Weighing in on Espresso

When I started my new expensive hobby (expresso?), I learned that to get started, you should pull a double espresso shot – 2oz, in 20-30 seconds. This is fluid Ounces – volume, not weight. More recently as I was looking into purchasing a better grinder, it came up that I should try weighing my dose, and output to find the coffee ratio I liked. I bought a cheap scale from Amazon, that measures to .01g and tried this out.

A 200g weigh scale

I found out several things when I started doing this. Firstly, and most importantly, a double espresso is not 2fl.oz. Secondly, your ratio of coffee in, to coffee out is absolutely key to getting the right flavour out of your espresso. What is the right flavour? Well, that depends on your taste. But it changes so drastically and quickly, that you need to figure out what you like, and always make it like that. I learned that while an espresso is a 2:1 ratio pull, a ristretto is a 1:1 ratio pull and a lungo is a 3:1 ratio pull. And they taste REALLY different. Mind blowingly so. With my current beans – KenyanAA, a ristretto tastes like nuts, whereas a lungo tastes like blackcurrant. Those two flavours seem pretty different to me, and yet the visible difference in the cup volume would be practically unnoticeable to most people. The difference between 2:1 and 3:1 with these beans, is in sweetness, with some bitterness coming in at the higher end.

The timing from my original statement, while important, in my opinion is nowhere near as important as the ratio. I can brew a 2:1 ratio espresso in 15 seconds (yes I have!), that absolutely tastes great. In contrast, it seems hard to pull a good 4:1 ratio espresso in any time at all. I think its all relative, and your taste changes as you experience better coffee. Before I started really getting into this hobby, I never thought about extraction time, or amount, and I enjoyed that coffee for years. When you experience a good espresso though, everything changes. I’ve had several OMG moments since I started this journey, and I’m pretty darned new at it. It’s made me more OCD than I thought I could ever be, and that’s not caused by the caffeine.

This week, I took delivery of my new grinder which does very accurate dosing. It does it by time (in 1/100th second steps!), not weight, but it does it to a point of accuracy that means once you get your weight right, you can dose by time, knowing what weight you’ll get out. This will change between roasts, but since the whole weighing thing is to get you in the ballpark, it gives a great starting point. This thing has so much more control over grind size than my old grinder, and I’ve been able to dial in perfection*.

The grinder is a Barazta Sette 270. It’s really loud, but incredibly quick. Where my old grinder would do a dose in around 25 seconds, the Sette does it in under five. I wasted the first three grinds choking my espresso machine, and it took another four to get the timing to where I get a 36g yield (a 2:1 ratio) out of the espresso machine in 27 seconds. The 270 is named because it has 270 grind settings. It actually has infinite because the micro adjuster is stepless, but I guess Sette Infinite doesn’t sound quite right.

The Baratza and the Gaggia Classic seem to be a good match, and now I’m complete with my hardware. Well, I have a bottomless portafilter and a triple basket (because more coffee = more joy) on its way from iDrinkCoffee.com but then that’s it. Really. All coffee beans from here on.

I started out the coffee side of my blog with some bean reviews. I need to cancel them out. The testing was too flawed. I feel that I’m getting close to a point where I can make more precise shots. I’m still a bit unsure how to put specific labels on flavours, but that should come. I’m also getting better at the latte art, so who knows, maybe a pic or two of that will wind its way up here eventually.

*-subjective. 🙂