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Thread: Clumping! does it matter.

  1. #51
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco_Lever View Post
    A very wise man from the ACT once said that clumping was a sign that the grind is too fine. I think it was in relation to a doserless grinder, but cannot accurately remember.
    I find that clumping does tend to represent too fine a grind. Roast depth as well as bean change, can figure into the equation as well.

    I was having a few issues of late so went and completely cleaned my grinder. Removed top burr, soaked it in espresso machine cleaner to dissolve any old oils or build up and thoroughly dried it. The bottom burr and surrounds were meticulously cleaned with a bamboo skewer and repeatedly vacuumed. Ended up looking like brand new. Dislodged any old grinds around the exit chute (M4D).
    Solved my issue. The Ethiopian bean I was grinding before tended to clump, whereas now it does not. The other beans are all fine (I have 4 different beans that I am experimenting with).
    G'Day Bosco,

    Interesting observations.

    I clean my grinder more or less monthly, did it only last week, in a manner similar to what you describe.

    Not grinding finer than usual.

    The beans I'm currently using may well be the culprit, yep, roast depth may also have an affect.

    As I commented, wondered about humidity, seems I recall a lot of complaints re clumping originate from area's of higher humidity.

    Something has changed, as I have already said, not affecting whats in the cup, however the small clumps are noticeable and have me scratching my head.

    Its a shame the wise man from the ACT is no longer with us, he was a font of knowledge.
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  2. #52
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    Hi Yelta,

    I don't have a clumping problem but I do have a static problem that I solved using RDT ... a couple of drops stirred into the beans before grinding.

    I would have thought/assumed that RDT might equate to > humidity and if it does it does not result in clumping (for me)

    Cheers

  3. #53
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    I use the very beginning of clumping as an an indication that I'm close on espresso grind. I think that what I call "extrusion" v very slight clumping which falls to bits with the slightest touch are two different things though and whilst the former will definitely degrade the cup, I am not so certain about the latter.

    It all leads back to what do you taste...
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  4. #54
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caffeinator View Post
    I use the very beginning of clumping as an an indication that I'm close on espresso grind. I think that what I call "extrusion" v very slight clumping which falls to bits with the slightest touch are two different things though and whilst the former will definitely degrade the cup, I am not so certain about the latter.

    It all leads back to what do you taste...
    Hmmm, terminology, the way you describe it, seems I'm seeing "very slight Clumping" it does disintegrate at the slightest touch.

  5. #55
    Senior Member Barry O'Speedwagon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bosco_Lever View Post
    A very wise man from the ACT once said that clumping was a sign that the grind is too fine. I think it was in relation to a doserless grinder, but cannot accurately remember.
    I find that clumping does tend to represent too fine a grind. Roast depth as well as bean change, can figure into the equation as well.

    I was having a few issues of late so went and completely cleaned my grinder. Removed top burr, soaked it in espresso machine cleaner to dissolve any old oils or build up and thoroughly dried it. The bottom burr and surrounds were meticulously cleaned with a bamboo skewer and repeatedly vacuumed. Ended up looking like brand new. Also dislodged some old grinds around the exit chute (M4D) as well, to ensure there was no residue of any sort. Was surprised to find some there, but in hindsight I do live in an area with high humidity.
    Solved my issue. The Ethiopian bean I was grinding before tended to clump, whereas now it does not. The other beans are all fine (I have 4 different beans that I am experimenting with).
    Yes, Atilio was generally spot on (his kids have finally bit the bullet and reverted to the old 'Cosmorex' name for their beans too......that was an odd experiment). I too have an M4D, but tend to need to venture into the minor clumping zone, because my Quickmill Achille has a double spring in the lever (I plan to rectify this at some point). Doesn't cause a problem for me in terms of the coffee produced.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanderP View Post
    Hi Yelta,

    I don't have a clumping problem but I do have a static problem that I solved using RDT ... a couple of drops stirred into the beans before grinding.

    I would have thought/assumed that RDT might equate to > humidity and if it does it does not result in clumping (for me)

    Cheers
    Clumping in a grinder is caused by static, the drier the air, bean, grinder mechanism, the finer the grind, the faster the grind etc. all contribute to more static.
    (It's how the universe was formed, clumping on a grand scale).
    Weigh the beans, give em a quick very, very light water mist spray from a small atomiser and shake em a little - then grind.
    If you've got the balance right you get a lighter fluffier grind with about 15% more volume than your previous "over dry" grind - and no clumping.
    Tamping hard, (like they recommend in the Olympia Cremina manual) has also got to help collapse potential channels.
    If you're getting increased static as the dampness increases in your environment, you're probably getting it externally to the grinding process, a high voltage line, a transmitter, picking it up from a nylon carpet, the wife's negligee you "borrowed" to make the morning coffee, (it is Winter and we must survive) etc.
    I still get about 10% weird extractions and that may be partially because I bang the bottomless portafilter too hard vertically,
    (I'm going to stop doing that and see what happens - thanks - great thread).
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  7. #57
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    Hi Snowytec,

    I'm using the HG-one grinder.

    I get zero clumps regardless of the use of RDT (and I really do mean zero)

    What I do get is grinds sticking to the funnel and area around the lower burr

    RDT reduces the retained grinds to a couple of granules only and the grinds are a bit more fluffy but I get no clumps with or without RDT -- hence my original comment suggesting that there may not be a correlation between humidity and clumping.

    Cheers

    Cheers

  8. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowytec View Post
    (It's how the universe was formed, clumping on a grand scale).
    .
    Love it! Well said.

  9. #59
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    SanderP,

    The HG-one is a very good highly respected grinder, it's grind distribution profile is almost identical to the Monolith - which must mean something, (but I don't know what exactly).
    However the default speed for a Monolith flat is 550, other grinders turn faster, I think you probably grind a lot slower, (less static generated by grinder speed equals less clumping and that's also another good point for the HG-1).
    You may also be grinding courser, so less, so again less static build up.
    It's a complicated interaction, even the different oils in different beans must effect static build up to a different amount.
    (Oil is used as a high voltage insulator inside Super grid distribution switches at 400KV).
    If i spray too much water the clumping builds up again, but i think that's like the clumping of an over dry concrete mix, not the same as the initial static caused clumping.
    A poor electrical earth path would also contribute.
    As per normal I'm just as confused, (but on a higher level).

    (OCD has a HG-1, you might want to swop notes).

    Cheers,

    Snowytec.
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  10. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowytec View Post
    SanderP,

    The HG-one is a very good highly respected grinder, it's grind distribution profile is almost identical to the Monolith - which must mean something, (but I don't know what exactly).
    However the default speed for a Monolith flat is 550, other grinders turn faster, I think you probably grind a lot slower, (less static generated by grinder speed equals less clumping and that's also another good point for the HG-1).
    You may also be grinding courser, so less, so again less static build up.
    It's a complicated interaction, even the different oils in different beans must effect static build up to a different amount.
    (Oil is used as a high voltage insulator inside Super grid distribution switches at 400KV).
    If i spray too much water the clumping builds up again, but i think that's like the clumping of an over dry concrete mix, not the same as the initial static caused clumping.
    A poor electrical earth path would also contribute.
    As per normal I'm just as confused, (but on a higher level).

    (OCD has a HG-1, you might want to swop notes).

    Cheers,

    Snowytec.
    Cheers Snowytec,

    Appreciate any insights and advice, they all help to further ones understanding of what the hell is actually going on for 30 sec in that 18gm puck!!

  11. #61
    OCD
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanderP View Post
    ...I'm using the HG-one grinder...
    ...What I do get is grinds sticking to the funnel and area around the lower burr...
    One of my tasks as a carer is to periodically clean an asthma pump spacer. The following instructions are designed to reduce electrostatic charge.
    * Gently wash parts in warm water with liquid dishwashing detergent.
    * Allow to air dry without rinsing or wiping.

    Something else to explore?
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  12. #62
    Senior Member Lyrebird's Avatar
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    The object of the technique you describe is to adsorb* detergent molecules onto the surface of the plastic**. The hydrophobic end of the molecule attaches to the surface, leaving the hydrophilic end free, which increases the surface activity.

    It only really works on plastics with low surface energy, these generally have high triboelectric potential so the plastics used in coffee grinders don't usually qualify.



    * Note the "d" in adsorb, totally different phenomenon from absorbance with a "b". Blame the Romans, in Latin "ad" = towards and "ab" = away or from.

    ** Back when vinyl records were a thing there was a spray called Vinyl Last (or something like that) which was designed to achieve exactly this.
    Last edited by Lyrebird; 4 Weeks Ago at 07:24 PM.
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  13. #63
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    Hi snowytec,

    Quote Originally Posted by snowytec View Post
    ...(It's how the universe was formed, clumping on a grand scale)...
    Sounds more believable than that Big Bang theory that's being bandied around.

    Ps welcome back.

  14. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barry O'Speedwagon View Post
    I too have an M4D, but tend to need to venture into the minor clumping zone, because my Quickmill Achille has a double spring in the lever (I plan to rectify this at some point). Doesn't cause a problem for me in terms of the coffee produced.
    For levers (I have a Bosco) it is normal to grind a lot finer than for a pump machine. When I had a double boiler on the bench alongside my Lever, the grind fineness that I used for the lever would choke the other machine. I am always on the border of clumping, so ensure to use WDT to distribute the grinds prior to tamping.
    A good friend roasts coffee fairly light (to filter level) and grinds super fine into large baskets. The aim is to produce a very long slow extraction that concentrates the fruity flavours and sugars. Yield is low, but you can get some very sweet fruity espressos this way. He uses a Kony E and a traditional machine, not a lever. He doesn't worry about clumping.
    The only drawback to this type of espresso is the acidity. Not everyone can stomach high acid drinks. Also, they are not for milk based drinks

    I have not tried coffees (roasted light for filter) as espresso in this manner on my lever, and do not think the M4D would grind fine enough. Also, the declining pressure profile on the Bosco is very different to the constant pressure applied to the puck via a pump machine. What would probably work better is the fruity, sweet, thin bodied espresso in the manner preferred by James Hoffman. (18g with a yield of 40g).

    Moving forward I aim to upgrade to a new grinder that doses by weight, not time, and is very easy to clean.

  15. #65
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yelta View Post
    I haven't changed my opinion re the affect of minor clumping, have never experienced clumping to any degree over the years I've owned the Mazzer Mini, however this has changed over the past couple of weeks, not to the point of being a problem, but have seen a bit of minor clumping, got me to pondering why, the weather here has been cold and wet of late, humidity level has certainly been higher than usual, I've also been into a new roast of Peru Ceja de Selva AAA.

    Will be interesting to see if anything changes when the weather starts to warm up or when I roast my next batch.
    An update on this post.

    I've finished the last batch and am now into a new roast of Brazil Yellow Bourbon.

    All signs of clumping have disappeared.

    Weather remains the same and humidity levels remain high for the area, so this was probably not the problem.

    The only thing I can put it down to is either the particular type of beans or the way I roasted them, was not aware of any deviation from my normal roasting procedure.

    Regardless, all back to normal.
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  16. #66
    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Some beans have a higher proportion of oils than others, so maybe it can be as simple as that...

    Mal.
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  17. #67
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Some beans have a higher proportion of oils than others, so maybe it can be as simple as that...

    Mal.
    Quite possibly the culprit in this case Mal.

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    Fluffy grinds are ideal, clumpy grinds promote channelling.

    If you have clumps, you can still have good puck prep with a simple tap or collapse. However if your distribution and tamping is not great, clumped grinds will mean more channels. I've seen this training up many baristas over the years.
    Clumping is also a good indicator that:
    You need to clean your grinder
    You need to rest your coffee longer
    You need new burrs.

  19. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shirreff View Post
    Fluffy grinds are ideal, clumpy grinds promote channelling.

    If you have clumps, you can still have good puck prep with a simple tap or collapse. However if your distribution and tamping is not great, clumped grinds will mean more channels. I've seen this training up many baristas over the years.
    Clumping is also a good indicator that:
    You need to clean your grinder
    You need to rest your coffee longer
    You need new burrs.
    Would be wonderful if things were so simple...
    Most of us here keep our grinders in pristine condition.
    Odd that, I've found over the years that the opposite is true; too short a rest period usually results in very dry, fly away grinds.
    As per the first answer, none of us persist with using burr-sets that are way beyond their use by date.

    Mal.
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  20. #70
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimal View Post
    Would be wonderful if things were so simple...
    Most of us here keep our grinders in pristine condition.
    Odd that, I've found over the years that the opposite is true; too short a rest period usually results in very dry, fly away grinds.
    As per the first answer, none of us persist with using burr-sets that are way beyond their use by date.

    Mal.
    Well said Mal, was going to reply, contemplated for a brief moment, then thought nah.
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  21. #71
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    I've always thought anything that adversely affect taste or knocks pour times off regularly is what defines a problem.

    The problem will therefore be subjective, just where you draw the line and how good your technique is.

    I have the Mazzer Robur. Yes, it is too big for the kitchen but I have always found bigger is better. The reason is the larger diameter means definitely each notch is finer than on a smaller diameter dial. It just is as it is related to diameter. I also suspect bigger burrs and these are 71mm conical are not only massive but are very precise.

    I also have the doser model. I just do one shot at a time and I can tell you day to day the adjustment dial generally doesn't move. Obviously occasionally an adjustment needs to be made.

    Again, all this stuff is subjective. I find little to no clumping with the Robur and that will be partly as the doser breaks it up and also it is a very low speed grind with huge burrs moving at 420 rpm.

    I doubt that clumping has that much effect and same with small amounts of grind retention.

    Clumping certainly is affected by oil content, roast (often oil can be seen on outside of heavily roasted beans), humidity, excessive heat from grinding. Clumps can also be broken up after grinding by anti-static wires, dosers and other means.

    I still think the person is the biggest variable but I do believe that the bigger the burrs the better, the whole assembly is more precise, stable and allows finer more consistent adjustments.
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