Why WDT this? - Page 2

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



2009 WDT in the center.
1 needle from the missus
1 bit o' 3/8 dowel
Cost $0.00.

It's not so pristine today. Espresso is a dirty business.

jpender

#12: Post by jpender »

My grinder makes fluffy grounds. My espresso machine is very forgiving. I thought that a pointed bamboo skewer or nothing at all was just fine. But I made a WDT tool for about $5 that's like the Levercraft one and started using that. It didn't seem like it made any difference at first. But now, looking back after months of use, it's clear to me that my extractions have been even far more reliably than before. The occasional issues I used to experience have simply gone away. It's not scientific and you could say I'm biased. But I say: try it and see for yourself.

Ken5
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#13: Post by Ken5 » replying to jpender »

Similar experience. Was using a home made WDT that was poorly made using a cork and small paper clips and got decent results. Bought the levercraft wdt and at first things were much worse. It took a little while to compensate, but ever since the shots we're better and very consistent. I didn't expect it to take a while to adjust.

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Jake_G
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#14: Post by Jake_G »

I like the LeverCraft WDT tool. And why shouldn't I? Eric and I worked together to create it, and I'm proud of how it looks, feels and performs.

That said, I rather wish that 90% of home baristas out there pulled shots from a single spout portafilter and kept their bottomless and WDT tools in the back of the coffee closet, next to the refractometer.

Here's the thing.

WDT is a troubleshooting tool to address extraction problems. It is sometimes necessary, like the user before mentioned with their Monolith Flat or my old Super Jolly. Mandatory.

However, troubleshooting tools really ought to be used in conjunction with a troubleshooting guide and therein lies the problem I'm trying to describe; troubleshooting guides start with a problem statement.

This topic started with a picture of ground coffee in a portafilter and a question:
iploya wrote:Is there any benefit to using WDT (i.e., stirring the grounds)?
The answer ought to unanimously have been:
What problem are you trying to troubleshoot with your espresso?
Even better:
What problem with the way your espresso tastes are you trying to troubleshoot?
This is where the single spout portafilter comes in. Coffee comes out a spout and lands in your cup. You taste it. If you are satisfied, that's it. If you taste something you don't like, you consult the troubleshooting guide. In the guide, under the problem of "Espresso tastes sour and bitter at the same time" you see things like:
"Check for there spritzers and other signs of channeling/severe unevenness of the extraction."

You bust out the bottomless and use the troubleshooting tools at your disposal to correct the issues, satisfied when the espresso tastes the way you want it. Then, hang up the bottomless and go back to single-spouted bliss.

Now, I use a bottomless daily and have for years. But mainly because I prefer the cleanliness. Basket removal is easy, and there is nothing to get dirty under the basket, so as long as my prep is on-point, it is a very clean process. I also used the WDT for every single shot once I learned how badly I needed it with my Super Jolly. After upgrading to a well-aligned 98mm flat burr grinder, I just assumed I still needed it, but it turns out I don't.

This reminds me of the precision basket discussion. If your aim is to chase diminishing returns to the ends of the earth, I applaud you and wish you success, but I highly suspect many folks would enjoy their coffee more if the process were placed on a lower tier than the product.

Much like the arbitrary "bottom of the basket fills in evenly within 1 second rule", if I were to post a picture of the bottom of one of my spent pucks, I'd be told that my extractions would be more even if I down-dose, grind coarser and pull a longer ratio. It's very likely true. When I do those things, the bottom of my pucks have less dark regions on them, which is neat. But I don't prefer the flavor, body or mouthfeel of those more dilute shots. So I pull my tight ristrettos of light roast coffee and enjoy them thoroughly.

I'd probably enjoy them even more if I switched to my spouted portafilter.

Cheers!

- Jake
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PIXIllate
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#15: Post by PIXIllate »

Jake_G wrote: Much like the arbitrary "bottom of the basket fills in evenly within 1 second rule", if I were to post a picture of the bottom of one of my spent pucks, I'd be told that my extractions would be more even if I down-dose, grind coarser and pull a longer ratio. It's very likely true. When I do those things, the bottom of my pucks have less dark regions on them, which is neat. But I don't prefer the flavor, body or mouthfeel of those more dilute shots. So I pull my tight ristrettos of light roast coffee and enjoy them thoroughly.

I'd probably enjoy them even more if I switched to my spouted portafilter.
While I respect Jake and appreciate the sentiment he's getting at (Relax and Espresso On) not all of us are able to be content with decent to good shots.

I left the world of wine when it got to the point that the only exciting things to drink were well aged Grand Cru Burgundies. Some pallets just educate themselves and the standards they expect. To be honest I've yet to experience anything in coffee that comes close to those special experiences with wine and I'm beginning to doubt it's possible. What I DO want to do is get the absolute most from a flavour experience point of view. For me that involves using all of the best practices all of the time. I can taste the dropoff when I don't use VST baskets, I can taste the dropoff when I don't WDT. I switch between coffees at least once a week and I know that the visual information I get from the bottomless when dialing in is very helpful in letting me know when I'm slacking. Which is closely followed by tasting and making notes so I can improve one variable at a time, one coffee at a time.

I'm finding the profiles I like and how to achieve them. Like Jake I'm looking for both high extraction AND big body/mouthfeel without the dilution and loss of flavor concentration of the standard 1:2+ ratios. This is an undertaking that (for me at least) required a Monolith grinder and a good deal of woodshedding with my puck prep.

I appreciate that this approach isn't for everyone, but I don't think it's accurate to say that all of the extra work comes to nothing in the cup. At least for some of us.

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cafeIKE
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#16: Post by cafeIKE »

PIXIllate wrote:I left the world of wine when it got to the point that the only exciting things to drink were well aged Grand Cru Burgundies. Some pallets just educate themselves and the standards they expect. To be honest I've yet to experience anything in coffee that comes close to those special experiences with wine and I'm beginning to doubt it's possible.
Brew with ethanol.

jpender

#17: Post by jpender »

I'm in troubleshooting mode a lot of the time.

It's true that most people refer to the appearance of the first drops and evenness of the flow when they say that their WDT is working or not. And that's not necessarily correlated with taste. So it's fair to point out that it's maybe just cosmetic in many cases.

But there are so many variables in coffee that there aren't enough beans in a bag to figure out all of the ones that make a difference. So the conservative approach is to try and do the best with each of them.

Do you really need WDT? Maybe a different swirl pattern? Maybe thinner needles? Do you need to tamp that hard? Maybe tamping isn't necessary at all? What if you changed the basket? Is this little tap I do before tamping really doing anything? Maybe a slightly lesser dose would help? Or a few degrees difference in water temperature? Would a longer preinfusion be a good idea? Or maybe I should pull the shot longer? What about the pressure profile? How come this last shot run faster when I did everything exactly the same as the previous shot? Maybe I've had enough caffeine for today.

shotwell

#18: Post by shotwell »

PIXIllate wrote:While I respect Jake and appreciate the sentiment he's getting at (Relax and Espresso On) not all of us are able to be content with decent to good shots.
Jake and I have polar opposite taste from a shot length perspective, but I do think that he makes espresso that is every bit as excellent as mine. I'm a relentless min/maxer and do things like adjust the dosing funnel I use to tweak taste (a kerfed funnel tastes better in my Cremina, one without in the Bianca.) Jake's point is clear to me; dial to taste and don't use a tool for the sake of using it. I'll go a step further and suggest that people map the complete extraction space by taste with and without different troubleshooting tools. You'll likely be surprised by what you find.

That's all a long way of saying that I know at least a small slice of what Jake has and hasn't tried and I believe he's mentally flexible enough to achieve excellence. If he's doing that without WDT, why bother?

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Jake_G
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#19: Post by Jake_G »

To assuage any concerns that I'm advocating for mediocrity, I simply mean that if I personally can't taste the difference between certain tweaks in my workflow when I'm looking for them, I certainly won't be able to discern them in a blind tasting, and I see no reason not to simplify my workflow.

Coming back to the OP's question, the answer is "If you are seeing signs of uneven extraction that are impacting your enjoyment of the espresso you get from your Niche, you should try WDT and see if it improves."

Or even a simply "Try it and see if you like it!".

In the case where the one pulling the shots (you see what I did there?) can taste the difference between various techniques of puck prep or any other part of the espresso equation and has a preference in the outcome, they should employ the preferred techniques! In my case, I can't taste the difference between WDT and no WDT, and see no indication that my shot consistency has wavered, so I'm sitting that out for a while. I will inevitably try it again, I certainly have no issue trying it and have a great routine to fall back on that employs it should I find the need arises or that I find a particularly difficult coffee that benefits from it.

I have tools in my kit that I use to make coffee that I find to be downright phenomenal and that's that. Shot's version of phenomenal I would also find very good. It's not a matter of "is it good enough?" It's all about "is this the style I like and is it presenting in a way that I find most appealing?". Shot would make something that I would very likely not prefer to my own, but I've no doubt I would slurp down that big gulp with a smile on my face and know that when it comes to that style of coffee, I'm not likely to find a better example just about anywhere, because it's what he loves and he has it perfected for his tastes. I'm sure Chris' Coffee (coffee prepared by PIXIllate, not Shotwell, nor the site sponsor of the same name) would be equally phenomenal, and of a style that suits his preferences (I might enjoy this a tad bit more, as it sounds they are closer to my style, but that's a minor detail).

Anyway, I'm blathering on because to me, the pursuit of perfection in the cup is all about what I can taste in the cup, and nothing else, really. If I can't taste the difference between method A and B and somebody says A is better than B, is it? Or if I can taste the difference and I prefer B, should I still strive to execute A to perfection because it's "better"? I think not.

Make coffee that tastes good to you. Make coffee that tastes phenomenal to you. But much like the Paul's comment on the baskets, I think lots of folks (who haven't necessarily gone through the "process" that lead them to things like Monolith grinders and RDT and VST baskets and WDT because they found how they meet their specific needs) find themselves overwhelmed with all these "thou shalts" with respect to how to make great coffee and the truth is that it just isn't always that hard.

Stick to the basics. Make good coffee, train your palate, make incremental changes, explore the extraction space, learn what you like, and have fun. When you learn what you like and what you like is a fussy process that nails perfection for you every shot, perfect. Stick with that. But my challenge is for folks who are frustrated chasing after some idealistic concept of what perfection might be to slow down and get there the old fashioned way. It is a really rewarding process, and when you know what you like, it's fun, because you can do silly things if you want to and still have great coffee.
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PIXIllate
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#20: Post by PIXIllate »

Jake_G wrote:Make good coffee, train your palate, make incremental changes, explore the extraction space, learn what you like, and have fun. When you learn what you like and what you like is a fussy process that nails perfection for you every shot, perfect. Stick with that. But my challenge is for folks who are frustrated chasing after some idealistic concept of what perfection might be to slow down and get there the old fashioned way. It is a really rewarding process, and when you know what you like, it's fun, because you can do silly things if you want to and still have great coffee.

Amen.