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Thread: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

  1. #1
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    Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi guys,

    From reading a few threads around here, it looks like a lot of people are doing the whole 25 minute knock, tamp, knock, tamp, tamp N, tamp S, tamp E, tamp W, knock, repeat, knock, tamp, tamp, lean on tamper and polish with all your might routine. OK, so thats probably a bit of an exaggeration ;D

    I did a bunch of testing with the naked portafilter after we got the Synesso at the beginning of the year and we were all getting a bit of spurting. I tried a whole bunch of different techniques and the one that was by far the best was making sure that the coffee was evenly distributed at the top, then tamping once, and once only. Anything else seems to fracture the puck. I must have made 50 picture-perfect naked double shots this way so far, all without a single channel.

    Polishing under pressure was a gamble that seemed to fracture the seal relatively often, but polishing using just the weight of the tamper was OK, as was just inverting the PF to dislodge loose grounds. Tampers that were a bit loose didnt seem to be problematic, and loose grounds on top of the puck doesnt seem to be that much of an issue insofar as taste and channelling is concerned. BUT, Id still try and get the best fitting tamper possible just to cut down on the possibility of grounds making their way over onto the gaskets and getting mashed in ... although I dont know if it really makes that much difference; presumably loose grounds just get forced into the puck by incoming water.

    Kinda wish that Id taken some photos, but whatever ...

    Anyhoo, has anyone done any similar experiments on other machines? Is this a principle of general application?

    Cheers,

    Luca

  2. #2
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Oh yeah, just a few resources:

    Chris Tacys Naked PF page. Chris led the charge on using naked pfs for training and diagnosis.

    Perfecting the naked extraction. Obviously I dont agree with Dans tamping technique, but Chris Tacys contribution was pretty good.

    The Weiss Distribution Technique. John Weiss redefines anal. Havent tried to see if it works ... seems to have quite a following.

    Cheers,

    Luca

  3. #3
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Thanks Luca,

    Ill give it a try and see how I go, anything that might work, and saves a bit of time is worth trying.
    I presume the single tamp is a fairly hefty one?

    Regards
    Bullitt

  4. #4
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    No; single tamp is just the standard 15kg. In a cafe you just cant put your whole body weight on each tamp; youll die from RSI!

    The one thing that I forgot to note above is that that experimentation was all with the standard ridged La Marzocco basket, which has sides that go in a fair bit. It might be that LM designed the basket like that specifically to make it more forgiving.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Luca thanks for that post - those links were full of interesting reading. Tamping is one area I havent known too much about.

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Thanks for the tip Luca. Tried this method a few times today and am definitely getting more consistant pours. Takes a bit of getting used to just tamping once and not being tempted to do a quick polish ;-) Im using a Expobar single basket.

    Belinda

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Corretto link=1158499987/0#5 date=1158553454
    Thanks for the tip Luca. Tried this method a few times today and am definitely getting more consistant pours. Takes a bit of getting used to just tamping once and not being tempted to do a quick polish ;-) Im using a Expobar single basket.

    Belinda
    Whoa! Single basket?! Yeah, Id imagine that it would help more with a single. The rancilio single is the absolute extreme. Holds about 1 gram and creates this ridiculously thin puck that cracks the instant you do anything to it. Id imagine that leaving that well alone would be really important. The gaggia single that I use at work is a lot more forgiving. Havent seen the expobar single. You can polish if you like, but just dont do it with any downward pressure. Spin the tamper around with your index finger and thumb if you want to be sure that theres no pressure. I do it every now and then, but I dont really see what that does that flipping the PF upside-down wouldnt do.

    Good to hear that its working out for someone other than me!

    Luca

  8. #8
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Yeah luca thanks for the tip.
    Ill be able to try it out soon.
    I have the LM double basket now and will be sending it off for a Pullman Tamper.
    To what level is your tamped coffee relative to the ridge?

  9. #9
    DrT
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    I am using the EM0480 and EM6900. The degree of tamp seems to be strongly coupled to the grind setting. For example, using the single basket and filling just a few mm short of the rim, if I use the tamper to just level the coffee without any more force than the weight of the tamper itself, I would need a grind of about 8 or less to get *anywhere* near the yellow zone on the gauge of the EM6900. If I fill the basket up and tamp the bejesus out of it, about 10 will do it. If I do the whole sherbang and put in some, tamp with force, put in more, tamp with force, etc up until a few mm short of the rim, then I can use 11 or 12 - any lower and it can go into the red momentarily.

    Having said all that, I find with the EM6900 the degree / number of tamps also controls how quickly the quality of pour changes. If I want a real good hit where the gauge shoots just into the black *and stays there* I have to do the whole sherbang. If I dont, the gauge drops really quick no matter what the grind setting so the first few mm will be grogeous but it quickly turns into lolly water.

    The point of all this? In my experience, the grind setting is strongly dependent on the tamping technique - the smaller the particles, the closer they come together under pressure and thus the greater the extraction so your grind setting is directly dependent on your tamping style. Is it linear? I have not yet made enough to know....

    I am no analytical chemist of process engineer, so does this make sense to you good people or am I talking out of my backside? (typed with a mouthful of nescafe gold - I have to wait until I get home for the good stuff today)

    DrT






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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    DrT,

    Im experiencing the same....

    At the moment (My gauge is stuffed so I dont use it as my guide) Im dosing, either tap the PF or get a pointy object and stir the grinds to settle the grinds and declump then dose again until I have a nice mountain in the PF (Way past the rim of the basket) and then flatten with finger, level it and tamp... I have found my channelling is slowly going away and Im getting such a different, sweeter tasting drink - it really is amazing... a Naked PF is the big tell tail... SO glad Im using it until I get the technique right...

    Marc


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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Quote Originally Posted by DrT link=1158499987/0#8 date=1159412295

    If I want a real good hit where the gauge shoots just into the black *and stays there* I have to do the whole sherbang. If I dont, the gauge drops really quick no matter what the grind setting so the first few mm will be grogeous but it quickly turns into lolly water.
    If you want to try an interesting test, collect your shot into 3 equal portions as it pours (10ml per sample from a single)

    Taste each one (use the last sample first)... If you have a good pour it will be bitter, slighly unpleasant to taste, the middle third will be better and the first third brilliant!!!

    If you are getting a lot of blonding, the last third of the pour will be absolutely revolting >:( - not lolly water- and that is going into your "shot".....

    This method of testing comes from a professional barista course!

  12. #12
    DrT
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Hmm, naked PF?

    Is that when the plastic base is removed from inside the PF? (Mine is black)

    If yes, then consider mine "clothed".

    How do you get the damn thing out without breaking it? I have tried but it has a flexible rubber skirt and anytime you try to pull it up out of the PF it grabs a hold of the wall and will not let go.

    DrT



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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    DrT, screw in a screw that is slightly larger than the hole and then pull the plastic thingy out... Why Sunbeam put that it is beyond me.. someone needs to be sent to the rubber room on that on... Dont worry if your break it.... Mine saw the garbage bin long ago :-)

    Naked PF is the Spouts removed and the complete bottom of the PF is drilled out so you can see only the buttom of the basket......

    Like this...

    http://www.coffeeparts.com/accessories/nakedpf.html

    http://www.home-barista.com/weiss-distribution-technique.html

    See, the journey to a perfect espresso continues...


  14. #14
    DrT
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Aye carumba!

    Will get rid of that black thing later today methinks.

    All of this takes me to a point where I can better analyse the results from different techniques - many thanks for pointing it out !

    Might have to save up the dough to get one of these naked thingys though - what make/model are you using marcstolk?

    DrT

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Also read
    How To Cut Your Own Naked Portafilter:- http://www.home-barista.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1437
    Perfecting the Naked Extraction:- http://www.home-barista.com/naked-extraction.html

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic


    Im on my 3rd EM6900 (Warrantee) and sunbeam tell you not to pack the assessories inc PF...so I have accumulated 3 PFs... so I modified one to a naked....and with buy a single spout for another...

    Marc

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Hi All,

    There have been a few comments referring to this thread about not polishing at all. Polish all that you want, just dont put any pressure down when you do it. Anyhoo, like I said, this is just what I do with the particular setups that I get to use - not sure if its a technique of general application.

    Hi Thundergod,

    To tell you the truth, I have never really paid much attention to the ridges vis-a-vis dose, I just look at them to make sure that theyre parallel with the top of the basket. In any case, Ive mainly been using my coffeelab and espro lately, as my Pullman has been off being compared with other Pullman prototypes.

    What I tend to do is to grind and use my finger to move the grounds around so that it is level with the top of the pf. I then rap the pf on the bench four or so times to collapse, then top up and level off again. This dose is my nominal starting point. As I have a stepped grinder, Im forced to vary my dose up or down to get the extraction that I want, but dosing in this way gets me in the ballpark.

    Hi Dr T,

    Interesting that tamp pressure makes so much difference to you. I wonder if some of it - eg; dose, tamp, dose more - isnt actually more about varying the dose?

    Id agree with everyone else about removing the plastic thing at the bottom of your PF. In his quick review of the EM6900, Alan Frew had this to say:

    After the first week of testing I had to take a break due to pressure of work. When I resumed, I was getting weird flavours & aromas in the shots, even after rigorous cleaning. Finally I saw that the freshly soaked and rinsed portafilter was still leaking brown goo, from around the black plastic liner. I removed the liner to find an interesting collection of growing things and coffee tars in the base of the portafilter. Thereafter I left the liner out. Sunbeam tell me that it is there to stop heat loss from the coffee to the portafilter, but leaving the portafilter in the group and flushing some hot water through it prior to a shot will prevent this anyway.
    Have fun,

    Luca

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Hi guys,

    I thought that I should post a link to this article on coffeegeek. It seems that Mark Prince is tamping once, then tamping four more times to dislodge grounds from the side of the basket. He does not say whether he does these subsequent tamps at full pressure.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Hi Luca,

    I read that article a few days ago.. it was interesting...

    What I think is important is having a perfectly fitting Tamp and a consistent technique. And not over complicate the tamping procedure - Which I can see is happening... Its a simple procedure that while done right, will yeild quite a nice shot. Having said that, getting the Naked PF is a definite must to define your tamping and dosing... I think what you said in your tamping method is spot on... and yes, I do a light polish to settle any lose grounds after an initial wiggle/\/shake of the PF.

    The "Four or more times to dislodge grounds from the basket" is I think going too far in the procedure.... just upturn the PF and lose the lose grounds and polish once...

    Thats my opinion anyway... :-)

    Marc

  20. #20
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Quote Originally Posted by luca link=1158499987/15#17 date=1160487407
    Hi guys,

    I thought that I should post a link to this article on coffeegeek.
    Gday Luca,

    Just finished reading this article and to be honest, I think it is mostly a load of crap. The method you have described is very similar to the one I have been using for the past couple of years and after dissecting a few pucks both before and after brewing, I can vouch for the fact that the grounds are packed evenly all the way from top to bottom.... no loose bottom third or quarter or whatever. Would have thought that someone with MPs years of experience wouldnt get sucked into regurgitating this kind of tripe.

    Well, thats me for the night ;),

    Mal.

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Mal,

    I remember on the movie "Ferris Buehlers Day Off" he said of his buddy Cameron, "Cameron is so uptight if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, it would turn into a diamond".

    I think it the case with these coffegeeks too and the sometimes bizzare theories that they come up with. The theory discussed also sounds like total bollocks, by the by.

    Grant




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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Yeah, I, personally, am not going to be changing my tamping style any time soon of the force of Marks article. I get good shots and theyre somewhat consistent, so Im happy.

    I think that theres no reason to have to make presumptions one way or another when it comes to the theory that only the top is compacted. It should be a relatively simple matter to get some cold, hard numbers. The procedure would be something like this:

    (a) Remove the pf spring from the basket.

    (b) Do the control basket. Dose and tamp as normal. Remove the basket and weigh it. Time the shot.

    (c) Dose half-way, distribute, tamp and finish off as normal. Weigh and time shot.

    (d) Dose a quarter of the way, distribute, tamp. Repeat until basket is 3/4 full, then finish off as normal. Weigh and time shot.

    (e) repeat (b) to (d) a few times for good measure.

    If the bottom isnt getting compacted that much, you would espect the single-tamped basket to weigh less and extract faster.

    Cheers,

    Luca

  23. #23
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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Yep,

    Too simple by far..... I wonder why MP didnt think of that? I just used a standard deflection gauge which measures the amount of force required to penetrate the puck via a 6mm spherical tipped plunger. In all cases, the force required was close enough to identical within the same puck with slight variations from one puck to another but in no case did I find a stratified divergence of compression between particles at different depths from the puck surface.

    I did all this about 2-2 years ago just to help me develop a tamping method that did the job, was consistent to apply and manageable for me (have very poor strength left in my hands and fingers). Like I mentioned above, the method I use is almost identical to what you describe Luca and I cant see any need to change it now.

    Mal.

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    Re: Tamping: The Myth and The Magic

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Not to mention the problems of getting a solid tamp around the edges of the puck when tamping at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 levels. Seeing as you will have to use an undersized tamper in order to get it past the spring ridge in the basket. Which of course means that the outter 3mm or so receives no tamp at all until the very last full tamp. Seems to me that would make a perfect route for some major channeling and only with a ridgeless basket would this have any chance of working effectively.

    Java "Believes in K.I.S.S." phile



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