An introduction to
What is Espresso?
The espresso extraction method forces pressurized water through a densely packed "puck" of coffee. The result is about 40g of deliciously concentrated golden brown coffee, or "espresso".
To get the ideal result requires a decent machine, fine grind setting, and even placement and tamping of the coffee, which is why espresso is one of the most volatile ways to brew coffee. But when you get it right, espresso extraction can yield some of the most powerful and complex flavor profiles from your specialty coffee. So, let's get to it.
For the espresso brew method, you will require the following:
- 1 Espresso Machine (with portafilter)
- 1 Coffee Grinder
- 1 Coffee Scale
- 18-21g of Whole Bean Coffee.
- 36-42g of Water
Average Brew Time: 22-28 seconds
Rinse your portafilter and purge the grouphead by letting water flow through without the portafilter attached. Dry the portafilter.
This is an important step, as without cleaning, remnants of previous, old, coffee batches will taint the flavor of your brew. Moreover, if the portafilter is not dry when you add the coffee grounds, it will begin extracting the coffee and lead to uneven and over extraction.
Grind and measure ("dose-out") your coffee. For espresso, you should aim for a fine grind and between 18-21g of coffee.
The amount of coffee will be determined by: 1) the freshness, the more fresh the less coffee you need, 2) the grind size, the more fine the grind the less coffee you need, and 3) the desired flavors, the more coffee the more intense the flavors will be.
Espresso is a complex game, we recommend starting with about 18.6g on a fine grind setting for freshly roasted coffee. From here you can "dial-in" to your taste as you get the hang of it.
Load your dry portafilter with the fresh coffee grounds and evenly distribute them across the portafilter. Then tamp evenly with a straight wrist.
It is important that the grounds are evenly distributed so that they extract evenly as water goes through them.
Make sure not to over-tamp the grounds or the water may not be able to come through easily. This will lead to a long "pull time", over extraction, and bitter coffee. The sweet spot is when you tamp with your body weight and you feel you need to bend your wrist.
Attach your portafilter and secure it to the grouphead. Place your catch vessel underneath and start your extraction.
After about 6 seconds there should be some concentrated coffee coming from your portafilter. When you see your coffee getting lighter stop the extraction and remove your vessel. This process is called "blonding".
Espresso, if ground, tamped and distributed correctly, usually begins blonding at about 22-28 seconds. If your coffee is blonding in a longer or shorter time, it may be over or under extracted.
Taste your espresso, enjoy, and recalibrate.
To taste, some people like to stir their espresso and others like to sip it without agitation to taste the layers of complexity in the extraction. Regardless, we recommend serving it with some soda water to clean your pallet.
Expresso is a complex extraction method. Between the coffee, grind size, dose size, tamping, and extraction time, there are many variables to manage and adjust. It can take years to pull the perfect shot, but you will inevitably learn a lot and taste amazing coffee along the way.
While your home equipment may seem sufficient, we have outlined our recommended line-up below if you want to dial-in your coffee equipment.
In terms of personal espresso machines, we recommend domestic models from Rocket or Breville for their affordability and quality. While most decent espresso machines will be generally expensive, these two will definitely give you the most bang for your buck.
We recommend the Baratza Encore for the best value grinder. It is hands-down the most affordable quality grinder on the market, and it yields consistent and even grinds.
While almost any coffee scale will do for this method, you may consider a Brewista Ratio Scale for its precise measurements. This scale also has the ability to give your pouring speed, which can optimize extraction time for the perfect shot.
The whole bean coffee you use with the espresso method can vary to your taste. However, we do suggest a smooth medium roast profile, like our Peru single origin or one of our specially designed espresso blends like the Wavelength and Chapeau! to get the most complex flavors out of your espresso extraction.