Introduction to Espresso

Today’s espresso will be pulled on the elegant Slayer Espresso Machine

Espresso as Coffee

Titles for different types of coffee can be misleading. Some roasters may label one of their blends as “Espresso Roast,” potentially indicating there is such thing as “espresso beans.” In fact, the beans used for a V60 are no different than those used for espresso. Granted, some roasters may find a certain blend to taste best if served as espresso.

Whether its title points to a certain brew method or not, espresso is as flavorful and complex as coffee — potentially even more so. Similar to coffee, a lot goes into assuring espresso is as delicious as possible. Two potential results make for a bad final product: Under-extracted, and over-extracted espresso.

Preparing Espresso

The barista is leveling out the coffee grounds in the porta-filter.
  • Grind:

Coffee used for espresso will utilize the finest grind settings. This will determine the amount of contact the water has with the coffee when the shot is being pulled. The barista will change, or “dial in,” the grind settings as the day progresses.

If light rays hit the beans after sunrise, the beans will expand, and produce larger granule sizes. Similarly, when the sun sets, the beans will shrink, and produce smaller granule sizes. An attentive barista will notice these changes immediately, and adjust the grind setting accordingly.

Notice the level tamp
  • Tamp:

Ideally, the tamp of the barista is constant at 14 kg of pressure. But because they are humans, too, the pressure will always be slightly different. Too hard of a tamp, and the water will extract slower, and risk channeling to only one side of the portafilter. Too weak of a tamp, and the water will extract extremely fast — improperly bonding with the coffee oils.

The paddle needs to be maintained at an exact position for accurate preinfusion
  • Preinfusion:

This is one of the more controversial variables in reference to pulling espresso shots. Certain machines are “manual,” meaning they allow the barista to control the pressure the water is forced through the coffee grounds. This is only useful for preinfusion: the first 3 – 5 seconds of the extraction process where the grounds are wetted at lower pressure. This will allow for consistency of saturation, and help avoid channeling. This being said, there are plenty of machines without this ability that pull quality shots. It ultimately depends on the barista’s attention to detail.

Delicious espresso
  • Timing & Yield:

Lastly, the timing of the shot must correspond to the volume of espresso. The window for this relies on the type of coffee being used, and what flavors are desired in the final product. Generally, 22 – 28 seconds should have an espresso yield between of 45 – 50 ml.

Huge thanks to the guys over at Method Coffee for letting me take these pictures! They are doing some great things, and — damn — just look at that espresso machine.

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