytical" shots, with the distinctive flavors predominating.

Oddly enough, for brewing, I find the the reverse is often the case; although my experience varying grind levels for brewing is far less.

In any case, I think you should find the right grind first, winging it on dose. Once the flavors are in a balance you like; you can fine tune with dose, brew ratio, and shot length.
Jim Schulman

njtnjt
Supporter ♡
Posts: 172
Joined: 11 years ago

#3: Post by njtnjt »

Mookie_ wrote: Isn't it possible to adjust grind size again (going a bit finer) to come to the "same" result, so maybe 15.5g with grind size "8", results in 31g out in 28sec. Wouldn't that taste the same but just be a bit less espresso in the cup?
Thanks,
Mookie
Hi Mookie,
The short answer is no, it won't taste the same. Yes, you can change dose parameters and achieve the same measurable weight in the cup in the same given time but the taste will be different. Broadly speaking, grinding finer will elicit more sugars from the bean resulting in a sweeter tasting espresso. But don't get too hung up on all this. Different beans, grinders, and about a million other variables come into play as to how a smaller dose, ground finer will taste in the cup.
If I feel I'm being bowled over by strong/bold tastes I down-dose. If I feel there is too much acid in the cup I will down-dose and grind finer to try and pull out more sugars. It all comes down to taste in the cup. If it tastes great it is great.
Do some taste testing experiments. Start with a 14 gram dose of your favorite bean and add a gram at a time till you have a 20 gram dose . Make very good notes. What do you taste on your equipment as the dose changes?
Cheers!
-Nicholas

God wants us to walk but the devil sends a limo.

LMWDP #414

PPapa
Posts: 160
Joined: 5 years ago

#4: Post by PPapa »

I find that some beans could give more, but tightening a grind or increasing ratio pushes extraction too far, so then I increase the dose. It elevates some of the tasting notes without bitterness.

It's last resort for me usually, and I probably do it for less than 10% of beans.

kye
Posts: 112
Joined: 3 years ago

#5: Post by kye »

I'd suggest simply trying it and see for yourself, it's pretty easy to do after all.
I'd also suggest that when you dial in the grind for each dose amount, you do so by taste rather then some arbitrary measurement (time).
Let us know how you go!

Personally, now that I've managed to get my head around this stuff sufficiently to be able to reliably dial in and make a nice beverage, the experimentation is one of the things I enjoy the most about coffee (and why I'm here talking about it instead of just drinking it).

User avatar
yakster
Supporter ♡
Posts: 7271
Joined: 15 years ago

#6: Post by yakster »

-Chris

LMWDP # 272

Mookie_ (original poster)
Posts: 23
Joined: 3 years ago

#7: Post by Mookie_ (original poster) »

Thanks all for the suggestions.
another_jim wrote:My feeling is that grind is the key variable when it comes to the coffee itself and its taste balance. Dose just makes sure that the grind you believe best works for that basket and machine, i.e. gets to the right brew ratio in the right time.
That makes totally sense and helps me a lot in my understanding. I will play a bit more by keeping everything fixed but the dose and see what impact that has (on my taste buds).

Cheers
Mookie

Mat-O-Matic
Supporter ♡
Posts: 303
Joined: 5 years ago

#8: Post by Mat-O-Matic »

I agree with Jim. A note, if you search these forums, there are several threads talking about how smaller doses (i.e. 14g) are often more reliable and consistent, and therefore tastier. Not appropriate 100% of the time, but good to try once in a while, especially with comfort blends. Ristrettos are teensy!
LMWDP #716: Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

Mookie_ (original poster)
Posts: 23
Joined: 3 years ago

#9: Post by Mookie_ (original poster) replying to Mat-O-Matic »

Oh boy, that statement tears big holes in mental framework again. So far I thought: Smaller doses need finer grinds to achieve same flow as higher doses. Howerver, finer grinds are generally more likely to get some channeling compared to coarser grinds (cf turbo shots).
--> So why does the real world experience of many users seem to tell a different story, namely smaller doses are often more reliable?

User avatar
another_jim
Team HB
Posts: 13812
Joined: 19 years ago

#10: Post by another_jim »

Mookie_ wrote: ... finer grinds are generally more likely to get some channeling compared to coarser grinds (cf turbo shots).
--> So why does the real world experience of many users seem to tell a different story, namely smaller doses are often more reliable?
The users who have gone to lower doses are mostly using tradtional baskets designed for 7 gram singles and 14 gram doubles. They are using their espresso machines in the way they have been designed to be used for the last 70 years. So, wonder of wonders, they are getting consistent shots that are easy to fine tune.

If you use "precision baskets" with high doses and fine grinds, you are using a set up that was not designed for these groups. However, since tradtional espresso machines and baskets were designed by mere Italians, while these new baskets were designed by Seattle aerospace geniuses, they obvioulsy must make much better espresso. All your struggles and inconsistencies are just due to your own incompetence, and have nothing to do with the design genius underlying this new generation of baskets. :roll:
Jim Schulman