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Thread: Variation in shot time (newbie)

  1. #1
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    Variation in shot time (newbie)

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Dear all,

    Lurking around for a few weeks and trying to make espresso at home for a while now with very mixed results. I've read numerous pages on dialing in, espresso making and machine maintenance in general but can't seem to get my shot times right. Below my equipment and data/observations:

    Machine: Rancilio Silvia with PID (warm up on timer 10-15 min before brewing)
    Grinder: Kompak K3 (bought second hand, taken apart and cleaned, burrs still felt sharp)
    Dosage: 17 grams in Silvia double basket (I pre grind maybe 8 grams of beans and discard that grind, after that I weigh out +/- 17.3 grams and take coffee out of portafilter till I hit 17 grams exactly)
    Scale: precision scale used for hops in my beer brewing ;-), check consistency with standard Aussie coin
    Beans: used different varieties, all fresh (within 1-2 week of roasting date)
    Distribution: WDT and OCD knockoff
    Tamp: Easytamp (calibrated)

    I've checked machine flowrate for consistency and it is fine.

    I know I'm new to this but would like to get more consistent, any tips for this newbie? Any information you're missing?

  2. #2
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    The information that's missing is what's inconsistent and by how much
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  3. #3
    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    How do the shots taste?

  4. #4
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Yes, as Ninja says, what are you finding inconsistent about the times?

    You are consistent in weight. Good. The other 2 variables are the grind and the tanping pressure. Weight and pressure are two constants, so do your 17 or so grams and tamp to about 14 kg pressure.

    Having converted those two variables into constants only then turn to how fine or coarse you should grind to achieve the desired and consistent shot time.

    Discarding that much ground coffee seems an awful lot of expensive unnecessary waste. Can't you empty out as much retained grounds after each dose and take ut from there?
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    I've never used a K3 but with one of my previous grinders I found that grind size/uniformity was terrible when I weighed out beans and just ground those. It seemed the like the popcorn effect and lack of weight pushing down on beans resulted in inconsistent output. So you might want to experiment with adding more beans in the hopper and weighing the grinds in PF (only). This is more work as you might need to remove excess beans out of the hopper (a pain) and then store them appropriately. You may already be doing this but it wasn't clear from your post.

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    Thanks for the replies, below my response which hopefully captures what was missing:
    Shot times: vary between shots sometimes 10 seconds. So I brew a 1:2 ratio, making 34 grams espresso out. I'm always within 1 gram of yield. Example: last nights shot and this mornings (25.87 seconds versus 36.68 seconds with a difference in yield of 0.87 grams)
    Taste: when I'm in the 25 to 30 second range for a 34 gram yield taste is good, nice body and full flavours. Anywhere over or under it generally isn't really nice.
    Tamping pressure: I'm using a Eazytamp with calibrated spring so pressure should be fairly consistent
    Weighing: I weigh out around 17.6 grams off coffee going into the hopper, grinding in basket and then removing any excess by a small spoon. (figured because I do WDT it wouldn't matter too much if the spoon creates a disturbance.
    Purging: will look for different methods of getting the "old" coffee out. Only started doing this recently to see if it made a difference in consistency.
    Bean storage: I use one of those "air tight" lunch boxes, keep it stored in my cabinet (dark) and relatively cool

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevsmantis View Post
    Thanks for the replies, below my response which hopefully captures what was missing:
    Shot times: vary between shots sometimes 10 seconds. So I brew a 1:2 ratio, making 34 grams espresso out. I'm always within 1 gram of yield. Example: last nights shot and this mornings (25.87 seconds versus 36.68 seconds with a difference in yield of 0.87 grams)
    Taste: when I'm in the 25 to 30 second range for a 34 gram yield taste is good, nice body and full flavours. Anywhere over or under it generally isn't really nice.
    Tamping pressure: I'm using a Eazytamp with calibrated spring so pressure should be fairly consistent
    Weighing: I weigh out around 17.6 grams off coffee going into the hopper, grinding in basket and then removing any excess by a small spoon. (figured because I do WDT it wouldn't matter too much if the spoon creates a disturbance.
    Purging: will look for different methods of getting the "old" coffee out. Only started doing this recently to see if it made a difference in consistency.
    Bean storage: I use one of those "air tight" lunch boxes, keep it stored in my cabinet (dark) and relatively cool
    Just brewing my morning shot, 4 seconds difference between today and yesterday's with same 34.0 gr yield. Any more ideas?

  8. #8
    Senior Member level3ninja's Avatar
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    It could be a few things. I would suggest not using the OCD knock off, especially after doing WDT. Also beans should be stored in a container with a one-way valve (e.g. the bag they come in) not just in an air tight container. If you want them in the container leave them in the bag and squash all the air out, took the bag up and then put that in the container.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by level3ninja View Post
    It could be a few things. I would suggest not using the OCD knock off, especially after doing WDT. Also beans should be stored in a container with a one-way valve (e.g. the bag they come in) not just in an air tight container. If you want them in the container leave them in the bag and squash all the air out, took the bag up and then put that in the container.
    Will test both (one at a time). Just for me to understand why would keeping beans in an airtight container (without) a one way valve create variation in shots?

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Javaphile's Avatar
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    Have a read here: https://coffeesnobs.com.au/roasted-b...ted-beans.html


    Java "Little things matter more than you may think" phile
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  11. #11
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    This may not help you, but just an observation: if the beans are still too fresh, and in an airtight container, they cannot degass their carbon dioxide. The gas does interfere with water absorption during extraction. Hence the need for storage in one-way valve containets at least in the week after roasting.

    You are weighing out 17.6 grams of beans to extract 34 grams of coffee. A few of those grams would be retained in the grinder. So you are really getting that amount of brew from...I don't know...13 or 14 grams or less?

    That would be way too thin I would guess. Best to pop about 20 grams or so in the hopper, and weigh the 18 or so resultant grounds after they are in the loaded portafilter.

    I have never gone for fancy distribution methods in the basket. Just load it, flatten the mound with a finger and tamp.

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    I do 250g in the Hottop roaster at a time yielding probably 200g and I keep three airtight containers of beans and use them in rotation. I keep them by the machine at room temperature.

    No issues with shot variation time. I don't single dose either on the Robur...just keep beans filling the neck(bottom) of the hopper to be consistent then dose volumetrically (to the top), smooth with finger and tamp. I don't purge ever as I use it daily.

    Whatever you do, just be consistent.

    I have done it this way for years. I guess if I had a problem I'd ask for advice or experiment and change the way I do things. Now the Robur is a conical and they are very forgiving of variation. I adjusted it yesterday for the first time in two weeks, about 1mm movement finer on the dial.

    It might be a matter of managing your expectations too. A few seconds either way is not going to make a good shot bad. Perfectionism can ruin a good experience if the expectations are not reasonable.
    Last edited by wattgn; 3 Weeks Ago at 09:18 PM.
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    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    Perfectionism can ruin a good experience if the expectations are not reasonable.
    This!! the most important measure is taste in the cup. If you like it, all is good
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    Member skeevs's Avatar
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    I've been taught the "palm taps" method for settling the coffee grind bed. It's simple enough and just works.

    https://www.fivesenses.com.au/blog/l...-distribution/

    With a nice fitting 58mm dosing cup, I tip it over and give it a nice whirl(?? ) and then do the palm tap.

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    Hi guys, been a while and have taken your advise to heart. Have started to not do the OCD knockoff and keep the beans in the original bag (new 500gr EspressoWow from CS).

    Unfortunately not relief, shots differ significantly, beans were roasted 30 Oct. I'm a bit taken back by this and need to go back to the drawing board.

  16. #16
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    Beans roasted last Wednesday so 4 days ago today. Borderline? Give them a day or 2 more.
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    Thanks for the helpful advice, Robusta, re bean freshness. I too am struggling to dial in a good tasting brew and will factor this in. (Recently switched to 18g VST basket and changed beans at same time....double ouch]

    With regards to bean storage, quite a while ago I bought a DeLonghi Vacuum Sealed Coffee Cannister, available at JB HiFi, Noel Leeming, Havery Norman etc. It takes 4 AA batteries and I use rechargeables [Eneloop Pro] which last about 3 months before needing recharge. The cannister holds about 500gm so works well for me. If experienced users here have found this to not be such a great approach, I would be interested, as would Nevsmantis and others. Cheers

  18. #18
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    I'm trying to understand why, when newcomers to espresso, have problems they invariably resort to the black magic of the process, i.e. WDT, OCD, paper clips, spinning things, leveling tools, naked portafilters, basket changes, dosing cups, the list seems to be endless.

    Whats more neophytes who, after bumbling around for a short time and having achieved some degree of success, immediately assume the status of guru and rightly or (in most cases wrongly) start passing on and perpetuating their flawed processes.

    Assuming you have a reasonable machine and grinder along with good quality fresh coffee beans, all you need to master is:

    Grind.
    Dose.
    Tamp.
    Brew.

    There's a vast library of information on the subject, written by people that have been successfully making espresso for years and know exactly what they're talking about right here on Coffee Snobs, the only thing you need to master for a start is how to use the search facility, that's the box with a magnifying glass, near the top right hand corner of the page.

    No need to mumble incantations, perform bizarre rituals or sacrifice a goat, I'll say it again, reasonable equipment (doesn't have to be the latest $5000 whiz bang gear) fresh beans, grind, dose, tamp, brew.

    Forget the gadgets and concentrate on basics, be wary of people pushing one type/brand of device to the exclusion of all others, most of them seem to have a personal (ego) or commercial agenda, those of us who have been around for a while know that the majority of equipment being used by members here is quite capable of making very good coffee in the right hands, its simply a matter of learning and understanding the straight forward process.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member CafeLotta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Forget the gadgets and concentrate on basics, be wary of people pushing one type/brand of device to the exclusion of all others.......
    Maybe one exception?

    Dosing Tool 5c.jpg
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  20. #20
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CafeLotta View Post
    Maybe one exception?

    Dosing Tool 5c.jpg
    Probably one of the cheapest, simplest, most useful, as well as most overlooked gadgets around.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    I'm trying to understand why, when newcomers to espresso, have problems they invariably resort to the black magic of the process, i.e. WDT, OCD, paper clips, spinning things, leveling tools, naked portafilters, basket changes, dosing cups, the list seems to be endless.
    The naked portafilter is an excellent diagnostic tool, i dont understand why you'd think of it as "black magic". I'd rather see whats going on rather than pretending everything is "OK".

  22. #22
    Senior Member robusto's Avatar
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    It only costs 5 cents -- and you get a full refund!!!

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    First make sure you are getting a consistent weight of coffee in your basket, to do this you will have to weigh AFTER you have ground the coffee. I’ve found a big difference in extraction times when only 1-2 grams difference.

    second is to use the grinder with beans in the hopper. I’ve had low end and high end grinders with hoppers that would only give consistent results with at least 200g of coffee in the hopper.
    Now don’t ask me why this is, every expert has their own theory.

    Third is I would only use 1 type of bean until you have nailed down your routine. Different beans ground on the same setting on the grinder will have big differences in extraction times.

    I Always had shot time variations when trying to single dose hopper fed grinders, even on the compak F10 worth $3000

    The rest of your preparation seems consistent, and your ballpark regardless.

    Good luck mate.
    Last edited by Ardent; 3 Days Ago at 10:46 AM. Reason: !

  24. #24
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stralto View Post
    The naked portafilter is an excellent diagnostic tool, i dont understand why you'd think of it as "black magic". I'd rather see whats going on rather than pretending everything is "OK".

    Perhaps! if you know what your looking for, most don't, we're talking about novices here, for them the nekid is only another unwanted variable.

    FWIW, I have a naked PF languishing in my drawer of unused junk, it was a novelty for a while.
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    Senior Member woodhouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Perhaps! if you know what your looking for, most don't, we're talking about novices here, for them the nekid is only another unwanted variable.
    you're overcomplicating this. you're looking for two things:

    1. coffee appearing evenly across the whole bottom to start with, and
    2. one stream of coffee flowing down the middle to end with.

    if you don't satisfy these two conditions, you need to improve your distribution. this will give you tastier coffee.

    finito.

  26. #26
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodhouse View Post
    you're overcomplicating this.
    And your missing the point, we're talking about teaching beginners the basics.
    Crawl before walk.jpg

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    Super Moderator Javaphile's Avatar
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    The first place to start is sourcing good quality freshly roasted beans followed by how to store them.

    With-out 'Mastering' these two things everything else is chasing your tail/a waste of time.


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  28. #28
    Senior Member woodhouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    And your missing the point, we're talking about teaching beginners the basics.
    Crawl before walk.jpg
    'prepare the puck so the water can flow through it evenly'
    if you're not teaching this in espresso 101 you are setting up the beginner for countless hours of frustration.
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  29. #29
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    If you do the right things to start with you will get a good result in the cup. You should be able to tell if a shot is going to be good or not just by looking at how even the surface is once tamped.

    The reason for shot to shot variation are introduced variables. A big thing on the forum is retained grounds which, even on the Robur, makes no difference provided the grinder is used daily.

    Weighing grounds is a matter of convenience if it suits the work flow of your grinder. Volumetric dosing works fine on the Robur. One of the reasons is it is easy to dose and level using the doser and the solid portafilter holder where you can knock it side to side and front to back. On the Specialita I find it is easier to weigh and single dose but I don't clean the grinder before or after and I'm getting good results on that and have had it for less than a week. On this grinder you can't use the portafilter holder the same way as it isn't as robust and knocking it forward and back hit the on/off button. It doesn't have the doser but instead I weigh then use continuous mode to partially fill then I level and continue.

    The timed dosing option I did use on the Specialita but it is another variable I don't like and if you stop and start it a few times, it throws off the shot time anyway.

    I think also a lot of people seem to be underdosing. It seems to be the in thing to do and it just makes it a bit harder to get a good shot as the bed is thinner and harder to level and the head space is much larger. I think it is a good idea generally to fill the basket, whatever method you use, to get it level with the top before tamping or near to it. Tamping just use a good amount of pressure.

    The workflow depends on your grinder and I have two here that are completely different and I use two different methods to suit each grinder. I'm still experimenting with the Specialita but it is a nice little grinder and so far single dosing suits it.

    I agree with Yelta that espresso making has become some sort of dark magic when really it is very simple. On the other hand, it got me thinking of all the little things I do. I make sure I pass water through the portafilter to start with then I dry it out with a sponge so grounds don't get wetted by water. After the shot I always run water through the portafilter to clean it after dumping the grounds then sponge it. I always pre-heat the cup I use with water from the portafilter and then from the hot water tap. I cycle clean water through the boiler that way in order to prevent scale build-up.
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  30. #30
    Senior Member woodhouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    You should be able to tell if a shot is going to be good or not just by looking at how even the surface is once tamped.
    absolutely not the case. i've pulled plenty of shots that looked great when they were tamped, but channelled like crazy, because my distribution sucked.

  31. #31
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodhouse View Post
    absolutely not the case. i've pulled plenty of shots that looked great when they were tamped, but channelled like crazy, because my distribution sucked.

    Interesting! I've never had problems with distribution or channeling.

  32. #32
    Senior Member woodhouse's Avatar
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    Variation in shot time (newbie)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Interesting! I've never had problems with distribution or channeling.
    where does your naked portafilter live again?
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodhouse View Post
    absolutely not the case. i've pulled plenty of shots that looked great when they were tamped, but channelled like crazy, because my distribution sucked.
    I just concentrate on getting the shot right in the first place and I get very little shot to shot variation.

    I'm not there to see how you do your shots but I think overall in the forum too much voodoo and not enough basic technique.
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  34. #34
    Senior Member woodhouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wattgn View Post
    I'm not there to see how you do your shots but I think overall in the forum too much voodoo and not enough basic technique.
    i think our basic technique differs, and this is the problem.

    i was initially taught to adjust the dose 'depending on how the coffee tasted' and stop the shot by looking for 'blonding' (which, by the way, is by far the most voodoo thing in espresso brewing). vague and unhelpful basics.

    after limited success and bad repeatability. i ditched those basics, and started simply weighed grounds in, and weighed espresso out. i quickly found these are much better basics. fill an 18g basket with 18g of coffee. use a $5 scale to cut the shot when you reach your desired yield. hey look, consistent strength in my coffee every morning! no guesswork! less thinking!

    in fact, the only thing i actually think about is making sure the coffee is even in the basket before i tamp it. if the shot runs fast, tighten up the grind. if it runs slow, loosen the grind a bit. i really don't think much when i pull a shot. unless it's 'bugger, there are two streams at the end of the shot. my standard of "completely flat bed" needs to be better'.

    as for the whole 'you would be lost without your scales', well, i'm the sort of person that wouldn't drive on the road if my speedometer failed. other people are not that person.

  35. #35
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    Probably one of the cheapest, simplest, most useful, as well as most overlooked gadgets around.
    And only costs like a dollar! If that!
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  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodhouse View Post
    i think our basic technique differs, and this is the problem.

    i was initially taught to adjust the dose 'depending on how the coffee tasted' and stop the shot by looking for 'blonding' (which, by the way, is by far the most voodoo thing in espresso brewing). vague and unhelpful basics.

    after limited success and bad repeatability. i ditched those basics, and started simply weighed grounds in, and weighed espresso out. i quickly found these are much better basics. fill an 18g basket with 18g of coffee. use a $5 scale to cut the shot when you reach your desired yield. hey look, consistent strength in my coffee every morning! no guesswork! less thinking!

    in fact, the only thing i actually think about is making sure the coffee is even in the basket before i tamp it. if the shot runs fast, tighten up the grind. if it runs slow, loosen the grind a bit. i really don't think much when i pull a shot. unless it's 'bugger, there are two streams at the end of the shot. my standard of "completely flat bed" needs to be better'.

    as for the whole 'you would be lost without your scales', well, i'm the sort of person that wouldn't drive on the road if my speedometer failed. other people are not that person.
    I think that until I got the Specialita I only weighed shots a few times each year to check specific things I wanted to know. I agree we have just been taught or taught ourselves to do things the way we do and it seems we both arrive at the same point doing it a different way.

    It does depend on the grinder too which is why I thought getting the Specialita would be interesting...and it is.

    I think I am getting better results still with the Robur but then it isn't just the grinder, it is what you do with the grind and I'm still optimising and experimenting.

    I think also CSers are finicky which is to be expected and like to experiment a lot. That is a good thing except when it becomes a chore to make coffee. It should be fun and it is as easy or hard as you want to make it I think.
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  37. #37
    Senior Member simonsk8r's Avatar
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    Hahaha sorry, this ad that came up on Tapatalk while looking at this thread made me laugh, in light of discussing the complicated methods/variables of brewing XD...

  38. #38
    Senior Member flashpixx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodhouse View Post
    you're overcomplicating this. you're looking for two things:

    1. coffee appearing evenly across the whole bottom to start with, and
    2. one stream of coffee flowing down the middle to end with.

    if you don't satisfy these two conditions, you need to improve your distribution. this will give you tastier coffee.

    finito.
    agree, and when I achieved this consistently It resulted in a better brew in the cup.

    Now the naked pf stays on all the time, and is checked every 10 extractions, just to ensure I’m still consistent in my prep
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  39. #39
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    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Well, the "nekid" is a handy tool for diagnosing dose, distribution and maybe even tamping issues but if you haven't sorted out these parts of your routine within a couple of days (with the bottomless PF), you probably never will.

    I stuck with using it mainly because of the 'easy to clean nature' of it from shot to shot and the espresso stream never runs over previously poured streams and therefore remains fresh, straight from the beans to the cup.

    Mal.
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