As I had my fourth fantastic shot of espresso of the week from my favorite Cafe, I was reminded of all the variables there are when it comes to getting the perfect espresso.
1. The Coffee Beans – where and how they are grown and how they’ve been processed, and how they’ve been stored.
2. The Coffee Roast – who did the roast, and how well they did the roast. Is it under or over roasted? Or did they start too high and pull the beans before the inner portion was cooked?
3. Freshness of the Coffee – Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 ,10 can make a most huge difference in flavor and crema. Too early, and the coffee may be too “green” and hard to control. Too late, or old and you lose flavor and crema with each and every day.
4. Grinding of the Coffee Bean – Such an important consideration. Is the grind as uniform as it can be? Is it the proper grind, not too coarse, not too fine, but just perfect?
5. Espresso Machine – Does it make a difference? Why drop $15k on a super duper 3 group machine vs $3500?
6. Cleanliness of the Machine. Dirty Espresso machines give you dirty coffee.
7. Temperature – too hot, too cool, too bad your espresso is inferior.
8. Length of time to pull a shot. The Golden Rule is 25-35 seconds for a 1/2 to 1 ounce shot. But we’ve all had shots that took longer or shorter that were pretty damned tasty.
9. Tamp – have you tamped too hard or not hard enough? Do you end up with a puck that is not soggy? Or does this matter?
10. Amount of coffee in the portafilter – Too much and the shot will take too long. Not enough and the show time will be too short.
11. Pre-infusion – Some machines do, and some don’t. Some Barista’s do and some don’t. Why?
12. The Barista – Give a good Barista decent coffee and you can get a great shot of espresso. Give a crummy Barista the very best coffee and you may end up with something undrinkable, or something incredible.
I think that in the beginning it’s the coffee and the care in it’s roasting, and in the end it is the Barista who understands the coffee, the machines and the process to get to the ultimate shot of espresso.
With that, I think I’ll go get a shot.