Factors influencing the quality of an Espresso shot

What is an espresso?

The world of coffee is a kaleidoscope of variety, offering countless coffee types that bring forth a multitude of flavors for patrons to select and discover their own preferences. Among these, Espresso is a widely recognized and popular coffee style. Espresso coffee made its debut in Italy in the 1930s, subsequently spreading to Spain and across European countries. Nowadays, this type of coffee has become an integral part of the global cultural appreciation of coffee. So, what exactly is Espresso?

In Italian, Espresso is called “express“, which means coffee that can be served to customers immediately. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Espresso is a coffee brewing method in which a small amount of hot water is forced through finely-ground coffee under high pressure for a short period of time. Espresso extraction results in a higher concentration compared to other brewing methods. The raw material for Espresso coffee is usually dark-roasted coffee beans. Unlike most types of coffee, espresso coffee features a “crema“, a reddish-brown foam formed when air bubbles combine with soluble oils. Typically, the presence of crema is a hallmark of a quality espresso shot, skillfully crafted by an experienced barista.

Factors influencing the quality of an Espresso shot

  • Choosing Coffee

Take a moment to contemplate the flavor you enjoy in an espresso shot and then use this as a guide to select the appropriate coffee beans. You can’t achieve a delicious espresso without initially choosing high-quality coffee beans. You can experiment with various approaches to crafting your coffee shot until you find the one that you deem most flavorful and suited to your taste preferences.

Typically, high-quality Arabica coffee beans are used for making espresso. To enhance the crema and thickness of the espresso shot, it’s common to blend Arabica beans with Robusta beans.

  • Coffee Fineness

Coffee beans, after roasting, need to be ground before use. The fineness or coarseness of the coffee grind is closely related to the brewing method. For espresso, you should grind the coffee beans to a fine powder, similar to flour. To achieve such fineness, a burr grinder is more suitable than a blade grinder.

  • Coffee Ground Quantity

The quantity of coffee grounds you use will depend on the type of finished “shot.” For a standard shot, you would use around 7-8 grams of coffee grounds, while a “double shot” would use approximately 16-18 grams of coffee grounds. You should check the recommended coffee ground quantity for the portafilter basket of the espresso machine you are using. Another approach is to experiment with different amounts to find the most suitable coffee ground quantity for your machine.

  • Pressure Extraction

When delving into the world of espresso, we often come across the concept of standard pressure in espresso extraction. Achieving that pressure involves a research and experimentation process that has spanned decades in espresso machine development.

Standard pressure is a crucial key in the art of crafting espresso. In other words, it’s about unlocking the hidden layers of coffee flavors. Typically, to create an enchanting cup of coffee that captivates the senses, we employ a pressure of 9 bars (9 times atmospheric pressure). In simple terms, it’s the force with which water is pushed through coffee grounds to extract a shot of espresso. It’s fair to say that 9 bars is a “Magic Number” – a mystical figure in coffee crafting, to be precise.

Now, the question arises: how does this 9-bar pressure start and can we control it? The answer is yes, and that’s what we call Pressure Profiling.

Pressure Profiling in espresso coffee preparation consists of three main stages:

  1. First Contact: The initial contact of pressure.
  2. Increase in Pressure: Gradual increase in pressure.
  3. Ramp Down: Gradual pressure reduction leading to completion.

Mastering pressure during extraction equates to mastering the art of crafting exquisite coffee.

Additionally, here are a few tips for you:

+ Wait for the pump to complete its cycle before initiating coffee extraction.

+ Avoid simultaneous coffee extraction on one group head while flushing water through the other.

  • Water Temperature

Apart from the quality of the ingredients, water temperature is also a crucial factor determining the taste of coffee. The ideal temperature for brewing coffee is between 90 to 93 degrees Celsius (194 to 199 degrees Fahrenheit). If you’re unsure about the accuracy of the hot water’s temperature that you’re using, there’s a simple method: boil water and let it cool for about 45 seconds to obtain the suitable hot water for your coffee brewing process.

Unfortunately, if you use water with a temperature higher than 94 degrees Celsius (201 degrees Fahrenheit), your coffee will likely have a significantly bitter and acidic taste. On the other hand, if the water temperature is lower than 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit), the coffee will lose its delightful aroma and end up with a bland flavor, along with a pronounced bitterness.

  • Foaming Milk

Another factor to create an espresso tailored for those who enjoy sweetness and wish to incorporate milk to enhance the flavor is to use whole, full-fat cow’s milk. Alternatively, if that’s not your preference, you have other substitute options such as oat milk, almond milk, or even soy milk. Then, utilize a milk steaming wand to introduce air into the milk while simultaneously heating it.

The quality and flavor of Espresso are determined by various factors such as the quality of coffee beans, the skill of the barista, the fineness of the coffee grind, and more. Pressure and temperature are not the only factors, but they are essential elements that cannot be ignored when creating an Espresso. Hopefully, this article helps you to brew a satisfying and flavorful espresso according to your taste preferences. Additionally, it can provide a better understanding for selecting the ideal Espresso coffee machine for your home, office, or coffee shop.


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