What does your typical espresso rate?

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.

What does your typical espresso rate?

6 = Extraordinary
No votes
5 = Excellent
4 = Very Good
3 = Good
2 = Average
1 = Acceptable
0 = Unacceptable
Total votes: 140

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#1: Post by HB »

Lately I've been thinking about the shorthand terminology we use to compare results, wondering what one drinker calls a "good espresso" compares to what another drinker across the Internet also calls a "good espresso". A few months ago Abe, Bob, Kitt, and I spent two days at the USBC Judges Certification Workshop listening to explanations and participating in discussions of this simple numerical designation:
  • Evaluation scale: Unacceptable = 0, Acceptable = 1, Average = 2, Good = 3, Very Good = 4, Excellent = 5, Extraordinary = 6
These are the official SCAA barista competition terms. Jim offered simplified definitions in Ristretto in a hand levered machine:
another_jim wrote:Shots are rated 0 to 6; with 0 being bad, 1 poor, 2 average, 3 good, 4 excellent, 5 godshot, and 6 a posthumous award by a judge dying of estasy
I particularly like the last one. But back to the certification workshop...

In addition to lecture and visual evaluation of espresso and cappuccino photos, we participated in a mock competition to taste espressos intentionally prepared by former barista champs at the lower and higher range of the scale (candidates are evaluated on the accuracy of their assessments to determine if they will serve as USBC judges). Surprisingly the most controversial evaluations were for the lower half of the scale: 0, 1, and 2. Many candidates were initially inclined to assess an unpleasant espresso "0", indicating that it fell below what they deemed acceptable (implicitly thinking "unacceptable in my shop"). Jeff Taylor pointed out that "1" was acceptable and yet numerically less than "average." I found a certain irony that anything less than average should be considered acceptable, but hey, thinking of it as "meets the definition of an espresso, but not a good one" helped me over that mental hurtle.

There was little contention over evaluations in the 3-5 range, which should embody the best of the characteristics the judges score the drink against:
Color of crema: The color of crema should be hazelnut, dark brown and/or have a reddish should be recognized as very good. Crema that is white or completely acceptable, and should result in 0 points.

Consistency and persistence of crema: The crema should be dense and smooth. The crema should be long lasting with no center break-up. Crema must be present when espresso is served. Judges may drag a demitasse spoon or pointed device through crema to test its recovery.

Taste balance: There should be a harmonious balance between sweetness, acidity and bitterness in the espresso.

Tactile balance: The balance should be full bodied, round and smooth.

WBC Judges Rules & Regulations
With this long preamble, I finally arrive at the poll question: What does your typical espresso rate? By "typical", I mean what you would expect from two out of three espressos that you would deem drinkable (i.e., exclude test shots for dialing in the grinder, "garbage shots", etc.). In keeping with competition scoring conventions, the poll allows for half points, except for 0.5 (it's either acceptable or not; it can't be half acceptable).
Dan Kehn

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#2: Post by mrgnomer »

I'm fairly new to espresso but after doing a lot of reading and putting into practice the excellent advice from passionate enthusiasts on forums like this I'd say my shots are good but consistently under where I'd like them to be.

Exceptional shots are in there with thick, red brown, persistent crema and tasting, as David Schomer says, like the ground coffee smells but they don't come as often as they would if I were a better barista. I don't think using a machine as uptight as a Silvia helps but still, when my barista skills improve, I expect the pulls will be better even with a Silvia.

(edited to add:) As of the end of July I've ugraded to a Vetrano/Macap M4 set up. The shots went from a 3 to a 3.5. What a difference the HX e61 and better grinder makes :)

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#3: Post by JonR10 »

If 4 is EXCELLENT and 5 is a GODSHOT and 6 is too much ecstasy for a normal human to bear then I must pick 4. My shots are consistently delicious to my tastes and VERY enjoyable but I would have to say that I only pull a "godshot" on rare occasion

I said "4"

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#4: Post by Gatewood »

I said 3. Mine are good; I always like them, and so does my husband, but I'm always suspicious that there is so much more. I'm not sure what, but my experience is so limited that I can't give them a higher vote. They might deserve it; but my lack of confidence holds me back.


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Compass Coffee

#5: Post by Compass Coffee »

Geez, good AND tough poll. Kind of depends on which scale since I would have equated Extraordinary with a Godshot not merely an Excellent shot, though do love Jim's #6 definition. I've personally only declared one Godshot since starting my home espresso journey 'bout 5 years ago. To me a Godshot is a shot that no matter how hard I tried I could think of absolutely no way it could have been better, nada, zilch. A shot that put me in mortal fear of never being able to attain again. I'm a very picky SOB and only once did indeed pull what I called a Godshot, a shot like Jim's death by ecstasy without reservation. So in what I believe an honest appraisal of my skills for stated criteria of only 2/3 of post dialed in shots voted #5, but not #5 being Godshots, just Excellent shots.

Edit: upon further reflection if I could change my vote it'd be 4.5 very good to excellent. (with Stumptown my primary reference point)
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)

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Team HB

#6: Post by cannonfodder »

Here is the problem; you have to have a point of reference to compare to. If the only Cafe you have ever visited is starbucks, then you are using them as your benchmark. Based on that, you would probably rate your shots in the 4-5 range. However, if you have visited someplace like metropolis, CCC, Inteli, your benchmark is much higher and your score drops by a couple of points. So I guess what I am saying is that your personal score will only be as good as your reference sample

Now having rambled, just had a couple of espresso, I would have to place my pump machine shots in the 3.5 range and lever shots at 3 with an occasional 5. Keep in mind I am using the average shot quality of Metropolis and Barry as my reference sample (4.5).
Dave Stephens

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HB (original poster)

#7: Post by HB (original poster) »

Dave's comment about your point of reference is very apt. My self-evaluation has moved downward over the years and especially after judging a few times. Abe offers this tidbit in USBC Barista Competition - Competitor Debriefing that underscores this point:
Abe Carmeli wrote:So, what does it take to become a US Barista Champion?

Don't even try it until you can consistently deliver drinks that will be rated as 4 (very good) by a USBC judge. The criteria for a 4 are known and published, and use an experienced Certified USBC judge to rate your drinks if you can.

I agree with his assertion and don't put myself in USBC competitor class -- what unquestionably keeps me out is the key word consistently. Then there's also the problem that I'm slow, slow, slow... but I digress. :oops:

Part of the mock competition / candidate evalutions included tours at the "0-2 espresso" and "5 espresso" stations. The exercise was to calibrate everyone to the same standard. As I mentioned earlier, there was some disagreement in the lower range, but little in the higher range. The "5" station was supposed to be the high bar and was manned by world class champs. As a demonstration that it's not so easily done, I don't recall any shot being rated higher than 4 during my group's tour and there were plenty of 3.5's. I don't know the distribution of scores in the USBC, but I would guess that 5's are rare in all but the final round.
Dan Kehn

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John P

#8: Post by John P »

Based on separate evaluations for both my home machine, and my machine at the caffe, I would have to say my shots at home are consistently 4-4.5 and at work they are 5-5.5. I use my home machine sparsely now--a Tea with mini Mazzer, whereas I pull thousand or more shots per week at the caffe.

I think familiarity with your blend, knowing how to get the most out of it, accounts for a lot. Distribution technique, tamp, temperature. Consistency is key. I've learned to be consistent early on... but that consistency tends to have less mistakes associated with it as I continue to learn. There's always room for improvement.
John Piquet
Salt Lake City, UT

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Compass Coffee

#9: Post by Compass Coffee »

Based on the latest scoring criteria available I've been further downgraded to a 3.5. :cry:
Mike McGinness, Head Bean (Owner/Roast Master)

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Team HB

#10: Post by RapidCoffee »

Sheesh. If Jon R is a 4, then I'm a 3.5 at best. :oops: