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Levelling and tamping techniques - are they overrated?

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  • Levelling and tamping techniques - are they overrated?

    I'd like to share some experimenting I've done over the last few weeks. I used to dose and collapse twice then chop and level with a straight edge for doubles and Scott Callaghans #27 or #28 dosing tool for singles. I got good shots which tasted pretty good. I've also tried all the levelling and tamping techniques I've seen on You tube, from USA sites, including, Schyndel, Staub, Chicago chops, Stockleth, WDT, nutation, etc etc and you know what I do now? Dose and tamp. That's all. I use the grind on demand feature of my grinder to get a dose that will just fit under my shower screen, shake the group handle as it fills with the odd tap against the prongs and then tamp with no levelling at all. The results are just as good and often better than previous attempts, that sometimes used some of those crazy techniques I've seen on the web. I guess the old KISS practice comes into play here. Do others do the same? Is levelling overrated? Do you need to fill the voids? Do you really need to break clumps by stirring the grind (WDT)? Doesn't the tamper break the clumps? Most cafes generally just dose and tamp and I've often had great coffees when they've done just that.

  • #2
    Good on you barri for fessing up!

    I've been doing exactly that for a couple of years now.

    No channeling, no problems. :-D

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    • #3
      I have been using your first method of dosing, tapping, and sweeping with a curved leveling tool, for quite some time (I even do the same at my work's cafe). Lately i have been trying to eyeball it and just use my finger as the sweep to finish off before tamping. The only reason i do this is so i get a consistent amount of grind in the basket so i'm sure its just the grind size affecting my pours. CBF using a toothpick or yogurt container to be honest

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      • #4
        I kinda wonder how much of the more elaborate techniques were bred from people trying to get the most out of lower quality equipment than what you'd typically find in a cafe. I mean if you get a shot most places in Italy, a lot of them only seem to tamp as a bit of an after thought (but I must admit, I wasn't too impressed with most of the espresso I had in Italy).

        Personally, at home, I've found that with a decent grinder and fresh beans that most dosing/tamping techniques aren't really necessary. At the moment I grind straight into the pf, giving it a few little shakes as it goes, till its got a bit of a peak above the edge of the basket, level it off back and forth once with the back of a knife, tamp straight down and one twist. I still try be as consistent as I can by sight and feel (and I generally am), but if the shot doesn't come out as well as I would have liked I actually enjoy rethinking back to what mustn't have been right and what to adjust for the next time, while I enjoy my drink .

        I get my new second hand mini vivaldi ii this week so will have some fun working out what I need to do pull consistent shots on that

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        • #5
          Just to continue with the KISS practice check out this video.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OkrMqClISQ
          His set up looks like he's about to perform surgery. I have tried WDT but it now seems like overkill to me

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          • #6
            I'm part if the kiss group.
            Using a Rocky with Doser and 15 or 18g VST baskets.
            Two whacks on Doser drops about 10g in. One tap of the PF on the bench to make room for more.
            Another whack or four depending how much is left in the Doser.
            Sweep off with my finger and one push/twist action to tamp.

            Simple.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Robbks View Post
              I'm part if the kiss group.
              Using a Rocky with Doser and 15 or 18g VST baskets.
              Two whacks on Doser drops about 10g in. One tap of the PF on the bench to make room for more.
              Another whack or four depending how much is left in the Doser.
              Sweep off with my finger and one push/twist action to tamp.

              Simple.
              ...and that's all it really takes to get the job done

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              • #8
                If you play around with your doses and dose lower, you will find leveling is not possible. I just dose, a gentle little shake to 'distribute' the grounds, then tamp. Pours look great from the naked pf, and more importantly taste as they should, delicious :-)

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                • #9
                  With a G.O.D grinder I now just grind into the pf while tapping the side. Slightly under-dose a double basket or over-dose a triple (by eye). Tamp & twist

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                  • #10
                    Using VST baskets, I find that levelling (NSEW with my finger) is necessary to get an even extraction and avoid chanelling.

                    I dose, tap once so that it falls down to a level where I won't knock much/any of the coffee out with my finger, then do the quick sweep with my finger and tamp.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dragunov21 View Post
                      Using VST baskets, I find that levelling (NSEW with my finger) is necessary to get an even extraction and avoid chanelling.

                      I dose, tap once so that it falls down to a level where I won't knock much/any of the coffee out with my finger, then do the quick sweep with my finger and tamp.
                      Drago, I mainly use a single VST basket and I no longer level but still produce good shots. I assume you're talking about a double 15gm or 18gm basket.

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                      • #12
                        Yes, both 18 and 15g.

                        I suspect it's much easier with the 7g (or whatever the single is) because it tapers and as a result it's less critical to get a perfectly even distribution at the basket base.

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                        • #13
                          Have you tried a shot without levelling. I also use the VST 15gm basket but not as much as the 7gm and I can get good shots without levelling as long as I shake and tap the basket while dosing. I am now finding that provided you have the right dose and an even distribution then you don't need to level.

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                          • #14
                            Well looks like I have a long way to go.

                            I grind into the porta filter and collapse it by tapping on the mat.

                            I then distribute with a blunt syringe needle that I stuck on some black bamboo (it looks really cool).

                            I then tamp with a bit of nutation of course.

                            Then I use the razor for the Breville.

                            Then I polish it with the tamper.

                            Then I do the shot, and it takes less time than to have written this.

                            Never get the old stuck puck this way.

                            The funny thing is I picked up all this stuff from here.

                            I get good coffee from it so am happy, but it is really quite interesting to hear all these stories.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Ravenscroft View Post

                              Then I use the razor for the Breville.
                              You have a shave while pulling a shot???

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