You may recall that just last week we dispelled some common myths about espresso. Among them, unfortunately, was the idea that the “perfect” espresso shot exists. And that’s still true (sorry). There is, however, a difference between pulling an okay shot and an amazing shot.
Follow this recipe — courtesy of our friends at ChefSteps — with weighed “in’s” and “out’s”, pay close attention to grind size and temperature, and adhere to proper extraction time and you’ll be able to pull it off for yourself. Check out the instructional video and full process below.
- Take a moment to wipe out the basket of the portafilter. It should be clean and dry when you start grinding the coffee into it.
- Grind size and and coffee dose are some of the most important considerations when tweaking your espresso recipe. When making any grind adjustment (especially fine), it is important to run the grinder in order to keep the burrs from locking up. Here is the simple procedure for making a grind adjustment: Turn on the grinder, make adjustment, purge grinder of coffee in order to reach new grind setting.
- Dose your coffee: Turn on the grinder. Build a consistent bed of coffee in the basket, trying to evenly distribute the ground coffee with a mound in the middle. Settle the coffee by swiftly and firmly tapping the portafilter with your tamper. The more you tap, the more you will distribute the finer coffee particles to the bottom of the basket, so try to do it in one or two taps. After you have dosed your target coffee weight and built your coffee bed, you can groom the coffee with a simple finger motion. There’s no need to get fancy here — you’re just trying to create an even distribution of grinds throughout the entire basket.
- Tamp your coffee: Make sure the portafilter is lying on a flat, sturdy surface. Hold the tamper like you would grab a doorknob. The pressure on the temper should be at the base from your thumb and forefinger, not from your palm on the top of the tamper. Place the portafilter near your hip and position your arm in a 90-degree angle. This will reduce the stress on your wrist and arm and give you the most consistent tamp over time. Use your body weight to tamp the coffee. You should be applying 20 to 30 pounds of pressure to the coffee bed. The specific amount is not as important as trying to achieve consistency each time. If you are curious, you can use a bathroom scale to feel what 20-30 pounds of pressure should feel like. You can check for evenness in your tamp technique by eye-measuring the distance of your coffee bed to the top of the basket around the circumference.
- Brew your coffee: After hitting the brew button, shots should take a few seconds to drop. If shots are dropping right away it can be a sign of channeling (meaning your puck isn’t packed tightly enough), or too coarse a grind. The color of your espresso should transition from dark brown to yellow shortly. If the color is even throughout, or changes very quickly, it can be a sign of old coffee or uneven extraction.
- Drink your coffee: Knock it back! You’ve earned this.
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