Perfect Espresso Should Not Be a Shot in the Dark

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Pouring the perfect shot of espresso is within every barista's reach. Beyond the basics of pulling a shot, they need to know how to evaluate its appearance, smell and taste.

So, what does it take to make a great espresso? 

The right brew time, for starters. Let's assume you already know how to evaluate and adjust your grind and how to tamp it in the portafilter. If you've got those parameters in line, your espresso should take between 20 and 25 seconds to brew.

While brewing, the stream of espresso should resemble 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 thick "tiger-skin" appearance to the crema, with honey- and brown-colored threads in it.
  • An under-extracted shot will be thin to nonexistent with a blonde color.
  • An over-extracted shot will be thin with a brown or burnt color.

Testing crema thickness and resilience: 

After brewing a shot and examining the crema's color, take a spoon and cut the crema to measure its resilience. If it "heals" quickly (springs back together, or goes back to its original appearance), you've done it right. If it breaks apart you've under-extracted the shot. If it doesn't heal, you've over-extracted it. The smell and taste of a perfect shot of espresso should be strong and complex.

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

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