Today’s Dilworth Class: Espresso 101

The SCAA gives the definition of espresso as “a 25-35mL (.85-1.2oz [x2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7-9 grams (14-18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195-205 degrees F has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.” Espresso is the name used for all components of this beverage: From the beans to the brewing process, equipment, cups, accessories and served beverage.

EspressoHeavily bodied coffee served in small cups has been around for centuries.  There is evidence that it was served in Cairo as far back as the early fifteenth century.  As the popularity of drinking coffee spread across cultures and throughout the world, new brewing methods and equipment began to spring up. French and Italian inventors began first experimenting with steam-powered coffee brewing in the nineteenth century.  It wasn’t until the twentieth century, however, that Italian inventors developed machines that could produce the drinks we today call espresso.

Espresso has become the foundation for numerous kinds of drinks. Some of these drinks include milk, such as lattes, mochas and cappuccinos. More recently, espresso has become the foundation for carbonated beverages and mixed drinks including alcohol.  Regardless of the finished beverage, the espresso component should always be made according to Specialty Coffee Association of America preparation guidelines.

Pulling the Perfect Shot                                                          
Baristas refer to the extraction process as “pulling” a shot. Most baristas primarily pull 2 oz. double espressos, which is what we recommend. Pulling the perfect shot will require a good espresso machine, the proper grind, a well-trained barista and, of course, Dilworth coffee.

The Machine
An espresso machine should maintain plenty of steam for heating milk, and at the same time maintain a constant brewing temperature of 195° to 205ºF. It should also be capable of delivering water to the ground espresso at a pressure of 9-10 atmospheres.

The Water                                                                                  
Dilworth coffee shops use only water which has been conditioned to be free of objectionable flavors and odors and is softened to within manufacturers’ recommended hardness levels. We maintain water filters and softeners regularly.

The Coffee                                                                                
Any coffee can be used, but for best results we use a Dilworth coffee that was selected or blended specifically for espresso. We always use fresh coffee that is roasted between three days and a week prior to extraction. Beyond that time, espresso tends to lose flavor, body and the ability to produce a good crema.

The Dose                                                                                  
The dose refers to the amount of ground beans that are dispensed into the portafilter. The word “dosing” refers to the process of grinding coffee into the portafilter basket. There is no hard-and fast rule for dosing, but consistency is key to maintaining shot time and flavor.  Dilworth baristas are trained to dispense the proper dosing weights.

The Grinder                                                                                
Producing great espresso requires the use of an appropriate dedicated grinder. Coffee must be ground just before use for best freshness and flavor. The grinder will be adjusted by the barista as needed in order to maintain the timing of their espresso shots.

The Time                                                                                  
Extraction begins the moment ground coffee comes in contact with water. The SCAA recommends a brewing time of 20-30 seconds as a general guideline as different coffees taste best at different times. This applies whether pulling one or two shots. Our baristas will adjustment the grind if shots are pulling too slowly or quickly.

Ultimately, taste and appearance are the markers for a good espresso. Your Dilworth espresso will appear to have the viscosity of warm honey and the resulting beverage will exhibit a thick, dark, golden crema.

We hope we have provided some useful information about espresso. For more, just visit your local Dilworth and ask your barista, or call 800-835-5943.