Tapping the portafilter

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Tapping the portafilter

Postby Deferio on Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:52 am

Ok.
In the past I have used the "tap on the side" method after the initial tamp. Then I went to the "tap the portafilter on the counter" method...now I am not doing anything but the initial tamp and main tamp as many now are doing...
My question is, what exactly did the tap do? I had always taught that the tap fell the grounds from the side..and that this was important because if left on the side the grounds could tear away from the sides and pull out part of the main puck body during the filling of the gap between the coffee and the screen with water.
Was this a correct assumption?
Also...I have found I could still get the grounds on the side to drop if I removed the tamper quickly straight up.
Anyone have tips or technique advice on the "no tap tamp"?
-Chris Deferio
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Sandy on Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:40 am

I have given up the tap. I polish instead. twice.

Breaking from the "tap" is a hard thing to do. Almost like giving up cigarettes, the tap was such a natural thing to do.
once i'm ready to insert pf into machine, i give the pf a quick upside down motion to relieve fine grinds- this also helps to determine if i dosed and tamped correctly, because if not, my coffee ends up on the floor ....

this is where a clear portafilter would be nice to experiment with. other than having to figure out how to see through the brewing "steam", it would be nice to see if tamping actually does cause channeling resulting an "ant farm" trail-like appearance that can only be seen with a clear portafilter....
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:46 am

I'm still a tapper. I did try the quick bump on the instead but seem to get better distribution if I give a light tap.

My routine is dose, distribute, tamp, tap and final polish. I tried a number of different practices before this and - at least with my grinder, machines and bean choices - get better distribution, less channeling (just about none or so it would appear from puckology results) and better more consistent shots.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Jason Haeger on Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:51 am

phaelon56 wrote:I'm still a tapper. I did try the quick bump on the instead but seem to get better distribution if I give a light tap.

My routine is dose, distribute, tamp, tap and final polish. I tried a number of different practices before this and - at least with my grinder, machines and bean choices - get better distribution, less channeling (just about none or so it would appear from puckology results) and better more consistent shots.

Do these puckology results include the inspection of a double pulled through a bottomless portafilter?
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Matt Milletto on Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:35 pm

I am also now not a tapper. I have found that the biggest reason I have given it up, is for consistency in training. People's idea of a "tap" can be wildy different ... especially if they then go on to train others, etc.

I do not disagree with a "light tap" but have found that my dosing and distribution make a bigger difference when pulling shots thru a blind portafilter.

good topic.

- matt
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:16 pm

Jason Haeger wrote:Do these puckology results include the inspection of a double pulled through a bottomless portafilter?


They include that and only that. I keep meaning to dig out my LM single basket and play with some single shots but my standard pull at home is a 1.5 to 1.75 oz double from roughly 16 to 17 grams. I played around with the triples for awhile but with the blends I use and my taste preferences I zeroed in on the "slightly ristretto" doubles.

Before standardizing my dosing/distribution routine I was getting some oddball pulls on occasion - often with multiple streams all the way through the shot and in some cases even those crazy little jets that shot off at a 45 degree angle. Switching to a bottomless PF was invaluable for me and since my shot pulls are all at home for myself these days I stick to that.

The shop I roast for uses a Swift and a blend I don't care for (it's optimized for year to year repeatability and designed to allow a double to stand out in a 12 oz latte) - thus I don't bother pulling shots there.

And call me crazy (others do) but I saw a big increase in consistency when I adopted the so-called "Chicago Chop" using the same straight edged metal bottle opener that Intelly used for that back when they were doing it. IIRC their goal at the time was to establish dosing/distribution consistency across baristas sharing the same grinder in succession when multiple people were working the bar (someone please correct me if I'm mistaken!). But that technique has improved my shot consistency. Interesting that I tried it with a wooden chop stick and it failed miserably but with the heavy straight metal edge it works like a charm.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Luke Shaffer on Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:45 pm

Since we were initially trained by Sarah Kluth from Intelli a few years back, we had been doing the Chicago Chop as well for a couple of years. It worked great for us and was easily the most consistent way for baristas of all experience levels to produce similar tasting shots in rapid succession on the same grinder without making any adjustments. Taps and bumps are relative terms, and you just don't know how hard or soft someone's gonna hit it until your watch them. While the shots were super consistent and poured great, we were over grinding a bit. As a business owner I have to balance drink quality and freshness with cost, so around the beginning of this year I started trying other methods.

Over time I worked new methods into my routine- different dosing and distribution, bumping, etc, and found what worked for me. It wasn't until I felt I our folks were ready for this kind of change that I put it in place. I retrained everyone individually and explained to them to work it into their routine. Now everyone is dosing within maybe a gram or so of our target, doing a double tap then finger leveling. This is followed by a soft leveling tamp, then either a light tap on the pf wall or a soft downward bump on the tamping mat (we use bottomless pf's), then finally a full pressure tamp and no pressure polish/spin. At this point I feel our folks are experienced enough to do what works best for them, as long as everything tastes the same at the end of the shot. Personally I like a little bump after the soft tamp to get the coffee to sit down off the wall. It works great with a bottomless but I don't think you'd get the same results with a spouted pf.

Why put coffee in the basket if it isn't going to be part of the puck?
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby John P on Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:24 pm

I gave up tapping a while back. But the main reason was I noticed that sometimes I tapped hard, sometimes quick, sometimes.... really inconsistent. And I was often left with channeling from tapping too hard when I got too rushed or excited about the espresso making.

For me it's: dose, distribute, tamp, and, without lifting the tamper, a light polish. Then I spin the PF and let any loose grounds fall off. Although I could make a case that spinning the PF is probably unnecessary; it's just become a habit. My only real conclusion is that MY tapping was inconsistent and produced inconsistent results.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Marshall on Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:36 pm

As a non-professional "barista" who would have a nervous breakdown if I spent 15 minutes working in a real coffee bar, I normally have the sense not to post in these threads. But, I have to mention that a lot of the serious engineering-type home baristas, like (I think) Greg Scace, Andy Schecter and others have looked quite hard at tamping and tapping rituals, and some have photographed the results inside and outside of the portafilter.

I think there is something like a consensus now that 9 bar of pressure is such a powerful force that grounds clinging to the side of the basket and "unpolished" puck tops make no difference at all. The grind, dose weight, distribution and level tamping matter a lot, while the tapping and polishing rituals are just popular habits.

Feel free to tell me to stick to my knitting. :D
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby John P on Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:48 pm

Marshall,

I agree.

As much as I can tell dosing and distribution is most important, followed by consistent and level tamping. Everything else is personal ritual.

A little espresso voodoo is always cool.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Brett Hanson on Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:24 pm

topic previously titled...

Tappity Tap Tap Tapparoo

XOXO,
GB

PS. MG's post from last go-round stuck in my head, so I now tamp once, invert the pf to lose any of the loose grounds, tamp a second time, polish, and invert the pf one last time prior to B2G & F2R. I am still tap-less, though I do thump twice (at work) for an updose and schomer-distribute prior to tamping- at home I chi-chop to save myself a few nickels.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Deferio on Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:06 am

I guess I am trying to see if there is a special technique that anyone suggests when you do not tap, thud, etc just remove and replace.
Again...it seems that when I remove the tamper really fast and straight up ...the grounds fall...like there was a suction.
So this topic is more along the lines of No tap rather than the last topic of straight down tap.
-cd
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby phaelon56 on Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:55 am

Deferio wrote:it seems that when I remove the tamper really fast and straight up ...the grounds fall...like there was a suction.


I'm a tapper and it seems to have worked better for me than not tapping (admittedly - it could all be in my head). I don't remove the tamper fast and straight up. My first tamp is straight down with reasonable pressure and a slight twist or spin at the end (perhaps 70 to 90 degrees). I always have some of those stray grounds you describe but they are few in number and and they fall back onto the puck. I then do a light, fast polish with about a 180 degree spin (at most - often much less) and give a quick wipe to the lugs and the top edge of the basket before locking it in.

It's probably all banal ritual and I'm sure that if I practiced the dose, level push against the cheap plastic grinder mounted tamper disc routine I might get equally good results over time.

But...
- I'm not pulling shots all day in a commercial setting and when pulling two to four doubles per day it's helpful to have an established process that seems to yield consistency.

- I f I was in a commercial environment I'd still want to tamp - there's some theater involved if people are watching. I do my routine unconsciously but if I have dinner guests who happen to watch me prepare drinks they're impressed by the ritual.

- I like doing it. I think there's a sort of Zen thing going on where my mind is focused only on the process - despite the fact that is seems to be unconscious. For me it's like focusing on my breathing pattern when scuba diving - my mind just seems to relax for a short while - nice.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Brent on Thu Sep 25, 2008 2:55 pm

since the tappity tap thread I have been happily thudding the pf down on the bench...

actually thumping would be more accurate.

I really like this method, probably as much for the noise it makes as anything else...

but then I mainly only make drinks for myself, and occaisionally visitors... similar to Owen :)
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby jdavidwaldman on Thu Oct 02, 2008 11:23 am

Our shop gave up the tap, and 1/2 of us (not me) do the chicago chop. i prefer the tactile gentle circular raking with fingers. we took it one step further and had reg barber make us some custom tampers to an intentionally oversized spec (59.9 mm); we then ordered several dozen triple baskets from synesso, and sent the whole lot off to our machinist to make "matched sets". effectively, we settled on a .004 sideplay tolerance for about half of the baskets -- on a flat bottom, if you are the slightest bit out of plumb, the tamper bottom will get stuck and make a mess; the eurocurve is a bit more forgiving. my theory is that a better fit will virtually eliminate channelling (thanks to extensive discussions and experiments with scott rao). regarding the upside-down maneuver, i am not convinced that the technique proves a proper tamp; i think it has something to do with whether or not the basket is completely dry (a dumper)? incidentally, we initially opted to not cut a small chamfer on the bottom radius -- unchamfered is much less forgiving, and, i think, better insurance against channeling. thoughts?
... but how does it taste?
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Jason Haeger on Mon Oct 06, 2008 12:05 pm

"perfect fit tamping" doesn't really do anything at all for the distribution of the coffee.

Tamping only reinforces the particle "matrix" you've created during dosing/distribution.

If the "matrix" is perfect, and you do not disrupt it in any way, your shots should be golden.

If distribution is not perfect, the tamper fit does nothing to correct it. The only benefit I can see in this practice is the insurance of a level tamp. It's a nice thing. But it's not enough in and of itself.

Just my $.02.
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby jdavidwaldman on Fri Oct 10, 2008 12:33 pm

Jason - interesting ... how does the distribution matrix work in a poorly distributed eurocurve, for example? Is the only good shot one where the flow runs dead center? What is the difference in profile between a theoretically well-distributed/well-tamped shot (whether flat bottom or eurocurve), and a pretty well distributed, slighty off-center matrix, tamped well? One interesting side-effect of the "tight-fit" is that it tells you right away whether you are dead straight or slightly off. When sightly off, the tamp gets stuck - I find it to be at least a good training tool for technique.
... but how does it taste?
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Re: Tapping the portafilter

Postby Jason Haeger on Fri Oct 10, 2008 1:10 pm

jdavidwaldman wrote:Jason - interesting ... how does the distribution matrix work in a poorly distributed eurocurve, for example? Is the only good shot one where the flow runs dead center? What is the difference in profile between a theoretically well-distributed/well-tamped shot (whether flat bottom or eurocurve), and a pretty well distributed, slighty off-center matrix, tamped well? One interesting side-effect of the "tight-fit" is that it tells you right away whether you are dead straight or slightly off. When sightly off, the tamp gets stuck - I find it to be at least a good training tool for technique.

Assuming that the cake is consistently dense before tamping, a euro curve tamper tends to result in a center-starting extraction (when pulled from a naked PF). Unfortunately, without a glass portafilter, I don't feel comfortable speculating exactly as to why that is. I don't think the coffee is re-distributed with the curvature of the tamper, though I could be wrong.

I do know that if your distribution isn't spot-on, there is no existing tamper innovation that can correct it. That's not to say that the shot won't still be good, but that is also relative to how off the distribution really is.

I do agree that it is a good training tool for ensuring a level tamp. I don't think it's absolute insurance against channeling.
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