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Tamping
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Discussions > Espresso > General > Tamping  
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DaveS
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 9:21am
Subject: Tamping
 

I am slowly learning the art of espresso and I have started to look more at how I am tamping.  I have read a lot here about the NSEW method and have been looking at the recent stuff from Schomer.  I started to actually stick my finger in the coffee in the portafilter to feel how uneven it is before I tamp and realised that there is often huge unevenness in there.  I have started now gently pressing the grounds down in the PF with my finger  to feel how compacted they are before I tamp and to try to level the playing field before the tamp - often I will find a spot which will almost collapse beneath my finger and will get a little more coffee in it as a result (almost feels like I am leveling off a sand bed before laying a patio now)  I do now seem to be getting more consistent shots and the pucks that come out after dont have those suspicious little pin pricks in them that were the source of my problems before I think.  Does anybody else mess around to this extent - any tips on tamping I should be aware of?
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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 10:14am
Subject: Dosing and Tamping
 

I've noticed the same thing. Especially with a dosing grinder, coffee grounds often drop into the portafilter in clumps. This is troublesome, especially when you read that dosing is often 90% of the problem in pulling bad shots.

Recently I've been experimenting with stirring the grounds around with a dissecting needle to break up clumps and improve the distribution before entering my tamping routine. So far I've been pleased with the results. Attached is a collage that shows distribution before and after stirring, the tamped puck, and the shot.

I'd welcome feedback on this from the pros. Any downside to stirring the grounds before tamping?

RapidCoffee: DosingCollage.jpg
(Click for larger image)
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rileys
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rileys
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 11:22am
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

RapidCoffee Said:

Any downside to stirring the grounds before tamping?

Posted April 6, 2005 link

PITA and unnecessary.
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Pe_tah
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 2:04pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

what is PITA?

Thanks in advance.

Peter

 
Sacramento, CA
www.flickr.com/photos/pe_tah
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reeeneeee
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 2:22pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

my guess is "pain the the [rear end]"
...kinda like PETA! :o)
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rileys
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rileys
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 3:30pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

yep.   pain in der rear
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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 3:52pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

rileys Said:

PITA and unnecessary.

Posted April 6, 2005 link

Thanks for the, uh, concise response. Are you saying that dosing/distribution is unnecessary? I thought dosing was an important part of the espresso routine. Sweeping the grounds back and forth with your finger in an X pattern to distribute the grounds, as Schomer advocates, is just as much of a PITA. What do you recommend?
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stash
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 4:39pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

rileys Said:

yep.   pain in der rear

Posted April 6, 2005 link

It probably depends on your grinder to some degree.  I think it probably is helpful if you have a grinder that tends to "clump" the grounds.  Some grinders, like the Solis Maestro, are known to do so.
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rileys
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rileys
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 4:43pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

RapidCoffee Said:

Thanks for the, uh, concise response. Are you saying that dosing/distribution is unnecessary?

Posted April 6, 2005 link

dosing/distribution is very necessary.  swishing about with a very small tool is unnecessary, when you have a satisfactory tool attached to your hand already.  from a pro perspective, such a small tool would become lost/broken/lost/etc in a short time, requiring baristas to revert to using their finger...  so...  why not stay with the finger if the tool doesn't do a significantly better job.

almost all the dosing/distribution schemes i've seen in the past few years have been overkill.  get a consistent dose of coffee in the basket; spread it around w/o playing with it too much (ever work concrete?); tamp to whatever force feels comfortable; brew.

whatever ritual you develop, the key things are that it works, and that it's consistent.


--barry "quality doesn't have to be complicated"
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RapidCoffee
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RapidCoffee
Joined: 4 Dec 2004
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Posted Wed Apr 6, 2005, 8:46pm
Subject: Re: Dosing and Tamping
 

rileys Said:

dosing/distribution is very necessary.  swishing about with a very small tool is unnecessary, when you have a satisfactory tool attached to your hand already.  from a pro perspective, such a small tool would become lost/broken/lost/etc in a short time, requiring baristas to revert to using their finger...  so...  why not stay with the finger if the tool doesn't do a significantly better job.

Posted April 6, 2005 link

What can I say? I'm a guy! I like tools! The only thing better would be a power tool! (Maybe I can find a power needle at the local tattoo parlor...)

But seriously, that's exactly why I tried it: the needle breaks up clumps of finely ground coffee more effectively than my pudgy fingers. I wouldn't recommend this for a barista in a commercial environment. But for an amateur at home, it's just another piece of kitchen gadgetry.

rileys Said:

almost all the dosing/distribution schemes i've seen in the past few years have been overkill.  get a consistent dose of coffee in the basket; spread it around w/o playing with it too much (ever work concrete?); tamp to whatever force feels comfortable; brew. whatever ritual you develop, the key things are that it works, and that it's consistent.

Posted April 6, 2005 link

There certainly are lots of approaches. Let's see, I've tried the Schomer distribution scheme (haven't quite got the hang of the Stockfleth maneuver), the Schomer and Staub tamps, and others suggested on this site (overfill and cram under group head, partial fill and light tamp, etc.). No one technique has consistently stood out, hence the continued explorations.

One thing I have noticed: overdosing the basket helps significantly whenever I distribute with my fingers. Maybe it's just the extra coffee, but perhaps I'm also getting a better distribution with a mound of coffee to work down into the basket. This effect seems less pronounced when I stir the grounds.
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