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Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
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MarkPrince
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Posted Wed Oct 18, 2006, 10:52pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Prune Said:

An experiment in the making though. In recent reading I've come across the suggestion (credit should go to the appropriate author) that (and in my limited experience) a bit of jiggling and gentle knocking as coffee is loaded into the filter seems to provide a more even distribution prior to applying the tamp and makes it easier to overfill if desired.

Posted October 18, 2006 link


.... aka, the portafilter "bounce".... covered in depth in Article 2, which should be online right after we get a new columnist (another one besides Jim) up and running.

Mark

 
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Jules_Gobeil
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 3:02am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

cv Said:

A comment (thought) on the question of why doesn't all this equalize when the grains swell. Water passing through the puck must cause some swelling but at the same time a portion of the grain is dissolved. Both of these things will change (metamorph) the shape of the coffee grains and affect 'settling' and it must be pretty complicated to predict the result. I use the term metamorph because that is the term used in evaluting the snowpack for avalanche forecasting. Moisture, vapour and liquid travel throught the snowpack as snow settles, changing the shape of the snow crystals, creating  and breaking down layers and eventually firming and evening up the snow pack. Something similar probably happens in coffee although at much higher, more even temperatures, and in a much shorter period of time. Packing explosives would give insight into the tamping stage. But a microscopic analysis (like avalanche forecasters do) of the before and after shapes of the grounds and the density throughout the puck might answer some questions. Although watching and tasting sounds like a lot more fun!

Posted October 18, 2006 link

Thanks for the clear explanation.  Now I understand !  There is a lot happening in that basket - tamping is one more variable we must control !  No wonder why a well made espresso is soooo gooood - we truly deserve a reward for all those offorts isn't ?

 
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mchassy
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 3:58am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

A few comments, but mostly questions, cause I'm still a newbie:

  • How in the world do you measure an 8 or a 30 pound pressure when you're tamping by hand without bringing a bathroom scale to the kitchen (see I read all the posts in between ;-) ?
  • I bought a 58 tamp for my 58 portefilter, and it doesn't go more than about 5mm into the filter (I checked when empty). Is that enough? Otherwise, where do you get a 57 tamp?
  • I'm all for knocking before tamping, I kind of flick my filter back and forth as the coffee is grinding to even out the flow, and the give it a quick knock before I level with my finger.
  • For the science majors:  does the act of knocking before tamping already cause some "non-mechanical" tamping to occur ? Meaning could the knocking orient the grinds in such a way that the tamping becomes more effecient?
  • How important are all the details of the tamping (not the tamp itself) when you have stepless grinder than go exactly where you want it to?

Mark
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MarkPrince
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 5:49am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

mchassy Said:

A few comments, but mostly questions, cause I'm still a newbie:

How in the world do you measure an 8 or a 30 pound pressure when you're tamping by hand without bringing a bathroom scale to the kitchen (see I read all the posts in between ;-) ?

Posted October 19, 2006 link

Well, the bathroom scale is still the easiest way... and the cheapest.

Two other methods - the espro tamper is preset to 30lbs of pressure, and gives a subtle click when you press down on it and hit that pressure. The other one is not quite yet available in the US or Canada but I have high hopes for it - the Clickmat - from Xpresivo.... tuner adjustable too for different pressures.

mchassy Said:

I bought a 58 tamp for my 58 portefilter, and it doesn't go more than about 5mm into the filter (I checked when empty). Is that enough? Otherwise, where do you get a 57 tamp?

Posted October 19, 2006 link

Well, in a little while, you'll be able to get a very custom, and (unfortunately) very expensive 57.6mm tamper that in some ways is the culmination of what I've learned over the past six years. I'm still fine tuning the final specs, and it will be sold on CoffeeGeek exclusively, because its', well, going to be exclusive to this website.

BUT... you can order any size you want (including .1mm differences) from Reg Barber in any of his current designs - sell the 58 and get one of these.

OR... you can change filter baskets - I'm assuming, from what you wrote, you have an LM basket, and its tolerances aren't the best.

mchassy Said:

I'm all for knocking before tamping, I kind of flick my filter back and forth as the coffee is grinding to even out the flow, and the give it a quick knock before I level with my finger.

Posted October 19, 2006 link

Ack! You'll see more why in articles 2 and 3. ;)

mchassy Said:

For the science majors:  does the act of knocking before tamping already cause some "non-mechanical" tamping to occur ? Meaning could the knocking orient the grinds in such a way that the tamping becomes more effecient?

Posted October 19, 2006 link

I've tried both - knocking to "settle" before tamping, and the portafilter "bounce" on the forks while loading up the basket. Both can lead to unpredicable results. But I've had better success with the bounce, esp. since I literally practice it every day to make it consistent. Again, more on this in the second article, but since I don't want to be a complete tease, here's an excerpt:

Side pours seemed like something easy for me to defeat with my then-current methodologies - curved tamper, no knock, proper distribution and leveling of the ground coffee. My main issue at this time was channeling effects - the aforementioned "jet" of water escaping from the bottom of the filter basket, usually at an off-angle. Only through a process of elimination did I finally figure out a way to all but abolish it in my own shot pulls. I still don't know how my "fix" works, and don't even really have sound theories for why. But I did it through a three stage addition to my tamping method

- bounce the portafilter on the grinder forks as I dose the coffee in, to further settle and compact the bottom portion of the bed of coffee.

- worked carefully to keep my "bounce" motion even, ever so slightly angled and repetitive, so as not to curl or overweigh the settling coffee on one side of the filter basket.

- took extreme special care not to disturb or do a passive "knock" on the portafilter once I began my staub tamp method, right up to the point of locking the portafilter smoothly, and without any jarring against the grouphead during insertion.

There's a fourth thing too - I went back to a flat bottomed tamper, albeit for a brief period. But more on that later.

Bouncing Portafilters
The bounce doesn't seem to work for many people. The reason is simple... and you can see it for yourself. Take a half filled bowl of popcorn, and bounce it on the counter - you'll soon notice the popcorn "rolling" in the bowl - usually away from your ands. Five six subtle bounces on the counter and you'll see the popcorn get so high on the far edge of the bowl, it will start falling back into itself.

I found being consistent with my bounce and the slightest of tipping upwards on the portafilter (barely noticeable) so the far edge is maybe 1/2 millimeter lower than the back edge helps make this even. But even so, it took me a lot of time to get this technique working. What it does is settle out the bottom portion of the bed of coffee umpteen times more than tamping or top pressure on a full filter will do. And it creates better, more even flow of brewed water, in my experience.

I also found all this work - a crucial bouncing, no knocking, the staub tamp, a very practiced leveling technique of the ground coffee, all of that is for naught if I was sloppy in how I handled the portafilter once was done tamping, but haven't yet inserted it into the machine. Even the flip of the portafilter to dislodge ground coffee from the bayonets and handle was examined.

Sorry if some of this seems out of context - just to explain "side pours" - I had to distinguish between two visible defects I saw in the Naked PFs early on - pin hole channelling, and what others later on called "channeling" I called from the get-go "side pours", because it was literally the shot speeding up out of the bottom sides of the filter basket (blonder on the side closest to the edge), showing severe channeling inside the basket. So "side pours" and "pinhole channeling" or "fractures".

There ya go... some tease taken away, more added ;) Glad to see all this feedback, and especially glad to hear some people are discovering the benefits of no-knocking.

Mark

 
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mchassy
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 6:04am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

So wait ... what's the diff between a bounce and a knock? I do a few things:

*I try to tilt the basket slight towards me to begin with cause, the grind tends to pile up in front.
*There are bits of metal sticking out from grinder which are utterly useless to hold the basket, but which I can rattle against a bit to keep the grind distribution even
*I then tap the forks on the counter, which I thought was knocking, but you're saying that's bouncing?

Then I stand on my head on count to 5.3, unless there is a full moon, in which case I count to 5.7 ;-)
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MarkPrince
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 6:29am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

The bouncing on the forks takes place as your dosing the coffee, not after you've dosed and initially tamped (which is the "no-knock" I preach)... ie, 5 grams in, bounce bounce bounce.... another dose, more bouncing, then dose your peak of coffee (a mound coming out of the basket), distribute, level, tamp, lock and load.

Sigh... :) - I was trying to avoid this, but it looks like I may have to do another video for the second article. I realised just reading over the article again it's not crystal clear.

Mark

 
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mchassy
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 6:36am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Do do the video, but that is now clear. That's basically what I've been doing as well.
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fookoonetwork
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 8:57am
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Mark,

Keep in mind the reason for my multiple layer tamp was to get more grind into the basket.  With a 3X basket, I found that the normal over dosing and leveling would only get about 19-21 grams into the basket.  I have gone up as high as 25 grams, but over time, for the usage of Malabar Gold with my setup, I have settled in with 23 grams for Malabar Gold, that requires a finer grind, in my experience.  That was the primary reason to going to a 3X basket from the 2X basket because no matter how fine I ground, I just couldn't get enough grind into a 2X basket and get half way decent pour times in the 20+ second mark with Malabar Gold because it resembled turning on a  water faucet.  This prepack was the only way that I could get enough grind into the basket to get a decent pour and pour time.  Tamping is very technique sensitive and there is no one way to do it.  Whatever works, then use it.  Just look at the pour and that is the bottom line.  I don't find lousy looking pours tasting great. As to the multiple tamp, I still think that this is the only good usage for the up tamper that is to be found on lots of higher end dosered grinders - too bad for those who cut it off.  If used traditionally, then one can create espresso ad nauseum just like Peet's and better than $tarbucks.   It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the more grind one can get into a 3X basket with good looking pours, the better, because one simply is performing an extraction from more grind and hence gets more flavor than is to be found from a 2X basket.   I am pretty sure that any really good barista will be able to get a more flavorful pour from a 3X basket, compared to a 2X basket.  As to tamping pressure, I don't even bother trying to get to 30 lbs anymore.  I would guess that my circumferential tamps are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 lbs.  The final tamp is probably 15 to 20 lbs of pressure, but the exact force is not that critical.  Keep in mind that Schomer came up with 30 lbs to limit the likelihood of any sort of repetitive stress symptom on the wrist and still get the job done.
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mchassy
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 1:38pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

Ok, now you're talkin ...

What I like about the doserless stepless grinder is that I put in what I want. To be honest, I have no idea how many grams that is. I grind until I can't and then I tamp. If I think I can put in more then I do, and then I tamp some more. Of course I'm doing this at home not at a café, but consistency comes from the dependability of the machines and sureness of my own two hands (that's what art is about ain't it?). The most important thing is to keep the tamp level, cause if you go off kilter, you're s*wed.

Every time I pull, the stuff comes out nice and slow. Have I timed it yet? No. But it goes real slow. What really makes the diff is the grind and the temperature. I think I've got the temperature stability down now (see this :  http://www.coffeegeek.com/reviews/consumer/innovadream/mchassy) and now I'm gonna start working on the grind. Of course the quest never ends, cause every coffee means a dfferent temperature and a different grind. I've got plenty of work to look forward to. I think the next step is to work it our for Nicaraguan Blue Mountain. Mmmm Nicaraguan Blue Mountain ....



Mark
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Posted Thu Oct 19, 2006, 2:32pm
Subject: Re: Tamping Science, Theory and Practice, Part One by Mark Prince
 

fookoonetwork Said:

no matter how fine I ground, I just couldn't get enough grind into a 2X basket and get half way decent pour times in the 20+ second mark with Malabar Gold because it resembled turning on a  water faucet.

Posted October 19, 2006 link

Really? You ground as fine as your machine would grind and it still poured like a faucet? Your brew pressure must be massive! What am I missing here?
Barry.
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