Pretty much everyone is familiar with the term ‘espresso‘, and most have probably even tried one at the local deli or Starbucks. However, there aren’t many out there who really understand what an espresso is, and even fewer know how to prepare an espresso properly,
‘Espresso’ does not refer to a special type of coffee bean or roast. Instead, it is a mode of preparation, and the truth is any variety of coffee bean can be turned into an espresso (although certain kinds of coffee beans make for better espressos than others). Making a shot (or double shot) of espresso entails grinding coffee beans into a very fine powder like consistency. This powder is than uniformly distributed in a porta-filter and compressed into a tightly compacted cylindrical mass through which hot water is pushed through at very high pressure (approximately 8 bars of pressure, which correspond to eight times the atmospheric pressure at sea level).
Appreciation of fine espresso is comparable to the appreciation of fine wine, and espresso lovers talk about a particular brew’s texture, ‘crema‘, flavor profile, and other attributes in great detail. In fact, espresso aficionados can spend hours going back and forth and debating the relative merits of different blends of beans and espresso machines. A love for espresso may seem pompous to the uninitiated, but the truth of the matter is once you’ve tried a high quality espresso, there’s no going back to a run of the mill ‘cup of Joe’ or a gritty and sour tasting attempt at espresso made by an underpaid and disinterested barista at the strip mall coffee shop.
It is possible for anybody to make a proper shot of espresso. Whether you are the proprietor of a coffee shop, a barista, or simply someone who loves to make a great cup of authentic espresso at home, you ought to know that there is a right way and lots of wrong ways to pull the perfect shot of espresso. Granted, you will find some espresso lovers who disagree slightly as to how you make the perfect cup of espresso, and different folks have slightly different tastes. Still, at the end of the day there are four basic factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to preparing and serving a proper shot of espresso, and these are the dose, the grind, the tamp, and finally the pour.
1. The Dose
How Many Ounces In A Shot Of Espresso?
First of all, there are 28 grams in an ounce, so the question is not how many ounces are there in a shot of espresso. The question is how many grams are there in a shot of espresso, and the answer is that (generally speaking) there are around 7-9 grams in a single shot of espresso, and 14-18 grams in a double shot.
As for the blend, most espresso usually consists of Arabica coffee beans mostly. These are the varieties of beans that grow at high altitudes in Ethiopia, with some of the most popular varieties being creole, java, and bourbon. There are basically two main types of bean varieties: Arabica and Robusta. Although most baristas will stick to Arabica beans for espresso, some baristas will blend in some Robusta to account for around 10 to 15 percent of the total blend.
How Much Water Is There In A Shot Of Espresso?
It really does depend on how strong/thick you enjoy your espresso, but the “median” dose of water for a shot of espresso is usually considered to be one ounce. However, many prefer their espresso a little bit stronger, and if someone asks for their espresso to be “ristretto”, what this means is that they want 3/4 of an an ounce to their 7-9 grams of ground coffee. Then again, others prefer to have more water; if someone wants a mild espresso you can add up to 1 3/4 Oz of water for the same amount of ground beans.
Brewing time for espresso is between 25 and 30 seconds.
2. The Grind
When it comes to espresso, the beans need to be ground into an extremely fine consistency. The best type of coffee grinder for making proper espresso is a burr grinder. These high quality espresso makers have numerical settings, with the highest settings being the most suitable for getting the right consistency. You also want to test your espresso grounds to make sure that they have been ground up enough. You do this by taking a pinch between your thumb and index finger. It should bind together in a clump like powder; if loose grounds are left on your fingers, this means you need to grind them up even more.
3. The Tamp
To properly tamp down espresso grinds you need to apply up to 40 pounds of pressure to the finely ground coffee grounds in the porta-filter. In order to use an espresso tamper in the most efficient manner, you want to make sure that the ground espresso is leveled out and then push the tamper down while keeping your elbow as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. When you tamp espresso, what you’re essentially trying to do is compress the finely ground powdered coffee in such a way that it becomes one unified hockey puck like pellet in the porta-filter. When the water flows through this thoroughly condensed pellet, it will soak up all of the flavors without carrying any loose and gritty grains.
4. The Pour
Once you have tamped down your grounds, it’s ready to connect to your espresso machine that has a double boiler system. One of the boilers heats the water for the espresso, while the other controls the water for the steam wand. The water for the espresso should be heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, while the water for the steam should be heated to 212 F.
Your espresso machine will also let you control the pressure of the water that passes through the espresso in your porta-filter. Pressure can be measured in ‘bars’, and between 8 to 10 bars is the perfect level of water pressure for extracting espresso (again, as is the case with all of the measurements, the exact numerical values will vary depending on the particular beans that you are using). Eight bars corresponds to around 140 pounds per square inch, Yes, this is quite a lot of pressure, but this is the water pressure you need in order to adequately remove the oils that can spoil a perfect espresso.