Espresso is an art and a science but espresso doesn’t need to be complicated - This guide is going to be a quick glance into the world of espresso and how to make the best tasting espresso in 2023. Let’s get started.
Background - The first espresso machine received its patent in 1901 invented by Luigi Bezzera. Luigi turned around and sold the patent to Disiderio Pavoni which infamously designed lever action machines formally known today as La Pavoni. Both companies are still making quality espresso machines till this day!
Pressure, hot water, and coffee all come together to craft the beverage we know and love.
Espresso as a ratio - Espresso is likely one of the most unforgiving brew methods as minor changes in grind settings or brew process can completely alter the taste of the espresso shot.
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), recommends a 1:2 brew ratio to be a standard measurement for espresso, meaning 1 gram of coffee per 2 grams of espresso extracted. This is paired with an extraction timeline of 25-30 seconds.
At Crankshaft Roasters, we use 18g of coffee to 36g of espresso extracted as our baseline within 27 seconds.
Tamping and Distribution - In order to get a consistent shot of espresso, you need to do things consistently the same way. After grinding the coffee into your basket, we recommend using a distribution tool to evenly distribute coffee in the basket.
When tamping your coffee, we recommend applying even pressure until you feel resistance from your counter.
Failing to distribute or tamp your coffee evenly will result in channeling of water through the basket and uneven extraction of coffee.
Size does matter - getting your grind size dialed in is crucial for making delicious tasting espresso.
Many people have a preconceived perception of espresso being super bitter or sour tasting due to an under or over extracted shot they tasted before. Unbeknownst to them, there is a world of sweet and flavorful espresso waiting for them!
Grind too fine and your espresso will run from the portafilter slowly, over-extracting the shot leaving you with a terribly bitter tasting shot.
Grind too coarse and your espresso will run freely through the portafilter, under-extracting the shot leaving you with a sour tasting shot.
Too fine (bitter) <————————> coarse (sour)
You want the sweet spot in the middle where the espresso is tasting sweet and flavorful. Finding that point we like to aim for our first drips of espresso landing in the cup around 7 seconds from when you start your brew.
Espresso is extremely temperamental. Micro adjustments can produce macro results. Many grinders have time settings on them or maybe a knob for dose amount. Once you get close to where you want to be, instead of making grinder adjustments for particulate size, you can add or subtract time from the grinder.
This will add or subtract weight from your dose, but it will also slow down or speed up the flow rate of your espresso allowing you to get the coffee tasting just right without having to change grind size.
Add time (slow down) <————————> Subtract time (speed up)
Types of Coffee for Espresso - We recommend trying a variety of different coffee to find what you like best. Our Espresso Roast - Motor Oil (found here), produces a delicious chocolatey tasting espresso. On the sweeter side of things and a great middle ground, Costa Rican Sunrise is also a gem (found here).
You are now ready to brew delicious espresso! We hope you learned a tip or two on improving your daily cup of coffee. Enjoy!
What makes a bigger difference, machine or grinder? - A good quality grinder makes all the difference. We would rather have an expensive grinder and a cheaper machine vs an expensive machine with a cheap grinder. Flat burr grinders will give you the consistency you are looking for when brewing delicious espresso.
Can I use light roast coffee for espresso? - Yes, if you are looking for something fruity with brighter acidity, you can use a light roast for espresso. We enjoy our Overboost light roast as espresso. It is important to note that higher acidity coffees sometimes don’t pair as well with milk if you are making a milk based beverage.
Can I use single dose baskets? - You can but it doesn’t mean you should. We personally don’t like single dose baskets at Crankshaft Roasters because of the shape of the basket. The shape will often make water channel through the coffee and create uneven extractions.
Have any other questions for us? Leave us a comment below!