Dose, Distribution, Plumbing, and Steaming (and more)
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Not a whole lot going on to report. I have started installing a water softening and filtration system in preparation for a plumbed-in machine (that story begins here in Plumbing in an Espresso Machine - Part 1 water1.html) and I should be done with the plumbing by about 4/22, so watch for that. With my history when it comes to plumbing, it should get interesting. For all but three fittings I am using 3/8" John Guest so the excitement shouldn't be too dramatic. Or wet.
I have been using the gram scale to good advantage. I have been playing with grinding and dosing about 16.0 to 16.2 grams, working on the right balance between grind and dose. So far, it seems to be working well for me. It has allowed me to grind a bit more coarse which has greatly lessened channeling as well as smoothed out the taste as I was getting an over-extraction situation from too-fine of a grind when I was dosing 15.5 grams. So, yes Virginia, a scale that can measure .1 gram can make a difference.
I have also been working at simplifying and improving dosing and tamping. I tried the Weiss Distribution technique (WDT) for a while, but it made no difference. Why? The WDT is good for situations that create lumps and uneven distribution. This can be from a grinder that clumps or creates a dense grind, or when static from either the grinder for the environment makes uneven distribution a common occurrence.
I have also come up "The Glass Tap Technique" (GTT). Some have advocated tapping the portafilter downward onto the counter or tamping mat to settle the grounds before tamping, but I found that this can, in some cases, create an uneven distribution. It settle the grounds but does little to even out an uneven distribution. My solution was to hold the portafilter in the left hand and tap the bottom of the portafilter body with the top of the tamper handle in an upwards motion (a mountain and Mohammad sort of thing). This allows me to tap in various areas around the portafilter and at various angles to create a near-perfect distribution before taming. It reveals distribution inequities and allows their solution before tamping. I will try to document this is a separate article.
I have even improved my temperature control through more judicious use of the cooling flush and pressurestat adjustment. There is a compromise to be accepted; I turned down the pressurestat just a bit, and this gave me a water savings since I could flush less in the morning after the machine has sat at idle.
And so a moral - Thou shalt know the experience of really great espresso. Even if you are never able to attain it, it's nice to know what it is you are trying to attain. Next is to know the variables and how to control them, and their relationship to taste, so when you have a problem you have some idea as to how to rectify it. That's my "'Duh' Moment of Sharing" for the day.
Now, back to what I was last saying. The lowering of the boiler temperature did mean I lost just a little steaming power. Still, there has been enough to stretch a quantity of milk sufficient for two cappaccini in the morning with just a bit left over, so no loss there, and recovery is sufficiently fast when I need it to be so. But is it enough steam to pour well? Take a look:
These two latte art-cappas were poured from the same pitcher of milk, one right after the other. Keep in mind that I pull long doubles in the AM, and there isn't as much room left in the cup for the milk as with a traditional double. Additionally, this was done with soymilk! So, yes, coffee things are looking good even if the economy isn't.