I am thinking about how to establish more consistency in my espresso dosing. I confident at this point that I am pretty good at maintaining a consistent 20-21 grams of espresso in a double basket, but I love thinking about the method of levelling/distributing/dragging/dosing. I have read about and seen the methods coined as Stockfleth, Shyndel, and Schomer. I am now wondering how all of you do your thing. Myself, I use a kind of three point Stockfleth/Schomer hybrid ... pushing and rolling the coffee around the edges creating a center pile that I push back into the grinder. But how do YOU do it?

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Lately, I've been using an autotamp and just light-tamping my center mound before firm-tamping. I'll give a few light taps to settle while I'm filling my basket. My naked portafilter hasn't shown any flaws; and I honestly couldn't spot the difference "blind" between, say, that and a WDT prepared basket.
I've been reading Schomer's book for the first time and noticed that his diagrams of post-leveled pre-tamped grounds seem to have a somewhat concave curve in the basket. I assume this is so that after tamping, the top crust of the grounds will not rub up against the machine's filter screw, which would create a break in the levelness of the espresso in the basket that could possibly be blasted out. Because of this I've changed from a straight across leveling move to more of a "swoop" that leaves less coffee in the center of the basket. Anybody else doing this?
I use an altered Stockfleth's method where my thumb and index finger do the moving and then flip my index finger over to "flick" the excess... I would have to agree with Jesse D on the topic of settling in the middle not being good... When I started I settled in the middle of my dose and shot after shot I noticed that I was getting a split puck (horizontally)... when I would knock out the puck it would always come out in 2 pucks... I then realized why and now get a consistent, in one piece, puck... As for tamping... I was taught the 3 fingers and thumb line-up that gets it nice and level... Ricky you can add me and my trainer to your list haha... I haven't seen many do it either...
thats how we train all our baristas to tamp... if they have long enough fingers

Ricky Sutton said:
I also do this & i've never seen it done anywhere else. Cool.

Brady said:

One other thing I do - palm the tamper a bit and rest three fingers and thumb on the tamper "foot?". This lets me feel the basket rim with my fingertips to see where things ended up and make sure the puck surface isn't angled.

Cool discussion.
teresa said:
What's up with all the tapping and thumping? Based on what I've been reading in Scott Rao's handbook, even tapping with the tamper handle can lead to channeling.

I love Rao's book and follow his methodology for distribution and tamping. Depending on whether or not the doser doses straight, I may or may not rotate the portafilter. I try to groom/redistribute as little as possible before tamping. If I feel like I didn't do a great job dosing evenly, I'll knock the side of the portafilter with my thumb a few times to agitate the coffee and settle the grounds evenly. Then give it a light thump on the counter straight down to set the fines. Next I use a single tamp without knocking the side after tamping and following it up with a second tamp. The ides is that if few grounds remain on the sides, they're not enough to effect anything and more damage will be done knocking with the tamper. Also, if you don't tamp evenly the first time, a second tamp isn't going to help anything.

I do really have a hard time with the many distribution methods. I have fairly stubby hands and I feel like any method I use to sweep with my fingers just isn't doing it that evenly. Especially with Stockfleth, my first knuckle tends to be a problem. Anyone have any input on methods for different finger types. It seems to me that people with long, spiderfingers get off easy.
In my opinion the simplest solution that works is the one that will gain you the greatest consistency.

I have not found I gain anything from tapping and complex distribution - indeed quite the reverse from tapping and puck "polishing".

No wonder that more and more WBC - admittedly using top-end grinders - are simply tamping and locking in after they've loaded the basket.
I've worked with Scott Rao, and he taught me to use a straight edge across the top of the basket to move the coffee back and forth (and off) the top of the portafilter, in order to fill in any gaps before tamping. We used the back edge of a butter knife, but anything straight would work. If you make sure you're dosing a fairly similar amount into the PF before sweeping (making a really big pile means the coffee underneath has already packed more densely under the weight than a smaller pile), and sweep with the straight edge totally perpendicular to the basket using a pretty consistent routine (ie. don't sweep back and forth once one time, and back and forth 10 times the next), you can get a very consistent amount in the basket. If you want to updose, you can chop back and forth on the basket with the knife before sweeping across (google videos for 'chicago chop espresso'), and you can downdose by using a curved edge to sweep instead of a straight edge, to scoop a consistent amount of the coffee out (we used an espresso saucer -- the lid of the doser also works). Still worth practicing with a scale every once and a while to make sure you're being consistent, bad habits can creep in, but as far as I can figure this takes the most variation out of the routine. (Oh, and then there's the factor of shotgun dosing, dosing while the grinder is still grinding...)

And yeah, no tapping needed, and it does risk breaking the seal of the puck to the basket. Taste shots with coffee around the inside of the basket walls and without, you won't notice a difference, and if you're doing any kind of decent cleaning of your machine at the end of the night, you're getting any coffee out of the grouphead anyway.

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