Really stupid questions about making espresso

kevinm

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May 9, 2006
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This is embarrassing... Just got a new semi-auto espresso maker. I fill up the water container and I use the 1-cup espresso filter. Put the cup under the filter and switch to espresso. Coffee starts to come out. How do I know when to stop it? There has to be a more or less precise point when the right amount of water has passed through the coffee etc. Do I just watch the cup and stop it when a normal amount of espresso is in there? Also... I never thought about this before but how does one make espressos for a bunch of people, say 6? Make 2, the clean out the filter, add new coffee, make another 2 etc etc.???
Kevin
 

equus007

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Apr 4, 2006
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Austin, Tx
shots

Short nswer is do it to taste. Home semi-automatic machines, the cheaper ones at least, are rarely able to put out a satisfying shot of the standard size you get at a shop because they can't build up enough pressure. Even in a shop there are variables like grind and tamp pressure. To get a good flavored drink on a home machine I usualy draw at least a double shot.

Really depends on the machine though. Some are programable.

As to the second part, yes you have to refill the filter every time you run water through it.
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
1,588
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Central North Carolina
Well, there are no stupid questions regarding brewing espresso. What machine do you have? Grinder? Beans? For the best results always warm the machine up a bit, at least 15 minutes. Then, run a few blank (without coffee) shots through with the portafilter and basket in place. Dry the basket, grind, dose, distribute, tamp and off you go. For best results use the double basket and 14 or more grams of coffee. The brewing should start out really dark in nice even streams. Then it will lighten up a bit. Right before the point of becoming foamy or really yellow in color is when you want to stop the shot. There are no set rules as to how long or how much you end up with. As long as the color is decent and you like the taste, then that's all that matters.

As for brewing for alot of people, simply brew, dump your grounds puck, wipe the basket clean and start all over. You may want to run one blank shot in between brewing to keep things hot. Later!
 

DavesLT

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Nov 6, 2005
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Missouri
To add a little more detail to the good info from Shadow 745, 14gr. ground espresso=approx. 3 ounces brewed espresso, brew time between 25-35 seconds. And keep your portafilter and group head clean.
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
DavesLT said:
To add a little more detail to the good info from Shadow 745, 14gr. ground espresso=approx. 3 ounces brewed espresso, brew time between 25-35 seconds. And keep your portafilter and group head clean.

You should be careful how you use the word approximate. By stating it the way you did, your making it sound that all double espressos should be made by those standards.

Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espresso for a better description on espresso.
 

equus007

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Apr 4, 2006
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Austin, Tx
etc

Have fun with it. Though baristas make it sound like rocket science it is not all that difficult, it just takes practice. When you get a new machine you will have to adjust and re-learn. Its fun.

Also I have found it helps people with home machines to use a pro one a couple of times to see how it "should" be done and then adjust down to your own machine. It really helps with learning how to tamp simply because of the time it takes to set up a shot on a small machine. Go to a small shop ~4:00 in the afternoon and ask them to show you. I love giving lessons if I'm not busy.
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Central North Carolina
I totally agree with keeping everything really clean. However, I've yet to see a double taste good with any volume over 2 oz. Most doubles are at their best between 1.5 and 2 oz. I prefer to pull ristrettos just for added flavor and punch. It's goes back to the whole quality vs. quantity thing, but more isn't always better when pulling shots. Later!
 
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kevinm

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Thanks all for the help!

shadow745 said:
...run a few blank (without coffee) shots through with the portafilter and basket in place. Dry the basket, grind, dose, distribute, tamp and off you go...

Why do this with the portafilter and basket in place rather than without?
 

CCafe

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Aug 11, 2004
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Des Moines, Iowa
Mostly due to thermal loss. If you preheat the portafilter first then less heat will be transferred to the basket and more will be retained for the extraction of the espresso. Plus you get hotter espresso to drink.

The other thing you might hear on the forum is leaving the espresso puck in the portafilter until you make your next espresso. This would be the case if you were making espresso throughout the day though.

Again due to thermal dynamics of the portafilter. The portafilter should maintain better temperature stability with the puck still in the wand then without. If you were to knock the puck out and reinsert the portafilter back in the group then the airspace could act as an insulator and could cause temperature imbalance in the wand.

Or so multiple engineers have told me on different espresso machines. But the downside to leaving the puck in the wand is it will dry out and turn hard as a rock. This can make it very hard to eject and clean for the next usage.

I personally knock mine out because I don’t want to deal with the cleaning. Besides you could always run a shot to preheat it anyway.
 

DavesLT

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Nov 6, 2005
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Missouri
You run hot water through with the portafilter in place to keep it hot. Most good portafilters are made of brass plated with chrome and act as a heat sink. To get a good extraction you want the full thermal enegy of the shot going into the ground beans and not wasted heating the portafilter. As to the brew time, I also prefer a Ristretto shot as described by Shadow745, but I was trying to relate the traditional brew parameters versus a personal preference. Since most consumers of espresso drinks are imbibing lattes with artificial flavorings, I didn't think the subtelties of extractions were relevant.
 

DavesLT

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Nov 6, 2005
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Missouri
CCafe said:
The other thing you might here on the forum is leaving the espresso puck in the portafilter until you make your next espresso.

The primary reason that I advise people to knock the spent grounds is that oils from the espresso puck will leach into the group head and alter the brew times. Especially here in the Midwest in the humid summers. Of course you can just backflush with Puly-Caff more often, but why when you can just dump the grounds?
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Central North Carolina
Good points DavesLT. I know most home users use espresso for lattes and cappas, but most 3oz. shots aren't going to taste good regardless of what you put in it. I also agree with dumping the puck soon after the shot is complete. The longer it sits idle, the more mess it creates with the natural oils found in coffee. Just makes cleaning that much more difficult. If anybody wants to make another shot, simply dump the puck, wipe the basket clean, run another blank shot to warm things up, wipe the basket dry and reload. Later!
 
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kevinm

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May as well continue with the stupid questions...

I'm aware of the "rules" about how firm to tamp and how long it should take to draw the espresso (20-30 secs) etc.

The portafilter has two outlets where the coffee comes out - like most machines I believe. Does this mean that that if I use the "2-cup" filter and 2-cup amount of coffee, I should be able to get 2 shots produced simultaneously by having one cup under each outlet? If so, how much espresso should I expect - 1 oz or a "normal" 2 oz in each cup?

Kevin
 

shadow745

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Aug 15, 2005
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Central North Carolina
2 cup filter? I'm assuming you're talking about the double shot basket??? Then, yes be sure to use at least 14 grams (2 normal cofee scoops) to fill it and then tamp. If you place a cup under each spout you should extract an equal amount in each. If the grounds aren't distributed or tamped properly you may get more flow from one spout. Say if you normally extract a 2 oz. shot in one cup, then with 2 cups you'd only have roughly 1 oz. in each cup. Dude, don't think any questions are stupid!!! At least you're asking and wanting to learn more. Later!
 
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