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Challenges dosing VST 22g basket

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  • Challenges dosing VST 22g basket

    Hi Folks,

    Recently I made another step in my long journey to caffeine nirvana and bought a Bezzera Strega. The double basket that came with it is quite "ordinary" to say the least, so I got a triple VST 22g basket and had my PF machined to make it bottomless.

    I am still working to find the perfect way of dosing/tamping the basket, as my old techniques were not working very well. First of all, it seems to take about 26-28g of coffee to fill the basket to the rim so I can evenly distribute it in the basket and tamp it, where it should supposedly be exact to within 1g. Then, the even dose (flat, flush with the rim of the basket) and tamp produce under-extracted centre of the puck. When looking closer, the bottom of the basket seems to be slightly convex, which is especially visible in the shape of the knocked out puck's bottom. Thus I use a plastic lid (and no, I do not want to shell out 40 bucks for Scottie Callaghan's 3 cardboard cut outs, I will eat my hat first) to make an even spherical dent in the coffee before tamping that alleviates this problem, but I am not extremely happy with the shots and the consistency at the moment. The shots seem to develop blonding too soon.

    Anyone has any experience with these baskets? Any suggestion? Should I move to a double Synesso basket instead?


    P.S. My grinder is K3 push, so I have to declamp the coffee with a skewer in the PF before distributing/tamping.
    Last edited by demq; 23 April 2013, 01:25 PM.

  • #2
    New machine, new grinder, new baskets. You have introduced a heap of new variables to your routine, and have to undergo the wonderful and challenging experience of learning how to bring out the best from your equipment. Your grinder is certainly capable, it is your technique that requires attention. Experiment with different doses and grind setting settings, scales will help you get consistent. Try and stick to one type of coffee, this helps to eliminate another variable. I found with my "triple" basket, (not a VST) that you can vary the dose immensely, and still get great pours. Ensure you distribute the grinds evenly with a skewer. (the "sewer" you mention is no doubt a typo, but still very funny).

    Have a read of this article:

    Espresso 101: How to Adjust Dose and Grind Setting by Taste - Tips and Techniques •

    Develop some patience (I know it will be frustrating), and enjoy the journey.

    The triple basket allows you to pack a lot of coffee into it. If the puck is not properly compacted the water will look for the path of least resistance. A simple technique is to distribute the grinds in the basket, and gently tap the group handle a number of times to assist the grinds to settle evenly, then tamp. Ten gentle taps to settle the coffee is a method described by Orphan Espresso, however, I cannot remember the link to it.

    Hope this helps.


    • #3
      Thanks for the helpful comments and noticing the typo, levelling with a sewer is still too advanced of a technique for me

      I have been using K3 for some time and I do the levelling/knocking, but somehow this particular basket seems extra challenging to master. Maybe I need a better scale, as my current one is only accurate to within a gram.


      • #4
        I upgraded to scales that are accurate to 0.1 grams. They are readily available on line, and not very expensive. I found the 1g scales to be a bit unreliable. My triple basket came with the machine, so am not sure of the manufacturer. Not an EP or VST.
        With the Bosco, (and similar lever groups), I found "underdosing" to work best. Filling the basket to the rim, levelling etc as you would with a pump driven machine, did not yield very good results. Dropping the dose resulted in great pours. The key is lots of experimentation.
        Hopefully some Strega owners will add some of their findings as well.


        • #5
          After reading Demq's OP I opened the seldom/never used coffee stuff drawer and retrieved an unused 22 gram VST basket, just never got round to using it.

          Clicked it into the Bezerra portafilter and attempted to lock it into the group head, didn't fit, sits a bit high, so into the drawer again and grabbed the nekid Rancillio PF I had turned down a couple of years ago, clicked the 22g basket into it, all good.

          My normal dose for a Lungo is 18 grams in an 18g La Marzocco basket, so weighed out 20 grams and adjusted the Mazzer Mini 1/2 a click coarser, ground the beans, dosed and locked the PF in position.

          Ran the pour for 30 seconds, the result? pour looked great, exactly the way I was hoping it would, was there an improvement over the 18 gram? I'm sure it was a little better, more viscous mouth feel, and slightly more intense flavour.

          I realise full well "one swallow does not a summer make" so I'll continue with the 22 gram basket and nekid PF for few days and report back with results.


          • #6
            It has taken me quite a while to get the hang on the VST baskets.....

            I use the Strada 17G basket on a La Marzocco.

            At first it was always choking or gushing towards the end. With the gushing I was getting PBS (premature blonding syndrome).

            I find a finer grind works well. With the grinds free falling into the basket, I do not collapse the filled basket(ie no tapping). I simply run my finger across the top - (with a slight curve in it). I check weigh it every while again, especially when I dial in a new coffee. If it is correct for what is going to work - it is within 1G. Generally for the 17G basket it ends up either 17 or 18G. If the weight is over or under the 17-18G range I know before i even tamp it is not going to work.....If the weight is over or under that range - I know before i even tamp that it is either too course grind or too fine on the grind.

            I now use a 58.4mm tamp - works nicely with a relatively soft tamp. Previously I used to swing my weight into the puck and compress it into submission with a healthy overdose in the basket. Not anymore - correct measure.... 1 tamp. No polish. No knocks on the side. No collapsing. No extra crap - just one fluid movement and that is all. It seems so simple - but that is all that is required. I have spent months mucking around trying to get consistently good shots - and I have found the more I do to it prior to the shot - the less consistent it gets.

            A good pre-infuse - then fire away. When I get a smoking good shot out of the beast .... nothing for 7-8 secs then a few drips and a thin beautiful controlled pour of gold.....the legs just tucking under the spout edges a little and staying that way through to the end.....which in some case might be 36/37 secs depending on the beans. Mostly I will stop just over 30. Perviously with normal baskets I would have ended up with bitter over extraction, but this seems to work well for the VST for some reason.....I believe it comes down to what ever you can find to work and give the taste results is what is good.

            Knocking out is not exactly the same as normal baskets. The puck will still have the screw impression, but is slightly "malleable" puck. Mine stay in one piece, but some others I have spoken to report soggy gooy pucks. If knocking out straight after the shot - sometimes I have a bit of water retention at the surface of the puck....but that is localised to the surface and not a soggy puck. If leaving the group handle in for a minute or 3 it is gone.

            I tried overdosing in the 14G, 17G and 22G VST, found very inconsistent results. One of the key techniques i have developed is as mentioned - the old mark 1 finger across the top with the correct grind will give basket size or +1g.

            Can feel the pain of the "loss of shot mojo" - been there! Had the side channelling, blonding, gushing, choking - you name it. Push on through Big gets better!


            • #7
              Challenges dosing VST 22g basket

              Here's my weird routine. I've been levelling mine with finger and 1 tamp using a 58.5mm tamper. For me, I stop between 40-60 sec preinfusion included depending on the bean. I "shoot" that into 2 cups using a double spout. And my dad and I enjoy a good cup every morning.

              Maybe I should try 30 sec in one cup to see the difference in taste...

              For one cup I'd use my 15g VST cutting at 20-25 secs...

              Am I weird?


              • #8
                I have been lurking a long time but posting never. Difficulty in basket also. Centre slow, outside ok. Or maybe centre ok, outside fast. Anyone know how to fix? Thanks


                • #9
                  Originally posted by chickham View Post
                  I have been lurking a long time but posting never. Difficulty in basket also. Centre slow, outside ok. Or maybe centre ok, outside fast. Anyone know how to fix? Thanks
                  A few details would be helpful Chickham, i.e. type of machine/grinder, size and make of basket, type of beans, dose weight etc.


                  • #10
                    I've heard several suggestions that the VST baskets don't work on the Strega, although I can't see why they shouldn't. Unfortunately I don't have a Strega to play with (yet), but I've managed to get good shots with the 22g VST on the HG one/Silvia combo with a bit of a fiddle. The VST is certainly unforgiving of uneven dosing. If I dose by weight and level I get the mother of all doughnut extractions!

                    My routine is to weigh 23g, grind into PF with a coffee catcha, briefly stir with a skewer, then "level" with the convex edge of a plastic dough scraper, settle with a few thumps and tamp.

                    The dough scraper is an excellent stand in for the Scottie Callaghan "barista tools" - $1.50 from most kitchenware shops. Happy to post a pic if anyone's interested.


                    • #11
                      Challenges dosing VST 22g basket

                      Originally posted by habahabanero View Post
                      The dough scraper is an excellent stand in for the Scottie Callaghan "barista tools" - $1.50 from most kitchenware shops. Happy to post a pic if anyone's interested.
                      Yes please.


                      • #12
                        Hi an3_bolt,

                        Thanks for the nice reply and encouragements.

                        Originally posted by an3_bolt View Post
                        I tried overdosing in the 14G, 17G and 22G VST, found very inconsistent results. One of the key techniques i have developed is as mentioned - the old mark 1 finger across the top with the correct grind will give basket size or +1g. ...
                        I kept at it and the shots are getting better and more consistent. One issue that I notice is that 22g of coffee in vst 22g basket sit way below the rim, so the only way to "level" is with a curved piece of plastic, when the grind is chosen to get a normal extraction time. What type of grinder do you use? My guess would be a higher-end conical burr one?
                        It seems that my Compak K3 push flat-burr grinder dispenses less "fluffy", clumped grinds than the higher end ones. I discovered the VST dedicated thread on CS (a bit late unfortunately) and from what I understand a similar issue has been raised by other members and the reply was that one should get close to level fill of the basket if using Robur or Kony-e.

                        I tired declamping but I don't get enough increase in volume to fill the basket. This lower level of the grinds leads to (Pullman barista) tamper base going all the way in even for a light tamp. The results are fine though and the puck comes out solid.