Sunday, January 15, 2006

   from AndyS

Updosing Again

For the last year or two the UPDOSING technique has been pretty controversial. In case you're not familiar with the term, one common updosing theory states that espresso tastes better when you dose so that your coffee fills the portafilter basket right up to the shower screen.

A lot of the controversy is justified: this is a complex subject. On the other hand, the controversy drags on because people mean different things when they talk about updosing. And that holds back the progress of our quality coffee culture.

George Sabados wrote a seminal updosing article in the Oct/Nov 2005 Barista Magazine. I doubt he "invented" updosing, or whatever, but at least he put some interesting thoughts on paper. His updosing technique does NOT mean jamming extra coffee into the portafilter. Instead, if I get what he's saying, the technique involves putting just enough coffee in the portafilter so that its expansion is restricted by the shower screen. And no more.

In my opinion, if they haven't already, all serious baristas should read it and try to test out this stuff for themselves, with their coffees, on their machine. George says, rather mysteriously, that this technique may not work well with all coffees and all machines.

A lot of people have already experimented and come up with wildly varying opinions. So what I'm suggesting is that we all test at least one thing in common. It's pretty much what Nick (a guy who seems to get the principle behind running a meaningful experiment) proposed on You want to taste the difference between:

(1)a 2 oz, 28 sec espresso obtained from 20 grams of coffee in a double basket, and
(2)a similar 2 oz, 28 sec, 20 gram espresso made in a triple basket.

That 20 gram figure may have to be adjusted, but it must be the same for both samples. The point is, in sample (1), you want to use just enough coffee to lightly touch the shower screen when it's fitted into the group. Then you've got to use THE SAME WEIGHT of coffee (perhaps with a different grind) for sample (2) in a triple basket. The requirement to use the same weight of coffee for each shot will require the use of a gram scale.

Your grinder may have to be adjusted to get the timing and extracted volumes to be the same.

It's just a start, it's just a single test, but I believe THAT test is really meaningful: comparing an "expansion-restricted" extraction to an otherwise identical "expansion-unrestricted" extraction. Very significantly, you're getting the same volume of espresso from the same amount of ground coffee. The only variables that (ideally) change are the clearance to the shower screen and (if necessary) the fineness of grind.


Blogger Nick said...

Apparently nobody wants to face the truth, Andy.

1/17/2006 02:39:00 PM  
Blogger mikep said...

I believe in the Home-Barista thread Nick said he was going to be doing the experiment back in November. I haven't seen those results yet.

Would this be a situation where a Brix meter could give useful info? I suppose it depends on if you believe updosing squeezes more 'stuff' out of the coffee or just more 'good stuff' from it.

1/18/2006 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger batchburner said...

i think what we're looking for here is a nice even extraction for the entire duration of the pull. the only way to accomplish that is to keep the coffee from sloshing around during the extraction...

1/24/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger AndyS said...

Under 130 psi pressure, the coffee doesn't do a whole lot of sloshing.

1/25/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger fortune said...

with all due respect -- and i mean this most seriously -- i'm not sure this one test alone wouldn't be adequate, as far as i was taught updosing by paul bassett in oz. the sabados updose involves more than just this one factor.

you also have to have a certain kind of roast -- i may be wrong here, but i believe rio in adelaide is a fine example of this, at least the aussie updosers i met like paul bassett and paul geshos use that coffee -- and you have to also consider things like screw tear, puck smell, as well as the depth and clarity of the gasket imprint.

talking quickly to g. scace on this subject, i have to say that as presented in the barista mag piece, i can't agree with sabados' water physics. but he may have just written it awkwardly.

g. pointed out to me that just because sabados' water physics may need some clarification doesn't necessarily mean the technique overall doesn't work.

i stress the overall. you will also sometimes hear claims from updosing proponents about how their method prevents the coffee grounds or coffee oils from "burning." i think we all understand this is a shorthand, since at espresso machine temperatures, both of these are probably impossible.

or so the coffee chemists tell me.
but i'm not a coffee chemist and i can't play one on the internet. (wink)

one the other hand, i will offer a conjecture for wiser heads than i to kick around: the burning comment may come from a washing-out of smelly stuff like 3-Mercapto-3-methylbutylformate and 3-Methyl-2-buten-1-thiol.

1/26/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger AndyS said...

Fortune, I agree 100%, this one test alone -- in fact, NO test alone -- would be adequate. It's just something to learn from. In doing it, you start to get an idea how much grinder adjustment it takes to keep the flow rate equivalent between a "no headspace" puck and a "mucho headspace" puck: at least 1.5 fine lines on a Mazzer Mini. Supposedly this grind change is one of the important factors behind the success of updosing....

That "certain kind of roast" thing is a mystery to me, as is sabados' water physics.

And surely, "burning" the coffee is an unfortunate expression to use in an espresso extraction, but maybe it helps describe a certain undesirable flavor....

I see that the next issue of Barista mag has part two of the "updosing" story. Hopefully Inny will clarify some of the loose ends in the first article.

Frankly, my initial thoughts about updosing were very negative, having been based upon inaccurate descriptions of its nature. After reading Inny's first article and experimenting, it's starting to make sense.

1/27/2006 06:40:00 PM  
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