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Improving my consistency of espresso shot times

Product: WDT Distribution Tool with Stand V3

I recently bought my first espresso machine. I noticed when pulling shots, I was getting inconsistent times for the same volume output. Even though I believed I was being very consistent in my process, something had to be inconsistent that I wasn't aware of.

I've heard about different distribution tools, including needles to stir the puck and wedge to sift and lighly tamper. I've also heard good things about both types of tools. After reading mixed reviews online about the wedge, some swear by it, others don't - I decided to pick up the Normcore WDT. It was fairly inexpensive and had decent reviews. I was willing to try anything for more consistent shots.

The Normcore WDT is decently constructed of out aluminum. I found putting the needles in is a bit of a pain as I didn't want to bend them, but also wanted to make sure they were fully seated. I ended up using my nail to ensure they were pushed in as far as they would go. Also, the tighening wasn't very satisfying, not knowing how tight I needed to make it. After a few times of use, the cap loosed up on me and I needed to tighten it down again. Lastly, the tool can get wedged in the stand and can make it tricky to pick up without the stand coming with it. Just things to keep in mind when purchasing and using.

With my first use, my shot time was really long. I ended up having to adjust the grind quite a bit courser. This was a good thing, as I suspect I had clumps or air pockets that easily allowed water to get through. I'm happy to say after refining my espresso parameters, my shots are much more consistent and enjoyable. Well worth the purchase price. I suspect the wedge style tools have improved results as well, however I don't feel the need for another tool in my process; having to needle, then wedge.

If you're having inconsistent results with your shots, this or potentially any needle tool may be the key to fix!