Distribution is the most misunderstood, neglected and really critical variable within your control. Chris Tacy

A bit of background

A good friend of mine, Gabe, made me a coffee one day at his house. It was better than every coffee I’d bought in the past (at least) 5 years.

I had to know how he made it. For reference, it looked something like this: test

Knowing zilch about making coffee at home, I put full faith in Gabe to list out the equipment he had, so I too, could make such a glorious cup. He did so and gave me a few lessons. Under his guidance, I bought a La Pavoni Stradivari on Facebook Marketplace that was 6 months old for half of its RRP. From that day, I’ve been Pavoni-pilled”. i.e. I fell in love with making coffee and my machine.

The purchases don’t end at the machine. I also bought A Niche Zero Grinder (learning later that the grinder is arguably more important than the machine), a bottomless portafilter, a puck screen, a tamper, a set of fancy digital scales, cups, a milk jug, a shot caller/funnel and … a Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) tool.

Here is wondrous combination of purchases on our old kitchen bench: Coffee tools

It’s been about 2 years since I started making coffee at home. After ~1-2 months of bad coffee (which came down to dialling in the grind and getting used to the manual labour required for the Pavoni), I got the hang of it. The Pavoni is extra sensitive to variables. You want to try create as many invariants as you can to get the best shot, every time. Of course, you can’t truly create invariants (e.g. coffee gets old and the grind needs to be adjusted or you tamp slightly differently) but you can get close. Following a process may seem neurotic to guests coming over, but then they taste the coffee.

All this to say - I thought to myself today, I don’t even know why I use this tool”. The corollary was, I didn’t even know what it was called. Hence, this post.

The WDT tool


The image above is a distribution tool that facilitates a process named the Weiss Distribution Technique’. It’s coined after a poster who came up with a technique for evenly distributing coffee using a needle and a yogurt tub (the tub was to catch the coffee debris). Naturally, we don’t use a needle and a yogurt lid these days as specifically engineered tools are plentiful on the market.

You do’ WDT after grinding and before tamping.

Per the opening quote, distribution is an incredibly important and controllable variable in the barista’s - professional or otherwise - arsenal. The goal of distribution is to achieve uniform depth and density in the puck. This is often simply referred to as getting rid of clumps and creating an even bed”. Water will find and travel through the path of least density. So, if the coffee distribution is uneven, it will create channels’ (aka channeling). This means you will over extract [water] in those areas and the coffee will taste burnt or bitter. It will under extract in other, non-channelled areas, and taste sour.

A note on tamping: Tamping is about creating a flat and even plane for water to flow. It is important to be flat and even more than anything else. Often you’ll see people simply tamping with lots of pressure, but that’s not necessarily the goal (they’ll also tamp on an angle, a big no-no). Some guru’s go as far as saying you don’t even need to tamp if you’ve distributed enough (I do tamp).

Anyway, that’s why we WDT.

It’s funny how this all makes perfect sense in hindsight. Especially after making (and ruining) hundreds of coffees by now. I did not research the WDT tool prior to buying it. I surrendered to the tools I was told to buy and methods I was instructed to do. Most of the time I research like a maniac before diving in. This was certainly an exception.

I still can’t make coffee as good as Gabe, but they’re getting better. https://x.com/ryn__x/status/1811561059117072677


June 18, 2024