Brew time: 30 mins
We are going to walk you through, the step by step of, pulling a shot of espresso. The purpose here is really to leave you with enough of an understanding that you can diagnose what is wrong with your own coffee and improve on it. We are using a Breville dual boiler for the purpose of this guide. It is an amazing machine that blurs the line between home and a commercial espresso machine. We are not being paid by Breville, we just thougt that it is a really great piece of equipment.
What you will need
The first thing we do is fill the basket with ground coffee. This is called dosing. You want the coffee ground to crown over the top of the basket. It can feel like a bit of a waste of beans, but we are talking about a couple of cents worth of beans sacrificed in pursuit of a perfect coffee.
Next, take the group head and tap it twice on a bench or the grinder. Great!! The tap pushes the coffee around, and this helps distribute any clumps in the basket. We usually dose once more into the basket. This is to fill up any of the space uncovered. We find that the extra tap gets us closer to the ideal brew ratio by increasing the weight of dried ground. There should be around 18-20g of grounds in a double shot filter basket.
Then use your finger and run it over the top of the basket. Flicking the coffee, crowning out the top of the basket, into a bin or down a sink. You can use any flat surface. We have seen people use razor blades, and even the flat edge of the tamper. If you do use your finger, find a flat edge.
Are you happy with your tamp? If so, purge some water out of the espresso machine just to wash out any old grounds left there previously, lock the basket into the espresso machine and start the extraction. Depending on your machine, you might need to start the extraction within a certain time of placing the group head in the machine. There is a lot of heat and pressure just waiting to spoil you shot, so if you lock the group head in, and then you walk away, you might not some back to a very nice coffee. It is recommended to press the button within 5 seconds!
We aim for an extraction time of between 25 to 35 seconds. There is so much misinformation and misconception surrounding why, but my understanding is that at 9 bars of pressure, which is what most coffee machines are set to, it takes about this long to extract the average amount of coffee in a basket. A fancy espresso machine doesn’t mean a thing without a quality grinder.We use and recommend the Breville Smart Pro Grinder. It is a phenomenal machine, and you have to give credit where it is due. Remember when I said the ideal espresso extraction time was between 25 to 30 seconds. If your time is over or under this, the culprit is almost always the grind. When I was learning to make coffee I was given this analogy, and it helped me to properly understand how setting the grind works. There is this other method that has proven to be rather handy - if your shot is gushing out during the first 5 seconds - adjust the grind size down (i.e. you need a finer grind size), vice versa. If the first 5 seconds is perfect, but the shot starts gushing after, there issnt enough grounds in the basket, so dose more. Try this technique and you will be plesantly surprised!
So when do you know when to stop the extraction? Do not rely too much on blonding. Blonding is the practice of stopping an espresso shot when the colours start to mix and the crema changes to a blond colour. Blonding can be very subjective and often not the best measure. Ideally, we would recommend you to use a weighing scale to measure the weight of the shot. You should be aiming to achieve a 1:1 ratio (a Ristretto) - so 20g of grounds to 20g of coffee. There are other ratios as well which you can experiment with - Normale 1:2 and Lungo 1:3. If you find the shot too acidic, try pulling a longer shot like a Normale to achieve a rounder shot.
There you go! If you want to get a little more geeky and delve into greater details on perfecting your Espresso shot, downloda our Hook Coffee master brew guide here! Have fun!