Our first installment of #AskErika is more of a request, than a question. Nonetheless, our Director of Coffee Erika Vonie still has all the answers!
We get a lot of requests from readers about espresso. “How do I pull a good shot?”, “What are easy recipes for espresso?”, “What kind of machine can I buy that won’t break the bank?”, “What’s the best kind of coffee to use for espresso?”, “Is espresso a drink, a roast or a brew method?” (It’s actually all three!). All valid, all good questions!
Honestly, espresso is a very complicated and expensive habit to maintain for home use, which is why we’ve generally stayed away from featuring it on Trade. I worked as a barista for months before I truly felt confident that I was producing excellent espresso every single time I pulled a shot and then it took years to truly master espresso. Luckily, that means I’ve got 11 years of experience to share with you brave souls who are diving deep into the world of home espresso!
There are many factors that will affect your shot of espresso and all of them have to align perfectly for a delicious shot, which is also why it’s difficult to make a one-size-fits-all recipe. The factors at play are:
How many days off-roast your coffee is, how fine or coarse your grind size is, how hot your espresso machine is, how even the puck of dry coffee is tamped, how light or dark your coffee is roasted, and how many bars of pressure the machine pushes water through the espresso is set at.
“Every time I practice for a competition, I get a new notebook to help me keep track of my process. “– Erika Vonie
Every time I practice for a competition, I get a new notebook to help me keep track of my process. I organize it in a chart that looks like this: grind setting/dose/second of first drop/total time/output in grams/flavor notes and adjustments
I generally start with at 20 g dry dose, and depending on the coffee, aim for a 30 to 40 g output. More traditional espresso profiles do very well with a 1:1.5 ratio, while lighter, fruiter coffees can generally taste very good upwards of a 40 g output. I always keep my machine at a standard temp of 202^F, looking for the first drops to emerge in about five seconds and shut it off approximately 20 to 22 seconds. I like to play with the time of the shot influencing the output before fiddling with the dry dose, but that’s just me.
Sometimes a grind adjustment is really what you need to find that sweet spot of extraction. If you notice your espresso doesn’t start dripping and takes a long time to extract, your grind size is too fine, so coarsen up your grinder. Conversely, if your espresso rushes out of the portafilter, your grind size is too coarse, allowing for water to flow faster than it should for good extraction — so fine up the grind.
“Think of it like a bucket of gravel or sand.”
Think of it like a bucket of gravel or sand — if you pour water through both, the water will rush out of the gravel bucket, but get soaked-up by all the sand. If you see your espresso acting like gravel, tighten up the grind! If you see your espresso acting like sand, loosen up the grind!
This is literally just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to at-home espresso, so keep checking back for tips, tricks, and advice on becoming the home barista of your own dreams!
— Erika Vonie, Director of Coffee