How to make a beautiful
"naked" triple espresso

Triple ristretto Maybe you have been to the "Look Out" monster thread at CoffeeGeek and wondered how to make those amazing-looking extractions. In this article I describe my own process and give tips about how you might improve your extractions. Before describing the process I must say that it all starts with the beans. Without great beans you'll get poor results even if you have perfect technique. Use high-quality beans roasted within a week or two. My preferred roast is deep brown in color with no visible surface oil.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Honestly I have never considered anything I do to be unique. It's all about adjusting the variables to produce a shot that's best for your own personal taste. Here's my step-by-step process:

Remember to use fresh beans. Be especially careful about your dose, distribution, and tamp. Hopefully the extra steps of the mid-tamp and patting/leveling will help improve your consistency.

Tweaking the Triple Ristretto

Drippy pours with even striping is a good sign The triple ristretto can have an extra measure sweet-thickness making a very syrupy shot if everything is right. Certain blends lend themselves to this kind of extraction better than others: Yemen makes a lovely and smooth ristretto but brighter blends get spicy and leave a strong "twangy" aftertaste just behind the tongue. This is a guide to the tweaks I make for ristretto. My strategy is to raise the brewing pressure limit to be able to make pulls with higher pressure and longer extraction times. I then use a variety of techniques to get an even extraction.

Increase the Pressure: I set my espresso machine's maximum brewing pressure up from 9 bar to 10 bar by adjusting the over-pressure valve (OPV, also sometimes called an expansion valve). Machines with rotary pumps have an adjustment on the pump. Some blends respond well to higher-pressure extraction. I especially love the Espresso Delight Blend from Mitalena Coffee as ristretto (the thicker I can draw a shot, the sweeter and more chocolaty it gets). I find that you can get a syrupy body and sweeter taste that lingers in the middle of the palate when pulling at higher pressure.

More Time: "Tighten" the grind so that first droplets take extra time to appear. I like to see first drops at 10-12 seconds. It's OK to let a shot run 40 seconds (or longer) for that 1.5 ounces of joy. I let my taste be my guide rather than the stopwatch. NOTE: When you tighten the grind you will need extra special care when tamping because channeling is much more likely to happen when operating at higher pressure.

Tamping Force: I tamp at 40+ pounds. Be careful when pressing down this hard. If you twist or shift the puck you will damage the side seal. Remember that ristretto requires extra-good side sealing to prevent edge channeling.

Don't be fooled by apparent overdosing - Extra space above the puck can make a big difference Headspace: Use a little less coffee in the basket to get some extra headspace. When working at higher pressures headspace promotes an even extraction by developing a "pressure cushion" above the puck. This can only work if you have a good side seal so the water can't find an easy path around the puck.

Extra headspace helps by allowing you to grind finer to get a slower extraction without overextracting or channeling. If part of the stream goes blonde prematurely, or if you start getting "jets" from channeling then the shot needs to be stopped. These are telltale signs that the distribution and tamp needs work. If you can get a 45 second triple that produces less than two ounces with no blonding then chances are you're THERE and the shot will be as sweet and thick as you could ever imagine.


The conventional wisdom says you pull two ounces in 25 seconds from 14 grams of ground coffee, so the triple ristretto goes against the conventional wisdom. That's OK as long as the cup is yummy!

The strategy is to increase the pressure range so you can work with pulls at higher pressures and longer extraction times. Adjust the headspace and use firmer tamp as tools or "tricks" to help get the extraction even and smooth. The result in the cup can be the sweetest and most syrupy espresso you have ever experienced. So be careful! You might just get hooked like I am...