Articles From Whole Latte Love

Troubleshooting and Conquering Your Espresso Routine

Posted: 03/23/10
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espresso shot

Grind. Tamp. Brew.
If you've been practicing your espresso routine religiously and still have trouble pulling the perfect shot, we're here to help! By fixing a few common mistakes, you'll have the Golden Rule, as well as other espresso-making nuisances, conquered in no time...and once you do, you'll have no trouble being your own barista.


• A double shot is 2 to 2.5 fluid ounces of water pulled through approximately 14 grams of ground coffee in about 20 to 25 seconds.

• A single shot is 1 to 1.5 fluid ounces of water pulled through approximately 7 grams of ground coffee in about 20 to 25 seconds.

If your shot is too fast or slow, consider adjusting your grind or tamp pressure to achieve the Golden Rule. But, be careful, you should only alter one variable at a time. Either add more pressure to your tamp or use a finer grind. While 30lbs is the ideal tamp pressure, you can still produce a perfect single or double shot with a finer grind and less pressure and vice versa. A pressurized portafilter can also help take the guess work out of tamping, if you don't mind losing a little bit of control.

If you end up with a “soupy” or “soggy” puck, try not to worry! As long as your espresso tastes the way you want it to, there really isn't a need to change your routine. In fact, “puckology” rarely even figures into professional barista competitions, where judges simply look for consistency; it doesn't matter is the puck is soupy or dry. But, if you really have your heart set on achieving the perfect puck, consider the following:

  • Add more coffee to your portafilter
  • Try a finer grind
  • Do not use old or stale coffee
  • Try a machine with a three-way solenoid valve
  • Use a commercial portafilter

If you experience a lack of crema, it may be time to re-evaluate your technique and/or coffee. Crema is one of the main indicators of a good shot of espresso, so its absence spells trouble. First, check your grounds; are they fine and uniform, as espresso grinds should be? Burr grinders are usually preferred over their blade counterparts when it comes to espresso. If you're using pre-ground coffee, you may find it difficult to produce that nice, thick, caramel-colored crema; so stick to freshly ground beans, or consider a pressurized filter basket.

grinding and tamping

When it comes to technique, make sure that you're using the proper tamp pressure. Double check to ensure that your tamp is even; a lopsided tamp will result in a crema-killing, unbalanced extraction. It is also best to allow your machine time to heat up to proper brewing temperatures before attempting to extract a shot. A cold machine will undoubtedly leave your espresso crema-less.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Keep sharpening your skills and you'll have an impeccable technique and great tasting espresso in no time.

Do you have an espresso-related problem you'd like us to address? Leave your comments below! 

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MisterT I have a Gaggia Espresso Pure - Bought from WLL about 2.5 years ago and use it several times a week sometimes daily. Also have a Baratza Virtuosa Grinder. I try several Beans including some of yours and grind about once a week to make enough to last the week. I had been working in VA the last 2 years and never had a problem with my preparation. I moved back down to Florida in June and the first 2 months were great. Now I have to tell you that I think my problem is dry beans and not sure what to do about it? We keep our house at 78 and lower the humidity to keep our electric bill under control. My beans are stored in a pantry - thats dark, but the temp/humidity as I detailed. I had been buying the large bag of LavaAzza as it last me about 3.months and the price is very good. I last bought in early June and have about 1/4 bag left. My last few grinds appear much coarser than they should and I think its due to beans. So my question is, what can I do to keep my beans from drying out so I can get back my consistent grind ? I never had this issue in VA as my roommates always kept the AC cranked down.....I am at wits end here without being able to
Pull a good espresso shot NOW no matter how hard I tamp......very frustrated.

08-30-2013 10:32pm |