Struggling to make your desired espresso? This beginner-friendly guide will teach you the four techniques to dial in the perfect cup of espresso at home.
If you’re a coffee-lover or just someone who drinks coffee occasionally, you’ve probably had an espresso. Espresso represents lots of things. It’s the perfect morning wake-me-up, it can be used as a dessert topping or mixed with ice cream for an affogato. We all have our preferences and rituals around coffee but what should you be looking for when getting that perfect espresso shot?
You want to be able to make it at home as the cool baristas do, but you don’t know where to start. It’s not as complicated as it sounds but there are some crucial steps that can help take your espresso from “err” to “yum!”.
In this blog post, we’ll give you our tips for dialing in your own perfect shot of espresso.
Dialing in espresso…
Is a skill, but it’s not rocket science. But first, what is dialling in?
Dialing in is the process of making espresso taste as delicious as possible. To do this, you want to dissolve just the right amount of soluble flavor and aromatic compounds from coffee using just enough water. To control this, there are four main parameters you should be looking at in your espresso recipe – dose, yield, grind size and brew time.
When dialing in, it’s important to only adjust one parameter at a time. Otherwise, you can easily lose track of which changes have influenced your espresso’s flavor profile.
Dose – How much ground coffee?
The dose or dosage refers to the amount of ground coffee that you are using to brew.
An espresso is usually made with 16 to 18 grams of ground coffee; however, this figure will vary depending on the density and roast profile of your coffee beans.
A larger dose will allow you to brew more espresso and a smaller one, less so. Choosing a dose weight can be tricky because it will also affect the intensity of your coffee. If you want to control the output of your espresso shot, try increasing it by small increments, such as 0.2 – 0.5 gram to hit the level you desire. Similarly, if you find the flavor too intense, decrease the dose by a similar amount.
Yield – How much espresso in your cup?
The yield can refer to how much espresso is in your cup or the total amount of espresso produced by the coffee machine.
Yield is often communicated in relation to dose. In most cases, the standard ratio of dose to yield is 1:2. This means with 20g dose, you would have 40g yield. Your dose and yield should be increased in proportion to maintain a reasonable ratio of coffee to water because it will affect both the taste and body of your coffee.
If you’re aiming for a rich, full bodied flavor profile, your dose and yield should be increased proportionally with respect to the water. A higher ratio usually results in a bitter cup whereas lower ratio (eg, 1:1.15) will produce a sweeter, fruitier cup but less body overall.
It is recommended that you shouldn’t change the ratio before you have tested at least a few different brew times which we will be bringing out in the coming point.
Grind size – How coarse or fine should you ground?
When you dial in the grind size, it’s like finding that one perfect frequency for tuning into your radio station. When your ground coffee happens to be either too fine or too coarse – it will give you over or under extracted coffee.
For example, the typical dose range for a double espresso is 18g with a yield of 36 g (1:2 ratio). If the brew time is 50 seconds, you need to set your grind size coarser until its extraction time falls between the range of 25 to 35 seconds.
In other words, if your shot finishes after the desired target brew time, the water is probably passing through your coffee bed far too slow. You will need to adjust the grind coarser to increase the particle size and it will help water find a way through quicker.
If your shot finishes before the desired target brew time, adjust the grind finer and it will help slow down that water flow.
Brew time – How long does it take to extract?
Brew time refers to the length of time it takes to brew your espresso or how long until you reach the desired output (yield) in your cup. This is the last variable you should pay attention to, and it’s also the most flexible parameter amongst the four.
The optimal brew time for espresso is often between 25 – 35 seconds. If you want your coffee to taste less acidic and have more body, then it’s best to extract your espresso in a longer time . If an espresso has been extracted for a shorter time, however, you will likely taste caramelized sweet with some bitterness present.
There are also other factors that you should look into when adjusting your brew time. This includes the roast level and grind size of coffee beans.
Whether you’re an inexperienced or experienced home barista, dialling in right can feel daunting at times. But, once you figure out the basics and understand every step of the process, you can dig into flavor !
Important note: only adjust one parameter at a time. For instance, if you want to increase or decrease the dose, keep every other parameter (yield, grind size, & brew time) exactly the same. This way it’s easy for you to know what’s the next step of adjustment you need to make to get the finished cup that you desire.