Weigh Your Shots!
Most people know that the ratio of water to coffee is one of the most important parts of ensuring you get the very best brew. Coffee enthusiasts will always use a scale when making a pour over, for example. What a lot of home espresso brewers might not know is that using a scale is just as important for your shots too! Let’s talk about it.
As a refresher, we encourage weighing the output of your machine with a scale whenever you brew a pour over, press, espresso, or a lot of other brew methods. The only brew method where you don’t necessarily need to weigh output is in a drip brewer, and this is because your water going into the tank is measured. You could measure your water volume for other methods as well, but it’s a complication logistically. If you want to heat it first, pouring it into a second measuring container will cause the water temperature to change. You could measure water before heating, but then you have to be sure to use every drop, which can be frustrating with some kettles.
If you eyeball your pour over you’re likely to get a sub par flavor. The same is true of your shots. But there’s more to it than that. Most espresso machines are programmed by actually pulling a shot. In order to accurately set the programming as you dial in, you’ll need a scale to check your volumes. Once you’ve completed this process, you can just recall the programming, assuming your machine is capable. Even if it isn’t, once you’ve worked out the process of weighing your shots, doing it again is a simple task.
First, you’ll need a scale. The challenge here is finding a scale that weighs accurately, fits on your drip tray, and can survive a splash of water here and there. The Acaia Lunar is a good option for this, but it is expensive. You can get started learning with lower cost kitchen scales, but it’s worth noting that they might not have the accuracy to dial in your shots perfectly.
Once you have your scale, set your grind for espresso (either your dialed-in grind or your starting point to find it). You’ll want to tare your scale with your empty portafilter, then weigh it after grinding to get the right amount. Once you have your grind setting dialed in you can even set your grinder timer to give you the right amount every time if it has a timer option. After confirming the proper weight, lock in your portalifter and set your vessel on your scale to tare.
Now you’ll want to manually pull your shot, we usually recommend a 2:1 water to espresso volume, but your volumes may vary depending on the roast. All that’s left to do is watch the scale and stop the pour as it reaches the right amount. You’ll do this as you dial in, and eventually you’ll manage to get the perfect shot pre-programmed on your machine. From then on it’s a pretty simple process to recall both the grind, and the pour setting. In any case, using a scale as part of the dialing in process makes it easier AND more precise.
So make sure you incorporate a scale into your espresso setup today!