Brew Ratios, Basket Sizes, and the Confusion over a "Double Shot"

Brew Ratios, Basket Sizes, and the Confusion over a

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. Many roasters will have preparation recipes on their websites or their bags – if that fails always ask the barista. 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.

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 23-30 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 23 (dark roast) to 30 (medium to light roast) seconds.

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?" You'll notice we avoid terms like "triple" and "ristretto" because those terms don't give you the details that really count. 

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.

16 comments

  • @Mike: Most all of the espresso machines we sell will come with a single basket as well as a single spouted portafilter. We don’t stock them to sell a la carte mainly because we get so little demand on account of most owners already having one. Aside from the basket, pulling shots that taste like traditional Italian espresso requires the right coffee. We recommend seeking out a roaster that focuses on traditional style dark roasts. Parisi’s Italian Blend, available on our website, will get you there!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • I rather like the taste of classic “Italian” espresso, with single shots using 7 grams of coffee. How is this achieved? Do you sell single baskets/portafilters that fit E61 brew groups?

    Mike on

  • @Greg02539: If you’re going for a shot with a larger yield and coarsening your grind you’re bound to end up with a slightly quicker drop time, which isn’t anything to worry about. So long as your recipe goes according to plan in terms of time, yield, and most importantly taste, you should be fine. That drop time is more of a guideline. I’d only be worried if you experience fast drop times regardless of grind, which generally indicates a stale coffee. Have fun and keep experimenting!

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • I get about 36 gm of liquid from 18 gm of ground coffee in 30 sec using my new ECM Synchronika. The first drops fall in about 6 sec (a commonly recommended minimum time). To get a longer shot, I coarsen the grind but then the first drops exit in less than 6 sec. Am I doing something wrong, or is it unavoidable that long shots begin exiting from the machine less than 6 sec after pump start?

    Greg02539 on

  • Is the 25-30second time goal the same for all different shot sizes in your chart,or just the 20g:30g rec you mention? What would my 16:24 or 7:10.5 timing be? Thank you

    Quinn on

  • @Joseph Appel: It really comes down to taste. The majority of my coworkers here at Clive prefer a 1:1.5 whether they’re drinking their shot straight or adding milk. Personally, I tend to prefer 1:2 shots straight. They’re slightly more diluted so they’re not quite as intense as a more concentrated shot. As a rule, though, once you start getting above 1:2.5 getting consistent extractions can be tricky, so it’s best to keep that as your ceiling and add water if you’d like something more diluted like an Americano.

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • This is all very informative; thank you! One question: You end up leaning toward 1:1.5 because, as you state at one point, “We use a 1:1.5 brew ratio (as it stands up to larger milk drinks)…”. What if I’m pulling a shot to drink without milk — either straight or (rarely) Americano? Would you then go to a 1:2 or other ratio?

    Joseph Appel on

  • @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

  • Hey thanks for that! I like your way of thinking because shot sizes change from cafe to cafe!

    on a side note though, say a cafe has a 21 gram basket. do you think pulling a shot with 17 grams of coffee in a 21 gram basket will have any negative effects on the outcome of the beverage?

    Josh on

  • Thanks for another informative video. So much of espresso culture is wrapped in unusual terms without the benefit of reference. The whole double vs triple shot has been confusing at best so the background and an objective scale is appreciated.

    Ronald J Meck on

  • @Gary: The ratios are the ratio coffee to water in terms of weight (we’re using grams here). So, for instance, if I pulled a shot with a dose of 20 grams and a yield of 30 grams, my brew ratio would be 1:1.5. Hope that helps!

    Charles on

  • Please explain the ‘ratio.’ Ratio of WHAT to WHAT? Are you talking about volume to volume or weight to weight? Or something in betwen?

    Thank you

    Gary on

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