Distribution is King
How to extract the best Espresso?
Making a great espresso is made up of a number of components and the preparation of an amazing spro is all in the details; How many grams are going into your portafilter, how many mls of espresso are you extracting and in what time frame? Is this extraction time and weight producing the best from your bean or does it need to be adjusted…??
It can be super overwhelming and often you think you’ve nailed all of the above variables (plus more!) and yet you’re still getting a spro that is average and leaves you feeling disheartened by the experience - trust us, we get it and are here to help!
Often the answer lies in how well you’re distributing your coffee…
What is distribution?
What is distribution?? Distribution, as the name suggests, is how evenly your ground coffee is distributed across your espresso basket. Whilst it might look even, it is crucial that you manually distribute your coffee each and every time. This process can be surprisingly hard at first but once you find a method that works for you, it will become second nature in no time.
Distribution Technique in Specialty Coffee.
A good distribution technique will help you achieve an even extraction and avoid channeling, it should be repeatable and effective so that it can be transferred across a multitude of scenarios, be it a busy cafe environment, in a small coffee van or your home coffee setup. An even distribution of grinds within your basket will force the water to behave and help deliver you a high quality and most importantly reliable result.
So let’s get into the technique, there are a number of different methods but as we said earlier, consistency is key so make sure however you distribute your grinds that you are consistent each and every time.
1 - Getting your coffee into the portafilter
Depending on the type of grinder you have, the way you get your coffee into your basket will differ.
Some grinders will grind straight into your portafilter. If this is the case for you try and focus on making sure as much of the coffee ends up in the centre of your basket as possible.
If you are grinding into a dosing cup (like in the picture to the left) to dispense your grinds then give your portafilter a swift circular movement to evenly spread the coffee around the basket.
2 - Open Palm tap
The coffee is in your basket, so what’s next? Now it’s time to ensure your grinds are evenly distributed across your basket before you tamp.
With the portafilter in your non-dominant hand use an open palm tap the side of your basket. You should be aiming for 3-4 taps around the rim of your basket.
This will take a few practices to get the hang of as you need to use enough force to make the grinds spread across the basket, but not so much that the grinds spill out of the basket.
3 - Collapse your coffee
Once you have distributed the coffee grinds, it's finally time to tap your portafilter lightly on the side of your bench (we always have a rubber matt to tap our handles onto so we don’t damage them).
Tapping your portafilter gently will help collapse the dose and help remove any large pockets of air that may be hiding within your basket.
Remember the emphasis at this point is on making the bed of grinds as flat as possible.
4 - Tamp
Make sure your tamp enters the basket as level as possible and apply pressure straight downwards. You don’t want to enter on an angle as all of your hard work will be ruined and you will have changed your coffee distribution.
Whack your portafilter in your machine & start brewing immediately.
Whilst this process may seem overwhelming to begin with, once you get into a routine and find a process that can easily be repeated then distributing your coffee will become second nature.
Once you have nailed this, you’ll be doing it without thinking about it and super quickly!
Happy Brewing & stay Grouchy