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How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
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Discussions > Espresso > Q and A > How do I know...  
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bendavis78
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Feb 2011
Posts: 11
Location: Frisco, TX
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 2:43pm
Subject: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

As I see it, making espresso includes many variables and constants.  As I understand it, the variables are:
  • Grind: finer/courser
  • Dose: more/less
  • Tamp: lighter/firmer
  • Temperature: hotter/cooler

Things that should always be consistent:
  • Distribution: consistent, even density throughout puck
  • Coffee age: roughly between 3 and 14 days old

With so many variables, how do you know which ones to adjust for that next-to-perfect tasting shot?  If a shot is too bitter, we generally say it's over-extracted.  I know that grinding coarser, dosing less, tamping lighter, and reducing temperature can all help that, but which one (or two or three) do I adjust? An extraction gives a lot of visual-based feedback (eg, shot time, pressure reading, shot volume, crema appearance) in addition to taste and aroma. Is there a way to interpret all of that feedback in order to know what specific variables need to be adjusted?
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GVDub
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Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 849
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 5:32pm
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

First off, we can simplify your life even more. Your tamping should also be consistent, so dose, grind, and temp are the only three variables you need to deal with, generally. Tamping also doesn't really have that much of an effect as long as your distribution is consistently even.

The big two are dosing and grind, with temp being the last thing that I'd adjust (not that I'm anything special, just from the routines I've developed, I've found that unless a coffee is radically out of line with what I'm normally pulling, changing the temp before getting dose and grind dialed in is just chasing your tail).

For example, I'm working on the last of my stash of last year's crop of Ethiopia Gedeo Worka. Roasted a little bit lighter than I normally do this go-round, so my normal settings are a little off. I like the Worka as an SO shot, slightly on the ristretto side—18-20 grams in 30-35 seconds. First shot, with the grinder setting and timing I'd been using for the last coffee I'd been using (SM's New Classic blend), which had been giving me 18.5 gms and a nice 22 grams in 27 seconds, gave me 16.5 grams of coffee, which extracted a scant 15 grams in ~45 seconds, a serious ristretto shot. Tasty, but a bit too intense. So, I backed off the grinder (Gaggia MD-85) about a click and a half and added .05 seconds onto my timer. This gave me 20 grams of coffee, and I used 19.5 of it (the Ellimatic doesn't care for heavy over-dosing) in the 18gram double basket in the bottomless. Closer, but still a little long to get 20 gms in the shot glass. So, I opened up the grind just a hair and reduced the dose to 18.5 grams. Nailed it—a ristretto shot that looked like chocolate mousse and popped out the fruit notes in the Worka with out being overbearing.

Did that all with my standard cooling flush and pull temperature.

So there's my process, and I only had to futz with two variables (and not all that much). When the Worka runs out, I'll be trying some natural-process Sidamo that I just picked up, in the hopes I can find something similar to the Worka.
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emradguy
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emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,022
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 6:53pm
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

Jim Schulman wrote a great little set of guidelines for how to modify your technique to balance out your shots using dose and grind. It's readily available on Home Barista, or in the thread here called something like...what coffee sites do you have bookmarked?

Though, I think George's illustration is very good.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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bendavis78
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Feb 2011
Posts: 11
Location: Frisco, TX
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 8:40pm
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

GVDub Said:

First off, we can simplify your life even more. Your tamping should also be consistent

Posted April 21, 2013 link

Well, that's good to hear, b/c I just got my Espro calibrated tamper in the mail :-)

GVDub Said:

I like the Worka as an SO shot, slightly on the ristretto side—18-20 grams in 30-35 seconds. First shot, with the grinder setting and timing I'd been using for the last coffee I'd been using (SM's New Classic blend), which had been giving me 18.5 gms and a nice 22 grams in 27 seconds, gave me 16.5 grams of coffee, which extracted a scant 15 grams in ~45 seconds, a serious ristretto shot.

Posted April 21, 2013 link

There's another "variable" I guess I didn't mention -- shot time.  Do you pull your shots based on time (ie, cut it off at X seconds), volume (cut it off at X ounces), or do you just let the machine go until it's done? I have a Breville Dual Boiler, which has "double", "single", and "manual" buttons. It also has a shot timer built into the menu system so I can time the shots (the timer includes the pre-infusion as part of total shot time).  

GVDub Said:

ISo, I opened up the grind just a hair and reduced the dose to 18.5 grams. Nailed it—a ristretto shot that looked like chocolate mousse and popped out the fruit notes in the Worka with out being overbearing.

Posted April 21, 2013 link

From what you're saying it sounds like grind and dose kind of go hand-in-hand? I'm curious if there's any difference between changing the grind vs the dose with regard to flavor. My hunch is that it all comes down to total surface area exposed to the water, both on which grind and dose have an effect, but that's just a guess on my part.
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bendavis78
Senior Member


Joined: 5 Feb 2011
Posts: 11
Location: Frisco, TX
Expertise: I live coffee

Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 8:44pm
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

emradguy Said:

Jim Schulman wrote a great little set of guidelines for how to modify your technique to balance out your shots using dose and grind. It's readily available on Home Barista, or in the thread here called something like...what coffee sites do you have bookmarked?

Though, I think George's illustration is very good.

Posted April 21, 2013 link

I assume this is the post to which you're referring?

[edit] I just read through it, and it's exactly the kind of guide I was looking for -- thanks! Looking forward to trying out the technique this week :-)
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GVDub
Senior Member


Joined: 25 Jan 2008
Posts: 849
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Londinium I, Arrarex...
Grinder: Gaggia MD85, Dienes Mokka,...
Drip: Behmor Brazen, Abid Clever
Roaster: Behmor 1600
Posted Sun Apr 21, 2013, 9:07pm
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

My shot time is more of a window. I'm looking for x volume (or weight, if I had a scale that would fit under a shot glass on the Ellimatic) in 25-30 seconds, or, if pulling ristrettos, in 30-45 seconds. So, while shot time may vary, I wouldn't call it a variable in the sense of being something that you play with.

Grind and dose do go hand-in-hand, within the strictures of what's practical. But, generally speaking, you can accomplish your desired end result by just tweaking one. It may take more time to zero in that way, though, as well as wasting more of your coffee (and we wouldn't want that, would we? Coffee is to be drunk, not dumped down the sink).

It also depends on your tools. A stepped grinder, with steps that aren't quite the right size, may make you have to play more with dose, and a basket/machine combination that doesn't deal well with varying amounts of headroom may force you into playing more with grind. If you've got the right tools on both sides, you can get closer to that "God shot" we're all chasing.

I'm just a seeker, though, making do with the tools that I have, and what I'm talking about is only broadly applicable to other folks equipment and level of OCD.
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MerleApAmber
Senior Member


Joined: 13 Nov 2012
Posts: 203
Location: Atlanta
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Breville BES900
Grinder: Baratza Preciso + Esatto
Vac Pot: Yuma
Drip: bah-humbug
Roaster: Hot Top 2K P
Posted Mon Apr 22, 2013, 7:55am
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

bendavis78 Said:

snip "I have a Breville Dual Boiler, which has "double", "single", and "manual" buttons. It also has a shot timer built into the menu system so I can time the shots (the timer includes the pre-infusion as part of total shot time)."  
snip.

Posted April 21, 2013 link

If you ever find yourself with the same coffee, for like for-ever... single and double volumetrics might work out very well indeed. As far as I have seen, one programs their volume total either measuring water flow without restriction and calculate the amount they'll be leaving in the grounds to come up with the actual amount in the cup, or program based upon what time it takes to gain a given volume/mass in the cup through a charge in the basket. Remember, due to the differences in density shot to shot, you may not hit your 9 bar reference spot on leading to a bit of variability using the 'preprogrammed' shots.

So, the downbeat here for me (I too have a Brv 900xl): I use the manual button; by holding it down (pre-infusing pump pressure) until I have the puck saturated or pressure as I like it, then release (setting the pump to run at full extraction pressure for the remainder of the run) and draw my shot based on volume or weight in the cup. This way I see what my tamp/dose/grind result in for pressure and thus impact time to desired results.

In my Tao of the coffee machine, this results in my pushing the single button for preheating group, portafilter, basket, and cup; using the double button for cleaning/back-flushing same afterward.  

Twisted, yes, yes I know; but we are talking coffee here... ya know?...
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emradguy
Senior Member
emradguy
Joined: 31 Mar 2011
Posts: 3,022
Location: Houston
Expertise: I live coffee

Espresso: Duetto II; Twist v2
Grinder: M Major, Macap M4 x2, VDD...
Drip: Espro presses; Aeropress
Roaster: H-B "List of Favorites"
Posted Mon Apr 22, 2013, 8:36am
Subject: Re: How do I know when to adjust certain variables (grind/does/temp/etc)?
 

yes, that link navigates to the "article" I as referring to.  I'd have posted it for you, but was one my iPhone, which makes it more complicated...and you found it by yourself :)

I agree, shot time varies, but is not a variable.  As coffee beans age, the grind fineness changes (unless you can adjust your grinder perfectly for each shot).  Assuming you don't change dose, the shot will run slightly differently.  It would be a mistake to accept the default shot timing on any full automatic for every shot - except maybe back-to-backs, once everything is dialed in just right.  One has to monitor the output to make sure it's not over or under extracting.  This must be done visually (even if one is OCD enough to put the shots on a scale).  The idea is to try to get the same timing (and weight if you use a scale under your shot glass) each time.  You first alter the variables until you like the flavor, then try to reproduce it every time.  So, minor adjustments must be made as beans age and/or ambient temperature and/or humidity changes.  However, one can also dial in the visual cues of the end of the shot using taste.  It's done by tasting tiny aliquots from the mid to end of the stream.  As the shot runs, place a small spoon under it to catch it and then taste it.  Do this rapidly (as many times as you can without being sloppy) as you watch the appearance of the stream change.  When you notice it tastes horrible (or begins to) make a mental note of what it looks like, as you can't taste every shot like that.  Once you get a good idea of that appearance, you won't ever have to worry about knowing when the shot is done.

 
.
Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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