Espresso is 85 to 95% water. That being said, water is the single most critical component to a successful espresso shot. Knowing your water quality will go far when troubleshooting future mechanical or taste issues. You can order inexpensive water quality test kits online. It is our recommendation that you know your water quality before buying an expensive espresso machine. There are numerous water treatment solutions available, and at the very least, we recommend a carbon block filter.
Espresso Coffee Grind
To properly brew espresso, a burr grinder is recommended. The diameter of your grind is dictated by your shot length of time, and vice versa. Here at Vinaccio, we pull 19 second triple shots. That is, 3 ounces of espresso in 19 seconds. We speed up our shot time by making the grind more coarse and slow it down by making the grind finer. Understanding how your burr grinder works as a necessity for proper espresso preparation. LEFT OFF HERE
A double shot consists of 14 g of espresso. Here at Vinaccio, we use triple screen baskets that are 21 g so we can pull through triple shots. Your home espresso Brewer is more than likely going to be a double screen basket. You will need approximately 14 g of espresso per double shot. Your shot will increase in both body and intensity as you increase the volume of espresso to water.
You should tamp at 35 pounds of pressure. There are dedicated tampers that will click once 35 pounds of pressure have been applied. We highly recommend investing in one of these tampers. Make sure that your tamp is firm and even. Water will follow the path of least resistance, so, on an even Will result in overextracted espresso on half of the poor filter and under extracted espresso on the other half.
Water temperature should be approximately 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to find a machine that can maintain this temperature for the entire time you’re pulling your shots.
Your shot time should be approximately 20 to 24 seconds for a double shot.
Tools of the Trade
At Vinaccio, we love La Marzocco. We’ve ran Linea machines since the beginning. They are amazing. We run a La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, a La Marzocco Swift espresso grinder, and espresso accessories such as a portafilter, shot glass and scale.
Machine: If you’re not a fan of La Marzocco, get a machine with solid components, stable temperatures, and a simple interfaces. Keep it simple.
Grinder: Consistent espresso starts with consistently ground coffee. To get the most out of your beans, choose a "burr" (not a "blade") grinder that can grind finely with many steps of adjustment.
Portafilter: To start, grab a bottomless portafilter and insert a double (14 grams)or even better, a triple basket (21 grams).
Tamper: For even extraction, pick a tamper that fits your portafilter basket snugly. Most baskets have a diameter of 58 millimeters. If you're serious about refining your technique, we highly recommend a tamper the clicks at 35 pounds of pressure.
Scale: With a gram scale, you'll be better equipped to monitor parameters, produce consistent results, and diagnose problems. We recommend that you weigh both dose and yield.
Shot Glasses: A volumetric shot glass is mandatory to track of how much espresso you're pulling. Make sure it’s thick to conserve heat, and has accurate graduation lines.
1. make sure your water is cold, filtered, and not-too-hard-or-soft. Water treatment is an important first step: distilled water will do serious damage to your boiler, hard water will accumulate serious scale, and unfiltered water will taste seriously bad.
2. Do not brew until your machine is at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Make sure your group heads are warm and run a sacrificial shot through them to ensure they are up to temperature. After you pull the shot, wipe off the inside of the portafilter and the underside of the group head so that they're clean and dry.
4. Your grind should stick to your fingers when you pinch them together,
5. Dose 14 to 21 grams of freshly ground coffee into the portafilter, depending on your basket size. Make sure the grinds are evenly disbursed in the basket. Use the grinder cover to level the grounds to the top of the portafilter.
6. Tamp with your wrist, arm, and elbow positioned directly over the center of the portafilter basket. Focus on pressing evenly, using your fingertips to feel the edge of the basket, then inspect the dry puck to see if the bed appears level.
7. Return the portafilter to the grouphead and begin brewing. If your machine offers a separate pre-brew or "pre-infusion" stage, complete this first. By doing so, you'll allow stored gases to release before full infusion begins. With fresh coffee, pre-infuse until your see the first drops exit the portafilter.
8. Begin infusion and end brew at predetermined yield: we like to start at 2 fluid ounces (if measuring by volume) or about 30 grams (if using a gram scale).