Extracting Espresso Like a Pro: Your Espresso Recipe Guide

Extracting Espresso Like a Pro: Your Espresso Recipe Guide

Extracting Espresso Like a Pro: Your Espresso Recipe Guide

If you’ve checked out our post on how to make great coffee at home, you’ve now got a good understanding of how important freshly roasted coffee is to the brewing process, and perhaps you’ve even bought some specialty coffee from Coffeefusion!

These beans have hopefully arrived, and have now rested long enough that you’re ready to brew. This week, we’re going to discuss how to extract the best from these beans, and learn about the three basic elements of espresso extraction.

But what, exactly, is coffee or espresso extraction?

How does the way we extract espresso affect the finished product? Will the way we extract coffee affect our enjoyment of the beverage?

If you’re someone who’s a bona fide coffee lover and enjoys knowing everything that goes into the coffee-making process, then the science behind extracting coffee would surely interest you. Also, if you’re a café owner or are planning to start a coffee business, then it’s essential for you to be familiar with the espresso extraction process.

By knowing those tiny yet very important details that lay behind the extraction of coffee, you’ll appreciate the effort that goes into every cup you make or gets served to you.

More importantly, with your background knowledge of coffee extraction, you know that whatever coffee recipe you’ll try will turn out to be a success.

What Is Coffee Extraction?

So, now’s the time to answer the questions: What is coffee extraction? What does extract mean?

In simple terms, coffee extraction refers to that process whereby soluble coffee components are dissolved into water, thereby giving it a rich colour, a bold flavour, and a beautiful, heavenly aroma.

When you extract something, you are removing or drawing out a specific substance or element from the item you’re extracting from. In the case of coffee, you’ll be extracting or drawing out a desired hue, taste and smell from the coffee grounds.

For what purpose? To achieve that perfect cup of coffee consistently.

To have a better understanding of espresso extraction, you need to get to know the actual coffee bean itself. The coffee plant’s seed is actually not a bean, although it’s commonly referred to as such.

A healthy coffee seed is like a little packet containing all the ingredients needed for it to take root in the ground and develop into a robust and healthy plant. Each coffee seed, therefore, contains an excellent nutritional profile which includes complex carbohydrates, acids, and fats – the very same ingredients needed to make delicious-tasting coffee.

However, to make great-tasting coffee, the seeds or beans require a little assistance to release these flavourful ingredients into your morning cup of coffee.

Heat must be applied to the beans in order to transform the complex carbs into simple sugars, lessen their acidity, and release some of the oils, thereby allowing these flavourful components to be dissolved and assimilated easily into hot water.

The coffee beans undergo this change during the roasting process, going from a cold green hue to the deeper brown-coloured beans you find in coffee shops and roasteries.

When it comes to brewing coffee, the extraction process is crucial. Without it, the water would not have the taste or flavour, colour and aroma of coffee at all.

When the extraction process is not done properly or out of balance, the resulting coffee may be either over-extracted (very bitter and dry to the mouth) or under-extracted (usually tastes sour). A cup of coffee that has been properly extracted tastes sweet, rich, and flavourful. The remaining acids give it a brightness and a mouthfeel that’s full-bodied.

When brewing coffee, understanding espresso extraction is crucial. If you can master it, your family and friends will refer to you as the brewing expert. In case you’re a café owner, then for sure your customers will keep coming back for more. 

How to Extract Espresso and What’s Involved

Now that you know what coffee extraction means and why it’s important, we can now move on to discussing how to extract espresso, what the process entails and what goes into it.  

Below, we take a deep dive into coffee extraction and provide all the basic information you need to develop a good understanding of the process.

You can also watch the following video to better digest what coffee extraction means.

Main Considerations for Espresso Extraction

There are three primary elements of coffee or espresso extraction: dose, yield, and time.

These three factors are all crucial in making that perfect cup of coffee and ensuring you’re able to achieve the same quality or results every single time.

Get the dose wrong and your shots will be inconsistent. Variable Yields will change the feel and flavour of your espresso. The flow rate (or time) also has a major impact on extraction and as a result taste.

And while these terms may seem strange to you right now, once you’re done reading the information below (or watching the video), you’ll hopefully understand.

Espresso Dose – Getting the Quantity Right

What does ‘dose of coffee’ mean?

The espresso dose refers to the amount of dry coffee grounds going in to the portafilter basket.

In an ideal scenario, this is weighed using a set of scales. For the best results, we should ideally be aiming for an accuracy of 0.1 grams.

The basket in your portafilter is usually rated for a certain number of grams. If not, a lot of baskets have a ridge in them that can be used to indicate the amount of coffee placed in them. The tamped (we’ll discuss this term in detail below) coffee should sit somewhere around this ridge.

Once you figure out the dose for your basket, you should aim to keep this number consistent.

For example, on my machine, my basket fits 20 grams nicely, so I always dose 20 grams of coffee into the basket. Knowing this, I’m able to predict with great accuracy the yield and ideal time I should set to get quality coffee consistently.

A Note on Tamping and Distribution

When you’re preparing coffee in the portafilter for extraction, it’s important to not only weigh the dose for consistency, but also to make sure you create an even coffee puck.

First, this is done by levelling or evening out the coffee sitting in the puck, and then by tamping the grounds nice and straight. A coffee puck with uneven density or an uneven tamp will cause the water to run unevenly during extraction and cause some big issues with the flavour.

This is why, no matter how small this detail may seem, tamping coffee the right way is important for the water to spread evenly across the surface of the grounds to get the right coffee taste.

Espresso Yield – How Much Coffee Ends Up in Your Cup

The espresso yield refers to the amount of coffee that falls into a cup during extraction.

These days, yield is often measured in grams as doing so allows you to make a direct comparison to the weight of the dose. However, prior to this, yield was often previously measured using a shot glass with millilitre as the unit of measurement.

For better coffee, aim to keep the yield consistent. A good starting point for estimating yield is by doubling the amount of the dry grounds.

Let’s say, for example, we dose 20 grams into the basket, we should end up with a yield of 40 grams. The relationship between dose and yield is often expressed as a ratio, in this case it would be 1:2.

You can play around with your yield, but in the beginning, if you aim to keep dose and yield consistent, it will be a lot easier for you to understand the extraction process.

Weigh the espresso after each extraction, or if you have a measuring shot glass, you can substitute gram for millilitre pretty easily. However, gram is a more accurate unit of measurement that’ll yield fairly consistent results.

Brew Ratio Explained

The proportion of water to the amount of ground coffee beans is referred to as the brew ratio.

The brew ratio is used by baristas as the foundation of the recipes they use or create and as a reference point when they wish to increase or decrease the amount of coffee they brew.

For espresso, a typical ratio is 1:2. However, ratios anywhere from 1:1 through to 1:3 can be used depending on the coffee, and even longer ratios can be pulled with advanced espresso techniques.

For every barista, every variety of coffee bean, every type of coffee drink and every brewing technique, there isn’t a truly predetermined, fixed or magical ratio.

The espresso extraction ratio affects how much of the desired flavours you’re able to extract from the coffee beans without getting an excessive amount of the undesirable ones. While over-extracted coffee draws out dry bitter flavours, under-extracted coffee is frequently sharp and sour with very little sweetness.

So, what is the ideal extraction rate for espresso coffee?

As a rule of thumb, the standard brewing ratio is 1:2. For every gram of ground coffee, two grams of espresso are extracted. Just like in the example mentioned previously, 20 grams of ground coffee should be 40 grams of espresso.

The best way to master brewing ratio is through constant practice and taking detailed notes of the outcome of each brew ratio you try using a particular coffee bean or brewing method. This means you can work on raising the quality of your brew by using scales and tasting the results. You can also use the espresso recipes suggested for each coffee as a starting point.

Through experimentation and observation, you should be able to develop your own golden ratio for specific types of coffee beans and brewing techniques.

Espresso Extraction Time

The last variable in the coffee extraction process is time. Espresso extraction time is sometimes referred to as the flow rate.

So, you might be wondering: How long should espresso extraction take? How many seconds do you need for a perfect espresso shot?

Coffee extraction time is counted from the moment you start the extraction process, to the moment you turn it back off. The duration of a typical espresso extraction should run for approximately 26-32 seconds.

If your extraction runs faster than this (25 seconds or less), chances are you’re going to under-extract the coffee. Flavour-wise, it can result in sour-tasting coffee.

But if your extraction runs slower than 32 seconds (33 seconds or more), chances are you’re going to over-extract your coffee, and flavour-wise it’s likely to taste bitter.

If you extract coffee within the ideal 26-32 second range, it’s likely to get a balanced result. Flavour-wise, you can expect acidity, sweetness and body all working together in perfect harmony.

Now, your question might be: Does espresso extraction time include pre infusion? 

It may or may not, but we generally include preinfusion time in the times indicated unless you’re doing EXTRA LONG <6 second preinfusions.

Before applying the full 9 bars of pressure for espresso extraction, the coffee puck in the portafilter is first gently moistened and expanded during the pre-infusion process.

As a result, water channelling is reduced, so a more equal extraction is encouraged, and better-tasting espresso is produced. If you start timing as soon as you push the start button or lift the lever, this means the whole brew or extraction time includes pre-infusion.

Adjusting the Grind Size

So, we now have what we call an espresso recipe – which is essentially about how to extract coffee. It is often expressed as ‘dose: yield in seconds’.

The espresso recipe I use, for example, is 20g:40g in 26-32 seconds.

But what do you do if your extraction doesn’t run like this? For example, your extraction turns out to be too fast or too slow? This is where adjusting the grind on your grinder comes in.

If your extraction is too fast (25 seconds or less), it means that the coffee in your portafilter is too coarse. Make it finer and it will slow down the flow rate.

If your extraction is too slow (33 seconds or more), it means that the coffee in your portafilter is too fine. Make it coarser and it will speed up the flow rate.

In case you’re having trouble understanding this concept, think of a bucket of rocks and a bucket of sand. With a bucket of rocks, there are lots of gaps between the rocks, and if you pour some water in, it would flow easily to the bottom of the bucket.

But if you have a bucket of sand, the grains of sand fit together a lot more snuggly. If you pour some water onto a bucket of sand, the water will slowly be absorbed down through the sand, but it will take a while to get to the bottom.

Lastly, when adjusting the grind, keep in mind that when you make an adjustment, any coffee which has already been ground and sitting in your grinder will be at the old grind setting. There’ll also be a little bit of grind usually sitting in the chute of the grinder. So, when you make an adjustment, it might take a couple of shots before you see the result of the new adjustment in the extraction.

For bigger commercial grinders, we often waste 3-4 double shots worth of coffee before we can see the result in our grind change straight away.

In general, coffee grind size helps to determine the amount of time it’ll take to extract the good stuff out of the ground coffee.

Smaller coffee grounds ensure the water extracts the good stuff faster. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach as grind size is also influenced by the method or device you’re using to brew coffee.

For example, extra fine ground coffee is ideal for espresso machines, whilst fine grounds are ideal for an aero press, coarse grounds for a French press, and so on.

How to Avoid Over- and Under-Extracted Coffee

As previously mentioned, over-extracted coffee is not pleasant at all.

Over-extracted coffee is coffee that has undergone excessive extraction to the point where it tastes scorched and harsh.

Over extracting means undesired compounds have been been drawn from the coffee grounds, so it leaves behind a bitter, dry, and hollow brew that can be difficult to appreciate. Over-extracted espresso essentially lacks a pleasing finish.

Although various factors can affect and lead to over-extracted coffee, if your barista over-extracted your shot, they most likely went over the typical brew time range. Other reasons that may lead to over-extracted coffee include:

  • Using the incorrect ground size for the brewing method
  • Overly high water temperature
  • Uneven or irregular coffee grind size
  • Incorrect amount of water used

Under-extracted coffee, on the other hand, can taste sour or sharp.

When you don’t extract enough flavour from the coffee grounds during brewing, under-extraction happens. This means the water hasn’t had enough time to break down or process enough to help balance out the acid content in the coffee.

Coffee that’s under extracted still possesses a lot of the less pleasing qualities of coffee. Aside from the sourness, there’s also the saltiness, absence of sweetness, and an unpleasant though brief aftertaste. The final product is sometimes characterised as uneven and one-dimensional.

Keep Frothin'

Hopefully this blog post has cleared up a lot on extraction for week two.

Your homework is to practice these steps and get yourself to a point where you can ‘dial in’ your coffee.

If you need some delicious coffee to do this, you can support Coffeefusion by getting your coffee from us!

You can do this with a free trial of my coffee when you sign up to my coffee subscription, or use the discount code ‘6weekbootcamp’ to get 20% off coffee from the online store.

We also recommend checking out our blog, aka coffee learning hub, filled with helpful content to enrich your coffee making skills. If you happen to live in WA, you can also sign up for our Perth barista courses to lift your coffee game.

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