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Espresso Extraction Charts: How to Pull the Best Shot!

espresso machine

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!

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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.

rich espresso shot with crema in double walled cup

Espresso Extraction Charts:

Time & Flavor Espresso Extraction Chart:

Under Extracted Slightly Under Extracted Perfect Slightly Over Extracted Over Extracted
Flavor Vegetal Sour Sweet Bitter Burnt
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
hot espresso shot
Image Credit: Vassamon Anansukkasem, Shutterstock

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
  • Grinder
  • Scales
  • Portafilter
  • Tamper
  • Filtered water
  • Cup
  • Fresh, quality coffee
  • A timer

1. Preheating

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.


3. Dose

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.

espresso powder in portafilter
Image Credit: Devin Avery, Unsplash

4. Tamping

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.


5. Brew

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.

espresso coffee brewing
Image Credit: Mokup, Pixabay

Your Results

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.

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Final Thoughts

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

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Melissa Gunter

Melissa has been a fan of coffee since the first sip she stole from her Granny's cup when she was just a girl. Now, she spends each morning writing with a hot cup of coffee at her side. With a love of sweet and creamy bliss, Melissa and her daughter, Amber, stop by and try out every local coffee shop they see. Neither are afraid to try something new and have a long list of favorite coffee beverages they simply can't do without. When she's not freelance writing about her 2 passions, coffee, and pets, Melissa spends her time with her husband, 2 kids, and 5 fur babies. She also loves diving into the fiction world under her pen name, Rena Marin. If she isn't at the laptop or with the family, Melissa is out enjoying the mountains of East Tennessee she calls home.

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