9 Distribution Methods for Making Espresso

Use this quick tip video to try out some different ways of distributing coffee grounds in your portafilter basket.

Ask any home barista how they distribute their grounds and you’re bound to get a fascinating variety of answers. Distribution techniques are tradition—over time they work their way into our routines and become almost second nature. Because there are so many methods out there, we thought we’d share a few of our favorites.

NSEW (North-South-East-West)

Nice and easy—often the first way a barista learns to distribute grounds. The method is simple—place your finger flat across the top of the basket, then use the base of your finger to push the mound of grounds around. Start by pushing away from your body, then come back down toward it. Right, then left.

Stockfleth Method

Similar to NSEW, but with more rotation. This method uses your finger and a rotation to distribute the top layer of grounds. Start with your thumb on the rim of the basket and your index finger straight across. Rotate your hand and the portafilter in opposite directions. Repeat until grounds are distributed to the sides.

No Distribution

That’s right. Break the rules! Just plug and play—see what happens.

Side Tap

A simple method, but one that we often see done using the palm of a hand or even a tamper. Simply tap the portafilter against the palm of your hand to settle the grounds. The important thing here is to make sure you’re not tapping the sides of your portafilter *after* you tamp.

Settle

A slight tap, tap, tap on the countertop or on the palm of your hand can help distribute grounds and prep for tamping.

Leveling Tool

Use a straight/flat surface to drag across the lip of the basket and distribute the grounds.

Weiss Distribution Method

The idea: use a thin object (often a paper clip or safety pin) to “stir” grounds using a small, overlapping circular motion. Proponents of the WDT tout its top-to-bottom distribution as the key to even extraction, Check out the original post by Mr. Weiss himself on home-barista.com.

Dosing Cup & Shake

Grind into a cup, shake, then dose into your portafilter basket. Simple enough, but what about the Raisin Bran Effect?

Distribution Tool

A distribution tool uses a specific shape to emulate many of the methods listed above. The BT Wedge and Solo Tools can both be set at a specific depth, and use a base + rotation to push grounds around the basket sides, while driving them downward as well. If you set the basket depth just right, you may even be in for a surprise on the surface of the grounds after you distribute 🙃

What’s your preferred method? Comment below or send us an email—we’d love to hear from you!

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