Clive Coffee Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions

group picture of the staff of Clive Coffee in the Portland showroom

At Clive, most of our employees are experts in espresso. Some, are not. So, we put them on the spot, asking them the most divisive Qs we could. 

Q. If your shot doesn't pull right, do you still drink it?
A. At Clive, we greatly appreciate the effort and craft of making a perfect espresso. We also have realistic expectations and grace for ourselves when they don't pull perfectly. Therefore, it was almost unanimously "yes" to drinking pretty much whatever pulls from the portafilter — besides our house coffee snob, Sean, but that makes us love him even more. 

Q. How bad does it have to be for you not to drink it?
A. So, where do we draw the line? We say we'll drink anything, but there is some gray area... If it gushes out in ten seconds or less and takes well over a minute, most of us would make a grind adjustment and pull another one. However, we appreciate Ben Guiles’ method of tasting everything, even if it looks horrible, then going from there. 

Q. What barista accessory can you not live without?
A. From scales, tampers, coffee grinders, and distribution tools, our team had a hard time picking just one. It's like choosing a favorite child... You don't need much — as long as at a minimum, you use a tamper (ARTHUR!).

Q. What's the most overrated barista accessory?
A. Let's say it together on the count of three: one, two, three — puck rake, the one with the wires, fork thing, de-clumper... yes, the WDT tool (Weiss Distribution Technique). Maybe we're old school, maybe we haven't used it enough, but when it comes to barista accessories, our team likes to keep things simple. It was almost unanimously decided that the WDT tool is overrated. Change our minds. What we didn't show you was that Sean and August spoke very highly of the WDT tool and its powers to reduce channeling. Tell us your thoughts in the comments. 

Q. Thoughts on spraying coffee beans with water before grinding?
A. Have you heard of RDT? The Ross Droplet Technique? It's the practice of spritzing your coffee beans with water before grinding to reduce static. Our team was rather split on this technique. Some saw it as an unnecessary step, others as potentially problematic for your equipment, and others have found it helpful. You can read more about it and decide for yourself. Check out our article on RDT here. 

Q. Thoughts on freezing coffee?
A. Our house is divided. As more research has come out on freezing coffee over the last several years, the coffee industry is moving from "do NOT do this" to "this might be ok" to "it's good to freeze your coffee". We'll follow up with more opinions later, but for now, you can check out our recommend storage options here.

Q. Decaf coffee?
A. "The best thing about decaf is that the only reason you're drinking it is that you want to enjoy a cup of coffee. That's what I'm saying" —Ben Guiles.

Q. Do VST baskets really help make better espresso?
A. "Yes, absolutely" —everyone. We loved what Arthur had to say. To recap: VST baskets aren't going to solve your problems. If everything else is correct and on lock, then a precision basket can improve your espresso or help you rule out other issues. We highly recommend precision baskets. Check out the VST or IMS baskets.

Q. Are bottomless portafilters more advanced?
A. Apparently, it depends who you ask. We all agree that it's harder to pull a great shot with a bottomless portafilter because they give you lots of feedback on your technique. They are a great tool for perfecting pulling a shot of espresso, and though they can be tricky to get the hang of, it doesn't mean you shouldn't start with one! Shop portafilters.

Q. How do you feel about PIDs on a heat exchanger machine?
A. Another controversial topic in the Clive household. PIDs make adjusting temperature and pressure on machines easy. Oftentimes, PIDs are used as a shot timer, which gives having one an extra benefit. Heat exchanger machines are designed to pump out drinks and work hard for you. Even with a PID, they don't give you as much control over brew temperature as you get on a dual boiler or even a single boiler. With that said, you can adjust pressure with the PID on a heat exchanger, but you might as well do it with a pressure stat... we'll let you decide. 

More questions for Clive? Drop them below!