How to Dial in Espresso

Espresso Bear

Overview of Coffee

Having a morning cup of joe gets many people ready for the day ahead. There is no right way of making this cup as long as it tastes suitable for whoever is drinking it. Did you know that Beethoven used to make coffee with precisely 60 beans all of the time? That is somebody who knows what they like and is what drinking coffee should be all about.

Latte on a table with a telephone

Different Coffee Preparing Methods

There are many ways to make coffee, like pour-over, espresso, Moka pots, etc. Here at Espresso Bear, espresso is the best way to make coffee.

There is a more considerable margin of error when making espresso, but the outcome is a wonderful drink when it is done right.

White coffee setup with machine and Niche grinder

Espresso based Drinks

Espresso is used in many coffee-related drinks. Some of the more known drinks are lattes, cappucinos, cortados, and frappes. Some espresso drinks that are lactose friendly include taking a shot of straight espresso, americanos, or red eyes.

One of my favorite ways of having an espresso is either a straight shot or a latte with nothing added besides the milk used for the drink itself. This way, I can practice latte art.

How to get Dialed in with Espresso?

When making espresso, one must grind and weigh the beans you are grinding and putting into the portafilter basket. It is vital to use the right amount of ground beans, depending on the basket. An example would be using about 20g of ground espresso beans for a 20g basket. Not using the right amount for the basket will only cause issues. If you are not sure what size basket you have, sometimes small engravings indicating the size can be found on the basket.

The next part will be weighing the extract or liquid coming out of the basket. The amount of output you want depends on a few factors such as portafilter basket size, the espresso machine, and the type of coffee roast. Generally, darker roasts stick to a 1:1.5 ratio, medium roasts at a 1:2 ratio, and light roasts at a 1:3 ratio. For example, I would pull about 30g for 20g of ground dark roast coffee to attain the ratio above.

Getting the correct input and output ratio in an ideal amount of time is the key to good-tasting espresso and figuring out what adjustments to make. This timing differs by espresso machine as some have different pressures and settings for extraction.

Knowing about ratios is a first step in determining if the espresso beans are ground to what is needed. If the extraction is too fast, your espresso beans are ground too coarse, too slow, and the beans are ground too fine. A general rule of thumb is to stick to around 20 seconds and make adjustments from there as seen fit.

It can be helpful to taste espresso at three different grind settings to establish a base. You can decide which of the three tastes the best and make more minor adjustments. The two tastes to evaluate will be bitterness and sourness. If the espresso is too sour, it typically means it is under-extracted and may need an adjustment to finer grinds. If it is too bitter is likely over-extracted, and the espresso beans need to be ground coarser.

Regarding coffee roasts and grind levels, I typically grind darker roasts on a finer setting than I grind medium and light roast coffee.

Getting “dialed in” means making these adjustments and minor adjustments to your espresso beans to get a good-tasting shot. You know you are “dialed in” when the coffee tastes good to you. That is when you know you have found your perfect cup of coffee.

Manual lever espresso machine

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