Beginners to espresso brewing often do no more than grind some beans, tamp the grounds, attach the portafilter to the group head and let the espresso machine do the rest. It sounds straightforward, but it’s all too easy to create a mess and – worse – finish up with an espresso that has an unappealing taste thanks to inconsistent extraction.
This article intends to explore the best ways to make pulling an espresso a more straightforward, more consistent process. We will also examine whether particular techniques or tools are necessary to distribute, dose, and tamp your beans.
We will look at three practical and valuable tools for any coffee brewer that will always make brewing espresso simpler and more consistent for any home barista. Check out this brew guide you are interested in more tips for making espresso at home.
Three Useful Tools For Newbie Home Barista
Dosing Cup Or Dosing Cup
A dosing funnel (or cup) is essentially a no-frills, cheap tool that’s worth keeping on your coffee bar.
Why we need a dosing funnel?
Most espresso machines and espresso grinders allow you to dose straight into a portafilter basket. It sounds great, but the process can create a mess.
Often, during the grinding process, the coffee grounds ricochet off the sides thanks to the static. Even if they end up in the portafilter, they can form a small mound at the top, so you will have to tap the mound to ensure the ground coffee spread out more evenly before tamping.
However, if you tamp too robustly, the grounds at the top can roll off, leaving not just a mess to clear up on your counter but a waste of good coffee. Dosing funnels help alleviate this issue.
How does a dosing funnel work?
Simply put the dosing funnel on top of the portafilter. You’re saving coffee and your time.
Dosing funnels are helpful, and, as the photo shows, they ensure that there’s no waste of coffee beans over the sides when you grind beans into the portafilter. All the grounds that are sticking to it are neither making a mess on the counter nor in the grinder.
When it comes to distributing the grounds, you only need to knock the sides of the portafilter with your hand or tap it vertically onto the tamping mat, without any concern for the grounds on the top rolling down.
Choosing The Ideal Dosing Funnel
The dosing funnel photographed is a 54mm tool that is an excellent fit for either the Barista Pro or Express. However, there is a range of sizes and brands to choose between. However, the most important thing to remember is that as long as the portafilter has the same diameter as the dosing funnel, it will be compatible.
Some grinders, as well as some espresso makers with built-in grinders, will be unable to fit the dosing funnel in the top of the cradle of the portafilter. Therefore, the grinding will have to be activated manually.
Consider A Dosing Cup
A dosing cup solves the issue outlined above. They usually come with a rim on the exterior so that it can be placed straight into the portafilter’s cradle. However, you will need to take a look at your filter basket’s diameter. For example, a dosing cup several millimeters smaller in diameter than the basket will create more issues than it solves.
We suggest the Espresso Dosing Funnel (although you may need a different size depending on your basket).
Distribution Tool (Coffee Leveler/Coffee Distributor)
The next piece of equipment is a distribution tool (often referred to as a coffee leveler or coffee distributor). Distribution tools are the subject of industry-wide debate. Some coffee experts swear by them, while others dislike them. In our opinion, they can be beneficial for newbies.
Why Do You Need A Coffee Distribution Tool?
Coffee grounds that are evenly distributed before tamping are a critical component of what makes the water move consistently through the coffee bed when you pull a shot.
Coffee lovers employ several methods to distribute the coffee to achieve this goal. These include using your thumb and fingers to level the grounds (called the Stockfleth method), tapping the portafilter on the sides, or knocking the portafilter base on a counter to settle the grounds and distribute them more consistently.
If you use a distribution tool, it will do a more consistent and clean job than you can manage with your hand or another method.
If you opt to tap it instead, you have to do it at the correct strength. Otherwise, some of the grounds can be knocked off the portafilter, creating a mess.
Using a distribution tool ensures consistency and more even extraction for your espresso shots. They allow you to set the depth and do the same number of spins every time.
How Do Espresso Distribution Tools Work?
Distribution involves preparing the grounds before you tamp them (leading to compression).
All that’s needed is to place the coffee distributor on the grounds, spin it around a few times, and it will ensure consistent distribution in your portafilter each time. In fact, it will leave you with an extremely flat surface which will be perfect for tamping.
Some distribution tools allow you to alter the depth. We recommend starting with the smallest depth and tweaking from there.
Choosing The Ideal Distribution Tool
Distribution tools come in a range of sizes, shapes, and prices, but the most important thing is to ensure you buy one that fits the size of your filter basket. They are commonly available in 54mm and 58mm sizes, which tend to fit most commercial or domestic espresso machines.
Some coffee distributors have four slopes at the base, while others have only three angled slopes or are V-shaped. We don’t think the design is particularly important. We are using this distribution tool with three impelling arms on the base, and it does a great job.
Most coffee distributors are fairly cheap. However, there are still expensive ones. The Ona Coffee Distribution Tool (known as OCD), for example, costs around $200, while others are nearer $20. If you’re new to brewing espresso, just get one that can do the job as the benefits of more expensive ones aren’t significant. However, for those with money to spend who enjoy high-end products, the OCD is a good option.
The budget-friendly coffee distribution tool:
53mm Coffee Distributor And Tamper (Remember to check the size before buying)
Asso Coffee’s Jack Coffee Leveler has a fantastic range of beautiful designs for those who like aesthetically pleasing products. However, the products won’t come cheap.
Most espresso machines have a tamper which will do a good job. However, some of the tampers in espresso machines are low-quality and made of plastic. If that’s the case with yours, you’d be far better off investing in a weightier one.
Even if your espresso machine has a good tamper, some bought separately can take the hassle out of the process and do a better job. There are a couple of options: a calibrated tamper or a palm tamper, which usually has a distribution tool as well.
Why Espresso Tamping Tools Are Important
Tamping for inexperienced espresso brewers can be difficult. One of the issues is how much pressure to apply. Another is how to achieve consistency from shot to shot. A calibrated tamper or a palm tamper is meant to ensure more consistent tamping.
How Does It Work?
Palm tampers allow you to set a depth. This means that it won’t go beyond the depth setting. You can’t press when the tamper’s rim reaches the portafilter’s edge. Therefore, it will only compress the coffee grounds to the depth you set. This allows for a more consistent espresso workflow.
Calibrated tampers include a spring situated between the base and the handle. When you exert 30 pounds of pressure on it, it clicks, meaning you can use identical force for each shot of espresso. This makes the tamping process extremely straightforward, making it an excellent option for inexperienced espresso baristas.
Choosing The Ideal Tamper
There are different brands and sizes of both the calibrated and palm tampers.
You will usually find a palm tamper comes with the distribution tools we outlined earlier. Palm tampers have one side for the leveler and the other for the tamper. This makes it really useful, and we love the combo.
Most calibrated tampers offer the same thing as each other – approximately 30 pounds of pressure with the same means of operation. Therefore, your choice of calibrated tamper will come down to the size of your portafilter and the aesthetic.
53mm Coffee Distributor And Tamper
LexHaus 53mm Calibrated Espresso Tamper (other size options are 49mm, 51mm, and 58mm).
Brewing espresso at home can be a fulfilling and fun experience. However, it also requires a degree of precision and can be both messy and frustrating. The tools this guide has outlined are designed to take the mess and guesswork out of the process. However, they are not essential to making good espresso.
Nevertheless, whether you’re attempting espresso brewing for the first time or you’re a barista with years of experience, having these additional tools can go a long way towards making your espressos more consistent and while creating less mess.
They take care of some of the more important variables for a perfect espresso shot, meaning you can concentrate on some of the other elements, including grind size, temperature for dialing in, and grind size.