Given that we teach thousands of people every year how to make espresso drinks at home, we often see confusion and frustration first hand. One of the major culprits is the proliferation of misinformation about coffee on the internet. Some of which is from very prominent people and places.

Shot "Length" & Brew Ratios

Coffee certainly didn't do itself any favors when describing terms. A huge amount of confusion comes from the "length" of a shot. "Length" does not refer to the extraction time (as it should), rather it refers to the brew ratio. While there is no true industry "standard" for brew ratios, the following ratios are generally accepted as gospel:

Short shot or "Ristretto" - 1:1 to 1:1.5 ratio

Regular shot or "Normale or Espresso" - 1:1.5 to 1:2.5 ratio

Long shot or "Lungo" - 1:2.5 to 1:3 ratio

A ristretto, or "restricted" shot is a more concentrated shot and tends to reduce the bitterness of darker roasted beans. It also stands up to milk very well. Third wave roasters generally prefer the normale 1:1.5-2.5 ratio for the more mainstream medium-roasted coffees. All good roasters will have preparation recipes on their websites or their bags. Long shots are actually preferred in Italy, where single baskets are still common.

The "Double" and portafilter basket sizes

Further confusion stems from a distinction over "single" or "double shots". Unfortunately, as America was relatively late to the espresso game, the nomenclature was established in Europe while we were still drinking Sanka.

A double shot was derived from the Italian term doppio, which simply means double in Italian.

That is only half the story. The brew ratios in Italy are and were wildly different than in America, or anywhere else. So, while it is reported that a doppio was 60ml of liquid espresso, we don't have a clear indication of how much ground coffee typically went into that. We are doing more research and will get back to you.

A "double" basket is currently sized for 16-18 grams of ground coffee. It used to be 14 grams, but has since expanded. The single basket is intended to hold 7 grams of ground coffee and a triple basket, around 21 grams.

The term "double", however, can no longer be assumed to be pulled on a double basket with a specific coffee yield, as the brew ratios and basket sizes have diverged so dramatically from Italy to Australia to America. A "double" at one cafe, with a specific bean is most certainly going to be a different volume of liquid from another cafe. Campos doesn't even use double baskets in America. They use triple baskets. When you get a "double" from them with their Superior Blend, it is 21 grams of ground coffee in, to 42 grams out, or 1:2. By way of comparison, you can see that Onyx recommends pulling shots with a ratio of 1:2.2 for their Geometry blend. Again, a different volume output for the same amount of ground coffee.

So what is a "double" today? There is no standard. A double can be virtually anything pulled with a double or triple basket in a size range of 14 to 115 grams of liquid espresso.

Extraction time

The only part of this that isn't confusing is extraction time. That is fairly standard. All espresso preparation is generally done between 25-30 seconds, depending on the solubility of the coffee. So a "longer" shot will simply use a coarser grind than a shorter shot, as the amount of ground coffee will be the same with the same extraction time. As we explained in our "How to Read your Coffee Bag" article, darker roasted or lower elevation coffee extracts quicker than lighter roasted or higher elevation coffee, so we "tend" to pull those coffees quicker.

What does it all mean, Clive?

At Clive, we are striving to make sense of all of these legacy terms to help consumers make great espresso at home. We have dispatched all mention of single and double shots, in favor of brew ratios. We have also centered around the use of a triple basket, as it seems to be more forgiving than the single or double, especially in the 53mm variety. It also seems to be gaining favor in the most prominent cafes.

The Clive recipe for espresso is the same as used by the originator of American espresso (and the pioneer of latte art), Espresso Vivacé in Seattle. We use a 1:1.5 brew ratio (as it stands up to larger milk drinks), a triple basket with 20 grams of ground coffee to extract 30 grams of liquid espresso in 25 (dark roast) to 30 (medium to light roast) seconds.

Brew ratios, portafilter basket sizes, and liquid yeild
The area in blue is the Clive Recipe. This chart borrows heavily from another done by Andy Schecter on Home Barista

We think it is high time to dispatch with the term double altogether. Or, simply ask the follow-up question. Could I please have a double? Oh, by the way, what is your brew ratio?

The importance of using a scale

To cut through all mentions of triples, doubles and such. Just use a scale and a brew ratio. Any scale is better than no scale, but we have found that the Acaia Lunar Scale is the best. In addition to fitting perfectly on nearly every drip tray, the Acaias are waterproof and rechargeable which makes them virtually indestructible.

9 comments

  • @Matt: Having a bit of water left on top of your puck isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it isn’t always avoidable. At the end of the day, that water isn’t in your shot, so it isn’t directly affecting the flavor of your shot. The gap between puck and shower screen is one of the greatest determining factors, as you noted, so if you’re already filling the basket to capacity you’ve done your due diligence. Past that, don’t worry about it; what matters most is how your shots taste!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • I have a 17 g basket. When I fill the basket to 17 grams, I notice the puck seems oversaturated. My first assumption was that this is because the screen is higher on my machine and it is causing too much space between the puck and the screen and water is accumulating. However, at 17 grams, The screw that holds the screen makes a small indentation in the puck, which seems to indicate that the screen isn’t too high.

    What else causes the puck to become overly saturated as it has in my basket?

    Matt on

  • @Steve Hoff: In short, you want to start your timer when you start your shot. With any brew method, it’s best to begin timing when water touches coffee because at that exact moment extraction begins. Watching for drop time can also be a halfway decent indicator of how well the rest of the shot will go, so it’s handy to have the timer running.

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • Concerning “Time”, do you start the timer when the first espresso drips are visible, or when you actually start the shot? Thanks

    Steve

    Steve Hoff on

  • @Josh: Great question! We generally recommend staying within a few grams of the baskets designated dosage, so with a 21-gram basket, I wouldn’t recommend doing less than 18 or so. The reasoning for this is a little bit complex.

    When you begin pulling a shot, it’s best for the puck of coffee to be quite close to the shower screen. This helps ensure a consistent flow of water through the puck as well as reducing the gap that the water has to fill before pressure is built up. If you increase the size of this gap the water is applied to the puck less evenly and the gap also works as a kind of capacitor while it’s filled with water. The effects of this are somewhat hard to measure, but generally you’ll get more consistent and even extractions when you don’t stray too far from the intended dosage!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

 

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