Saturday, March 22, 2014

Espresso Week: Pulling the Perfect Shot

It's Espresso Week here at Writer Adept!

Last week, I discussed the financial implications of a daily (or even weekly) espresso habit and how it made sense to me to invest in my own equipment rather than paying the big bucks out to a local coffee shop. On Tuesday, I discussed some tips about buying the best espresso machine for your dollar and reviewed my top three choices. Then, on Thursday, I talked about about the other equipment and supplies you'll need to get started on your daily espresso habit. For the final entry this week, I want to discuss how to pull the perfect shot of espresso.

Essentially there are three variables that need to be just right in order to pull the perfect extraction of espresso:
  1. The grind of the espresso beans
  2. Amount of coffee in the portafilter
  3. The hardness of your tamp
The golden rule for a double-shot espresso is approximately 2.5 fluid ounces of water pulled through approximately 14 grams of ground coffee in about 20 to 25 seconds. This is achieved by setting your grinder to achieve a consistency similar to table sugar, filling up the portafilter about three-fourths of the way full, leveling it out, then applying approximately 15 pounds of pressure with the tamp.

While this may sound quite technical, it's pretty easy to tell when your technique is off. The end result will pour out either too fast or too slow, or will lack the layer of golden foam called crema that is characteristic of good espresso.

To help you practice and perfect the art of espresso, here are some helpful resources:
  1. By far my favorite all-around information about all things espresso is found in Alton Brown's Good Eats episode entitled Espress Yourself. Sadly, unless you are an Amazon Prime member, this episode is no longer available for free online. If you can get your hands on it, it's well worth watching.
  2. You can watch a great primer on tamping and how it effects your extraction from this video here, courtesy of Whole Latte Love.
  3. Another all-around solid but also brief video guide to good espresso technique can be found here.
  4. Finally, if you really want to become an expert, try this in-depth guide from Home Barista. It's quite lengthy, but is probably the best resource available online.
I hope you've enjoyed this deep dive into the world of espresso. Next week, I'll be back with a new book review, a board game review, and a quick look at another one of my favorite web comics. See you then.

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