Shaken or Stirred: A New Espresso Technique

A couple of weeks ago, coffee influencer Lance Hedrick shook up the espresso world with two videos that might revolutionize how we make our beloved brew. After extensive testing, Lance discovered that shaking coffee grounds for a few seconds before placing them in the portafilter significantly enhances extraction.

Lance’s experiments revealed that shaking outperformed other popular coffee distribution methods, including side-tapping, using a classic Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) tool, and even the Autocomb, favored by recent World Barista Champions. Astonishingly, shaking not only boosted extraction but also reduced shot times, allowing for finer grinds without clogging, and potentially pushing the extraction ceiling higher than ever.

Intrigued by these findings, coffee enthusiasts spent the last two weeks experimenting with this method, seeking insight from experts in coffee and particle science. The process is straightforward: grind your coffee into a lidded cup, shake for five seconds, and pour into the portafilter. Though simple, the results were remarkable—more consistent shot times and faster shots compared to traditional methods, with up to a 1.5 percentage point increase in extraction.

Lance utilized Weber Workshops’s Blind Shaker for his tests, which sold out quickly after the video release. However, it’s believed that other sealed containers, or even a cocktail shaker, could yield similar results. Douglas Weber, founder of Weber Workshops, mentioned they initially stirred coffee grounds with a chopstick before adding a lid to simplify the process. ‘The showmanship aspect of the shaker was also just more fun,’ Weber admitted.

One hypothesis for the effectiveness of shaking comes from coffee researcher Dr. Mark Al-Shemmeri, who likens it to ‘densification’—a process in pre-ground coffee manufacturing. Densification involves agitating ground coffee to make particles more spherical, allowing them to pack evenly and facilitating better water flow. This rounding off of jagged edges and the clustering of tiny fines within larger particles could explain the improved extraction.

According to Dr. Al-Shemmeri, shaking may create similar particle aggregates, increasing density and reducing channeling, much like the industrial densifiers in pre-ground coffee production. This could also account for the faster flow and higher extraction rates reported by Lance.

Particle science expert, Prof. Steven Abbott, supports this theory, suggesting that spherical particles allow for even flow, while less rounded shapes could block water pathways. Hence, shaking might enhance extraction by promoting more uniform particle shapes and open flow channels.

There are still elements to explore. The optimal shaking duration and intensity could vary, and while shaking seems to improve extraction, traditional distribution methods still have their place. Tools like the WDT break up large clumps but might not affect the tiny aggregates formed by shaking.

Static reduction might also play a role. Shaking in a lidded container appears to reduce static in the grounds, akin to spraying coffee with water before grinding. Weber Workshops designed their Blind Shaker with a special coating to minimize static build-up, improving usability.

While it’s important to experiment to see what works best for your setup, incorporating shaking into your routine seems like a quick, cost-effective method to boost your espresso game. It might not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Shaking coffee grounds before brewing could be the game-changer espresso aficionados have been waiting for. With the potential to enhance extraction and shorten shot times, this simple method is worth experimenting with in any coffee routine.