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.



31 comments

  • @Nate
    A double shot does not necessarily mean 2 fluid ounces, hence the confusion. A “double shot” truly has no set standards whatsoever, but these days is typically somewhere between 1 and 2 oz. To prepare a “double shot,” you’re most likely using 16 – 20 grams of ground coffee using a brew ratio of between a 1:1 and a 1:3 – there is a LOT of possibilities within that range, but we’d still refer to it as a “double,” because that’s just how people refer to an espresso!
    Instead, find your ratio from the other way around. Find out how much coffee you can fit in your basket, and then multiply that by your preferred strength.

    August with Clive Coffee on

  • Hi, I found this very interesting at first, but then I got confused. I thought a double shot was 2 fluid oz, and 2 fluid oz of most liquids weighs around 60g. Using the 1:2 ratio above, this would mean you would need 30g of espresso grinds, which most baskets can’t hold. Certainly not mine! And for a ratio of 1:1.5, you would need 40g of espresso grinds! What am I missing?

    Nate on

  • @David Smith
    You should start timing your shots as soon as the water and coffee start touching. Include that preinfusion time! You might notice that your shots taste the best a little longer than traditional shots to account for that extra contact time. Always go based on how the espresso tastes, not just numbers. Some of my favorite espressos I’ve ever tasted were over 40 seconds, while using a longer 10-15 second preinfusion.

    August with Clive Coffee on

  • Very informative article – thanks!! How does pre-infusion affect shot time? My Breville dual boiler has 8 seconds pre-infusion and then takes about 2-3 seconds to ramp up to full pressure. Do these 11 seconds count against shot time, or should my timing start after full pressure is reached? Thanks!!

    David Smith on

  • @Julia
    For using any basket size or type, I’d recommend using as much coffee as you can put in the basket, without using too much! You want a little room in between the bed of grounds and the shower screen of your espresso machine. To find the optimum dose, fill your basket as much as possible, tamp as usual, and insert the portafilter into your machine. Without running any water, immediately remove the portafilter. You should see no signs of the shower screen pressing down on to the coffee. If you do, use less coffee and repeat the process until you don’t see any markings. This would be your maximum dose for the coffee you’re using in that basket!

    August with Clive Coffee on

  • @Andrew – brew time is from pump start, not first drops.

    Dani on

  • This past Saturday the Vivace folks behind the counter told me they brew below 1:1 while making my latte. I don’t remember the exact numbers. Maybe 19g coffee 15g out.

    Is brew time from pump start or first drop?

    Andrew on

  • Hi, great article. How would I go about my Capresso EC Pro 51mm portafilters? I have one doube that is pressurized and another singular bottomless filter. Just ordered the lunar scale!

    Julia on

  • Charles at Clive has been tremendously helpful to this newbie home barista and, thankfully, working with a Ceado grinder that cost slightly more than half the cost of the ECM Synchronika has helped bring consistency to each pull. That said, I stay within the 4-14 day window for locally sourced (Temple Coffee) beans, and find that 18-20 grams in a ‘double’ portafilter over 28-30 seconds almost always gets to gold. I can tell when an extraction runs fast, and when beans are getting past the 14 day freshness window. The Acaia Pearl is brought out every half dozen pulls to keep me honest, but over time this becomes an art form layered on top of science.

    Tom on

  • I forgot to mention that the 22 grams is for the triple portafilter basket

    Gary on

  • I have a Profitek Pro 800 – are the ratios and times the same for this lever machine? I have been using 22 grams in my portafilter and a 1:2 ratio but still not getting the consistent results out of it. Any tips would be appreciated.

    Gary on

  • What a great article! I learned so much from it as well as from the comments. Now I don’t feel so bad making doubles with 19 grams in a 21 gram basket.

    Jim on

  • @Will: The way that you’re tamping might be part of the equation. The indented line isn’t meant as a guide for tamping, it’s simply there to help hold the basket in place. Try the recommendations in the article I’ve linked below as it might allow you to use a smaller dose.
    https://clivecoffee.com/blogs/learn/perfect-your-tamp-skills

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • Thanks for the great article. With my la spaziale Luca A53, I exclusively use the triple but need 23 grams of coffee to make it pull right. Is that typical with this machine? Any less and I’m tamping deep into the basket below the indented line and the shots are not as good. So when you say 20 grams for a triple, does that apply to this machine? Thanks

    Will on

  • Very helpful info and I agree with all of it, especially the scale! That was a game changer for me. I can dial a bean in about 2-3 shots so there is much less waste. My only question is the variable of water weight in. I have a S1 Vivaldi II La Spaziale that has volumetric dosing adjustments. I have dialed the machine into a water weight IN of 70gm. I put 17gm of coffee in my basket and get 28gm out in 25sec. Tastes great! But is my volume of water correct or could it be better. So… if I increase the water weight IN to 100gm, my shot would be too long but then I could grind my coffee finer and produce a similar extraction ratio.
    I’m just curious if this is considered. Thanks

    Bob on

  • @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

 

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