A long time ago, in a café far, far away, a mysterious phenomenon was once observed. An espresso so tasty, that the barista could hardly believe that the beverage in front of him had been produced by human hands. Excitedly, he shared it with the barista next to him and she could hardly believe it either. “A god shot!” they declared in unison. The holy grail of espresso extraction. But, try though they might, neither of them could reproduce what they had just consumed; neither knew what they had done in the production of that fateful espresso.
Fortunately, our understanding of espresso has grown significantly since those heady but unquantified days, and in any given espresso recipe, we’re measuring three things:
- The dose of ground coffee in the portafilter basket
- The yield of espresso from the espresso machine
- The time it takes the machine to extract that yield from the dose
Our dose, and our yield are our controlled variables, whilst our grinder is what we adjust to affect how long a shot pours for. Grinder adjustment is one of the basic skills that any budding barista learns, whether professional, or home enthusiast. But how accurate is the dose from your grinder? And how much are you yielding from your espresso machine?
Today, more and more baristas, both on the working bar, and at home are using scales to measure these two important variables. We quickly discovered that our favorite grinders weren’t actually that consistent, frequently dosing a gram over, or under the weight that we had intended. Sure you can set it up to average out to 22 grams over the long term, but that doesn’t matter if the one shot for a person who really counts is a 20.5 gram under-dosed nightmare and you don’t notice.
Subsequently, more baristas at quality focused cafes have incorporated weighing every single shot into their workflow, to ensure they consistently produce the same delicious coffee every single time. In the same way, using the once maligned volumetric functions on our espresso machines has become much more in vogue. Baristas are abandoning the “craft” of crudely eyeballing shots and instead embracing the precision of automation.
For the home barista who doesn’t have a volumetric machine, manually weighing espresso yield ensures they can create a consistent ratio of water to coffee, and thus, control exactly how strong they make their coffee every single time. Whether it’s an industry standard 1 part coffee to 2 parts water espresso, or a mouth puckeringly intense 1:1 ristretto, using scales creates consistency, accuracy and precision in your espresso brewing — outcomes that allow us to then focus on other, equally important aspects, such as customer service or sitting back enjoying your tasty brew. If you’re not already on the journey, I’d highly recommend securing some good gram scales and start reducing the number of shots chucked in the sink.
If you’re keen to take the next step to accurately control your variables by introducing scales into your espresso prep, jump on our website and check out our range of beautiful and sophisticated Acaia Scales.
PS: While we’ve focused on the benefit of scales for espresso, they’re equally as important for filter coffee. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming articles where we focus specifically on crafting delicious brewed coffee.
© Image 1 provided with permission by Tim Williams from Tim Williams Photography. All rights reserved by photographer