How to dial in coffee flavour

Unlocking Espresso Euphoria: A Guide To Dialling In Your Coffee

Crafting amazing espresso is part art, part science. While there are guidelines, no one recipe leads to espresso perfection. The truth is, you need to dial in the parameters based on your specific equipment and beans. This hands-on process helps coax the very best from your beans.

Why go to such lengths? Quite simply – it leads to a better cup! Espresso is incredibly nuanced, with many variables impacting flavour. From water chemistry to your espresso machine, grinder and technique, small differences change the equation. What creates good espresso on one setup won’t necessarily translate to another.

By taking the time to experiment and tweak the dose, yield, time and other factors, you can unlock the full potential of your beans. You’ll learn how your machine and grinder extract best. And you’ll discover the ideal recipe that highlights the unique flavours and aromas of each coffee.

In the end, creating your own tailored espresso recipe is incredibly rewarding. Following someone else’s formula can never replicate the results you’ll achieve by dialling things in. It takes effort and patience, but you’ll gain essential skills – and enjoy many delicious shots along the way! So embrace the process, get hands-on, and take your espresso to new heights.

Choosing the Right Beans

When it comes to beans, you’ve got to start with quality, freshly roasted ones. Light to medium roasts are my personal faves since they highlight the natural flavours of the bean. Plus you can taste those lovely fruity and floral notes. There’s a place for dark roasts and these give you more of the classic roasty, chocolaty taste. I’ve been known to sway both ways. Experiment and find what you prefer.


Dialling in Your Dose

When starting out, use the size of your portafilter basket as a dose guide. A 20g basket holds around 20g but can be pushed out to up to 22g. For light roasts try 18-19g, or up to 21g for darker roasts. Careful not to underdose in a larger sized basket as this can lead to inconsistencies from channelling.  Once you’ve chosen the dose, keep it consistent as you dial in the other factors. Locking in the dose first provides a solid foundation for experimenting with yield, time, etc. It’s one less variable to worry about.


Finding Your Yield Sweet Spot

The yield refers to the amount of espresso that ends up in your cup. This is measured by weight in grams, not volume.

For example, if your dose is 18g of coffee, your yield might be 36g of espresso (a 1:2 ratio).

The yield affects the flavour strength and body of the shot. A higher yield extracts more from the grounds, resulting in a lighter, more caffeinated shot, go too far and you end with dishwater. A lower yield gives a bolder, more concentrated espresso, potentially lending itself to sourness.  When dialling in, adjust the yield to balance the flavours and find your perfect espresso


Extraction Time

The extraction time is how long it takes from starting the shot until you hit your target yield. This is measured in seconds.

For espresso, you generally want an extraction time between 25-30 seconds. This allows enough time for the hot water to properly extract the flavours from the coffee grounds.  A shorter time under-extracts, leaving sour, weak flavour. A longer time over-extracts, making the shot bitter.

Shooting for the middle ground, around 27 seconds, is a great starting point. It allows time to fully extract the coffee without being too fast or slow.  From there you can adjust the time up or down to balance the flavour.


Distribution & Tamping Matters

Distribute the grounds evenly before tamping using a tool or shake/tap method. This removes clumps and evens saturation. Tamp evenly to compress the bed but don’t overdo it. Around 30 lbs of pressure is sufficient. Make it flat and level for ideal extraction.


Temperature & Pressure

If you have variable control, play with temp and pressure. Low temp (92°c) accentuates acidity and fruitiness in light roasts. Higher temp (95°c) brings out the roasted notes. Lower pressure also benefits light roasts while medium-high pressures are great for darker roasts.

Don’t stress, dialling in espresso takes time and many shots. Keep good notes, adjust one variable at a time, and sip your way to your perfect recipe. Part of the fun is tasting how small changes impact flavour. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro! Enjoy the journey and savour each delicious shot. Oh and remember dial in your espresso early in the day. All that caffeine experimentation will have you buzzing like a bee well into the night otherwise. Save the late night recipe tinkering for decaf, my friends.  😊