Once you have your dose in the basket, you need to distribute the coffee grinds evenly. When distributing, the aim is for a perfectly homogeneous and flat mass of coffee grinds: no air pockets, divots, cracks, or mounds.
This is not perfection:
This is also not perfection:
This is perfection:
Nothing less is acceptable. This result is achievable within less than 3 seconds. Even the busiest espresso bars need to take the time to distribute coffee grinds evenly.
How to Do It
For optimum results, both the vertical distribution and the horizontal distribution of grinds need to be considered. The palm-tapping method is an easy way to quickly achieve an even horizontal distribution.
Tapping the basket sideways with the palm of your hand will push the grinds to the edges of the basket and even out their density. This technique is a little tricky, but once you master it you’ll never look back. Let’s talk about what will probably go wrong.
Tapping too hard does this:
Tapping too softly does this:
Tapping just right does this:
Tapping the portafilter downwards on a firm surface collapses the grinds lower into the basket, eliminating air pockets and increasing density. This tapping adjusts the vertical distribution of the coffee grinds. Vertical distribution can be performed before or after horizontal distribution. Most baristas choose to do it first if the grinds are sitting high in the basket. This helps reduce spills and makes it easier for you to adjust the horizontal distribution. Other baristas will do it last if their grinds are too compressed to move fluidly when tapping horizontally.