first - photos; then blind tasting notes and thoughts.
blind tasting results - to cut to the chase the responses were universal. everyone preferred shots from the chopped portafilter. comments were "smoother, more balanced, rounder, more finessed, fewer distracting flavour notes." only one taster felt that the flavour differences were "profound" but everyone liked the shots better pulled this way. i have various theories and thoughts about emulsification, turbulence and contaminants - but suffice it to say that, based on these first results, further tests are without a doubt warranted and if responses are consistent this should be considered for full commercial implementation.
thoughts - this is one of the best training tools ever. if distribution is off, you can see it (note that in the above photos distribution is obviously light near the handle). if your tamp is bad it is painfully apparent. you can see channeling instantly. basically - if you're a pro barista you need to practice with one of these and if you're a barista trainer or manager you need to incorporate this as a tool into your training program. seriously. while the flavour changes may not be profound, the training implications are.
more tests will occur over the next few weeks - including further blind taste tests as well as scientific tests related to temperatures and crema reactions.