OE SLAP SHOT Espresso Preparation Technique
After a year of experimentation, investigation, thought, trials & tribulations, as well as the old standby trial & error...we had page after page of prepared blather, explanations, extrapolations, even Newtonian Physics (and who doesn't love Newtonian Physics?) to explain our dosing system. But then, we realized, were only in it for the coffee. So, we'll let the video speak for itself! We dose, we slap, we polish, and we pull the shot - it's consistent, it's repeatable, and it's simple!
Espresso Prep with OE SLAP SHOT and the OE Dosing Funnel
Since we have had the video up for a month or so, it seems a good time to explain the development of our Slap Shot portafilter prep system......we did not set out to reinvent the wheel, it just evolved over time.
The basic intersection of events for us was the use of lever machines and fluffy grinds. We also read the coffee forums and paid close attention to the concepts of light tamping, no tamping, Italian style espresso prep involving fine grinding and light or no tamping (then there are all of the tamping devices mounted on commercial grinders and some vintage machines which in North America do not seem to be used). It always seemed that when there was some dilemma over shot quality the advice involved tamping and grinding and beans and temperature, pressure, machine inadequacies, enough to make one's head spin. So little by little we began sorting the variables out for our espresso technique....
First we went with a thin face tamper to enable a very precise calibration of the surface height of the puck in the basket. The fingers are very sensitive and a 5mm tamper height at the edge is very accurately sensed by matching the top of the tamper to the edge of the basket. Not all puck heights are 5mm down but even 6 or 7mm spaces can be easily judged by finger feel. Another important aspect is that the top surface of the grounds in the basket be level....also easy to control with a thin piston tamper. As an aside, a few years back we were enthralled and vastly entertained sitting in Vivace in Seattle (the original Vivace Rosteria) watching the "trainer" training the "trainee".....this was a pay for play trainee and not a future barista at the front counter and there was an incredible amount of discussion about these cockeyed basket levels and peering at the tamper sitting in the basket all kaddy-wampus, and since the "trainee" was paying some good money for this he was sweating bullets over this mystery of tamping to the point of having the whole thing just go KERBLAM all over the counter. Such a simple thing was obviously very complicated to him, and it was to us, so out goes one variable.
I mentioned the fluffy grinds.....largely from the use of hand grinders and once we got a good one we often found that we could not fit the entire dose in the portafilter without doing some soft tamping and manipulating .....we used a scoop to dose the basket and would mound up the grinds in the basket and tap the side of the portafilter with a tamper or use our thumbs to get the dose to fit. This all did not feel real good....it began to seem that we were not doing justice to the nice fluffy grind by squishing this way and that, and possibly creating uneven spots in the compaction of the grounds in the basket....to start with a nice fluffy dose and end up with what looked like a mess (with much spillage on the counter and loss of anything close to actual by the gram dosing) which was all straightened out by a surface smoothing but still it did not seem right. This was when we began using dosing funnels......about the same time that we began experimenting with a Baratza Vario. The Vario is notorious for flinging grounds all over the place and this is generally because the grinder is often not used properly, or as designed. With our machine setup we were dosing about 22 grams of pure fluff into an 18 gram nominal basket and going for a fairly voluminous ristretto shot. The pile of grounds would spill out of the basket so we used 3 bursts of the Vario with knocking down the grounds between each burst. Still fairly messy with loss of gram dose calculations and the bad feeling of creating interfaces between the layers of each of these 3 bursts of grind not to mention a bit tedious and odd feeling. The funnels changed that with the ability to grind the dose in one continuous run of the Vario creating a tall pile in the funnel with very little, if any, spillout. We were then grinding 22 grams and getting 22 grams, all mounded in the basket. More variables now gone from our technique.
The "settling thwump" is well reported in many dosing techiniques but was shown to us to perfection by a friend who uses a Versalab grinder, again, very fluffy tall piled grind, an initial thwump on the counter corner to settle, a finger sweep, and a fairly firm tamp for both lever and pump machines. So we experimented with this on our system. First one thwump then two then threee and then as many as it took to get the tall fluffy pile into the body of the basket, remove the funnel, insert the thin disc 5mm tamper, feel to level with the thumbs, slight polish by giving the tamper a spin, and the shots began to be more and more consistent, more and more repeatable. The only variables now being the grind and the dose.....just TWO! If the shot is too fast, grind finer or dose higher, too slow, grind coarser, dose lower.
So we had the system down but the mechanics were lacking....tamper check, funnels, now a must for us, but the thwacking to settle was carried out on a board (noisy and skittery) towels, rubber sheets, silicone pads (very bouncy), and so we eventually hit upon the hockey puck idea. Hard rubber, lasts forever, reasonable design object on the counter....but something was lacking as it looked too crude. That was when we designed the holder for the puck and it had all come together for us since that tray catches any stray grinds that may be on the rim of the basket or the ears of the portafilter. The counter now is neat and clean most times and the Slap Shot for us kindof accessorizes our setup....makes it all seem somehow official.
Our goal has been to produce consistent shots with a minimum of fuss and to be able to easily diagnose the shots that do not quite come out as we had hoped...usually we have ground too fine when changing beans or using beans a bit fresher than the are accustomed to. We use the Slap Shot all the time, the funnels and the thin piston tampers and are very pleased with the quality and repeatability of our espresso shots.