Espresso Tips and Troubleshooting

Your espresso still not tasting right? Make sure that you're starting with good, fresh coffee and a quality burr grinder.

  • My shot took too long. Something is preventing the water from flowing through the coffee in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, your espresso may taste bitter. To fix it;
    • Dose less coffee OR
    • Grind coarser OR
    • Tamp lighter
  • My shot went too fast. Your grind is too coarse, the water is just flying through, and your espresso tastes weak. We're probably looking at "under-extraction". To fix it,
    • Dose more coffee OR
    • Grind finer OR
    • Tamp harder
  • My shot tastes bitter. "Over-extraction":  In this case, you got too much out of your coffee, like when you forget to take out your tea bag after 4 minutes. To fix it,
    • Decrease water temperature OR
    • Shorten brew time (see tips above)
  • My shot tastes sour. Like under-cooking food, it's possible to stop the chemical reaction that's taking place between coffee and water too early. When everything is in balance, you'll extract all the right things: not less, not more. To fix it,
    • Increase water temperature OR
    • Extend brew time (see tips above)
  • My shot tastes weird. It's not always that you went too far or not far enough: sometimes, water doesn't pass through the coffee evenly, and weird things happen. To fix it,
    • Check for "channeling" (holes in wet puck), THEN
    • Ensure even distribution AND
    • Ensure level tamp
  • My shot is watery. Espresso should have a thick, syrupy body, but achieving this requires a correct brewing ratio (dose:yield), adequate brewing time, and fresh coffee. Miss any of these, and your espresso will be thin. To fix it,
    • Decrease yield OR
    • Dose more coffee OR
    • Grind finer OR
    • Tamp harder OR
    • Use fresh coffee
  • My shot's stream was uneven. In its course through the portafilter, water will follow the path of least resistance. If the puck isn't level or secure, this path will be crooked and your espresso won't pour from the center in a single stream. To fix it,
    • Ensure even distribution AND
    • Ensure level tamp
  • My shot has little-to-no-crema. If you don't see any crema, either the puck isn't sufficiently resisting the pressurized water or your coffee is just too old. To fix it,
    • Dose more coffee OR
    • Grind finer OR
    • Use fresh coffee
  • My shot looks to be all crema. Beans that are still holding a lot of gas from the roasting process aren't quite ready for brewing. If your espressos have absurd amount of foam, all that's needed is a little patience. To fix it,
    • Allow coffee to rest for a couple more days
    •  

HAVE QUESTIONS?

Ask our experts at mike@vinaccio.coffee

 

Things you’ll need:

Coffee

Espresso machine

Demitasse

Double basket, bottomless portafilter

Grinder

Scale

Tamper

Timer

 

BREW TIME

25 - 30 seconds

 

Background

We have spent a lifetime trying to achieve the perfect espresso shot and we would like to share with you the things we think will give you a distinct advantage when it comes to  pulling the perfect shot.

Step 1

Remove your portafilter from the espresso machine’s grouphead. Place it on a scale and tare the weight.

Step 2

Purge your grouphead thoroughly with hot water.

Step 3

For a double shot, grind between 18–21 grams of coffee into your basket. The proper grind is crucial to a balanced, delicious shot of espresso. It might be necessary to adjust its fineness a bit. In general, the grind ought to be quite fine.

Step 4

Distribute the coffee by taking a straight edge and swiping across the top of the portafilter.

Step 5

Place your portafilter on a clean, flat surface and position your tamper level on top of the grounds. Without driving your palm into the tamper’s base, apply pressure downward. You don’t need to tamp incredibly hard—just enough to seal the coffee in evenly. 30 to 35 pounds of pressure should do it. Give the tamper a gentle spin. This will smooth, or “polish,” the grounds for an even extraction.

Step 6

Position the portafilter in the grouphead and start your shot. We recommend pulling it into a pre-heated ceramic demitasse.

Step 7

The shot should start with a slow drip, then develop into a gentle, even stream. Near the 25 second mark, the extraction will end, causing the shot to thicken and start “blonding,” or turning yellow. Stop the shot just as this process begins.