How to Pull a Great Perfect Espresso Shot
Follow this guide to produce a perfect shot of espresso. Producing great espresso is relatively easy with the right equipment, good quality coffee beans, and following the steps detailed below.
There are four key steps to pulling a great shot of espresso coffee:
- Grind - the coffee beands
- Dose - or measure our the groud coffee beans
- Tamp - the group coffee beans into the filter holder
- Extract - the coffee beans with pressurised water to produce the espresso coffee drink
Before you start making your espresso shot; make sure your espresso machine is up to temperature and your filterholder is cleaned and pre-heated. Also, remember to pre-heat the cup or glasses your wil drinking out of by filling them with hot water.
Ground coffee texture is one of the most important factors in producing a great shot of espresso. You want to grind coffee fresh for each cup to minimise oxidation and make sure as much great coffee flavour makes its way into your espresso shot. Always use a burr grinder (flat or conical) to grind your coffee, blade grinders are useless... You want to finely grind the coffee to allow sufficient pressure to extract the coffee oil into your espresso shot.
"Grind your coffee too fine and result will be a slow extraction resulting in an over-extracted shot.... the taste can be bitter and burnt."
"Grind your coffee too coarse and the shot will extract fast resulting in an under-extracted shot.... the shot will have a weak crema, lacking body, and taste weak and watery"
The ground coffee texture you are looking for is somewhere between flour and sand. A good idea is to feel the coffee with your fingertips to adjust the grind before you start running shots from your machine. You can refine the grind by timing your espresso extraction.... ideally you are looking for an extraction time between 25 and 30 seconds.
"If the espresso extraction time is seconds your grind is too coarse.... you should adjust your grinder to a finer setting."
"If the espresso extraction time is >30 seconds your grind is too fine.... you should adjust your grinder to a more coarse setting."
The dose is the amount of ground coffee used to make your espresso shot. The correct dose for a single espresso is 7-9 grams of ground coffee or 14-18 grams of ground coffee for a double shot of espresso. The dose will depend on the particular coffee you are using. Some coffee beans work well with 7 grams, but with some blends you will see better results with 8 or 9 grams per shot. Experimentation is key. As a general rule a good place to start is to fill your double filter basket up, tap it on the bench to let the coffee settle, and level off inline with the top of the basket.
Tamping the coffee compresses the ground coffee together to provide "resistance" to the flow of water produced by the machine... this resistance results in the "extraction pressure" used to press the flavour out of the ground coffee into your drink. The harder you press the tigher the coffee will compress and the higher the extraction pressure.
"If you have ground your coffee quite coarse, more tamping pressure will be required to
achive the correct pressure for proper extraction of your espresso."
"Grind the coffee very fine ad you will need to ensure only light tamping pressure to
ensure sufficient flow for proper extraction of your espresso."
Espresso extraction should produce a double espresso of 50-60ml in 25-30 seconds or a single espresso of 25-30ml in the same time.
Before you connect the filterholder (loaded with coffee) to your espresso machine it is a good idea to to flush some water from the machine. This stabilises the brewing temperature while also clearing any stray coffee from the brewing group.
Connect the filter holder and immediately start brewing the coffee, dont let the filterholder sit in the machine "cooking" the coffee. Place your cup(s) under the filterholder outlet(s) and after a few seconds beautiful espresso should begin to flow.
"If the dose, grind, and tamp are correct then the extraction should produce a single espresso of 25-30ml in 25-30 seconds or a double espresso of 50-60ml in 25-30 seconds."
If the extraction is not quite right, make a small adjustment to your grind while keeping your dose and tamp consistent. Repeat the extraction process and keep adjusting the grind until you achieve the correct extraction.
Great espresso should be sweet and smooth with a dark rich brew topped with a layer of fine golden crema. Once you have your grind, dose, and tamp dialled in correctly you should be able to produce consistently great espresso time after time.
Milk Steaming 101
Everything You Need To Know
Ideally, steamed milk should be velvety and sweet. For a properly frothed milk, your milk relies on three things: lactose, proteins, and fats. Lactose is responsible for the sweet flavors in milk. Proteins create the stability for the formation of foam. Fats create richness in the milk, imbuing the froth with body and velvety texture for a superb mouthfeel. When milk is heated the sugars from lactose begin to caramelize. A good target range for milk froth is somewhere between 140-150 °F. Exceeding this causes the milk to lose its sweetness and flavor.
The ratio of proteins to fats is what determines the final texture of the milk. High fat milks, such as 2% or whole milk are typically more desirable. These milks have a higher fat to protein ratio. This means the foam isn't as stable, but it also means that the foam distributes more readily. The milk foam will not separate as easily, will taste more velvety and have a wetter mouthfeel. It will both taste and feel richer. Because higher fat milks mix more easily they are the easiest for beginners to work with.
Lower percentage milks such as skim milk or 1% milk will have stiffer foam that holds together longer. The foam also doesn't mix as well with the steamed milk because of the low fat content, causing quick separation of the froth from the steamed milk. These milks will tend to result in a foam with drier mouthfeel, and watery steamed milk. Milk alternatives can produce a comparable result. Soy, for instance, is more viscous than almond milk, and will froth quite nicely.
For Different Wands
It’s good practice to purge your steam wand to heat it up and get any residue or water out of the way. Pour cold milk into a frothing pitcher. Cold milk lets you heat the milk for longer, allowing you more time to texture your milk, before hitting the optimal temperature.
For auto-frothing and manual/commercial-style wands, you want to start with the steam off and position the tip of the wand slightly below the surface of the milk. Then turn the steam on. For auto-frothing wands, you can stop there. The machine will do the rest of work for you.
For manual wands, lower the pitcher until the tip of the wand is just under the surface of the milk and you can hear air getting sucked in. A good rule of thumb is to use the spout to hold the wand steady and position it in such a way to cause the milk to whirlpool around the pitcher. This method aerates the milk with small, uniform bubbles called microfoam.
To stop adding air, raise the pitcher to lower your wand deeper into the milk. For lattes, you want to stop adding air when your frothing pitcher starts to feel warm. For fluffier cappuccino style froth, continue adding air for a little longer.
If your machine has a pannarello wand, raise the pitcher to lower the wand enough to submerge the air intake hole in the side of the wand. For manual wands, lower the steam tip just below the surface of the milk. You want to maintain a whirlpool effect in the pitcher when you submerge the steam wand, and continue heating the milk until the pitcher becomes uncomfortable to hold.
Close the steam valve with the wand still submerged. Remove the pitcher and position the steam wand over the drip tray to purge any milk inside. It’s good practice to wipe the wand with a wet cloth after each use.
If there are any large bubbles in your pitcher you can pop them by banging it on the counter like a gavel. Swirling the milk slows separation until you’re ready to pour it into an espresso shot.
Types of Drinks
⅓ steamed milk
⅓ milk foam
½ steamed milk
Just a little bit of milk foam on top
⅓ steamed milk
⅓ milk foam
⅔ steamed milk