How to get the best espresso out of your Roastology Coffee Co. Beans

How to get the best espresso out of your Roastology Coffee Co. Beans

In this article, I'm going to go over a few things you can do to ensure you get the best quality coffee out of your beans.

The Equipment:

A common misconception when it comes to espresso is that the more expensive your espresso machine is, the better quality coffee you will get. While this is true to an extent, the major factor when it comes to quality is your grinder. For example, a $200 Delonghi Dedica with a good-quality stainless steel burr grinder will make much better espresso than a $10,000 La Marzocco machine with a $15 hand-crank ceramic burr grinder you got on Trade Me. To put it simply, invest more money in the grinder than in the machine. The key things you want to look out for when buying a grinder are that it has burrs rather than a blade. This is because burrs actually grind the coffee as it goes through them, while a blade just kind of wildly whacks and chops all the beans like a bad game of Fruit Ninja, leading to an uneven grind. You also want to make sure that if it has burrs, they are made of a material like stainless steel or some other kind of metal, and not ceramic. There are some exceptions to this, but for the most part, ceramic grinders don't tend to be the best.

When looking for an espresso machine, you also (ideally, it's not necessary, but it helps) want to find one that has a maximum of 9 Bars of pressure, as this is the ideal amount for extracting espresso. When you see a machine boasting '15 Bars of pressure,' you should know that this is not an advantage, and higher pressure does not equal better coffee. You also want to try and find a machine with a single-walled portafilter basket instead of the pressurized kind with only one hole on the bottom. Or, if it doesn't come with one, I highly recommend ordering one online from a brand like IMS or VST (two brands that sell precision-machined portafilter baskets). However, when ordering from a third party, you want to make sure the basket size is the same as the portafilter, as cheaper machines tend to have a 51mm or 54mm portafilter over the 58mm that comes with most professional machines.

A good tip for select Breville (or Sage, depending on where you live) machines, such as The Infuser, The Barista Express, and other machines similar to those two, is that they generally have the ability to do what is called a manual pre-infusion. This is where you hold down the brew button for the entirety of the shot instead of just clicking it to start the shot. Doing this lowers the pressure to 9 bars and makes it run manually, where you have to then lift your finger off the button and click it again to stop it. Because Breville runs the pre-infusion at 9 bars, you are utilizing this by essentially running a shot in pre-infusion mode, getting rid of the need to open up the machine and lower the OPV valve to lower the pressure.

One of the cheapest yet most significant changes you can make to your espresso routine is incorporating a scale. These can be relatively cheap in comparison to some of the above changes, and they ensure you have repeatability and consistency. For The Emperor blend, we recommend using a 1:2 ratio for espresso, or, for every 1 gram of coffee, you have 2 grams of liquid coffee. For example, if you pull a shot with 18g of coffee, you should aim to extract 36g of espresso in around 28-33 seconds.

The Routine:

I like to start by weighing out my coffee before each grind and then putting it in the hopper and grinding it (this is known as single dosing), rather than just dumping the bag of coffee into the hopper and letting it grind based on time. Not only does this retain freshness, as coffee stales very quickly when out in the open (e.g., sitting in a hopper as opposed to in a closed bag), but this also eliminates some waste from the process as well. When you weigh out the coffee beforehand, you eliminate the need to potentially throw out some coffee grinds in the event that you grind too much.

  1. Weigh out 18g of coffee beans (this tends to be the amount of coffee most portafilter baskets are designed for; however, if you have bought a precision basket, this amount may be higher, so it always pays to check).
  2. (Optional) You can either spray a drop or two of water on your coffee beans with a little spray bottle, then shake them around in whatever you've weighed them out to spread the water, or wet the end of a spoon and stir the beans. This is called RDT (Ross Droplet Technique), and it's done because the water, when sprayed on or stirred around, is absorbed by the coffee beans, reducing the amount of static electricity created when grinding. This, in turn, reduces grind retention in your grinder and also reduces the mess made by stray coffee flying around as it comes out of your grinder.
  3. Put the weighed (and optionally spritzed) beans into your hopper, grind either into your portafilter directly or into a dosing cup then into your portafilter. As long as it all ends up in the portafilter basket, there is really no right or wrong way. I recommend using a dosing ring for any portafilter, as it prevents grinds from falling over the edge of the basket. This is more of a necessity on machines with a 54mm or smaller portafilter, as due to the width, they tend to spill quite easily.
  4. (Optional) Another step that is optional but also something I highly recommend is using some kind of WDT tool (Weiss Distribution Technique). This is basically something with generally 7-9 acupuncture-style needles in it that allows you to distribute the coffee evenly throughout the portafilter, also with the added benefit of breaking up any clumps of coffee that could potentially lead to channeling. This is when, due to the fact that water is relatively lazy, it likes to find the path of least resistance to go through. These clumps could potentially make one side of the portafilter more dense with coffee than the other, causing the water to simply not go through that side and ending up over-extracting some of the coffee and under-extracting other parts, leaving you with a bad-tasting cup.
  5. Once all the coffee is in your portafilter, and you've (optionally) distributed it throughout the basket (if you don't want to get a WDT tool, an easy distribution method, albeit not as good as WDT but it still works, is to simply repeatedly hit the side of the portafilter basket with your hand until any clumps of coffee have naturally settled down and the coffee within the basket looks somewhat even), you now need to get your tamper and evenly tamp down the coffee into your portafilter basket. Instead of aiming for an amount of pressure when tamping, the best thing to do is push down with the tamper until you can no longer feel the coffee compressing. This is because it's very possible to under-tamp, as you can still leave air bubbles within the coffee if you do not apply enough pressure, but it is not possible to over-tamp, as once all the air bubbles are gone, it will simply stop compressing any further.
  6. Now that the coffee has been tamped, you want to insert the portafilter into your machine's group head, get your cup, and pull a shot. If you have a scale, once again, I recommend a 1:2 ratio of coffee grinds: espresso outputted in around 28-33 seconds. Otherwise, you will kind of have to eyeball about the 30-40ml mark. You can still time it to get some insight, but I will again highly recommend getting a scale as it makes everything much easier and removes a lot of the guesswork involved.
  7. Now that you've pulled your shot, you can either steam some milk for a milk drink (I will put out another post on how to get silky microfoam for your milk) or simply drink it straight. Regardless, enjoy your coffee!