Puck preparation is everything you do to your puck after you grind it but before you tamp it. Making sure you have a effective workflow here can help make sure your espresso is evenly extracted and consistent.
Grooming tools, also known as leveler, are tools that you place on top of your basket and rotate in order to flatten the bed of your puck. While these seem to make an even and consistent puck, they actually do not distribute grinds. Rather, they smooth out the puck and create inconsistent compression. They do not help remove clumps or create consistency, and have been found to decrease extraction. Rather than using one of these, WDT can be used to both evenly distribute and rake the ground to provide a level tamping surface.
One of the most effective techniques one can use in puck preparation is known as the Weiss Distribution Technique, created John Weiss on the Home Barista forums.
To do this, the coffee is ground into a portafilter with a funnel to decrease mess, and stirred vigorously using a fine needle. By doing this clumps are broken and the coffee is evenly distributed throughout the portafilter, homogenizing the density of the puck. Then the portafilter can be tapped to collapse air pockets and subsequently tamped.
Over the years the process has been refined, especially with the commercial availability of funnels and WDT tools. Daniel’s videos below will show you what a modern WDT process looks like, focusing on levelling the bed and breaking up clumps.
If you’re looking for an accessible, affordable but also excellent WDT tool, jkim_makes aka Chill’d on the EAF Discord has created a 3D-printed 9-prong WDT design that has since become a cult favourite and our #1 recommendation for anyone looking for a WDT tool. The design file is free to download and print yourself. If you do not have access to a 3D-printer, you’re likely to find someone in EAF’s #maker-space channel who will print one for you!