Surely, you’ve heard how difficult it is to pull the perfect espresso shot. Even the most beloved and talented baristas out there can have difficulty when it comes to this job. Unfortunately, mastering the espresso shot is a major part of being a coffee connoisseur. Espresso is in the majority of our favorite coffee beverages, after all. While pulling the best espresso shot takes time and practice, there are a few steps you can follow to reach your goal quicker. By following the steps below, carefully, you’ll master the espresso shot and make tasty coffee beverages in the comfort of your own home.
If you’re in a rush, feel free to skip to our handy espresso extraction charts. Otherwise, let’s learn about espresso!
What Is an Espresso?
Before we go over the steps for the perfect shot of espresso, let’s go over what an espresso is. Many coffee drinkers have drinks they enjoy buying at their local shop, but aren’t sure what’s in them. Most of the ones you enjoy, probably have espresso as their base. Espressos can be enjoyed by themselves though. When this is the case, they are usually served as a shot or a double shot.
Most espressos are made from an espresso machine. It’s possible to make espresso without a machine, but let’s face it, the machines make things much easier. These full flavor shots are made by forcing pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee. This is known as pulling a shot. When your shot is in your cup, you’ll notice a layer of crema sitting on top.
Now that you know what a shot of espresso is, let’s learn how to pull the best one.
Espresso Extraction Charts:
Time & Flavor Espresso Extraction Chart:
|Under Extracted||Slightly Under Extracted||Perfect||Slightly Over Extracted||Over Extracted|
|Time||< 25 seconds||25-35 seconds||>35 seconds|
Time & Pressure Espresso Extraction Chart:
|1-5 Bar||6-9 Bar||10-12 Bar||>12 Bar|
|> 45 seconds||Use More Pressure||Grind More Coarsely||Grind More Coarsely||Discard Grounds & Start Over|
|30-45 seconds||Grind More Finely||Perfect Espresso||Grind More Coarsely||Discard Grounds & Start Over|
|<30 seconds||Grind More Finely||Grind More Finely||Use Less Pressure||Discard Grounds & Start Over|
How to Pull the Perfect Shot of Espresso
Like with anything, pulling the perfect espresso shot requires the right equipment and ingredients. Here’s what you should gather before you get started:
- Espresso machine
- Filtered water
- Fresh, quality coffee
- A timer
Before you can get started pulling your shot, your portafilter, cup, and espresso machine needs to be preheated. You do this by pulling a blank shot. To do this, simply run water through your machine and into your cup without using coffee. Keep in mind, however, that every espresso machine is different which means they may not heat up as fast as others.
2. Grind Your Beans
The key to any great-tasting coffee is fresh, quality beans. This is why it’s best to grind your beans right before pulling your espresso shot. The ground texture of your beans is crucial when it comes to making your shot. If your beans are too fine, your shot will be over-extracted and have a bitter taste. On the other hand, if your grounds are too coarse, your shot will be too watery and taste a bit sour. Most compare the perfect grind consistency to that of granulated sugar.
The dose is the amount of coffee you place in your filter to make your shot. Normally, people prefer to pull a double-shot. If that’s what you’re pulling, 14 – 18 grams is a good amount to go with.
Tamping is when you control the extraction by packing and leveling the ground in your portafilter. This ensures the water is forced through the coffee consistently. To do this, place your filter on a level area such as your counter, and apply pressure until your coffee looks polished and even.
Now it’s time to place the portafilter into the machine. Once in place, settle your preheated cup underneath. Start your pull and use the time and watch your shot. You should see your brew start dark, then turn to a golden color. The foamy mixture should pour into your cup in a thin, non-breaking stream. A double shot measures 2 ounces. When your shot reaches this level, look at your timer. For the perfect pull where the grind, dose, and tamp are perfect, 20 to 30 seconds should pass.
Now, as we’ve already mentioned, pulling the best shot of espresso takes practice. If things didn’t go well, a few adjustments may need to be made. Work with your dose, tamp, and grind until you see your pull come out consistently, with a rich, thick crema on top. Once this happens, you’ve pulled the perfect espresso shot.
While the steps to pulling the perfect shot of espresso may seem difficult, with a little trial and error, you can be just as good as your favorite barista. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can then start making all your favorite coffee beverages whenever you have a craving.
Featured Image Credit: sonerkose, Pixabay