hornbyben While this isn’t a blind taste test, and only a single experiment (I don’t want to waste loads of good beans), it’s clear that the density (and hence resistance to flow) doesn’t even out, and if it’s not level to start you can see this in the extraction. No comparison on flavour and I’ll definitely stick to my usual wdt level practice.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a reason to level the bed before tamping. I used WDT and leveling before tamping for the espressos I made this morning, and found that to go more smoothly because of the leveling, and I don’t plan on changing my workflow..
I had a different experience than what you did. I think the main factor is that I tamped with a fair amount of force, which would mitigate any difference in density across the puck, which is predictable based on the reported properties of ground coffee. I do think that if you start with an uneven bed, and tamp with less pressure, an uneven density could result from that. Maybe the difference is that you’re using a self-leveling tamper, and I’m not.
Again, if I start with an unevenly distributed bed, and tamp with enough force, I can get to a puck that has even density across it. This is based on trying it, the feedback I got from poking at the puck with a toothpick, the fact that my extraction time did not decrease, and the taste of the espresso I got. I’m not saying that this is anywhere near best practice. This was mainly an exercise to better understand what’s happening when I go through the puck prep.