Troubleshooting espresso

Troubleshooting espresso

We all know a perfect cup of espresso - it’s rich, balanced, fragrant, and has that lovely layer of crema on top. It’s what everyone with an espresso machine expects to get every time… yet they don’t. Why?

One of the easiest ways to recognise a “sub par” espresso is the speed of pour. Ideally, a double shot is usually 60ml or around 40g of liquid in approximately 25-30 seconds

Each machines portafilter and basket may differ in size, refer to the instructions that came with your machine for your approximate dose size. If all else fails, google is usually fairly helpful too.

If your cup is filling too fast or too slow, then you will see it and worse still, you will taste it. The good news is, with a little adjustment to the coffee grind, you should be able to fix the issue and pour the perfect cup.

If you want to get really serious you can weigh your dose in and your volume out with some espresso scales whilst timing the shot from when you first press the double shot button.

Signs of a slow pour

We call a slow pour when:

  • 60ml (approx. 40g) takes more than 30-35 seconds
  • it takes a long time for the first drops to come out
  • it has a very dark color throughout
  • it has a thin crema
  • it has a burnt, astringent, and unbalanced taste.

When a slow pour occurs, we are over extracting the coffee. There is too much pressure, which results in prolonged contact of the hot water with the grinds, therefore burning it.

 Signs of a fast pour

We call a fast pour when:

  • 60ml (approx. 40g) takes less than 25 seconds
  • the crema pales too quickly
  • the coffee gushes out thin and with fast dissipating crema
  • it’s acidic or sour in taste
  • it has a thin and unbalanced mouthfeel.

This is known as under extraction. The hot water hasn’t had enough time to extract the flavour from the beans and you’ve made yourself a glass of sour brown water.

What to do

Adjusting the grind of your coffee will help with your timing. If slow pour is your problem, you need a slightly coarser grind to reduce resistance and allow the water to pass through the coffee at a faster speed.

Conversely, if you’re pouring too fast, use a finer grind to slow that water down and make it work harder to extract those wonderful flavours.

No matter which way you adjust your grind, try to maintain your dose of 22-24 grams (or whatever your machine manufacturer recommends). You may need to re-weigh your dose and/or adjust the timer accordingly after changing grind size.

You may need to play around a little, but it will be worth the effort. Here are a few more tips to help you achieve the perfect pour.

  1. Always wipe your basket dry before loading coffee, because the water coming from your machine will follow any damp path. A wet basket will encourage all the water to go around the puck rather than through it.
  2. Use consistent dosing technique, for example:
  3. Use a timed grinder
  4. Tap the portafilter once, twice or three times on the bench to settle the grinds (be consistent, do the same thing each time)
  5. Level off if needed by brushing off the excess coffee grinds with a dosing tool or your finger
  6. Tamp in a consignment pressure maintaining level tamp. The right tamping pressure is the one you can become repetitive with.
  7. The key is repetition - dose the same, tamp the same, wipe out the basket the same.

If you’d like more advice on brewing, grinds, devices or choosing the right coffee bean for you, drop us a line. We love to talk all things coffee.

Happy caffeinating!


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