Espresso Blog

Espresso Extraction: A Finer Grind is Usually Better

by Julie Beals on May 10, 2017

With years of experience evaluating coffee quality in coffee shops and restaurants, one brewing error pops up more than others: The grind is too coarse, resulting in an under-extracted, not-so-great shot of espresso.

Hence, it’s time to get that stopwatch out and start timing espresso pours. A shot from a traditional machine should take 20-30 seconds to pour, no matter what the portion size (single, double, triple). We often see shops pouring espresso in 8-15 seconds, making it too light in color with a weak crema, and lacking strength, body and complexity.

Here’s how to fix your shot-pour issues, once and for all. (Even experienced baristas may need a refresher from time to time):

  1. Adjust the grind to a finer setting and tamp as you normally do until the pour is consistently around 20-23 seconds.
  2. Watch the size of the stream pouring from the ground handle spouts; see how it’s now thinner and darker.
  3. Now taste the difference. Notice the deeper color, richer crema, and bold flavors.

Unfortunately, a strong extraction like this can also bring out defects in the coffee. If a hearty extraction makes your espresso taste worse, it’s time to switch to a new espresso blend. A good espresso should always taste strong and smooth—never burnt, bitter, or sour.

Coffee freshness and machine maintenance will also bring out the best in your espresso. But the easiest way to improve it is to properly pour your shots. This alone can advance your shop's reputation to the next level, and make you known for a quality espresso.

Topics: espresso, coffee brewing

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