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Talking about coffee
7 October 2020

The important steps to obtain an excellent espresso

The correct extraction of an espresso coffee is the result of a magical blend made of quality beans, roast, temperature, pressure, dose and grind.
With a slow extraction you may run the risk of bringing unpleasant flavours in the cups.
A faster extraction instead, can limit the flavour range.
We had a chat with Paolo Milani and Paolo Innocenti who helped us review the important steps to obtain an excellent espresso and dispel myths and commonplaces about coffee.


What is Brew Ratio?


As in pastry making, for a perfect coffee, precision is everything: weights and proportions are essential.
Brew Ratio is the relationship between the amount of coffee that you put inside the portafilter and the mass of the resulting beverage.
The rule establishes a ratio of 1:2; for example, 18 grams of ground coffee in the portafilter = 36 grams of coffee in the cup!
However, extraction is not a standardized process, since the variables are many that may influence the Brew Ratio: fines in the cup, roast profile, type of coffee, and more.

Suggestion: never judge an espresso solely by its volume!


Extraction temperature


The “best” brew ratio will depend on a lot of factors, i.e. temperature.
SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) has established that the temperature for an espresso extraction should range between 90°C and 96°C.
At Le Piantagioni del Caffè, however, we also believe that the temperature should be suitable to the type of coffee.
Our company has chosen to focus on gentle roast profiles; therefore, we have decided to reduce the extraction temperature to a range between 90-93 ° C and adjust it according to the different types of coffees.
Our coffees are usually extremely delicate, and especially when we come to micro-lots and single estate coffees, we must be sure the temperature is not too aggressive so as to fully preserve the coffee flavours and the aroma bouquet.

Suggestion: make sure your machine has excellent temperature consistency!


Extraction time

Let’s now talk about another sensitive topic: what is the ideal brewing time for an espresso?
Until recently, due to the need for standardization, the perfect brewing time was considered 25 seconds.
Nowadays, the ideal brewing time we’re looking for is between 20 – 30 seconds.
As for the temperature, the extraction time may vary depending on the peculiarities of the coffee we are pulling.

Suggestion: stop the cliché “if it is running too long, just press it more!”

Tamping coffee in the portafilter is very important. The proper tamp method is to apply a good pressure, preferably with a manual tamper until the coffee has an even look.

Note: coarser grounds will result in under-extracted coffees despite a firm tamp.
Do you remember the story of the jar full of sand and the one full of stones?
If the grind is coarse you will pull an under-extracted coffee; too fine a grind will prevent water to pass through and you will pull an over-extracted coffee that can taste bitter and burnt.
Last suggestion but not least: choose your grinder as wisely as you choose your espresso machine.

The grind is, perhaps, the key to brew a perfect espresso!

Tasting is the boss!


Practice is always crucial and the world of coffee is no different.
Over time, you’ll develop an understanding of the equipment, of the complexities of the product and how to play with it to match both the beans and the desired cup profile, create the best recipes and finally pull your perfect espresso.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read manuals on the perfect extraction, follow their general guidelines, but always consider your experience.
Sometimes the coffees, the equipment and all the variables we have listed can trick you: always trust your instincts and keep your palate well trained!


If you are curious or you have questions on how to brew an espresso, write us and we will be glad to answer you!