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Updose, downdose and Rocky

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  • Updose, downdose and Rocky

    Long story with questions.

    While browsing the web, ostensibly looking at grinder reviews to see what would be a better match for my VBM than my Rocky, I happened across the Home-Barista site and their forum.

    The first discussion that caught my eye was the one on "Would it beat a Robur?" There was extensive taste-testing of espresso at two dose levels from a number of high- and medium-end grinders. At the end of the test was the surprise: The reviewer found that a properly dialed-in Rocky, producing 13.5 gram doses actually beat the Robur by a significant amount!!!!  This result blew me away, as it did the reviewer, and made me look at Rocky more fondly.

    The interconnected discussion of the perils of up-dosing, and the advantages of using Italian machines with what the Italians would consider the designed dose (14 grams) send me to Rocky and the VBM for some experiments.

    I have been getting some magnificent shots with a dose of 18 grams (weighed) in the VBM. However, despite my best efforts, consistently great shots have not been forthcoming every time. The teflon tape mod to Rocky, and the "surgical tubing as spring" mod have resulted in much better shots, and fewer fines in the glass, and a stepless Rocky, but having had some magnificent coffees--I want more.

    So I proceeded to dial in Rocky for a 14 gram fill. This required me to reduce the grind number to between 1 and 2, depending on the SO bean. The 14 gram fill doesnt even come up to the ring in the basket, and afterwards the top of the puck can be quite wet. The pull however is very consistent, rising from a dribble to a fine stream, and then staying at that level for either a 20 sec. ristretto or a 30 sec normale. At that very fine grind the tamp seems less critical, and a hard tamp is not necessary.

    The taste is the test, and the test is passed! An older Harrar Longberry that I had assumed was just about past it, again started to show the fruitiness and deep chocolate flavours that had been reducing for days.

    A freshly-roasted PNG Wahgi that I had judged as nice but somewhat nondescript, became a drink to be savoured, with fine fruit and a lingering after-taste.

    I can sense that there is more to this down-dosing than I had expected, and more experiments are in order as soon as my mini-scale (accurate to .01 grams) arrives from Taiwan.

    Anybody got similar experiments in their experience? Other comments or suggestions? Or even a Robur that I could borrow for testing?


  • #2
    Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

    There was rrevious discussion of downdosing if you care to search for it.


    • #3
      Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

      My Espresso Steps:
      Silvia and Rocky for 6½ years
      VBM Domobar Super lever and Rocky for the next 8 months
      VBM Domobar Super lever and Mazzer Kony for about 4 or 5 months now

      The Rocky was on its third set of burrs when I sold it.
      The Kony is the one in the tests from HB

      There is a lot more then just burr size and design gong on when comparing these two grinders. The Rocky is a nice grinder, but the Kony (and, presumably, other Mazzer grinders) are precision instruments. The mounting and positioning/adjustment mechanism of the top burr is worth the price of admission alone.

      Down-dosing is, IMO, is a misnomer. It is relative, but it is a matter of finding the PROPER dose, so it is more accurate to say that you were over-dosing previously. With any machine/grinder/coffee-blend-roast combination (not to mention beverage made and personal taste) there is a "sweet spot" the benefits the barista.

      The VBM is quite a bit more forgiving than other machines because of the E-61s water dispersion and ramp up of brew pressure so that helps. When you get the proper dose it gets better. With "over dosing" you have to grind more coarse. Then you have the problem that the coffee hits the brewhead disrupting its integrity and channeling is the result nearly every time. Proper dosing gives head room, but it also allows a finer grind which aids in a more-complete extraction.

      Once you get the best dose and then adjust the grind and brew temp to match, things get better and more consistent in a hurry.

      I will mention it again, on my website I have a How-To article recently added:
      "12 - Home Baristas Guide to Making Quality Espresso " (renamed it yesterday). Dosing is just one of the topics covered in the +/- 14 typed pages.

      And in regards to grinders, I would recommend just about any Mazzer over the Rocky. Used majors show up on eBay, and add new burrs and you have a commercial-quality grinder for about the same or a bit more than a Rocky.


      • #4
        Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

        Originally posted by 02372022122A3728242921450 link=1213270711/0#0 date=1213270711
        I can sense that there is more to this down-dosing than I had expected, and more experiments are in order as soon as my mini-scale (accurate to .01 grams) arrives from Taiwan.
        I live in Taiwan.  Which scale did you get and how do you like it?



        • #5
          Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

          In the end I got one off (Hong Kong) and the package says CE Digital Pocket Scale. I got the 1kg x .1gm version (sku1165), about $10 posted.

          The scale itself works really well, and has proven very useful in standardising my dosing regime.

          Interesting for me is that neither the weight, nor the volume of the beans, nor the volume of the grinds is consistent across bean varieties or even roasts. And what seems to matter the most is the TAMPED VOLUME.

          So now I work out the volume for a particular batch of beans and use the scales to keep the individual doses at the same weight.



          • #6
            Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

            Thanks.  Ive heard of a few people on coffee discussion boards who have ordered digital scales from Deal Extreme.  Im a little leery because most of the stuff is made in China (says the guy who lives in Taiwan).  Or are Escali and Salter made in China, too?


            • #7
              Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

              Originally posted by 5D6261795C6F67600E0 link=1213270711/5#5 date=1237029937
              Or are Escali and Salter made in China, too?
              Im pretty sure that most "name-brand" scales have been manufactured in China for a few years now. Theres nothing wrong with that providing all the appropriate quality assurance controls are in place. Ive been using a couple of "MyWeigh" scales now for a few years and neither of them has missed a beat and both of these were made in China; they also have a lifetime warranty too, guaranteed by the parent company in the USA.

              So long as you stick with manufacturers who are prepared to stand behind their products I think youll be OK....



              • #8
                Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

                I just stumbled across this website.  Interesting what they have to say about Escali.


                • #9
                  Re: Updose, downdose and Rocky

                  I have managed to calibrate my little scale using my kitchen Salter(!?). The two scales stay within 1% over their common range (although the Salter is in 1 gm increments).

                  I also dont actually care about accuracy, its repeatability that I need. As long as the 18.5 gm is the same from day to day, it doesnt matter if its actually 18.1 or 19.1 gm.

                  BTW it has no warranty stated (other than one against arriving dead) but I ordered two and the total was still less than half of what I could achieve in Australia. Of course living in Taiwan may be an advantage for these items. Living in Adelaide certainly wasnt, and the postage within Australia was never included in the price.

                  I dont know how Deal Extreme does the free postage on items that cheap in the first place--I just hope they keep it up.