Perfecting the Espresso Shot.

The Four M's

According to Italians the perfect espresso is driven by what is termed the 4-M's:

  • Macchina: The espresso machine that one uses.
  • Macinazione: The proper grinding of the beans—a uniform grind between fine and powdery—that is ideally created moments before brewing the drink.
  • Miscela: The coffee blend and the roast.
  • Mano: The skilled hand of the barista; even with the finest beans and the most advanced equipment, the shot depends on the touch of the barista.

Perfecting the espresso shot doesn't have to be a complex task and if you follow our fundamental basics you will be extracting shots like a champion Barista in no time. Consistency plays a critical role in removing stress. 

While there are books on coffee that dedicate entire chapters to the pursuit of a perfect espresso, our JooJu team have put together the following basic guide which assumes you have a home grinder and home espresso machine. Note we have designed this guide so that even with a budget grinder and average espresso machine, you will still be able to achieve wonderful results. 

The Grind

The perfect rule of thumb is that an espresso runs for 30 seconds, that is 30mls for 30 seconds. The first five seconds nothing happens, then the magic commences - from the sixth second the extraction starts slowly and gradually builds. A large percentage of achieving a successful extraction comes from the grind, if it is too fine - then achieving 30mls will likely take longer than 30 seconds and the coffee will taste burnt and bitter. If the grind is too coarse then the extraction will reach 30mls quicker than 30 seconds (e.g. 20 seconds), it will be watery, weak, the cafe crema will be pale, will dissipate quickly and the coffee will taste sour. 

"It all starts at the grind. This takes practice, trial and error - however once dialled into the setting zone, the home barista should only need to make minor adjustments to the grinder".

However, it is a fact for the purists the grinder will need to be adjusted to reflect changes in temperature, weather and other factors which can effect the objective to achieve 30mls in 30 seconds.  

Extraction time

  • Step One (The Dose): the dose is effected by the group handle, portafilter and the respective filter basket being used. Single filter basket vs double filter basket effects dose requirements. While purists and high-end grinders use electronic weights to measure each dose, most home baristas work to eye or feel (or employ basic electronic scales).  
  • Step Two (Even Out): evening out the coffee to cover the base of the filter basket and that the coverage is as flat and even as possible. Water will always look for the least path of resistance, if even coverage is not achieved this can effect the extraction and pass through, resulting in an extraction which doesn't take on the full 
  • Step Three (Tamping): the tamper needs to be a slightly smaller diameter than the filter basket, the aim is to apply approximately 18kgs of pressure to compact the coffee. Once complete, use the opposite side of the tamper to knock the basket and shift any loose coffee to the centre of the filter basket, follow up with a light tamp press using the large end of the tamper. 
  • Step Four (Final Preparation): once the tamping is complete, it's time to clean the rim of the group head and basket to remove any coffee particles that may be present. Once the group is head is clean, it is time to insert the group head into the espresso machine. 
  • Step Five (Extraction): with the group head now fully inserted, it is time to complete the extraction, select and push the various button on the machine or dial and was the 5-6 seconds before the glorious cafe crema starts to emerge, 20 seconds for a ristretto and 30 seconds for that perfect espresso shot (or as many prefer 40 seconds for the perfect double ristretto).

However, you have your coffee it really comes down to personally preference. This guide is a simple step by step to produce some consistency as a home barista. Keep on brewing, extracting and drinking coffee. An art form like no other.

As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?

Cassandra Clare