During the pandemic I became even more entertained by making espresso. It is a pleasure to make espresso for my friends, so feel free to email me to set up a coffee+chat! Below, I'd like to share some of my discoveries by providing a guide for other aspiring baristas:
The zeroth step is to make sure the reservoir in your machine has (filtered) water and the grinder has beans.
- Preheat. Turn on the machine and allow for at least 10 minutes to heat up. It is normal for the “ready light” to turn on and off during this time. Keep the portafilter attached to warm it up as well. At the end of preheating, just run water through the portafilter to rinse out previous grinds.
- Dialing in. First, grind the beans and add them to the portafilter. The grind should be fairly fine and feel like a soft powder (e.g flour). A double shot is typically 15-18 grams. Next, press and level the grinds by either a tamper or distributer. The puck should be perfectly level and equally distributed. Finally, attach the portafilter back to the machine. If it does not fit, that means there is too much grind.
See "Dialing in tips" for more suggestions
- Extraction. Turn on the brew switch. For a double shot, the extraction length should be 20-25 seconds and result in 30-40 grams of coffee (this is a 2-1 ratio of coffee out - grind in). Also the goal is about a 1/3 layer of crema, which does not disappear after swirling or setting down the espresso for a few minutes. The crema is the most flavorful part!
Dialing in tips. This is by far the hardest step, since the “perfect shot” has different requirements for every combination of beans, grinder, and machine.
My setup: Gaggia classic pro machine, Baratza encore grinder, coffee distributor. Size 6 grind setting, 16.5 grams in, 35 grams out.Picture
- Keep pen and paper handy to keep track of the experiments.
- The variables are (1) grinder setting (ranging from extremely fine to fine), (2) grind amount, and (3) brew amount. Start with “a shot in the dark” and adjust accordingly.
- If the shot is too fast, either make grind setting finer or add more grind in portafilter. If too slow, make opposite adjustments.
- If the shot tastes very bitter, either the grind is too fine or the extraction is too short. If shot is acidic, the opposite problems hold.
- If no or little crema, usually there is a problem from above 2 tips. If not, try different beans.
- Don’t be afraid to make 20+ shots to dial-in, especially in the beginning.
- A good grinder is just as important as a good machine! Make sure it is a burr grinder. I am happy with my Baratza encore, but I will soon upgrade to a Baratza Sette 270.
- Buying a scale was the difference-maker in pulling consistent “shots from heaven.” It allows you to control all variables during the dialing in process.
- Use filtered water to refill the reservoir.
- Pull double shots. If you prefer a single, pull a double-shot into 2 single-shot glasses and give one to your friend.
- I find medium roast beans the best. My go-to beans are Lavazza super crema.