BLOG //
Jori Korhonen //
Helsinki
// 22.7.2019

Creating a perfect espresso recipe

Espresso recipes are important in cafés in terms of consistency and flavour. How and why are the espresso recipes made and what are the things you should consider when making a recipe for espresso? Let’s dig deeper into the world of espresso!

What to change or measure? 

There three main things that we want to (at least) measure when making espresso; dose, yield and brew time. Those three measurements you should as a barista check daily and some baristas might even go so crazy that they check those for every espresso that they make. 
It might be worth mentioning that from here on I will talking only about double espressos. In my opinion you should always make a double and never even touch the single spouted portafilter. But that’s another conversation, let’s concentrate on the recipes this time.

Dose 

Dose means the amount of dry coffee that you are using.

coffee dose

Usually dose is measured in grams and it is widely seen that for double espresso you should use something between 14 and 24 grams of coffee. 14 grams used to be truth back in the days when coffees used in espresso where roasted darker but during last 10 years the doses have increased as lighter and lighter roasts have been used in espresso.

I always start my espresso recipe making with dose. How do I know then how many grams should I use? This is the easiest part in the recipe making process. Just check your portafilter’s basket size. The basket size should determine how many grams you should use coffee. For example, in our training facilities we have 20 gram baskets so for my recipe I would use approx. 20 grams of coffee. 
Even thought you have e.g. 20 gram baskets, you can use a bit more or less coffee depending on your roast. If your coffee’s roast is lighter, then I would suggest a lower dose (18-20 grams in 20g basket). For darker roast I would use a bit bigger dose (20-21 grams in 20g basket). 

If I was for some reason to use less coffee, something like 14 grams, I would need to change my baskets to smaller ones. Using smaller dose in bigger baskets will likely create channelling problems as there is too much space for water. Channelling means that the water isn’t running evenly through the coffee puck and it is creating channels to the puck.

Yield

Yield means the amount of liquid (coffee) you have in the cup.

coffee yield espresso

Traditionally yield was, and this is measured in millilitres (ml) but also during last 10 years more and more baristas have started to use scales and measure yield in grams. The advantage of measuring in grams is accuracy as your volume isn’t dependent on freshness of the roast as it is when measuring in ml. 

Yield is often communicated in relation to the dose e.g. 1:2 which means that with 20g dose your yield would be 40g. More examples;
15g dose, 37g yield = 1:2,5
17,5g dose, 47,5g yield = 1:2,7
22g dose, 44g yield = 1:2

Using more water in relation to dose will dilute your espresso (make it weaker). Using less water in relation to dose will make your make your espresso stronger. 

I suggest starting the recipe making from 1:2 ratio. I have noticed that with 1:2 ratio the espressos are still pleasantly strong but not too strong to taste all the nuances. 1:1,5 ratio might make the espresso too overpowering and strong which hides all the good flavours that the coffee has to give. With some coffees it might be also wise to go to 1:2,5 so that the strength decreases a bit and makes the coffee open up more. 
I would suggest that when making espresso recipes you shouldn’t change the ratio from 1:2 before you have tested at least few different brew times. If you feel that you are not able to get pleasant results with 1:2 ratio with different brew times only then you should start changing the ratio.

Brew time

Brew time means the time it takes to brew the espresso. From the push of the button until you have reached desired yield in the cup.

Often it is considered that brew time for espresso should be between 20-35 seconds. Darker roasts shine with shorter brew times and lighter roasts with longer brew times. It’s because darker roasts are less dense (shallower) and hence it’s easier to extract flavour from them. On the other hand, lighter roasts are “tighter packages” (denser) and you will more time to extract the same amount of flavour from them. I suggest that with darker roasts it’s better to start brew times between 20-25sec and lighter roasts 25-30sec. Every coffee has a “sweet spot” in terms of brew time and it’s the barista’s job to find that spot with changing of the grind size.  

For me it’s easiest that I always try to find the brew time where the coffee starts to taste bitter and then come back to the last brew time that wasn’t bitter. For example
25sec = too acidic, hollow taste, short aftertaste
27sec = bright acidity, more flavour, pretty good
29sec = pleasant acidity, more sweetness, balanced flavour and long aftertaste
31sec = sweet but bitter notes

In the case above I could have stopped at 27sec or 29sec brew times but I wanted to know more sweetness to extract. 31sec started to be bitter so I know that then it’s starting to be over-extracted so I go back to 29sec brew time which is the sweet spot for the coffee. 
You can read more about extraction from my previous blog.

Want to develop your recipe further?

Temperature

Temperature means the temperature of the brew water.

Temperature shouldn’t be first on your list but it is definitely something to consider if your espressos don’t seem to hit the sweet spot. Higher temperature makes extraction easier so then you will extract faster. Increasing temperature might be wise with lighter roasts if you feel like you are not able to extract enough in 30 seconds. It’s because espresso brews start to channel almost always in the end of the brew and if you haven’t extracted enough before the channelling happens it will lead to under-extraction. Increasing temperature will extract more in the start of the brew and this way increase overall extraction. 

Pressure profiling

Brewing espresso requires pressure. Pressure profiling means that the pressure used to brew the espresso is different during different stages of the brew.

pressure profiling

To pressure profile, you will need a specific espresso machine such as Synesso, Modbar or Slayer. Pressure increases extraction so for lighter roasts it might be wise to use lower pressure in the start of the brew so that you will extract less acidity. Lower pressure in the start will also decrease channelling which will lead to higher extraction.

Even extraction – avoid channelling

Even extraction means that the brew water runs through the coffee puck evenly and no segment of the puck gives more flavour than the others. Even extraction should always the aim for a barista.

You can read more about the steps to make perfect espresso from my previous blog. Using proper routines will help avoiding channelling and will always lead to a better tasting espresso. Try to be like a machine when making espresso!