- The grind is super important. I haven't been making hardcore truly micro adjustments yet (I haven't sat down and pulled zillions of shots in a row to experiment at that level yet), but I am making smaller adjustments and dialing things each day, etc.
- The freshness of the beans makes a huge difference! This may seem obvious, but I'm finding that I now won't even bother with anything that isn't dated, and current
- The roast of the beans is critical as well. Anything "over roasted" (extra dark and oily), is just pointless for me. I've yet to pull a good cup with one of those, and I have no interest in them it seems, since they seem to lose the caramel and subtle flavors, and enhance the roast/smoky flavor. As I've known, but now proved further, I too am in the "Northern Italian" camp for bean choice.
- I've had great success using a grounds distribution technique I saw at Wandering Goat: I use the side of the palm of my hand to distribute the grounds, and mostly just back and forth, but ensuring that I get a really even distribution, and proper amount of grinds.
- Better on my tamp pressure, and more consistent. Don't tamp the crap out of it, do indeed stick to the ~30lbs force, which is not as much as it seems.
Right now I'm awaiting arrival of my bottomless/crotchless portafilter, as well as a custom handmade tamper from Thor Tampers.
The best shot I've made to date is from Zoka Paladino beans, later in their life (probably about 10 days I think). Great taste, and then brilliant aftertaste, with the effect on your tongue the same as a wine with heavy tannins (sort of drys it out), and superb chocolate flavors coming out. This is pretty cool because usually Zoka is more on the smoky side for me, so this was a real transition. The shot in this picture used Vivace Dolce.