FitttZee » Knowledgebase » All About Coffee – How to Make Espresso

All About Coffee – How to Make Espresso

Looking for a boost or a tasty drink that never cease to surprise? Check out how to make espresso one excruciating step at a time!

This article is part of a series. Check them out all!

The basic process of brewing espresso is simple:

  1. Grind the beans
  2. Tamp
  3. Lock in portafilter
  4. Brew
  5. Enjoy

But, crafting exceptional espresso requires not only meticulous technique but also precise measurements. Espresso recipes, guided by dose, yield, and time, empower us to replicate consistently flavorful and flavorful espresso. These measurements serve as a roadmap, ensuring consistent results and facilitating troubleshooting when necessary.

Grind size & Brewing Time

The ideal espresso extraction time lies within a range of 20 to 30 seconds. This timeframe ensures that the coffee’s essential oils and flavors are extracted without over- or under-extraction, leading to a balanced and flavorful shot. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have a tasty espresso below or over that extraction time. This is just a general guideline to aim for when dialing in our espresso.

Optimizing Grind Size for Time Control

The grind size plays a pivotal role in influencing the brewing time. Coarsely ground coffee, like stones, allows water to flow through the puck relatively quickly, while finely ground coffee, like sand, slows down the water flow.

Time as an Indicator of Extraction Quality

By observing the brewing time, one can assess the overall extraction quality. A shot that pulls too quickly, typically under 20 seconds, may indicate under-extraction, resulting in a sour and acidic flavor profile. Conversely, a shot that pulls too slowly, typically over 30 seconds, may indicate over-extraction, leading to a bitter and burnt taste.

Adapting Grind Size Based on Coffee Age

As coffee ages, its internal structure changes, affecting the water’s ability to flow through the puck. Freshly roasted coffee typically requires a coarser grind, while older coffee may need a finer grind to achieve the desired extraction time.

Dose

The ideal dose varies depending on the portafilter basket size.

  • Single Baskets (7-10g)
    For single espresso shots, use a dose between 7 and 10 grams of ground coffee. This moderate dose provides a concentrated flavor without overwhelming the palate, allowing for the appreciation of subtle nuances in the coffee’s flavor profile.
  • Double Baskets (16-18g)
    For double espresso shots, adjust the dose to 16-18 grams of ground coffee. This slightly higher dose accommodates the increased volume of espresso, resulting in a richer and more intense flavor experience.
  • Triple Baskets (20-22g)
    For triple espresso shots, opt for a dose between 20 and 22 grams of ground coffee. This generous dose produces a bold and intense espresso, catering to those who prefer a stronger flavor profile.

To ensure consistent and accurate dosing, use a digital scale. Tare the scale with the portafilter basket on top and then grind the desired amount of coffee into the basket. The scale will display the precise weight of the coffee added.

Tamping

Leveling the Coffee Bed

To ensure even water flow and prevent channeling, it’s crucial to level the coffee grounds in the portafilter. Gently tap the portafilter sides a few times to distribute the grounds evenly, creating a flat surface. Avoid excessive tapping to prevent compaction and potential cracks in the coffee bed.

Tamper Technique

Once the coffee bed appears level, the tamping process begins. Hold the tamper firmly between the index finger and thumb, adopting a grip similar to grasping a doorknob. Stand perpendicular to the portafilter and place the tamper into the basket. The arm should be positioned at a 90-degree angle to the portafilter.

Apply consistent downward pressure, aiming for 30lbs / 13kg of force. The exact amount of pressure is less critical than maintaining consistency throughout the tamping process.

Applying the maximum pressure we can produce ensures the puck is evenly compacted and leaves the less possible room for error which can be helpful when starting out and trying to figure out the ropes. The downsides is that it can cause wrist strain which is a common complain among baristas.

In the world of espresso, the concept of overtamping often evokes misconceptions and unnecessary concerns. While it’s true that excessive force can lead to channeling and uneven extraction, reaching the point of overtamping is physically impossible.

Consistency and Repeatability

The key to achieving consistently flavorful espresso lies in the consistency and repeatability of the distribution and tamping processes. Using the same technique every time ensures that the coffee grounds are evenly compacted, allowing water to flow through the puck predictably, extracting the desired flavors without disrupting the extraction process.

Brewing temperature

The ideal brewing temperature for espresso lies within a narrow range of 195°- 205°F / 90° – 96°C . This precise temperature window ensures that the coffee’s essential oils and flavors are extracted without over- or under-extraction, preserving its healthful properties.

  • Over-extraction occurs when water is too hot, leading to excessive bitterness and acidity.
  • Under-extraction occurs when water is too cold, resulting in a sour and weak shot.

The ideal brewing temperature range is designed to extract the coffee’s full flavor profile while preserving its healthful compounds.

Furthermore, understanding the relationship between temperature and coffee roast profiles is crucial for crafting a balanced and flavorful espresso.

  • Darker roasts typically require a lower brewing temperature to accentuate delicate flavors and acidity.
  • Lighter roasts may benefit from a slightly higher temperature to enhance sweetness and body.

Brewing Espresso

Pre-infusion

Pre-infusion, a fairly new technique in the espresso brewing process, involves gently soaking the whole coffee puck with hot water before applying full brewing pressure. This gentle process serves as a prelude to the main extraction, ensuring even water distribution and preventing channeling, a phenomenon that can lead to uneven extraction and undesirable flavors. The duration of preinfusion can vary depending on the coffee’s density and grind size.

What is channeling?

Channeling occurs when water finds a path of least resistance through the coffee puck, bypassing other areas. This uneven flow results in over-extraction in the channels and under-extraction in the rest of the puck, leading to unbalanced flavors.

By eliminating channeling, preinfusion ensures that all the coffee’s desirable compounds are extracted evenly, maximizing the healthful benefits of the beverage.

Mastering Preinfusion Technique

While preinfusion offers significant benefits, it’s an advanced technique. Although espresso machines with the famous E61 group head design have the option that allow us to switch from low pressure pre-infusion to brew pressure by moving a simple lever, most coffee machines aren’t equipped with such advanced features.

We can still do pre-infusion with any espresso machine simply turning the machine off after an initial starting period but the results may not be as consistent due to the instant high pressure hitting the puck, as we would expect.

Pulling a shot

With the coffee bed leveled and tamped, it’s time to embark on the final stage of crafting a balanced and flavorful espresso – pulling the shot. This process involves carefully controlling the water flow through the compacted coffee puck, extracting the coffee’s essence and creating a rich and flavorful beverage.

Preparation for a Perfect Pull

Ensure the espresso machine is fully preheated and ready for action. Flush the group head to ensure it’s clean and at the ideal temperature. This is especially important for Espresso machines with heath exchanger. Since these systems were designed for water flowing through them hence stopped water picks up more heat than it supposed to which can result in over extraction and unconsistent results. Securely lock the portafilter into the group head, avoiding excessive tightening. Place your scale and cup on the drip tray, then activate the shot and timer.

Monitoring and Adjusting for Optimal Extraction

Monitor the extraction process closely, observing the flow rate and volume of espresso. Ideally, a 1:1.5 ratio, corresponding to 20 grams of ground coffee and 30 grams of espresso, should be achieved within 20 to 30 seconds.

Fine-tuning the Grind for Consistent Extraction

If the shot time exceeds 30 seconds, indicating over-extraction, gradually coarsen the grind to increase water flow. Conversely, if the shot time falls below 25 seconds, suggesting under-extraction, adjust the grind finer to slow down water flow.

Embrace the Journey of Discovery

Every espresso shot, even those that don’t meet our initial expectations, offers valuable insights into the brewing process. Experiment with different grind sizes and brewing times to discover the personal preferences and refine the technique. Remember, the beauty of home-brewed espresso lies in the personalized exploration of flavor profiles.

Yield

Weighing for Accuracy

Contrary to volumetric measurements, weighing the ground coffee and espresso ensures consistency and replicates the desired flavor profile. This eliminates the influence of factors like coffee density and bean freshness, ensuring a more predictable and reliable brewing process.

Grain to Espresso Ratio

The yield is often expressed as a ratio, a measure of the weight of ground coffee input to liquid espresso output. Espresso ratios typically range from 1:1 to 1:3

  • Darker roasts
    generally requiring a lower ratio.
  • Lighter roasts
    usually requiring a higher ratio.

This adjustment reflects the inherent differences in flavor and extraction characteristics between roast levels.

Extraction Analysis

Crema

Analyzing an espresso’s crema can provide valuable insights into the quality of the coffee and the brewing process. Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating the crema:

  • Color
    The ideal crema color is a rich, amber or chestnut hue. This indicates that the coffee has been extracted correctly and that the oils and solids have been properly incorporated into the foam. A lighter crema suggests under-extraction, while a darker crema may indicate over-extraction or the use of robusta beans.
  • Texture
    The crema should have a fine, velvety texture, similar to whipped cream. It should be smooth and dense, with no large bubbles or foaminess. A rough or bubbly crema suggests that the coffee has been over-extracted or that the grind is too coarse.
  • Persistence
    The crema should persist for several minutes after the espresso is pulled. A quickly dissipating crema indicates under-extraction, while a crema that lasts for over 10 minutes may suggest over-extraction or the use of stale coffee.
  • Aroma
    The crema should have a rich, enticing aroma that complements the coffee’s flavor profile. A dull or off-putting aroma suggests that the coffee is not fresh or that the brewing process is not ideal.
Crema characteristicDescriptionPossible cause
ColorGolden-brown, hazelnut brown, reddish nuances, light veinsIdeal
DarkRobusta coffee blend
LightArabica coffee blend
TextureDense, thin, slightly oilyIdeal
Fine bubblesOver-extraction
Large bubblesUnder-extraction
StabilityLasts several minutesIdeal
Disappears quicklyUnder-extraction
Lasts too longOver-extraction
AromaIntense, rich, chocolate, nuts, fruitIdeal
Weak aromaUnder-extraction
Tart or acidic aromaOver-extraction
TasteBalanced, harmonious, lingering sweetnessIdeal
Bitter or sourOver-extraction
Thin or wateryUnder-extraction

Espresso color

  • Golden-brown
    This is the most common and desirable color for espresso. It indicates optimal extraction and a balanced flavor profile.
  • Darker Brown
    A darker brown color can be caused by using a higher ratio of robusta beans to arabica beans. Robusta beans are naturally more bitter than arabica beans, so a darker roast can help to balance out the bitterness.
  • Lighter Brown
    A lighter brown color can be caused by using a higher ratio of arabica beans to robusta beans. Arabica beans are naturally more acidic than robusta beans, so a lighter roast can help to balance out the acidity.

Body / Texture

The espresso should have a smooth, velvety texture, with no grit or astringency.

  • Harsh or grainy texture indicates over-extraction.
  • Watery or thin texture suggests under-extraction.

Taste

  1. Balance
    The espresso should have a balanced flavor profile, with sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and umami all present in harmony. Imbalance suggests over-extraction or under-extraction.
  2. Acidity
    The acidity should be bright and refreshing, not tart or sharp. Excessive acidity indicates under-extraction.
  3. Bitterness
    The bitterness should be present but balanced with sweetness and acidity. Excessive bitterness indicates over-extraction.
  4. Sweetness
    The sweetness should be present as a lingering aftertaste, not overpowering the other flavors. A lack of sweetness suggests under-extraction.
  5. Umami
    A subtle umami note adds depth and complexity to the espresso. An absence of umami suggests over-extraction.

Aroma

Immediately after pulling the shot, inhale deeply to assess the aroma. A well-extracted espresso will have a rich, fragrant aroma, with notes of chocolate, nuts, fruit, and acidity. Weak or sour aromas suggest under-extraction, while overly pungent or burnt aromas indicate over-extraction.

  1. Intensity
    The aroma should be intense and rich, reflecting the coffee’s flavor profile. A weak aroma indicates under-extraction.
  2. Complexity
    The aroma should be complex, with nuances of chocolate, nuts, fruit, and other aromatic compounds. A bland or flat aroma suggests under-extraction.
  3. Freshness
    The aroma should be fresh and vibrant, indicating the quality and freshness of the coffee beans. A stale or dull aroma suggests old or poorly stored beans.

Summary

  1. Grind the beans to a size that will produce a brew time between 20 – 30 seconds.
  2. Tamp with a 30lbs / 13kg of force or as hard as possible. Consistency is the key.
  3. Lock in portafilter but make sure the group head is flushed in case of heat exchanger machines.
  4. Brew at the correct temperature 2 – 2.5 fl.oz / 60 – 75ml espresso which is 40 – 50g.
  5. Enjoy and analyse the shot. Make changes to find the perfect brew.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *