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Changing dose with/without grind size to guide taste?


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I'm still fairly new to the world of great espresso. Early on I picked my 18g IMS BaristaPro basket for a steady 18g dose and was thankful that I could keep this one variable constant -- dose -- in what's been a tough learning curve and what seems to be a sea of variables.

But the more I research the more I read about people changing dose in conjunction with grind size (and potentially with basket change) to drive taste for different roast levels and beans. I'm currently on a journey to try as many different beans (types and roasts) as possible, in succession, in order to figure out what I like. I drink milk drinks exclusively.

I understand that the driving factor is grind size in order to increase/decrease surface area for water to act as the solvent that it is. But I don't get the rationale behind changing dose accordingly in order to maintain flow the same (I don't even fully understand why flow speed is important, or even if it is). Nor do I understand how to pick a dose given a roast profile.

I've read in some places that lighter roasts require a finer grind and a lower dose. But then I've read in other places that they need a finer grind and a HIGHER dose. It's all a bit confusing. Is the reverse true for darker roasts?

Can someone break this down for me to help me work out how and when I might make those decisions? Or link to some resources?

 

Profitec Pro 700, Ceado E37S with SSP Red Speed burrs (single dosing). Exclusively consuming milk based espresso drinks. Currently enjoying yo-yo’ ing between light and dark roasts to understand my taste buds.

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Dose &  ratio make little difference to flavour balance, assuming all is working as it should. If your extractions are falling a little short, you might try dropping dose by 1g or so...but drop it too far and extractions will drop again (as they will if you overdose for your basket).

Bigger doses have more mouthfeel than smaller doses, at the same ratio. But when dialed in 1:2 will get the same extraction & concentration at any dose, unless you are introducing a malfunction.

Focus more on ratio. If a coffee is less soluble, then it might not extract easily at a short ratio (say 1:1.5 to 1:2.0), so you could try 1:2.5 to 1:3.5 say. But a more soluble coffee might be fine at the shorter end. You might push the upper limit on dose for a very soluble coffee, if it extracts very easily.

Forget surface area, this has no mass, you can't extract it. Grinding as fine as you possibly can will increase surface area, but then it is just as likely to make the puck less permeable, choke the machine &/or drop extractions.

So I'd start at the 18g you set out with, dial in to your preferred ratio, deal with specific issues as a coffee presents them. If grind adjustment alone doesn't do the trick, try lightening the dose a tad and/or pulling a longer ratio. Dose would be fine tuning, last variable in the process to tweak.

 

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Thanks @MWJB. So what might make someone switch from an 18g basket to a 15g or 22g (bigger/smaller drink aside) if dose is last variable to tweak and tweaks seem to be in the range of +/- 1g which a basket does have tolerances for? 
 

If your extractions are falling a little short

That’s the thing though. I don’t know if they are falling short if my gamut of experiences is narrow. I might think “that’s great” not realising that with a different combination of variables you could get so much better. As a newbie, you don’t know what you don’t know. Coffee is expensive and there’s only so much caffeine intake one can manage. Experimenting when there are so many variables and when you don’t know the best that you’ve NOT tasted is not that practical hence why me and others like me try to shortcut that learning curve by asking experiences coffee aficionados like yourself!

Profitec Pro 700, Ceado E37S with SSP Red Speed burrs (single dosing). Exclusively consuming milk based espresso drinks. Currently enjoying yo-yo’ ing between light and dark roasts to understand my taste buds.

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Smaller, or bigger drink is the main reason for changing basket size.

If your coffee is great, how much better do you need it to be. You're making it for you to drink, you know if you like it/don't like it.

If you have a shot you like, make a few more & try & identify an aspect that you don't like. This is simpler than assuming every bean is going to take you to Nirvana if you keep changing every parameter...it won't.

Coffee is pretty cheap really, if your max intake is 3x 18g shots in a day, slow down, enjoy the scenery, make 3 shots a day, make changes when you need to.

Don't experiment ...unless you can raise funding for your experiments :-) Make deliberate and purposeful changes, based on any objectionable results in the cup.

There's no shortcut that eliminates the taste of the drink you make & how much you like it. Score each cup with a simple score (I do mine out of 9, 5 being neither like/dislike). When a coffee drops way lower than your typical score, or your typical scores indicate that you don't actually know if you are enjoying what you make, then investigate what you can do to fix that.

The main requirement is that you enjoy what you make, even if what you enjoy is not what I enjoy, you're still not going to have it catch fire :-)

“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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1 hour ago, tripleshot said:

with a different combination of variables you could get so much better.

While that is true, be sure to only change one variable at once. It's slow and annoying but you will get a better understanding of how things work if you take the advice like MWJB's post above, but just action one thing at a time. See what effect that has.

 

1 hour ago, tripleshot said:

Coffee is expensive and there’s only so much caffeine intake one can manage.

I agree. We have similar machines, at the start I just made peace with the fact my morning coffee wouldn't be amazing. I wasn't going to keep making them each morning to get a 'good' one. Two a day, trying the things people pointed out to me. Eventually those two become tasty and consistent.

As for 'could it be better?'...probably?...question is how much, do you want to keep going and what don't you like? Little too acidic? Then work towards that first for instance. The only barometer is you, if you are happy and are enjoying it, what else is there?

I get the 'you only know what you know', as a newbie I'm comparing it to the best coffee shops I've been to and the top restaurants I've had a coffee in as I've not had a machine before. I find each coffee different and I'm making notes as I go. When I get a great one I make a note of the weight, time etc so I know I get a great coffee out of that particular bean.

Edited by CocoLoco
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2 hours ago, tripleshot said:

I'm still fairly new to the world of great espresso. Early on I picked my 18g IMS BaristaPro basket for a steady 18g dose and was thankful that I could keep this one variable constant -- dose -- in what's been a tough learning curve and what seems to be a sea of variables.

But the more I research the more I read about people changing dose in conjunction with grind size (and potentially with basket change) to drive taste for different roast levels and beans. I'm currently on a journey to try as many different beans (types and roasts) as possible, in succession, in order to figure out what I like. I drink milk drinks exclusively.

I understand that the driving factor is grind size in order to increase/decrease surface area for water to act as the solvent that it is. But I don't get the rationale behind changing dose accordingly in order to maintain flow the same (I don't even fully understand why flow speed is important, or even if it is). Nor do I understand how to pick a dose given a roast profile.

I've read in some places that lighter roasts require a finer grind and a lower dose. But then I've read in other places that they need a finer grind and a HIGHER dose. It's all a bit confusing. Is the reverse true for darker roasts?

Can someone break this down for me to help me work out how and when I might make those decisions? Or link to some resources?

 

Depends how old the stuff you're reading is.

When the 'third wave' really took off roasters were roasting lighter and lighter and baristas were updosing more and more to try and get a good extraction. Eventually the trend stopped, roasters used refractometers to assess solubility and developed the coffee better, while baristas understood their extractions better and realised the trend for light roast ristrettos was a trend towards under-extraction.

While updosing with an underdeveloped coffee allowed the barista to slow a shot down it's thought shallower pucks are easier to extract. It might be easier to achieve a high EY with a 15g puck than an 18g puck. The coffee will absorb less heat from the water and come up to temperature faster, but much more significantly you'll be grinding finer with a lower dose. I'm not remotely sure about the following: Flow rates affect extraction due partly to heat loss (higher flow rates means the water is hotter as it passes through the puck) but also contact time; it is more efficient to extract solubles with a constant high flow rate that washes over and through the grinds than a low flow rate that extracts what it can and then slowly passes through the bed.

The old trend was to updose light and underdeveloped roasts to slow shots down. With properly roasted light roasts, if your equipment can grind very finely consistently, then I think in theory you should be able to achieve a higher EY with comparatively lower doses and finer grinds. I would say it's best to stick to a fairly narrow dose range (i.e a single basket size +/- 1g) to avoid complicating things for yourself further. 

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Apologies for the late reply on this. I appreciate you all taking the time to reply. I've read and re-read several times and have ran an experiment of my own today so apologies if I go over something you've already covered.

I tried playing with the dose and grind today and these are my shots:

1004569140_CoffeeRoutinedatacollection(Responses)-GoogleSheets2020-09-1623-33-32.thumb.png.c085fa5071ffd3deeb4ac991a9bc6509.png

The ones in the experiment are the 4 highlighted. The biggest winner in terms of taste was keeping grind the same but dropping dose from 18.1 to 17.1. The difference in taste was really noticeable so  @MWJB I am finding it hard to reconcile this with your statement 

Quote

Dose &  ratio make little difference to flavour balance

I came across this article https://www.home-barista.com/tips/espresso-101-how-to-adjust-dose-and-grind-setting-by-taste-t16968.html (see `How to adjust dose and grind to fix the balance for most coffees`) which seems to suggest that playing with dose is a tool to affect taste. In fact, Jim Schulman mentioned in another thread that as bean ages he updoses in order to extract more flavour from beans that stale as the character flavour of a coffee is extracted earlier in the shot. I also came across Perger's video where he advocates the opposite, keeping dose locked https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BT7-yOUMDM&t=548s. Are these two schools of thought? I can definitely see how keeping dose locked is simpler.

My current understanding is:

1) You always want to grind as fine as possible in order to extract more flavour until you hit the point where you're going backwards (choking, channeling etc)

2) Above drives decisions around dose. For example, if I wanted to explore the flavour of the coffee at hypothetical fine grind setting 2 for example, I couldn't do that without dropping my dose because otherwise I'd end up choking the machine. So then the question is to what lengths do you go to explore what the coffee tastes like at different grind settings. If I hadn't dropped the dose I never would have found that nice sweet spot for this bean (which I'll use again in future).

Is statement 1 true? If yes, then why wouldn't 2 also be true and why is it picking a dose usually falls back on the standard 18g for most people.

Sorry if I'm being thick here, I'm sure that once I "get it" it will seem painfully obvious but until then....

 

 

 

Profitec Pro 700, Ceado E37S with SSP Red Speed burrs (single dosing). Exclusively consuming milk based espresso drinks. Currently enjoying yo-yo’ ing between light and dark roasts to understand my taste buds.

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1 minute ago, tripleshot said:

Apologies for the late reply on this. I appreciate you all taking the time to reply. I've read and re-read several times and have ran an experiment of my own today so apologies if I go over something you've already covered.

I tried playing with the dose and grind today and these are my shots:

1004569140_CoffeeRoutinedatacollection(Responses)-GoogleSheets2020-09-1623-33-32.thumb.png.c085fa5071ffd3deeb4ac991a9bc6509.png

The ones in the experiment are the 4 highlighted. The biggest winner in terms of taste was keeping grind the same but dropping dose from 18.1 to 17.1. The difference in taste was really noticeable so  @MWJB I am finding it hard to reconcile this with your statement 

I came across this article https://www.home-barista.com/tips/espresso-101-how-to-adjust-dose-and-grind-setting-by-taste-t16968.html (see `How to adjust dose and grind to fix the balance for most coffees`) which seems to suggest that playing with dose is a tool to affect taste. In fact, Jim Schulman mentioned in another thread that as bean ages he updoses in order to extract more flavour from beans that stale as the character flavour of a coffee is extracted earlier in the shot. I also came across Perger's video where he advocates the opposite, keeping dose locked https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BT7-yOUMDM&t=548s. Are these two schools of thought? I can definitely see how keeping dose locked is simpler.

My current understanding is:

1) You always want to grind as fine as possible in order to extract more flavour until you hit the point where you're going backwards (choking, channeling etc)

2) Above drives decisions around dose. For example, if I wanted to explore the flavour of the coffee at hypothetical fine grind setting 2 for example, I couldn't do that without dropping my dose because otherwise I'd end up choking the machine. So then the question is to what lengths do you go to explore what the coffee tastes like at different grind settings. If I hadn't dropped the dose I never would have found that nice sweet spot for this bean (which I'll use again in future).

Is statement 1 true? If yes, then why wouldn't 2 also be true and why is it picking a dose usually falls back on the standard 18g for most people.

Sorry if I'm being thick here, I'm sure that once I "get it" it will seem painfully obvious but until then....

 

 

 

The difference in taste was noticeable but so was the difference in shot time & apparent evenness.

Dose & ratio make little difference when dialled in. E.g. dial in a balanced cup at 1:2 it will be stronger than 1:3, but 1:3 will be just as balanced when dialled in...all the way up to 1:13 (filter brew). The taste of the coffee is in the beans, you can hit this taste at a wide range of ratios & strengths, but these will likely be similar extractions.

If you keep going finer, your extractions will likely drop before you see signs of choking. You can already see things speeding up as you go finer than 1.875, likely because the puck is less permeable and you are noticing less even liquid coming out of the puck.

If you want to follow Schulman's advice, go do so...have fun. See you back here asking the same question in 10yrs time....

Go back to 17g dose around 1.875 and see what 36g out is like vs 40g out. You seem to be about there at 1.875 17:36g, why not stick around there & play with ratio to tweak extraction?

Out of interest, why didn't you try 18:46g at 1.875?

“Coffee evokes the most insane reactions in people”, Rene Redzepi.

 

https://markwjburness.wordpress.com/

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