Super newbie trying to figure out double vs. single shots

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

#1: Post by dpierce »

Total newbie here, so I apologize if this sounds like a dumb rant lol. I got my first espresso machine this week - a secondhand Delonghi Caffe Italia. It's pretty basic - I've got to grind and dose the coffee externally which has been a fun/frustrating learning process. The machine came with a regular shaped basket and a more funnel shaped one, which the lady told me was a double and a single. So I've been using the "double" basket and have been practising, but so far failed to nail the perfect shot.

After watching a bunch of videos, I learned the ideal process is apparently 18g of coffee, extracting for 27 seconds, to make 36g of espresso. I assume this is for a double shot. But I've also read that a single is ~20g and a double is ~60g which just makes it more confusing. Anyway once I tried to replicate that formula, I realized the max my "double" basket can hold is about 12g - meaning it must be a single sized basket?

I tried to follow the formula anyway and got 12g of coffee to make 30g of espresso (about 1oz) in 27 seconds. This seemed a bit off but the coffee seemed to taste ok. If I can consistently replicate this I'd be decently satisfied. I'm wondering if there are any tricks to getting a double shot out of this basket, like am I able to just extend the extraction time somehow without ruining the coffee? Or do I need to invest in a new portafilter/basket? Can someone please explain what I'm doing wrong :)

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#2: Post by Nunas »

It can certainly be confusing; you're not alone. The problem is, there isn't really a standard per se. Most of us here use so-called prosumer equipment, which often have 58 mm portafilters. Thus, you'll see reference to 18g in, which most prosumer double shot baskets will accept. Espresso can be made at a number of ratios, but the centre of the range for a normale is 1:2, which is where the 18g in and 36g out comes from. BTW, I suspect that most of us don't bother with single shot baskets; mine just sit in the spares' drawer.

Flash back in time to the older espresso machines, and you'll find reference to Italian standards for espresso. Seven grams was considered a single shot and 14 a double. My old lever machines are roughly adherent to this.

To make matters even more complicated, most of the consumer level machines make baskets as they wish, not matching any of the above. Delonghi at one time considered a single shot seven grams, but a double shot 12. Your machine may be like this.

Lastly, it depends a lot on the bean and the roast. The volume of the ground coffee will be different. What may fit nicely into a double basket with one coffee or roast level, may not fit properly with another.

IMHO, the best thing to do is dose your baskets so that there's a bit of space between the top of the tamped coffee and the top edge of the portafilter. You'll often see reference to using a coin atop the puck, inserting the portafilter, then removing it. If the coin is depressed into the coffee, then you don't have enough headroom. Once you get that sorted out, then play with the grind a bit to get the extraction time you want. As many here say, it's what's in the cup that counts, not some arbitrary measures. So, once you get things roughly right, then fine-tune to taste.

dpierce (original poster)

#3: Post by dpierce (original poster) »

Thank you, that's very helpful! My baskets are 51mm across (vs. 58mm) and I suspect my Delonghi is an older model so it makes sense that the specs for what makes a single/double for me vs. what I've read online would differ. Very reassuring! I'll go with 7/12 as a baseline rather than 9/18 and see if that makes a difference :) I'm still struggling to find the correct dose/grind for my beans. It seems like no matter what I do I get way too much liquid coming out very quickly, with a very bitter/burnt tasting shot. I've had a few pretty good ones but have not been able to recreate them even when I copy the exact process :/ I'll try the coin trick and see what that weighs in at and use that as my starting point, then adjust the grind as suggested.

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#4: Post by Nunas »

If your shots are too fast, you need to grind a bit finer until they come out in the desired time. Still, once you get to this point, don't be afraid to experiment. BTW, I'm in Oliver...we may be neighbours.

Your Capresso 560 Infinity Conical Burr Grinder may be a limiting factor. If your baskets are double bottom (many holes in the top but only one tiny one in the bottom), then the grinder isn't that critical. But if your baskets are the standard many holes in a single bottom, then small differences in grind make a big difference in the cup. I don''t know your grinder, but from looking at it online, it may not be up to quality espresso.

dpierce (original poster)

#5: Post by dpierce (original poster) »

Oh fun, yes we're just a couple of hours North if you! I believe the baskets are standard, they're just stainless steel with lots of holes in the bottom.

Interesting note about the grinder, I got it second hand but reviews said it was good for espresso. It has a very wide range of grind options - you can apparently even make Turkish coffee with it. Was there something specific that makes you believe it might not be very good? I know basically nothing about grinders so I wonder what else I should be considering. I suppose a lot of experimenting is still needed before I start swapping equipment though lol

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#6: Post by Nunas »

You're wise not to get a case of upgradeitis so soon; enjoy what you have and gain some experience. As for those all-purpose grinders, there are several issues that may or may not be present in yours. One is that they sometimes can't grind fine enough for proper espresso. You can easily test this by setting it to its finest point and grinding a shot. Put it in your machine and see what happens. If little to no coffee comes out, that's good. We call this choking the machine. Another issue to watch for is whether you can make small enough setting changes; this can be an issue with grinders that have click stops between settings. Click one way, and it's too fast, one the other way and it's too slow. Some espresso grinders also have click settings, but they don't grind from really fine to really coarse, like AP grinders do. So, the difference between two settings is small. You can check your grinder out for this too. After you've found a setting that gives you a reasonably timed shot, say 25 seconds, click the grinder one click one way or the other, grind the identical weight of coffee and pull a second shot. If the time to pull the shot changes only a few seconds, then your grinder is good enough for espresso.

If you have not already done so, you might peruse the how to section here on H-B. There's a tonne of info there.

Enjoy - Maurice

dpierce (original poster)

#7: Post by dpierce (original poster) »

Thank you, that is very helpful! I've found that by using a finer grind - what the manual describes as a Turkish coffee setting, lol - I've been able to get a much better shot. I followed your advice about how much to put in the basket, too. The flow is great although a bit drippy coming out at times and tastes maybe slightly sour, but I get a much more appropriate amount of liquid and the taste is a vast improvement on what I was getting before. Honestly if I can replicate that consistently I'd be happy! I'll definitely have to sacrifice some coffee and experiment with the grind settings the way you outlined - I'm very interested to see what I learn! Thanks again.

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#8: Post by NYPeter007 »

Those "funnel" looking baskets for single don't get as even of an extraction as the double baskets that have a flat bottom (or at least in my experience). Stick to one basket and make adjustments with your grind size until you get a shot you like.

Also, when experimenting, remember to only change one variable at a time (grind size, dose, ratio, temperature, etc). This way you know what's working and what isn't.

Good luck!