Best tips for "exceptional espresso"

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks for making espresso.
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#1: Post by TomC »

It's been a long time since I've seen a similar discussion on what we are willing to do in order to get the best possible tasting espresso so I figure it's a good time to have a discussion on what we do to get there. Some coffees, blends, more developed roasts are easy to stumble thru and get great results. Many others take quite a bit of tweaking to get to the promised land.

For many, we're willing to shell out thousands of dollars on grinders and double or triple that on the highest end machines. We examine grind particle distribution graphs and nanometer parallelism of burr surfaces, coatings, etc. If we get tired of that, we can also dissect our roast profile curves (for us home roasters) and deploy refractometers and build graphs.

I sometimes mock myself that I'm willing to invest so much into this hobby in terms of equipment and time, but usually the one place where I rarely am willing to dig deep into the pocket is the coffee itself. I'll buy the high end geisha lots that are quite pricy, but use them for filter. Rarely do I want to spend more than $17-18 a bag for something I'm going to pull shots from. I imagine that is part of my error. This is separate from the fact that many fancy, trendy and well-off roasters might still sell sour or unpalatable roasts for a premium price. And many of those seem to end up buried in milk anyway.

Of all my tips I could ever share with someone looking to make better tasting espresso, every single one of them pale in comparison to just telling them to let the shot sit for at least 2 minutes and let the darn thing cool off. I don't think I've ever encountered an outlier to this rule of mine. They're always better, sweeter, less metallic and sharp tasting once they've cooled down to just above warm.

Please share what you do.
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Prescott CR

#2: Post by Prescott CR »

Really? 2 minutes?

Wow, I was trained to use the incorporate the shot asap as it gets weird as it cools. I'll have to try that.

See? That's just an example of something I (paid someone to tell me and) assumed was the way to go.

Where did you get that tip from?

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#3: Post by RyanJE »

I am in the same boat about not wanting to spend serious money on espresso beans vs filter. For me I think it's because I enjoy the process of actually making the espresso and burn more coffee because of that. With filter the process is fun but a very small part of the satisfaction overall. So compare an 18g v60 vs an 18g shot and that shot is down the hatch a lot faster! On to the next one.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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#4: Post by TomC (original poster) »

Prescott CR wrote:Really? 2 minutes?
Where did you get that tip from?
The cupping table.

While I generally disagree with cupping as a practice unless you're making large purchasing decisions, their approach and method is sound. Almost any coffee that tastes good 6 minutes after the break will taste even sweeter and more well-rounded at 10.
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Prescott CR

#5: Post by Prescott CR »

I see.

Alright, I'll give it a shot. So-to-speak.



#6: Post by dragoic1 »

+1 for the two minutes . I don't time but wait 2-3 minutes.

And stir 20 times with a small spoon.

One more thing I learned that the shot tastes better if I use 200ml(not nutral cups) instead of double wall 2oz(60ml) shot glasses.

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#7: Post by homeburrero »

Prescott CR wrote:Really? 2 minutes?
Seems like allowing espresso to cool before tasting is becoming fairly common at WBC events, with some competitors using cooled cups or frozen spoons. At the 2018 WBC semifinals in Amsterdam, Joo Yeon of South Korea served an Ethiopian Gesha espresso, then asked the judges to evaluate the crema and aroma and wait for her OK before tasting. That OK came a full 4 minutes after the end of the shot.
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#8: Post by another_jim »

In the last decade or so, there's been a rather large change in what an exceptional espresso is.

Back then, mouthfeel was king; if the espresso wasn't an emulsion with a mouthfeel somewhere between molten fudge and a smoothie, it wasn't exceptional. Throw in a chocolate truffle taste, with a twist of alcoholic or berry ferment, and you had the complete god shot. A combo of the right Harar or Yemen, with a good Sumatra or PNG, a good Cerrado, and a dash of a high end Ugandan robusta, and you were home free. Of course, godshot Harars or Yemens only came around every few years or so. Between those times, you had slight misses that reminded you of the perfect ones. Cooling a shot like this would have been as insane as waiting for the souffle or zabaglione to collapse before eating it.

Now people are looking for espresso akin to the perfect brewed coffee, only with ten times the concentration. Cooling for this style shot is a good idea. In any case, the seductive emulsion shots are gone until this style falls out of favor. When that happens, we'll all need an entirely new set of expensive gear and secret tweaks.
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#9: Post by NoStream »

dragoic1 wrote:
And stir 20 times with a small spoon.
You can just pull into a pitcher and pour into your cup. That has the added benefit of getting rid of some of the crema.


#10: Post by thirdshifter »

Mr. Schulman puts it well. I still like my 1:1 Vivace shots out of tiny 1oz ristretto cups, barely cooled (though still swirled). But anything pulled above 1:1.66 I like out of a big cup, swirled nicely, and cooled a couple minutes. I used to drink shots out of cappuccino cups, but I'm currently addicted to these 4 oz ceramics from La Marzocco. I have two of them, and find myself washing them instead of using any of my 20 other cups. They're perfect for swirling, sniffing, cooling, and sipping.