April 11, 2017

Espresso-Making Skills: It’s Time to Rethink Coffee Distribution


Coffee distribution: it might only take a few seconds, but it’s of vital importance. And many of the most popular methods may be doing more harm than good. Find out more in this curated video guide.

Why Is Coffee Distribution Important?

Coffee distribution is the moment before you tamp, when you make sure the coffee is evenly spread throughout the portafilter. If it’s not, then you’ll see uneven extraction. Watch as Chris Baca explains why, complete with diagrams.

SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Why a Messy Naked Portafilter Means Bad Extraction

How Do I Distribute Coffee?

There are several popular ways to distribute coffee. First of all, having a grinder that evenly distributes the coffee is a great start. However, not everyone has that option.

After the coffee has been dosed into the portafilter, many people like to then gently tap that portafilter on the counter to collapse any air bubbles. Some also like to stir it with a paperclip or needle to further break up any clumps. (One technique, called WDT, involves inserting a makeshift funnel into the portafilter pre-dosing, and then using a needle to stir the grounds. It’s complicated, but there are some that swear by it.)

One of the most popular methods is to smooth out the top of the grounds with your finger. And then there are certain distribution tools you can use.

But not all distribution methods are equal.

Which Distribution Methods Are Best?

Scott Rao, author of numerous coffee books, including one dedicated solely to espresso extraction, believes that grooming the coffee puck is a bad idea. He’s not the only one to believe that – Gwilym Davies, 2009 World Barista Champion, has also advocated for simpler coffee distribution. Find out why in this 70-second clip.

SEE ALSO: Barista Skills A VIDEO Guide to Tamping

In other words, get your finger out of your coffee!

Additionally, make sure not to tap your portafilter post-tamp, or you’ll create cracks (remember those from Chris Baca’s video?) in your evenly distributed puck.

How to Use Distribution Tools

If you’re not getting even extraction without grooming (or just can’t bear the thought of skipping it), Scott Rao’s suggestion was a tool. So how do these work?

While there are numerous tools out there, this quick video from Sasa Sestic, creator of the acclaimed OCD (version two of which just won the People’s Choice Award at MICE) explains the basics. Key take-away: the OCD is not a tamper! Don’t use pressure.

SEE ALSO: How Much Pressure? 2 VIDEOS Debunking The 30 lb Tamping Myth

So there you go: all the reasons why you should rethink your coffee distribution for more even extraction (and quicker workflow).

Happy brewing!

Feature photo credit: Nicholas Lundgaard via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Please note: Perfect Daily Grind does not own the rights to these videos and cannot be held accountable for their content.

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