So I was just wondering how everybody here tamps their espresso.  I am thinking about trying to streamline the process my shop uses which goes something like this...

 

Turn on the grinder

Add espresso to portafilter while grinding (we use about 20 grams of espresso in our shots)

Turn off grinder

Tap portafilter on mat to help distribute grounds evenly

Using your finger flat against the top of the portafilter, push grounds to the top edge

pull them to the bottom edge

push them right

pull them left and off the top of the portafilter (This not only distributes better, but it also makes sure the dose is consistently 20 grams)

Tamp at 30 lbs

shake portafilter gently in the air to allow the grounds on top to settle a bit

Polish Attach to group head

 

Are all these steps necessary?  Is there anything you would change about our process?  Let me know what you guys think.

 

 

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if you were to remove any of your steps, would your espresso taste better or worse? if your crew is consistent with this method, stick to it.

That's a good question Greg, one that will spurn hours of experimentation...  but I guess the thrust of my question is more...  I know that everyone works their espresso shots a little bit differently.  Some people dose to heaping and tamp straight down- no tapping or anything.  Some people tap the sides of their portafilter to help settle the grounds and distribute... I just wanted to learn about the different methods and why you do them so I can steal them or make my process a little more straight forward.  

Also, I agree that if you have people trained it is generally better to not change things on them, however, I work on a college campus... our main workforce does not work for us again until September and needs a refresher course when they come back. This is our time to change things and we are always looking ways to improve what we do.

 

Greg Hill said:

if you were to remove any of your steps, would your espresso taste better or worse? if your crew is consistent with this method, stick to it.

Eric, I agree with Greg on the taste comment. I always train our baristas to let their taste be their guide...

 

With that said, our goal with dosing, distribution, and tamping is always to pull great, consistent shots. The method we use greatly reduces channeling and we have found produces a more consistent shot between baristas. The only real difference between what you are doing is that we settle half way through filling the portafilter. We turn the grinder on and start dosing. When it is about half full, we settle by tapping once firmly on the forks of the grinder. Then we finish dosing and settle again. Finally, we do the N-S-E-W method, or whatever, so that we fill in any gaps with coffee.

 

The one issue with this is that you may need to adjust your grind to make sure that you are still at 20g of coffee. Also, adjust your settle... Each barista should bring the grind in to their settle and tamp. That's another reason we train to only have one barista pulling shot at any given time. More experienced baristas can adjust their settle and tamp to how another has it dialed in, but as a general rule... just one at a time.

 

We found that settling half way through reduces channeling. Tapping the side of the portafilter only increased the chances of channeling, which I believe is the reason most baristas have done away with it. Well... that and it bangs up your $100 portafilters!

 

One more note, we also don't worry about the loose grinds sitting on top. We found that a few baristas would loose the puck when they would flip it over, so we started tasting shots side by side, some with the grinds on and some with them off. There was no difference in taste. We decided that it was more important not to loose a puck every once in a while than to spin it around for show or to remove the grinds.

 

At any rate, taste, taste, taste... and have fun!

This sounds very similar to mine, though I do a quick spin instead of a shake and do the "halfway thump" to settle.

 

That said, I happen to think that the only value of the finger sweep is dose consistency. A good grinder should do a great job of distributing the coffee in the basket, but once you touch it you'd better groom it perfectly. If you use a good digital timer grinder, I see no need to groom.

I appreciate all the responses.  We have used this method for about 6 months now at our shop and we seem to get less channeling and blonding than we did before. 

It sounds like we are on the same page.  I will try the "halfway thump" to use Brady's terminology and see how that affects consistency and taste. 

I am also going to look at counting the sweeps on the doser.  Though I am unfamiliar with the term stockfleth, Luke.  Also, when you say you tamp at pressure and then level, how does that work?  When we tamp our shots, we do the elbow up, tamp straight down method and try to tamp and level at the same time.  Is that what you mean or are these two separate tasks?

I just want to continually question everything we do, (and everything everyone else is doing) in order to make our drinks better, more efficient, more consistent and higher quality. 

Stockfleth's refers to a "move" that has been around the espresso scene for some time. It is a method of leveling the grounds in your basket using your thumb and pointer fingers. Here is a link to Timmy W doing it...

Stockfleth

 

Great technique, though difficult to master.

Eric Tomeo said:

I appreciate all the responses.  We have used this method for about 6 months now at our shop and we seem to get less channeling and blonding than we did before. 

It sounds like we are on the same page.  I will try the "halfway thump" to use Brady's terminology and see how that affects consistency and taste. 

I am also going to look at counting the sweeps on the doser.  Though I am unfamiliar with the term stockfleth, Luke.  Also, when you say you tamp at pressure and then level, how does that work?  When we tamp our shots, we do the elbow up, tamp straight down method and try to tamp and level at the same time.  Is that what you mean or are these two separate tasks?

I just want to continually question everything we do, (and everything everyone else is doing) in order to make our drinks better, more efficient, more consistent and higher quality. 

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