Husband and Wife coffee dispute...pounds of pressure!

Alright Barista friends...Somewhere my husband read that 20lbs to 50lbs pressure on tamping. I was trained on 30lbs pressure and to be consistent with that. What is the barista professional using and training others on this matter. Help with this debate, I know my husband and I will listen to you all professionals...

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First, I agree with everything that's been said so far. Good info from your experiment, Ricky.

Dawn, you've said twice that your 30lb tamped shots pull slower than your husband's 40-50 lb tamped shots? This surprises me, as I'd expect that the harder tamp would result in a longer extraction time.

If that is what you are seeing, I'd be willing to bet that your dose weights are different too. You are probably getting more coffee in your baskets. Check to make sure that you are both using the same dosing technique, whatever that is. If you have a really accurate gram scale, use it to compare your does weights. Watch each other carefully, noticing every movement that you make prior to pulling the shot, and eliminate variation. No good can come of that... hope you have a comfy couch. That includes how many times you thump the portafilter (if at all) to settle the grounds, how you distribute, how you level, how hard you tamp, etc.

Eliminate all variation in process and you'll eliminate variation in your results.

Good luck.
Going off of what Brady said (and totally agreeing with it), I have found that the more motions used to distribute the coffee in the portafilter (unsurprisingly) the more amount of coffee is pushed into it. I encourage all the baristi I train to develop their method to produce the best shot they can, but that also requires people to adjust the grind according to which barista is on the bar. I begin with the simple compass method (NSEW) and then let baristi develop their own distribution technique.
Use what ever tamp is natural to you and adjust your grind to match it.
Going off a little what Brady said

Taste each other's espresso extractions. You would be surprised how much a variance in flavor there is when you dose a couple more (or less) grams. Sometimes it gets to be a little crazy with all the possibilities.

Once you find an ideal taste from experimenting with doses you'll become a lot more consistent.
I am not a barista but a new home espresso maker so please be patient with my questions. Many posters state that they use 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 pounds of pressure in their tamps. I use an Espro tamper which clicks at 30 pounds and this was the only way that I know my tamps are consistent. If they are consistent I can changes the grind settings to adjust until I get the 1.7 to 2 oz pulls in 20-30 seconds. However, unless you use an automatic tamper where the pressure is adjustable how do you know what pressure you are using. I understand repetitive processes become second nature but I don't see that they would be consistent. Most of the baristas that I have watched don't use a thermometer either and I guess it becomes a process that is repetitive. At least with the milk you can see and feel if it is correct.
There's no such thing as a foolish question when it comes from someone honestly trying to learn. Never.

If you brew a few coffees at home, or a few dozen in a restaurant setting, where they normally make drip coffee, I think the idea of a clicking tamper sounds good. If you're making hundreds and hundreds of drinks in a day, in a coffee shop it really isn't necessary. And it would probably break, I don't know.

I've shown a few people what I do, and then watch as they do it. Everyone being a different height, they use their body differently. If you test yourself with a bathroom scale, and check yourself every now and then, you'll learn.

But...let's be honest here: Not everyone is as good as everyone else. What's that expression: "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it." The same thing goes for temperature. Personally, I still use a thermometer. I've done lab work since I was 14, and I've just simply always had one in my hand. Others don't need them.

Robert Bedwell said:
I am not a barista but a new home espresso maker so please be patient with my questions. Many posters state that they use 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 pounds of pressure in their tamps. I use an Espro tamper which clicks at 30 pounds and this was the only way that I know my tamps are consistent. If they are consistent I can changes the grind settings to adjust until I get the 1.7 to 2 oz pulls in 20-30 seconds. However, unless you use an automatic tamper where the pressure is adjustable how do you know what pressure you are using. I understand repetitive processes become second nature but I don't see that they would be consistent. Most of the baristas that I have watched don't use a thermometer either and I guess it becomes a process that is repetitive. At least with the milk you can see and feel if it is correct.
Thank you Fraser......makes sense to me. I have probably made 4-6 caps a day for the past 6 weeks and I must admit that I am beginning to feel what a 30 pound tamp will be.

A agree with you about the thermometer. I doubt I will ever NOT use it.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Bob
I stopped using a thermometer when I realized that even though it was in the pitcher, I wasn't looking at it.

-bry
Agreed. We probably use about 50 pounds in our shop. DoubleShot uses Indian Monsoon in their blend and we find that a coarse grind and a harder tamp produces a better shot.

miKe mcKoffee aka Mike McGinness said:
Doesn't really matter whether 20, 30, 50 or zero pounds. The tamps purpose is to preserve the distribution and is the least important of building a shot. What is important is consistency in the pressure you use. Individually and as a shop.
Thanks...I thought that was odd too after I typed it in.

Brady said:
First, I agree with everything that's been said so far. Good info from your experiment, Ricky.

Dawn, you've said twice that your 30lb tamped shots pull slower than your husband's 40-50 lb tamped shots? This surprises me, as I'd expect that the harder tamp would result in a longer extraction time.

If that is what you are seeing, I'd be willing to bet that your dose weights are different too. You are probably getting more coffee in your baskets. Check to make sure that you are both using the same dosing technique, whatever that is. If you have a really accurate gram scale, use it to compare your does weights. Watch each other carefully, noticing every movement that you make prior to pulling the shot, and eliminate variation. No good can come of that... hope you have a comfy couch. That includes how many times you thump the portafilter (if at all) to settle the grounds, how you distribute, how you level, how hard you tamp, etc.

Eliminate all variation in process and you'll eliminate variation in your results.

Good luck.
Oh, I am a thumper too...I need to break some bad habits! It amazes me the little things that affect the glorious espresso shot!

Brady said:
First, I agree with everything that's been said so far. Good info from your experiment, Ricky.

Dawn, you've said twice that your 30lb tamped shots pull slower than your husband's 40-50 lb tamped shots? This surprises me, as I'd expect that the harder tamp would result in a longer extraction time.

If that is what you are seeing, I'd be willing to bet that your dose weights are different too. You are probably getting more coffee in your baskets. Check to make sure that you are both using the same dosing technique, whatever that is. If you have a really accurate gram scale, use it to compare your does weights. Watch each other carefully, noticing every movement that you make prior to pulling the shot, and eliminate variation. No good can come of that... hope you have a comfy couch. That includes how many times you thump the portafilter (if at all) to settle the grounds, how you distribute, how you level, how hard you tamp, etc.

Eliminate all variation in process and you'll eliminate variation in your results.

Good luck.
Another disadvantage to tamping much harder that 30 lbs is that it becomes easier to end up with an uneven tamp. The exact tamping pressure may not matter so much, but having a puck with uneven thickness definitely does. As miKe and William pointed out, the purpose of the tamp is to preserve the distribution. Scott Rao has a good discussion of this in his book.

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