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Troubleshoot my technique? (Distribution et al.)

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  • Troubleshoot my technique? (Distribution et al.)

    As a bare newbie I'm trying to get myself enough in the ballpark that I can do "decent", consistently. Unfortunately, coming from a coffee-less background, there's a lot of obvious stuff that just isn't, to me, so any help is appreciated.

    I'm using a Gaggia Classic (9.4bar static with brew temp of 95.5°C falling to 93.5°C by the end of a 60ml pull) and a Baratza Preciso so that should take equipment issues out of the equation.

    Beans are Bali "God Mountain" from CoffeeCompany or Decaf WOW!, both popper-roasted to the verge of second crack (takes 6-7 minutes). If anyone can suggest a bean/blend on BeanBay that is forgiving of quick roasts, I'd appreciate it.

    I think my next big hurdle is figuring out dosage and distribution. I'm using an Xavier Heavy-Duty 58mm tamper with a bathroom scale (15kgs) to remove that variable until I get everything else in order.

    My Gaggia basket is rated at 14g, ~16g fills the basket without tapping the PF to settle it and ~18g fills it with tapping but seems to result in the PF leaking while the coffee puck saturates over 7 to 9 seconds, then a 10 to 15-second gusher.

    The issue is that when I grind fine enough to use 15-16g doses, it comes out of the grinder in clumps/blocks rather than fluffy powder. I've taken to either bashing the PF on the bench with my hand over the top to break up/settle the chunks or using the grinds bin, shaking, then dosing from the bin and tapping a couple of times on the bench to settle. Any advice on that?

    Once I've sorted that, I smooth the grinds with my finger (usually sitting 0-5mm below the basket rim) then tap the PF with the tamper to level the gradient of the coffee surface before tamping.

    The whole exercise is pretty time-consuming, so I'm wondering how anal I actually need to be when dosing/distributing. Do I need to smooth out the surface before tamping or is it sufficient to just get the gradient level? Do I need to break up the chunks to get rid of voids or do they disappear when tamping?

    Feeling pretty lost here o_o

  • #2
    I'm no expert but the coffee is good .... medium basket, fine grind (#8-10 on Rocky), fill the basket, shake to settle, light tamper then spin it to even, then full weight tamper (lots of kilos!), then into the machine making sure there are no grinds around the edges. Takes no time with very little mess. Usually pumps a bit over 9 bar.


    • #3
      Do you hold your tongue to the right or the left?

      Seriously though, how does the coffee taste? I'm pretty sure I do most things wrong when making my coffee but it tastes great! Don't stress too much on the process, work on the end result for your tastebuds.

      That's my 2 cents worth but I'm no barista!


      • #4
        1) The Peru Ceja de Silva is pretty forgiving of most roasting techniques

        2) What exactly do you mean when you say the portafilter leaks if you dose to 18g?

        Others are better qualified to answer the rest, but..

        3) I'd concentrate on getting your dose right (ish) first, then the grind.

        4) the clumping from the grinder isn't necessarily a problem...if it worries you break it up with a toothpick. Don't let the sight of clumps distract you too much when trying to get the dose / grind right.

        I'll leave the rest to others better qualified....


        • #5
          Did you change the group seal?

          The standard double basket on the classic takes 18 - 20g depending on the coffee / grind used.
          I found when trying to grind finer / lower dose there was too much channelling / very slushy pucks, more bitterness and fines getting through.

          In my limited experiences with Decaf WOW, i found it always needs a much finer grind than regular coffees.

          As BOS said do not worry about small clumping, a solid consistent tamp takes care of it.

          I have found that its a lot easier to be less anal with dosing / levelling, a little sideways jiggle and light tap on bench is usually enough. Just ensure you get a level tamp with thumb and forefinger touching around the rim of basket.

          I still put the whole lot onto the scales to make sure im "close enough" to my intended dose. I think eliminating this variable is always useful.


          • #6
            Cheers for the replies, guys.

            When I say the PF leaks at higher doses, I mean from the group seal, a small dribble, for about half to a full second, then it stops. That said, I gave it a good clean and with a higher eyeballed dose and a firm lock-in I didn't have any issues.

            As far as the clumping goes, I mean the grinds come out in marble-sized blocks, which make dosing directly into the PF impossible (overflows with 12-14g and that goes double since the Preciso doesn't discharge the grinds far enough to hit the centre of the PF). I did a little playing this morning and I'm pretty happy with the grind into bin, shake bin, pour into PF thing. Filling it with a hump, tapping until flat then doing the same again seems to get close to the mark, though I should start weighing again.

            Getting temps sorted was a night/day deal; every shot I've pulled since has been decent/good; no more sour swill from 80°C pulls or bitterness from trying to temp surf and pre-infusing with steam :P

            Barry, I might order some of the Peru, thanks


            • #7
              Re: Troubleshoot my technique? (Distribution et al.)

              What happens at 18g if you grind coarser or tamp with less force? Does it still choke?

              I dont have a gaggia, but usually dose 16g directly into my small 51mm double basket. I use a funnel made from a plastic cup, over dose slightly (2-3mm above the basket at the rim, 10mm in the centre), tap on my puck bucket to settle the grinds, then level them by running the tamper around the basket rim a few times (forms a fairly level surface with only slight peak), then tamp. Its the cleanest, fastest method Ive tried.


              • #8
                I've been dosing at 18 over the weekend (17 for decaf) and it looks like it was an issue of crud on the group seal combined with being limp-wristed locking in the portafilter. The coarser grind necessary for the heavier dose means it's coming out of the grinder more evenly so is easier to distribute, too. Coffee is tasting pretty good. It's a bit blander than I'd like, missing the strength of the smooth nutty flavours I know are capable of being produced with the bean I'm using (the house roast from a cafe in Melbourne) so if anyone has any hints there I'm all ears.

                I've got a bottomless PF on the way so I should be able to get a bit better of an idea about my tamp/dist later this week.