We are often asked what makes a perfect espresso?
There is no simple answer, as this is subjective and different people have different criteria when choosing an espresso shot.
So let us look at Espresso beans, roast and extraction methods and help you decide what you need to make your perfect Espresso shot.
Choosing a bean for Espresso
Personally I like the chocolate, cherry and caramel taste profiles of a Brazilian coffee bean, and it should be Arabica coffee.
I like to think that when people are rewarded for their hard work they will put more effort into producing a quality product rather than cutting corners and extracting as much profit as they can.
There are too many companies that exploit coffee growers so we feel it is important that you source a reputable coffee supplier and Fairtrade is a good benchmark to go on. If you can buy direct from the grower it will be better, but you often have to buy in bulk to make this cost effective.
Choosing the best Espresso roast
Darker roasts offer a stronger taste, so for me it has to be Italian or French roast, but if you prefer lighter berry taste profiles then a lighter roast would be better suited to your needs.
See our guide to roasts for a full explanation of what roasts provide in terms of taste profiles or refer to the chart below.
Coffee is only really at it’s best within 30 days of it being roasted, after this time you will lose much of the essential aroma, oils and experience, and if not stored correctly you will defiantly taste the difference between a week old roast and couple of month old roast.
Where you are making an Espresso this is more true than ever as the taste is not diluted with a milk or other additives.
Pulling an Espresso shot
Too many people assume an espresso shot should fill the cup, THIS IS NOT THE CASE, and will result in over extraction and a bitter taste.
For tips on which coffee makers to use see our Espresso machine buyers guide.
I would use 7-9 grams of coffee and a fairly fine grind through a 12 bar Espresso machine to extract 1.5 ounces of coffee. This will be very strong tasting, and carry very little bitterness.
If you prefer your Espresso to provide a caffeine hit, then you should use a blend with more Robusta coffee, and increase the extraction time, to achieve around 2 ounces of coffee. It will have a bitter taste but you’ll maximise the amount of caffeine extracted.
Experiment with your machine, extraction time and water temperatures, the Espresso is one of the best ways to fine tune your extraction and machine setup as you get to taste a pure shot of coffee.