Espresso ratios and finding the right dose

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
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#1: Post by Peppersass »

At the risk of double-posting a link (if that's a thing here), I thought it important to call attention to this vlog by James Hoffmann that was just posted to the HB Spotting thread, and to get some discussion about it going:
I think this is a long-overdue commentary on how many of us have grown complacent about ratios and finding the best dose for each coffee (me: guilty as charged), as well as great advise for beginners.

Sometimes I wonder whether pre-infusion would be the hot topic it is if we tried 14g doses with ultra-light roasts before getting into exotic extraction techniques.


#2: Post by RyanJE »

I posted a comment to James to see if he would bite, but no luck. The one thing I dont fully understand is how this holds up using VST baskets. I believe the intent was that the flavor profile would remain the same through the range of doses and all that SHOULD change is the beverage size. Meaning, a 1:2 on the 15G basket should taste the same as 1:2 on the 20G, etc... In theory I get that, but it would make sense if thats not true as I imagine the physics of extracting a 15G puck vs a 20G puck must have more to it than total hole area. Or maybe not! :roll:

I think the thread here comparing baskets is also relevant to the discussion of ratios and recipes. Putting a 14G dose into an 18G VST would be different than into a faema style basket... James probably should have touched on that a bit.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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#3: Post by another_jim »

RyanJE wrote:The one thing I dont fully understand is how this holds up using VST baskets.
There's something to be said for having the full set. If you want to change grind and extraction levels, change basket and set the grind to get a good shot at the nominal dose. However, I don't think that the 15 grams (which is the lowest I know of) goes fine enough for really light coffees without help.

If I were designing baskets today, I'd specifiy them for grind fineness, from "Turkish," via "Italian" and "Cuban" to "Seattle." And no, these names are not a thing for grind levels, I just assigned them in the absence of any espresso grind level names.

The short summary of the video, at least for habitual oversimplifiers like me, is that the primary user variable for manipulating extraction yield is grind fineness, not dose or brew ratio.
Jim Schulman


#4: Post by RyanJE » replying to another_jim »

Thats an interesting take on how to treat baskets.

Yes, after watching the video I kept thinking it mirrors your "dialing in by taste" sticky. That said, there is certainly something to be gleaned from ratios regarding extraction and strength. Those are different but also certainly play into our personal preferences. If a roaster says brew a 1:1 we know they want a high strength for that coffee, and if they say a 1:3 likely a lower strength. Without that info, they might just say extract a ristretto or a lungo which dont really have a great definition.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....

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#5: Post by Almico »

When I was formulating my espresso recipe for the bar, the variable I started with was cappuccino cup size. I wanted to make double shot capps in a 6oz cup and doppios in a 1.9oz demitasse. In other words, taste. There was a taste I was looking for and that was the starting point.

I went back and forth with doses, grinds, pre-infusion pressure and times in order to get the taste I was looking for. 20g or even 18g doses were too much. At 2:1 ratios, a doppio did not fit into a 1.9g cup. They even tasted too strong as a 2:1 double espresso in bigger cups.

I switched to 15g IMS baskets and settled on 15.5g doses, 32g output, 30 seconds as my recipe. I'm getting 23% extractions and the nice thing about being in the coffee business instead of being a pure hobbiest, I can't change it! For better or worse, I'm locked into one coffee blend and one recipe.

I'd lose my mind if I had to go through that process over and over again for the next 5# batch of coffee. I'd like to see JH's next video on how he does it.

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#6: Post by Jake_G »

I think the neat thing here is the recognition that big dose "espressos" are different than small dose "espressos". Take Tom's (dsc) unanswered topic from a few months ago: Single basket vs double basket taste differences with the same extraction yield.

Presumably the issue here is that small dose singles require a finer grind and thus provide higher TDS for a given ratio than their bigger dose double basket brethren (say that 15 times fast!). My assumption to Tom's question is that even though the extraction yield was the same, I bet the single was a lower ratio, higher strength shot than the double, but based on his tasting notes, maybe not?

To Jim's point, since single baskets flow half the volume through them in the same amount of time, you would think grind changes would be needed between the single and the double. This does pose some interesting caveats for VST baskets (Which Tom used) where you're supposed to be able to use the same grind, but having never used their baskets (I need to fix that!) I am not so sure the promise of a universal grind setting is a fact. VST's single basket does offer a puck with half the area of a 58mm basket, so that should translate to an identical puck thickness with half the dose, and thus half the volume should flow through the single puck in the same time without needing to adjust the grind...

So why the differences? I don't know, but it will be interesting to discuss and hopefully find out.




#7: Post by RyanJE » replying to Jake_G »

To my experience the VSTs do not actually function that way. The 15g requires a finer grind than the 20G, for example, to hit a 1:2 in the same amount of time. Which makes sense given that the total water used is more in the 20G.
I drink two shots before I drink two shots, then I drink two more....


#8: Post by cafederoberto »

I've had a couple of "aha" moments with this recently. Moment 1 was after a recent visit to Italy and observing the baristas measure out small single basket ~7g doses and then nearly fill up a 1 oz. demitasse, so roughly ~3:1 ratios. While most cafes in Italy use crap beans, some actually use good coffee and roast on site.

Then I read a blog post ( from Scott Rao challenging the 2:1 brew ratio that is so common in the industry. So I started experimenting at home with my Oscar and Baratza Sette 270 and what do you know, my shots were tasting better! I now feel like so many of my shots over the years have been quite underextracted. Immediately I noticed an improvement in roundness of flavor and sweetness in the cup. Lately, I've found good results between 2.25 and 2.5:1 but rarely now am I able to pull a shot with 2:1 or even less like 1.75:1, it just doesn't taste good to my palate.

So, my suggestion is start at 3:1 and then slowly make your way towards 2:1 until you find something that you really like. Keep in mind I'm using roasts that are developed in the 20-30% range but they are all on the lighter to medium side and and usually dropped before 415F.