If coffee brewing isn’t complicated enough, espresso can be much more complicated. With more variables, super fine grind sizes, any small adjustment can throw your end result completely off. At the shop our general rule is to keep things as simple as possible with minimal steps. Less steps, means more consistency.
Your kit: Espresso machine, espresso grinder, tamper, scale, vessel/shot glass, dry cloth, timer
- Pre-heat. Most home machines will need some time to heat up properly, check your manual and make sure the machine is good to go.
- Set up. Most espresso machines have no adjustability, but if you are able to, we use a lower temperature of 201.9F. Standard pressure is fine. If you’re able to work in a pre-wet, this will help with an even extraction as well – we like 3 seconds of pre-wet, and a 3 second pause until full pressure. Investing in better baskets is always a plus.
- Target. Generally we aim for 18.5gs of coffee and look for 40-52mls of espresso. For milkys, we like a tighter shot, so maybe 40-45mls. And for espresso or black, on the longer side to mellow out the acidity for more of a juicy and sweet shot.
- Dose and grind. This’ll be your main variable. Dry your portafilter basket, and dose out 18.5gs of coffee.
- Distribute. If you have a distribution tool, great, if not, you can use your finger to spread the grinds across the portafilter. No need to push, just move your finger around in a circular motion to get an even level.
- Tamp. Evenly and level. You can use your thumb and index finger to feel how level the tamper is in the portafilter. When pressing, it’s simpler to lift a foot of the ground and lean into it, instead of using force.
- Purge. purge the machine, run hot water through it for a second or two to pre-heat the head and also get rid of any old coffee from the screen.
- Run the shot. Put the portafilter in, gently, if you knock it around it could ruin your nice and level coffee puck, throwing your shot off. Once its inserted, start the shot right away, start your timer. No need to leave it in there to cook.
- Watch. Keep an eye on your shot and how it’s running. If you have a naked basket you can tell a lot of things from watching the bottom. Your shot time will depend on many things, but you can start with getting your target yield (40-52mls) in 35 seconds.
- Taste. Pour the shot into another vessel to destratify and mix the espresso properly. Wait at least 5 minutes to taste it before you judge. Like coffee, espresso also gets better as it cools. If it tastes tart or sour, give it time, it should sweeten up. If not, time to trouble shoot.
- Adjust. How’s it taste? Sweet, round, balanced? Awesome. Is it bitter, heavy, and doesn’t taste like anything, or empty? This shot has extracted too much, try a quicker shot or coarser grind. Is it sour, tart, or thing? You may need a finer grind to extract more, or pull it longer.