How do you calibrate espresso?

espresso machine calibration

 

Oh, espresso! the delicious and complex drink invented by the Italians, which may seem little, but awakens even the hardest palate when you drink it. 

In Europe and in the U.S., espresso is a popular drink, but not so much in Latin America—where the most popular coffee-based drinks are drip coffee and those with milk and sugar. We know from experience, (after owning a specialty coffee shop for five years), that those Latino customers rarely order an espresso shot.

Nonetheless, espresso coffee is amazing, and with the right care, anyone can make one. 

Are you up to improving your calibration technique?  If so, you are in the right place! Because we are going to teach you about espresso extraction.

 barista drinking espresso

First of all, espresso is prepared with hot water and high pressure, these are the four key steps for a sweet and creamy experience.

 

  1. THE TYPE OF GROUND (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!)
  2. The amount of pressure applied when using the tamper.
  3. The amount of coffee in the portafilter aka “dose”.
  4. The machine

 

1.-Type of ground. You can see more details in our newsletter calibration guide (subscribe if you haven’t!). The type of grinding used is essential since coffee acts as a barrier to the passage of water in your portafilter, the finer the coffee, the less the water will be able to flow, the thicker the coffee, the water will pass through quickly and will not extract all the flavors you expect.

To make the perfect espresso, use a fine ground coffee.

Let's put it this way, if your espresso is coming out like water in your faucet, you are doing it wrong!

Grind size DOES affect coffee flavor. The finer the coffee, the more bitter the extraction, and the coarser the grind, the more acidic it will be.

 

Also, how do you get crema on espresso? Use freshly roasted beans and try with some different fine grinds to find the perfect for your type of machine. The older the beans get, the less crema you will find on the top of your espresso shot.


barista tamping espresso

2.-Pressure when using the tamper. If you used the correct grind for your type of machine but pressed too hard, the espresso would never go down. The average pressure applied is 15-20 kg with your arm, and with practice, you will be able to calculate it.

 

The correct flow for the espresso to fall is like “mouse tail”, that’s right, as funny as it sounds that’s the term in the barista world. When you look at your espresso, the crema color should be hazelnut with reddish undertones. The consistency should be thick when swirled.

 


espresso extraction tips

3.- Amount of coffee in the portafilter aka “dose”. The amount of coffee you need depends on the machine model and the portafilter size, however, a simple portafilter holds 9 to 12 grams of coffee per shot and will extract approximately an ounce of espresso. Never extract a shot for more than 30 seconds, instead, make sure that your machine extracts an espresso from 18 to 30 seconds to avoid obtaining very acid (under-extraction) or very bitter (over-extraction) flavors.

 

4.- The machine. There are home and professional espresso machines, and besides water, they only need good temperature and pressure. 

 

The home machines usually come with a plastic tank that you have to refill from time to time. 

 

It is important that the tank is never empty, to avoid air bubbles from entering the machine and breaking it down. Now regarding the pressure, make sure that the manometer moves to the number of bars that your machine manual indicates, (usually 9 bars) when you make an extraction.

 

The machines for professional use can be connected directly to the water tap and use a special filter to prevent minerals from damaging your machine, connect to a jug, or even come with a water tank that you must fill when needed.

 

Regardless of the machine, you have to make sure that the temperature is at the right setting, either by checking the LED indicator (which varies according to model and brand) or that the machine pressure moves correctly, as indicated in your instructions.

 latte made with espresso

With these tips, you will surely improve your espresso: flavor, body, cream, and color. Remember it’s all trial and error, always taste the results, and adjust one variable at a time.

 

Good luck! enjoy Killer espressos!



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