Ah espresso.That juicy little cup of caffeine. If an espresso is good, it’s mind-blowing and if it’s over- or under-extracted, it’s excruciating. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about how to create and dial in your espresso recipe.

What is extraction?

A good cup of coffee, no matter the type, is all about the extraction. A bad extraction will never lead to a good cup of coffee. Extraction, essentially, is what water takes away from the coffee.

You can under-extract by not taking enough flavor out of the grinds- this results in an sour cup with a quick finish.

On the contrary, you can over-extract by taking too much flavor out of the grinds resulting in a bitter an and empty tasting finish as more organic matter passes into your cup.

When you make a good cup of coffee, you are seeking the in-between where you get the sweetness and complexity of the coffee with that lingering desirable finish without the negative characteristics of under- or over-extraction.

Well then, what variables can we change to get that good extraction for espresso?

The three main variables you manipulate for espresso extraction are:

  1. Grind– finer grind extracts more, coarser grind extracts less
  2. Brew time– longer time extracts more, shorter time extracts less
  3. Water– less water extracts more, more water extracts less

We choose how to adjust these variables based on our coffee dose, desired yield, and desired time range:

The foundation of every espresso is the dose, the weight of the dry ground coffee for your espresso. The dose is determined by how much espresso you want to make. More dose = more espresso. Less dose = less espresso.

The result of your dose + the manipulated variables results in an espresso yield, the weight of the espresso in your cup. It’s an inverse relationship between extraction and strength. The more you extract, the lower the strength; the less you extract, the higher the strength. By having a really good extraction, you reduce that compromise.

The final component is time, measured in seconds and usually between 22-40 seconds. If the time is too fast, then the result is thin and acidic. If it’s too long, then the result is bitter and harsh. Time is less important that dose or yield. In a way, you choose those first two and hope the time is in your desired range. To change your extraction at this step, you can adjust the grind up or down…a finer grind increases extraction and strength, a coarser grind decreases extraction and strength. Grind is that final micro-adjustment for a great espresso!

Have some fun with it and play around to dial in your ideal espresso. We all have different taste preferences so there is no 100% right or wrong answer. Let us know how it goes!