Perfection guide: let's talk espresso

Dany Marquis

Perfection guide: let's talk Espresso

What is espresso?

The definition is still, and will probably continue to be, a subject of heated debate. And for good reason, the aura of the coffee connoisseur, so important to some, who questions the basic principles of this beverage with an almost religious confidence and which sometimes shakes the confidence of novice baristas. This worthy member of the caffeinated Inquisition will not hesitate to condemn you to heresy.

However, the definition of an espresso is relatively simple and the nuance of its definition is part of its nature.

Basic espresso knowledge: the most common coffee experience

First of all, let's start with some details recognized by everyone:

  • The espresso must be good and pleasant to drink (Supreme criterion and #1!!!!!)
  • Espresso is a concentrated beverage consisting of a liquid crowned with a delicate foam called “ crema ”.
  • Espresso is produced by percolating pressurized hot water through a tightly packed wafer of finely ground coffee. As water passes through the coffee, erosion removes solids and oils from the surface of the ground coffee particles, which will settle in the cup.
  • The flow of water that will flow through the grounds will be influenced by the pressure of the machine, the density of the ground coffee in the portafilter, the coarseness of the grounds and the pressure exerted by the barista to tamp the coffee (the 4 M).
  • Water will always follow the path of least resistance. It is the barista's job to ensure that the coffee patty will be packed evenly so that the water meets equal resistance across its entire surface. A coffee cake must be properly packed , to be conducive to the formation of a low density channel in which the water will pass, creating too rapid a flow and poor erosion of the components (solids and oils).
  • It's also the barista's job to ensure that their coffee maker's pressure is correct and that its grind is adjusted correctly as the water passes through the coffee. By evaluating the flow rate of the espresso, its color, its texture, the barista should be able to assess the quality of the extraction and adjust the parameters to obtain adequate extraction.

These are certain facts which, I believe, are unanimously agreed upon.

But nuance is part of the definition of an espresso. Because depending on the origin, the components of the coffee blend, the desired taste, the equipment, the espresso can be modified according to taste. We have the right !

Barista Improvement Guide: Let's Talk About Espresso

Let's add a little fantasy to our espresso coffees

You can put between 7 and 22g of coffee in the filter holder . The Italian tradition of the simple conical filter holder allowing extraction with 7g in opposition to a more modern extraction of the laser-drilled "straight side" bottomless filter holder (VST) with 21g of coffee.

  • It’s still an espresso!

As for the extraction time, it can range between 20 to 40 seconds , depending on the flow rate (grind) and the volume of the extraction which can range from 21 ml to 45ml.

  • It’s still an espresso!

Rarely discussed by amateur baristas, water temperature can vary from 85°C to 96°C (185°F to 204°F).

  • But it’s still an espresso.

This is why your roaster should offer you ideal extraction parameters for each coffee.

Practical exercise: let's prepare an espresso coffee together

Coffee of choice: Bad Girl Espresso (Bella Rossa)

  • Temperature: 93°C
  • Dose: 18 - 19 g
  • Time: 23 - 26 seconds with 5 seconds of pre-infusion
  • Volume: 36 - 40 ml with cream (26 -31 g)
No one is a prophet in his country and some do not hesitate to criticize a small roaster based in Gaspésie who roasts in an old fishing net and hook shop (you have to feed the legend ;-)) And that's always a pleasure to see them so surprised to taste a real espresso! I invite you to read this blog in which I talk about the definition of espresso to standardize the preparation in several branches and by several baristas:

How long is it lying down?

We must also standardize the extraction, because the majority of Brûlerie du Quai points of sale do not have espresso coffee makers allowing the parameters to be adjusted worthy of a laboratory. Ideally, all my customers would have La Marzocco Strada!

Call me if you want one ;-)

This is why I offer generic extraction parameters, 30ml -> 30 sec -> 14-18g. However, it gives me pleasure to go further with those who have more efficient equipment.

This morning I had our Bad Girl Espresso blend in the grinder. Carleton's Marzocco Linea is 94.5°C, I used a 22g VST basket, extracted about 45ml in 35 seconds. I used a 5.5oz red ACF cup, preheated. (I'm willing to debate the importance of cup color at any time).

Was it good? Ohhhh yes!!! Fruity, citrus, peach, slightly tart, thin and light, floral and ephemeral at the end. I would have drunk 10!

And on a simple premise like my first point above, " Espresso must be good and pleasant to drink ", we can then discuss the coffee blends, roasting level, the type of tamper (convex, wavy, flat ), the type of grinder (grind on demand, conical grinding wheel), the technologies used by the espresso machines (heat exchanger, PID, single or double kettle), the water temperature and so on. But the discussion is always based on the desire to drink a good espresso.

I believe that the slippage comes when you try to impose your vision and be recognized as an expert. Perhaps this is a consequence of the many experts who speak out in all media. Short, instant, ready-to-eat thought. Idealism perhaps, but I believe that debates and discussions should start from a common premise accepted by all.

The objective of the discussion is therefore no longer to appear as an expert (ego must be put aside) and to be ready to share your knowledge on preparing an espresso.

To end up asking, is it good?


  • sebastien

    quand on dit 22 a 26 sec avec pre-infusion de 5 sec. la pre-infusion est elle incluse dans le 26 sec ouc est 26 sec + 5


  • Simanot

    ca m’ a bien plu (c’était très bon !!)

  • Mlle Gourmandises

    Ma foi, votre billet me fait sourire, une fois de plus. Je crois que je prendrai des vacances en Gaspésie cet été, et je passerai m’obstiner sur la tasse rouge. Perso, je préfères boire mon café dans une tasse de couleur Pantone PMS 3115! Une fois de plus, vous vulgarisez très bien. C’est beau. Merci de prendre le temps de partager votre passion.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published