Pulling an espresso is both a science and art, with even the tiniest tweak having the potential to make or destroy a shot. We’ve put together this brew guide full of advise on how to get your espresso shot tasting exactly the way you like it, for both those who have recently graced their tables with a gleaming new espresso machine and those who have been in the industry for years.
Be precise and consistent. Make sure you’re doing things the same way every time you pull, and if you’re experimenting, only change one thing at a time. This way, you’ll be able to see how your espresso evolves as you make adjustments, bringing you closer to your ideal formula.
What is the ideal brew temperature?
Let’s start with the most common mistake people make while brewing espresso: brew temperature. When pulling an espresso shot, the brew temperature should be between 92 and 95 degrees Celsius, and even tiny deviations in brew temperature can affect the taste balance and aroma of an espresso shot. 94 degrees Celsius is a popular temperature for home baristas, A brew temperature of 92.5 degrees Celsius is recommended when producing espresso of industrial strength or arkerside. At higher temperatures, dark roasted blends like ours are quick to burn: anything above 93 degrees produces an unpleasant bitterness and a dry, ashy aftertaste.
Adjusting the dose
A greater coffee dose will provide a full-bodied brew with powerful flavour, but it may also produce too much acidity. A lower ratio (lower dose, higher yield) can extract more flavour from the coffee, but it also runs the danger of over-extraction, resulting in a thin, burnt-tasting brew. For balanced flavour and clarity, start with a 1:2 coffee to water ratio. If you want a stronger cup, consider increasing your dose half a gramme at a time until you get the coffee kick you’re looking for.
Level And Distribute
We level the coffee bed to make sure the water doesn’t pour out faster in any one spot. This is known as channelling, and it can result in a shot of espresso that isn’t fully extracted. To disperse the grounds more evenly, lightly touch the side of the portafilter with your hand. You can also use a tamping mat to settle the grounds by tapping the portafilter on it. A sticky surface is also beneficial for consistent tamping.
Grind settings and extraction time
Depending on the roast level and origins of the blend, espresso takes between 25 and 35 seconds to brew. We find that 30 seconds (plus or minus 2) is sufficient for the regular mixes. Slower risks over-extracting your coffee, resulting in a burnt or acidic brew with a dry aftertaste, but faster can result in a watery, sour, under-extracted shot, as indicated above.
When to stop the extraction?
An espresso shot’s flavour is divided into three parts: the first is acidic, the second is sweet, and the third is bitter. The finished result is a complex mixture of all of the components, and understanding when to stop extracting to obtain your ideal balance takes practice. Blonding is a common warning sign: you want to stop your shot before it turns from a rich brown to a light yellow colour. Another clue that you’ve taken out all the decent things from your coffee is when the stream starts to narrow out and shake.