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All About Espresso: Part 3

Aug 6, 2018 · coffee · coffee 101 · education · espresso
All About Espresso: Part 3

Hey Coffee fans! In this, the final part in our series on the basics of espresso, we'll walk you through dialing in a shot, from start to finish. Note that this process takes time to perfect, so don't worry if you have some trouble with it at first. Be sure to check our part one and part two as well. Let's get started!

Find Your Grind

The key to dialing in a new coffee for espresso is finding the right grind to create the perfect shot time. A general rule of thumb is that you'll want a ratio of water to coffee of around 2:1. This may vary depending on the roast, so be sure to try the recommend ratio if the bag suggests one! Note, this is different than drip brewing, so ignore anything that suggests a 16:1 ratio, that's meant for drip! You'll want to use a medium/fine setting to start. for most grinders, this is going to mean something around 4-6. This will be different on every grinder. For dose, 14-16 grams is a good starting point. After grinding, be sure to level the grounds to ensure even distribution using a tool or by gently tapping the side of the portafilter. Once you've ground some coffee into your portafilter, it's time to tamp! You'll want to apply pressure evenly across the grounds at around 30 lbs. A good way to measure this is to tamp until you feel like you're pressing against the counter top. After tamping, you're ready to pull your shot. The best way to really dial in a shot is to use a scale with a bottomless portafilter, but if you don't have access to it, don't worry about it! Just try to weigh the shot or use a measured shot pitcher so you can stop the extraction at around 1.5 oz. You'll want the shot to take 20-30 seconds to pull.

Where Things Go Wrong

Here are some common issues that you'll be fighting against while dialing your shot in!
  • Fast extraction: If your shot pulls too fast, try a finer grind, and/or a stronger tamp
  • Slow extraction: If your shot pulls too slow, try a coarser grind, or a lighter tamp
  • Channeling: If your shot is only pouring from one spout, try to make your tamp more even. This is often caused by the grounds being unleveled in the portafilter.
  • Sour taste: If your shot is too sour, it's under extracted. Try a finer grind setting, which will increase the amount of time it takes to brew the shot.
  • Bitter taste: If your shot is to bitter, it means it was over extracted. Try a coarser grind, which will lower the brew time.
Using these rules of thumb, you should be able to dial in the right grind, tamp, and time for your new bag of espresso. As you get more experienced dialing in shots you'll be able to get closer to the perfect pull from the get-go, which will mean less wasted coffee! Stick with it, and remember to make coffee you love!

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