Ok another update, tried some other beans today, pulled 6 shots, here's how they went: (the way I record results is e.g. 23g gr1.5 y33.3g 30s means: I dosed 23 grams coffee, on grind setting 1.5 on the quamar, yielded 33.3g espresso in 30 seconds)
#Distribution technique: dose 3/4 full, collapse, dose rest, collapse, tamp.
-23g gr1.5 y33.3g 30s (dead spot in centre most of the time, but decent pour otherwise... tasted nice. Will change distribution due to dead spot)
#Distribution technique: grind 3/4 full, vertical collapse, grind rest, horizontal taps til level, tamp.
Ground one notch coarser:
-23g gr2.1 y51g 25s (pour was a bit more central, but strange pour.. aLOT faster... a little sour, okayish flavour..)
#try same again to eliminate chance of this being due to old grinds (I always purge a few grams anyway)
-23g gr2.1 y54.6g 23s (roughly same as last shot.. bit flat in flavour.. piccolo was really nice..)
#sweep chute when changing grind... back to original grind (one notch finer) to see what happens...
*-23g gr1.5 y50g 30s (bit of a dead spot in centre of the pour.. okayish still.. nice flavours. Pretty big variation volume-wise between this and last shot...)
#strange that shot 1 and shot 4 had these VERY different results... maybe the first shot was always going to be dodgy as it needed to get used to it... grind one notch finer
#Distribution technique: grind 3/4 full, horizontal taps to level out, collapse, grind rest, horizontal taps til level, collapse, tamp.
-23g gr1.4 y27g 34s (interesting... maybe because the grounds were more uniform and level in the basket because of the distribution technique that's why it slowed right down... OR the steps are just too large on the grinder???)
#grind one notch coarser
-23g gr1.5 y41g 30s (dead spot at right hand side.. I dosed a bit too much so maybe I slightly compressed that side a little bit when swiping off?? It looked more flattened so to speak...
So..... haha.... at this point I was a bit frustrated... I don't know what's going on... a few theories:
1) The first shot may always be a bit dodgy perhaps, need to purge more before the very first shot maybe?
2) Just need to work on distribution and a level even density of coffee within the basket.
3) The steps on the Quamar are too large.
The coffee I was using for my other post was Campos Superior Blend, and today's was a Columbian bean from Campos, freshly roasted as well on the 25th July (so 8 days postroast) so I wouldn't think it's the coffee that's the issue...
Any help in figuring all this out would be super duper appreciated.... soooo puzzled and scratching the noggin at the moment!
Thanks so much for any assistance at all guys