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A shot of espresso is one ounce of liquid coffee. Many factors determine how big is a shot of espresso. The most important thing to consider is the taste. There are different factors that affect it and you need to know what adjustments to make in each when you want to brew a cup of espresso. Somehow, no matter what adjustments you make, the shot will always be almost an exact ounce (the crema might get a little higher than that). But what factors are these?
Fresh Espresso Coffee Beans
If you want to brew a good cup of espresso, you need fresh espresso coffee beans. For best results, wait until three days after the beans have been roasted to brew them (to let the oils set in the coffee beans). During the first 24 hours after you open the pack you will brew the very best coffee from those beans. After two weeks, they get old and the coffee won’t be as good anymore. To keep them fresh, store them in an airtight container and keep them away from the light and the heat.
Start by making your first espresso shot and trying it. Depending on the flavor and timing, you will make the necessary adjustments (as described below). First, put fresh espresso coffee beans on the grinder. Adjust the grind size so that the coffee looks about the same size as sugar grains (about 0.7 mm).
Remove the Portafilter from the coffee machine. Put the ground coffee in the Portafilter and with one finger remove the excess coffee into the grinder, leaving the top part of the coffee flat. The coffee dosage should weigh about 14 to 18 g. Then place the Portafilter on the counter top and press the coffee vertically using your hand tamper (rotate it too). Some people recommend applying 30 lb of pressure. The important thing is to ensure that the Portafilter has compact ground coffee with a smooth surface on top.
Put the Portafilter back to the machine. Let both the machine and the Portafilter get warmed up, and after that, brew the shot of coffee. It should take from 20 to 30 seconds from the moment the machine starts pouring the espresso. You might notice that the cup is not filled completely with one ounce of coffee. If you continue the brewing to fill the cup completely, the coffee will taste bitter and insipid. The best part of the brewing is only that first ounce.
For every shot you should do only a one ounce extraction and throw away the used ground coffee left in the Portafilter (later extractions taste terrible). After you brew the espresso. remove the speck from the Portafilter and rinse it to finish cleaning it. There should be no coffee left on it. Finally, put it back in the machine.
Adjusting the Grinder
After you brewed your first shot, adjust the grinder based on the brewing time you observed. The best flavor will be obtained when it is brewed from 20 to 30 seconds. The streams of coffee should have a thickness similar to that of spaghetti. When the shot is brewed in less than 20 seconds (too fast), the streams are very thick, the coffee will be pale, and taste sour and watery. In this case you need to grind thinner. When it is brewed in more than 30 seconds (too slow), the streams are very thin (or they may be drops instead of streams), the coffee will be dark and taste bitter. In this case you need to grind coarser. You may need to adjust the grind consistency during the day because the coffee beans might absorb moisture from the environment, or release it.
The creamy and oily layer of crema is an indicator of the quality of the coffee. Although the different brands of coffee beans produce a different amount of crema when brewing your espresso shot, the crema should never disappear in a few seconds. It should stay on the cup for about two minutes and it should be slightly thick.
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the color of the crema. The color of the crema is really determined by the color of the roast. If the crema looks too blonde, first look at the color of the roast. Only of the roast happens to be very dark, you can consider that the coffee tastes bad.
There is a test that you can make to determine the quality of the coffee. Pour sugar on the crema of the espresso. The crema should be able to hold for a few seconds the sugar until it sinks into the cup. If it sinks immediately, the espresso will not taste good.
Adjust Brewing Temperature
The brewing temperature affects the flavor of the coffee, even if you get the brewing time, the grind size and coffee dosage right. The brewing temperature has to be adjusted based on either the flavor of the espresso or roast level of the coffee beans. If the coffee tastes bitter, you need to brew at a cooler temperature. If it tastes sour, the brewing temperature needs to be hotter. If the roast of the coffee beans is dark, you have to brew at a cooler temperature. If the roast is light, you need to brew at a hotter temperature. Normally, it should be between 190 to 200 F.
Once you determine the final adjustments for brewing a cup of espresso, you must remember that the quality of the coffee beans might make you adjust it again. It is important to learn to enjoy the process. Always remember to start by determining how big is a shot of espresso (1 oz) and how much time it should take you to brew it (from 20 to 30 seconds). In that time and in that size, you always get the best flavor for the brewing when you adjust the rest of the factors.