Espresso Blog

How Do You Know If You've Poured the Perfect Shot of Espresso?

by Julie Beals on February 12, 2018

The perfect shot of espresso isn't an elusive goal. It's within any barista's reach, with a little practice. Beyond the basics of pulling a shot, you just need to know how to evaluate an espresso's appearance, smell and taste.

So, what makes a shot of espresso truly great? 

The right brew time, for starters. Let's assume you have a delicious espresso roast, you know how to examine and tweak your grind, and how to tamp it into the portafilter just like so. If you've got these initial steps down, your espresso should take somewhere between 20 and 25 seconds to brew.

The stream of espresso coming out of the portafilter should look something like thick, warm honey. The finished shot should be golden and have a crema thickness of about 1/4" to 1/3".

Crema color and thickness:

  • A great shot will have a crema with a thick "tiger-skin" appearance, with honey- and brown-colored threads in it.
  • An under-extracted shot's crema will be thin to nonexistent with a blonde color.
  • An over-extracted shot will have a thin crema that appears brown or burnt .

Testing crema thickness and resilience: After brewing a shot and examining the crema's color, take a spoon and cut through it to measure its resilience. If it springs back together, or goes back to its original appearance, you've done it right. If it breaks apart very slowly comes back together (if at all), you've under-extracted the shot. If it doesn't heal at all, you've over-extracted it.

The smell and taste of a perfect shot of espresso should be strong and complex, just like the shots many of our customers serve every day.

Contact us if you have any questions about how to pour a perfect espresso shot.

Topics: espresso, espresso based drinks

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