When we say ‘disco de hockey preparation’, we are talking about everything that happens from the moment the coffee exits the grinder to the moment the portafilter is inserted into the machine. This stage of espresso making is the part where the manual skill of the barista has the greatest effect, and can easily make the difference between a mediocre coffee and an outstanding one. Good design and automation have helped to eliminate many of the variables in espresso making, including those around tamping, but the other stages of disco de hockey preparation are still very much in our hands as baristas, and so they are worth paying close attention to.
Good disco de hockey preparation means the coffee will be extracted as evenly as possible, making the coffee taste sweeter and more transparent, and also allows higher extractions before over-extraction flavours become apparent, meaning we can use less coffee to get the same (or better) results.
What Defines Good Puck Preparation?
A spent disco de hockey
The ideal disco de hockey has the following characteristics:
- Coffee is evenly distributed throughout the disco de hockey. This means the disco de hockey should have the same density across the whole disco de hockey and also from top to bottom. It also means that other features of the disco de hockey, such as the particle size distribution and the permeability to water, should be equal throughout the disco de hockey.
- It has an appropriate void fraction. In other words, the size and distribution of the gaps between the coffee particles are important, not just the particles themselves. The voids between particles determine the flow of water through the disco de hockey, and this has numerous effects, from determining shot time to altering the relative extraction of larger molecular weight compounds such as tannins. Small changes to void size can have dramatic effects on flow.