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Creating Espresso pt 1


Making a cup of espresso is generally referred to as “pulling a shot.” Being able to pull a good shot is one of the most challenging, but also the most rewarding ways of enjoying a cup of coffee. As I’ve mentioned before Espresso can be very temperamental. The smallest changes in any of the factors that influence a shot can have a drastic effect on the taste. A barista must be vigilant at all times to what is going on with their coffee in relationship to the world around them, and their own technique.

What is good technique?

Well as we talked about before creating espresso involves grinding, dosing, and tamping the beans (see what is espresso). We’ll first talk about these three amazing steps!

First I am going to assume you are working in a café environment with professional tools. There are subtle differences in some of the techniques for consumers. If you decide to try some of this at home much of it will transfer, but not all.

First the Beans
The first thing you will want to do is make sure you have beans! Espresso beans are not some special kind of coffee. You can use any kind of coffee bean to make espresso. The reason certain coffee is labeled as espresso is because it has been specially blended with different coffees to make a fuller more balanced shot then what you would get with a coffee from a single source, or “single origin” as people often put it. No coffee is perfect. In theory by blending different coffees a roaster is able to craft a blend that highlights the best part of each bean in a way that compliments the best part of another.

Make sure your beans are fresh. The best time to brew a bean is generally around 3 days after it’s been roasted, although sometimes you may find a bean that pulls best after only resting 2 days. No rules with coffee are set in stone. You will not want to drink coffee that is over 2 weeks old. By this time it has gotten stale. A shot pulled with old espresso will be runny and with have an unpleasant taste. You might also notice a sensation similar to that of bile resting in your throat. In short old coffee is gross. Don’t use it!

Once you have beans put them in the “hopper” which is a container on the top of the grinder used to house the beans before they are ground. Make sure the hopper is open allowing the beans to flow into the grinder. There is a slider at the bottom of the hopper which you can pull out to open the hopper.


You are now ready to grind the beans. The fist thing you will want to do is clear out all the old grounds that might be left from a previous drink. You can do this by pushing the lever on the bottom of the machine toward you this will cause all the old grounds to come out the bottom of the grinder. Now you can grind new beans.

There will be an on off switch/knob on your grinder. Hit this and grind just enough coffee for the drink you are making. Every coffee you use will like being pulled a certain way, which may be very different then another bean. Make sure you are familiar with how the particular bean likes to be pulled. Grind just enough to make what you need.

You will need to make sure the “grind settings” are set right. A shot should be pulling at between 20 and 30 seconds in most cases. Every coffee will want to be pulled at a time specific for it so make sure your grind matches your bean. To adjust the “grind” first look for a lever near the top of the grinder near the hopper. It will be attached to a adjustable disc. You can adjust this disc to change the burr distance in the grinder. This will effect how “fine” or “coarse” your grind is. Look for arrows on the disc to tell you which way to adjust.

The finer a grind is the smaller the grounds will be, and the slower the shot will pull. Think about it like pouring water through sand verses through pebbles. If your shots are pulling to fast try making the grind finer this will hopefully get things where you want them. The reverse is also true. A shot that is pulling to slowly may need to be ground coarser.

As humidity changes your grind must change too. The more humid your environment the coarser your grind has to be. A higher moister in the coffee makes it more adhesive and resistant to water flow. If there a change in the weather while you’re working you will need to be checking the grind more frequently.

to be continued...

Comment (1)

Billy Bones! I have thoroughly enjoyed this espresso blog thus far! I'm excited to see what's to come.

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