Italian vs. American dosing

Beginner and pro baristas share tips and tricks.
Oddaball

Postby Oddaball » May 07, 2018, 11:21 am

Hello, do italians make their coffee different? Like a triple basket is marked 16g of coffee, but yet we fill it to around 21g. Do italians use finer and less grinds? and in the US people like overfill? Or are the standard basket sizes 7g,11g, and 16g just old, and everybody fills them more, including italians? Hoping for some good answers, cause im really wondering about this.

JFDUP

Postby JFDUP » May 07, 2018, 11:45 am

My understanding is that Italian style espresso is typically at a lower dose (around the 10-14 g mark).

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another_jim
Team HB

Postby another_jim » May 07, 2018, 11:53 am

Italians fill single baskets with 7 grams, doubles with 14, and do not use triples. Double baskets are used to make two singles. People in Italy overwhelmingly drink straight single espresso, ordered as "un cafe." Cafes rarely make milk drinks, since most people have them at home, in the morning. This is the custom in the rest of the Mediterranean as well, where Italian prep norms hold.

Properly made, an Italian espresso has a soft, smooth taste due to the high extraction.

Espresso became fashionable in Northern Europe and the US in the late 1950s, when it was drunk Italian style; but in the 1980s, coffee shops used espresso machines to make milk drinks or cafe crema. In these, coarser grinds and higher doses work better, especially as roasts got darker. The Italian style of soft, highly extracted coffee gets lost in milk or very long shots; while the sharper tastes in higher doses of less extracted coffee are perceptible.

Since the mid 2000s, the emphasis at the high end has returned to straight espresso. Also roasts have gotten lighter. Therefore, finer grinding has become mandatory in order to get highly extracted shots in the soft Italian style. The simplest solution would be to return to the lower doses used in Italy. However this has not happened. Instead people are going through hi tech contortions to get ultra fine grind shots in huge doses. One way to do this is special baskets with larger holes. But this has limits. Another way is to go to Turkish grinders that produce fewer fines. It is the fines that control the flow through the puck; so with fewer fines, you can have a larger doses of very fine ground coffee that don't jam the machine.

(Caveat: I went back to Italianate 14 gram doses. Since then I've stopped being an espresso authority, since I no longer understand the mysteries of extraction and grinding. So take this explanation with a grain of salt -- its physics is correct, but it does not comprehend the mysterious paraphysics of modern espresso.)
Jim Schulman

Nunas

Postby Nunas » May 07, 2018, 12:21 pm

Oddaball wrote:Hello, do italians make their coffee different?

I'm far from an expert, but I did pose similar questions some years ago. I spent five weeks in the northern Mediterranean area (not just Italy) and observed that their espresso is much different than ours in several ways. First, here it has become a kind of art form where each cup takes some time, while over there it is a routine repeated thousands of times a day in even modest coffee shops; they crank out espressos in less than a minute with no pretension. They use more robusta in their beans (at least back then), although I had a hard time getting a straight answer on this one; frankly, most of the baristas simply did not know what sort of beans they had! They tamp much lighter than we do, maybe about 10#; it was explained to me that the coffee had to 'breath' (translation)...I think they said respiro. They serve much stronger brews, closer to what I'd serve as a ristretto, and they serve smaller portions, maybe a bit more than an ounce. Two sips and they're gone. Here, we use a double as a 'standard' espresso, often with more than a 2:1 extraction ratio. Over there, with a double basket they pull two servings. I never once saw a water filter, although it is possible there were some behind walls (my Italian isn't nearly good enough to really get into this). Things may have changed over there...this was in 1992. I think it all boils down to taste preference and custom. We've developed what we call 'espresso' and they have too. We've moved to lighter roasts, bigger servings, much more use of milk. Of course, those of us who haunt this and similar fora are often rather extreme...I suspect if I told my Italian friends that we have 'water recipes' over here they simply wouldn't understand.

BillBurrGrinder

Postby BillBurrGrinder » May 09, 2018, 9:57 pm

another_jim wrote:Italians fill single baskets with 7 grams, doubles with 14, and do not use triples. Double baskets are used to make two singles. People in Italy overwhelmingly drink straight single espresso, ordered as "un cafe." Cafes rarely make milk drinks, since most people have them at home, in the morning. This is the custom in the rest of the Mediterranean as well, where Italian prep norms hold.

Properly made, an Italian espresso has a soft, smooth taste due to the high extraction.

Espresso became fashionable in Northern Europe and the US in the late 1950s, when it was drunk Italian style; but in the 1980s, coffee shops used espresso machines to make milk drinks or cafe crema. In these, coarser grinds and higher doses work better, especially as roasts got darker. The Italian style of soft, highly extracted coffee gets lost in milk or very long shots; while the sharper tastes in higher doses of less extracted coffee are perceptible.

Since the mid 2000s, the emphasis at the high end has returned to straight espresso. Also roasts have gotten lighter. Therefore, finer grinding has become mandatory in order to get highly extracted shots in the soft Italian style. The simplest solution would be to return to the lower doses used in Italy. However this has not happened. Instead people are going through hi tech contortions to get ultra fine grind shots in huge doses. One way to do this is special baskets with larger holes. But this has limits. Another way is to go to Turkish grinders that produce fewer fines. It is the fines that control the flow through the puck; so with fewer fines, you can have a larger doses of very fine ground coffee that don't jam the machine.

(Caveat: I went back to Italianate 14 gram doses. Since then I've stopped being an espresso authority, since I no longer understand the mysteries of extraction and grinding. So take this explanation with a grain of salt -- its physics is correct, but it does not comprehend the mysterious paraphysics of modern espresso.)


Best post I've seen on this forum. Thank you Jim