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Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > Tamp and prep -...  
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AndyPanda
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AndyPanda
Joined: 12 Jul 2010
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 7:26am
Subject: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

OK ... this is a bit embarrassing to be asking such a noobie question but there is still plenty to learn after all this time making espresso. And I use a Mazzer Major (and sometimes a conical for comparison) so I hope I'm not going to get the "buy a better grinder" responses.

I have been pulling what I consider great shots of espresso for ages now.  I only recently made a bottomless portafilter and while my shots look pretty decent in the bottomless - I do have the occasional mists and sprites.  Nothing horrible ... but there is almost always some little misting of coffee shooting out at an angle.  It's so fine it just leaves a brown stain without any actual liquid (like a super fine airbrush).

In an effort to improve my preparation, I've been reading back over all the old posts I can find.  Trying with and without WDT - trying leaving a mound in the center - trying leveling off - the chicago chop - nutation - NSEW -tap to settle, shake to settle, stir to settle - etc.   I get all sorts of varying degrees of success.  But all this changing and trying different dosing/leveling/tamping methods has raised more questions for me.

I've been reading about fines migration and suggestions to leave the coffee powder as untouched as possible and a simple straight down tamp.

And at some point I read a post about Italians tamping lightly but using the little grinder mounted tamper to press the grinds down mid dose to make room for more grinds.  

I just tried doing a very light tamp as the fluffy grinds were getting close to the top of the basket and then grinding the rest into the basket and then a final tamp (also light).  Same dose as always.   I got a very slow pouring ristretto with no sprites at all and it was delicious.   I would probably grind a bit more coarse as the pour took about 38 seconds (first 10-15 gave only a few drips).

All this leaves me thinking that with a heaped basket of fluffy grinds and then tamping - the grinds bunch up in the top half of the puck, resisting the tamping pressure, and prevents the bottom of the puck from being compressed as tightly as the top.

It feels odd to have been pulling decent shots for so long and now I'm back to basic questions and completely rethinking my prep rituals.
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SteveRhinehart
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SteveRhinehart
Joined: 27 Dec 2009
Posts: 855
Location: Syracuse, NY
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: 1970s La Pavoni Europiccola
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 11:54am
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

Espresso: 89% science, 10% method, 150% magic.

Sometimes the nuances of what's going on in the basket leave us baffled, and surprise us with deliciousness. The key is not to overthink it, but rather embrace the successes and try to repeat them. Ever wonder why 10 baristas have 15 different suggestions for dosing and tamping? It's because there's no one answer, and the resulting taste is quite subjective anyway. If you've found something that works every time, keep at it!
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 12:07pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

I with Andypanda, I wish I had an answer. I sometimes get sprites also.  I feel like I get more sprites when I don't stir the grinds. I have not done test to prove it but when I first got my vario w I did not do the stir with the needle because I felt the grounds were all a nice mound in the center with no clumps, so I just leveled and tamped.  My basket did a lot more sprites every time I did not stir.  I went back to stirring with the needle and I feel I get a lot less sprites, not 100% gone but I am too green to hope for that.  But like I said I have not gone back to test that with scientific method.

 
Coffeenoobie

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AndyPanda
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AndyPanda
Joined: 12 Jul 2010
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Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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Espresso: Olympia Cremina, Various...
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Roaster: BreadMachine/HeatGun
Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 4:10pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

Is there any strong argument against lightly tamping a half full basket and then filling it and doing a final tamp?   I've now pulled about 6 shots that way and every one of them was completely without sprites, they all pulled very slowly (I kept grinding slightly more coarse each time) and all of them were very thick and delicious.  I'm getting about 1oz (30 grams) in 38 seconds from an 18g dose (always virtually nothing but a drip or two for the first 15 seconds - that's why I'm letting it run to 38 sec) ... gonna keep grinding a little more coarse and try to get it under 30 seconds... even though these longer running shots taste great to me.

If I did the same grind and same dose with my usual prep - tamping after the whole 18 grams in the basket - I would get 1.5-1.75 oz in 25 seconds (and a few tiny sprites from the bottomless PF).  I know this is just screaming that my standard prep isn't good enough - but I have been seriously working at it and can't believe I'm that far off.

I do want to buy some VST baskets and see how they are though.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
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Espresso: N S Oscar
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 4:35pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

Now you are making me want to try doing it that way.  The only thing I could think of is if the 2 presses created some layers in the basket that made for channeling, but as you are not getting channeling then I think it is great.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

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MARIOBARBA
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MARIOBARBA
Joined: 26 Sep 2011
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Espresso: Ascaso DUO Prof TRONIC
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 4:50pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

Go back to a spouted pf, voila, no more sprites.  If the espresso tastes good...
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AndyPanda
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AndyPanda
Joined: 12 Jul 2010
Posts: 769
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Olympia Cremina, Various...
Grinder: Mazzer Major, Fiorenzato,...
Vac Pot: vintage Corey
Drip: AeroPress
Roaster: BreadMachine/HeatGun
Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 4:52pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

If you try it let me know how it turns out for you.  I did a very, very light tamp the first time and the final tamp was still fairly light (maybe 15-20 lbs?) and I was really surprised how much tighter the pour was.  I didn't do the first tamp at halfway full ... probably more like 75% but I'm still experimenting.

I don't think this routine is smiled upon by the experts (well maybe a smile with a shake of the head and rolling of the eyes) - but I'm really curious why - since it seems to be making a really positive effect for me.
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Coffeenoobie
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Coffeenoobie
Joined: 11 Dec 2011
Posts: 3,015
Location: PNW
Expertise: I like coffee

Espresso: N S Oscar
Grinder: K30 & Vario W
Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 5:15pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

Normally when tamping a basket, I stir, NSWE and pray to the espresso gods while standing on one foot.  I did not do that this time, I just did the light tamp 1/2 way 8gs of 19g then filled the basket the rest of the way and tamped with the espro.  I got 2 large sprites I could see pin holes at the side.  Not a full gusher but pretty bad for me.  It did not pour like yours... sorry I am a bad test subject.

 
Coffeenoobie

Buying advice: GRINDER GRINDER GRINDER. Don't cheap out on the grinder.

My coffee treasure map...
Click Here (maps.google.com)

Oscar trick out: http://s156.photobucket.com/user/GandBteam/story/14231
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frank828
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Joined: 23 Feb 2011
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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 5:28pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

he filled the basket 75% then did the first very light tamp.

try again!!  :P

i hate not having an espresso machine.
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EricBNC
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EricBNC
Joined: 22 Jun 2010
Posts: 1,866
Location: North Carolina
Expertise: Just starting

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Posted Mon Apr 16, 2012, 5:59pm
Subject: Re: Tamp and prep - rethinking my whole ritual
 

AndyPanda Said:

Is there any strong argument against lightly tamping a half full basket and then filling it and doing a final tamp?

Posted April 16, 2012 link

Only if you are unwilling to replace your grinder...
















: )

 
I chew coffee beans with my teeth while gargling with 195 F water to enjoy coffee. What is this "coffee brewing" device you speak of?
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