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Secrets of the Barista Secret #4

The Perfect Shot

Secret #4 The Perfect Shot  - Every Coffee Geek's Holy Grail
If you have followed the first 3 steps correctly then the perfect shot is not far away.
As I have said before. Espresso at its heart is very simple. It is a combination of
Great coffee Ground and tamped correctly
Extracted at the right pressure and at the right temperature over the correct length of time.

In the above equation, you will not usually get a choice of temperature and pressure on your normal home machine. You will have some control over these things with a commercial machine.

For the record. To achieve best results your pump should be extracting at 9 bars of pressure and I like the head brewing temperature to be as low as 90°. Your volume for a single shot should be around 30ml. Some people say more, but it’s so easy to over extract by pushing for more volume. Extraction time should be between 26-28 seconds.

Here goes. Place coffee in your handle, tamp and lock into your machine. Fire it up.

There should be a delay of 3 or 4 seconds before the first signs of liquid emerge from the spout. This is because it takes time for pressure to build before extraction takes place.

The first part of the pour should be very slow and the espresso should look like rich coffee nectar.

After 10 seconds or so the pour should be running freely but still have that nectar look. A sign of a great shot is the shot holding together all the way to the cup. Imagine if it were honey pouring. It would hold together. While the coffee is extracting well, this is what happens.

The sign that the extraction is almost complete is a phenomenon called first bubble. Your shot is pouring beautifully and holding together and suddenly a bubble appears and messes it up. At this point you are almost done. If you keep on extracting the shot becomes full of these bubbles and you are now about to over extract.

If you get to the point where you can see a white stain on the top of your shot, you have gone too far. That’s the tell tail sign of over extracted burnt coffee. Give this one to your friend and make a better one for yourself.

If the stars are aligned and you have done everything right you should have a situation where after 26-28 seconds you have 30-35mls of beautifully extracted espresso. That first bubble we talked about should have happened 2 or 3 seconds before the end of the pour.

If things didn’t go to plan then it would normally have been that the extraction was either too long or too short.

Too Long, Too short. What to Do?

You have to have your head around grinding and tamping for this to make sense. So please refer back to those tips if necessary.

If your shot took too long, you simply have to make it easier for the water to get through the coffee to speed things up. The opposite applies to slow things down.
If you have tamped too hard it will slow things down. If you are happy with your tamping then you have to adjust your grind to make it courser. Think of the coffee grounds like sugar crystals. If those crystals are bigger, then it makes it easier for the water to make its way through. This will speed the extraction up. Logically if things are going too fast then the opposite applies.

Adjust your grinder in very small increments until your shot takes 26-28 seconds.
Right now is the point where the coffee geeks take over. You can write a book on this subject and as usual everyone has a passionate opinion.

Here’s the bottom line.
If you can get your shots to look like the one in the photo and it took 26-28 seconds for 30-35mls, then you are 95% there and your coffee will taste great.
Join a coffee geek forum to find out the last 5%. I hope you have plenty of spare time though.

Follow the tips, practice and reap the caffeinated rewards.

Enjoy your coffee.

Rob Mergard Director

Dancing Bean Espresso.

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