How to Pull an Espresso Shot

Specialty Coffee Drinks Come Out Perfect with These Reminders

Preparing the Espresso Machine for Brewing

Use either cold filtered water or bottled spring water in the espresso machine.

Preparing the Coffee Beans

Only freshly brewed espresso coffee should be used. Do not use previously prepared espresso coffee which tends to lose its flSavor very quickly.

Use only freshly-roasted whole bean coffee. Make sure and purchase gourmet coffee beans that have just been roasted.

Store your coffee properly to preserve its fine flavors. The coffee should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Grinding the Coffee Beans

Grind the coffee just before you brew it.

Grind the coffee extremely fine if you have a steam-driven espresso machine because they don’t have as much pressure to push the water through the coffee grinds as a pump-driven espresso machine which accepts a slightly coarser grind.

Use a Conical Burr Grinder rather than a Blade Coffee Grinder. This will assure better consistency of coffee grind size. This also avoids overheating (e.g., re-roasting) the coffee beans as may occur with a blade grinder. A burr coffee grinder controls the grind size by the position of the burr.

Espresso Tamping Techniques

Use about eight grams or two tablespoons of roasted, ground coffee for a single shot of espresso, and about twice that much for a double shot, or doppio.

Use an even, downward twisting motion when you tamp, or compact the coffee grounds into the basket of the portafilter.

Begin with just a medium amount of force when you tamp the coffee grounds. Then you can use more tamping force if the espresso streams out too fast, and you can use less force if the espresso brews too slowly.

The surface of the coffee grounds within the portafilter should be very even to avoid weak spots where the espresso machine’s high pressure could blast through. When this happens most of the coffee grounds are under-extracted while the area around the weak spot is over-extracted.

Attaching the Espresso Machine Portafilter

Once the coffee grounds are finely compacted, brush the rim to make sure the portafilter has a snug fit when you secure it and lock it into the group of the espresso machine.

Preheating the Espresso Machine Portafilter and Demitasse

Preheat the portafilter of the espresso machine by running hot water through it to make sure the cold metal doesn’t lower the espresso brewing temperature.

Pre-warm a demitasse and place it so that the espresso will flow directly into it during the brewing process.

Espresso Extraction

When brewing a concentrated and full-flavored espresso shot the goal is to extract all of the fine tastes of the ground coffee beans including the essential aromatic oils, but without extracting too much bitterness from the beans.

An ideal extraction time is about 22 seconds from the moment you push the brew button until the last drop of espresso streams out of the spout of the espresso machine.

The overall extraction time will vary slightly based upon several variables involved in the process including the grind size, tamping pressure, brew temperature, and other factors.

Troubleshooting to Achieve the Perfect Espresso Shot

If the espresso streams out of the espresso machine too slow even when you haven’t tamped the ground coffee very hard, then the coffee grind size is probably too fine. This will cause the shot to be over-extracted and too dark.

If the espresso streams out of the espresso machine too fast even when you have tamped (compacted) the ground coffee very hard, then it is likely that the coffee grind size is too large or coarse. This will cause the espresso shot to be under-extracted and weak.

Observing the Espresso Stream to Determine Quality

Watch the espresso stream out of the espresso machine. Within a few seconds it should have an appearance similar to maple syrup.

Observe the espresso as it fills the demitasse during brewing to determine the quality of the espresso shot.

Analyzing the Crema of the Espresso Shot

After about six to nine seconds you should see the crema begin to form on top in a thin layer of fine-celled foam. The crema should be light brown to golden brown in color.

As the stream of espresso pours from the espresso machine into the demitasse watch for a white ring that may begin to form on top of the crema.

As soon as you see any hint of this white ring forming, halt the espresso brewing. At this point all of the good oils have been extracted from the roasted, ground coffee and so continuing to brew the espresso will result in an overly acidic espresso shot with excess bitterness.

Troubleshooting for a Better Crema on your Espresso Shot

If your espresso shot has an inferior crema try to determine the cause. Some potential problems include using stale, old, or improperly stored coffee. Are the grind size and tamping pressure wrong, causing over-extraction or under-extraction?

Did you preheat the portafilter as well as the demitasse? Was the coffee ground too long before brewing? One of these is likely the cause of the poor crema.

Analyzing the Body of the Espresso Shot During Brewing

If you are using a shot glass, about fifteen seconds into the espresso brewing process, after about one ounce of espresso has poured, you should be able to notice the espresso beginning to separate within the glass.

The espresso shot’s body is the middle layer and is typically caramelly-brown in color. Examine the body of the espresso before the shot has finished brewing.

Look for any signs of very dark or even black colors which will signify a burned taste being imparted to the espresso shot. To remedy this either use a coarser coffee grind size or use less pressure during the tamping of the coffee grounds.

Examining the Heart of the Espresso Shot

The heart of the espresso shot is at the very bottom and should be a rich and deep brown color. The heart contains most of the shot’s bitterness which serves to balance out the shot’s overall sweetness.

When observing the heart make sure it is not too light in color, even blending with the body, which signifies that the espresso shot is too weak. This can be remedied by tamping the coffee with more pressure or by using a finer grind size.

Enjoy Your Perfect Espresso Shot!

Once you have fine tuned your espresso shot you will be amazed at the sweet, intense flavor that is possible by following all of the proper steps.

Using top quality premium gourmet coffee, roasting and grinding it properly, and then tamping and brewing the espresso properly produces the perfect espresso shot.

Now that you know how to pull the perfect espresso shot, find out what the most popular espresso-based drinks are! Enjoy!