How to Pull a Perfect Shot of Espresso

There’s nothing worse than going to a renowned coffee shop only to receive an espresso drink that’s bitter and undrinkable. Poorly made espresso-based drinks are more common than you might think. Even the best beans, espresso machine, and grinder can’t guarantee a good shot of espresso.

Slayer Espresso

A big challenge for cafe managers and owners is getting their large team of baristas to make good-tasting espresso. A lot of newbie baristas don’t know what to look for when dialing in espresso and lack the confidence to calibrate it.  This is why we offer complimentary ongoing training and consultation for our wholesales clients.

By putting certain practises in place, you can show your whole team how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. First, we’ll show you how to lead an espresso tasting session with a team of baristas. Then, we’ll show you how to ensure the espresso is always running well.

The building blocks of good espresso

It may sound obvious, but you need to start with great coffee and great equipment to make great espresso. Make sure you have all of these in place first before you troubleshoot your espresso.

Make sure to source roasted beans from a high-quality, specialty coffee roaster. They should have an emphasis on ethical sourcing, meticulous roasting, and freshness.

A high-quality espresso machine with enough pressure and stamina is crucial for great espresso. We recommend the Slayer espresso machine, which was produced by the fine folks here at Fratello!

A good espresso grinder allows you to micro-adjust the grind setting. It should have a timed doser to provide consistency. We recommend Mahlkonig espresso grinders. 

If you have all of that already, let’s get into it!

coffee grinder

Leading an espresso tasting with your team

It’s always a good idea to do an espresso tasting session with your team. This allows you to answer any questions and try different espresso shots side-by-side for comparison. When guiding your team through a tasting, here are some common things to look for.

While not all coffees have a sweet profile, you should aim for a sweet shot. Sweetness is detected on the tip of the tongue. Unlike an unpleasant sour flavour, you’re looking for a sweetness akin to fruit or sugar.

A good shot of espresso should never taste unpleasantly bitter or sour. You can assess this more broadly when you try the espresso by asking yourself, “Is this pleasant?” “Is this acceptable to serve?”

Bitter and sour notes can be part of the inherent flavour profile of the coffee, like rich cocoa and lemon. Don’t get confused by desirable flavour attributes. 

Get your team familiar with the flavour wheel. It’s not cheating to fill your head with all the possibilities of what coffee can taste like. It helps your team by giving them a vocabulary to describe coffee.

TIP: It’s easier for newbie baristas to taste coffee that’s cooled down and/or diluted with a bit of water.

cappuccino

Creating an espresso calibration system

After you’ve done your initial group tasting session with your team, it’s time to create a calibration system.

The best way to calibrate espresso is by tasting it and adjusting it as needed. However, most newbie baristas won’t have the skills or the confidence to do this. This method also takes more time, and when you’re trying to move a lineup, it isn’t practical. A calibration system is easy-to-follow, keeps your coffee tasting great at all times, and doesn’t disrupt your flow.

Not all coffee is the same, but as a general rule of thumb, there’s a certain espresso recipe to follow. When it comes to brewing parameters for espresso, you want to start with a dry weight of 18 grams, a wet weight of 36 grams (ie. actual brewed espresso), and a brew time of 28-30 seconds. If you brew your espresso and it doesn’t fit within these confines, you can tweak the dose and the grind setting of the coffee.

perfect espresso

How to pull a perfect shot of espresso, step-by-step:

  1. Pop the basket out of the portafilter, and zero it out on a digital scale. Grind your beans from your timed espresso grinder, and weigh it. If it weighs below 18 grams, increase your dose by a few milliseconds. If it weighs above 18 grams, decrease your dose. Don’t worry if you’re off by 0.5 grams.
  2. Once you have the right weight, evenly tamp your espresso with 30 lbs of pressure.
  3. Have a timer ready to countdown from 30 seconds. Grab a clean shot glass or mini metal pitcher, place it on the scale, and zero it out.
  4. Place the scale and the glass under the group head, and begin brewing your espresso. Immediately start your 30-second timer. 
  5. At the 30-second mark, stop the shot and read the wet weight on the scale. If the wet weight isn’t 36 grams, make some changes and start over. If the wet weight is below 36 grams, make your grind coarser. If it’s above 36 grams, make your grind finer.

Make sure to post the espresso parameters (ie. dry weight, wet weight, brew time) where staff can see it. Have your team calibrate the espresso several times a day: once first thing in the morning, at mid-morning, and in the afternoon. For accountability, you can set up a checklist on a marker board, and have staff initial their calibrations.

Other factors affecting espresso flavour

Getting the right dose and weight is important when making good espresso, but it’s not the only thing to be aware of. Other things greatly affect the flavour of espresso. Here are some common factors:

Make sure your team is tamping properly. An uneven tamp or a cracked puck can result in uneven extraction, and thus, a sour, undrinkable espresso. Check out this video to make sure your team isn’t committing any tamping faux-pas!

 

The temperature and humidity in your cafe can instantly change how your espresso pours. If the weather suddenly changes from rainy and cold to sunny and warm, recalibrate your espresso.

A dirty espresso machine can make your coffee taste off if you’re doing everything else right. Make sure your team is cleaning the espresso machine and portafilters every night with Cafiza. Additionally, make sure your team is wiping the portafilter baskets with a dry rag between espressos. Have them purge the group heads between pours, too.

Fratello Coffee

Give it your best shot

Espresso can be intimidating for new baristas who lack skills and confidence. You can’t expect them to know everything right off the bat. The more effort you put into standards and procedures, the more likely it is that your team will get on board.

It doesn’t take long to gain a reputation as a no-fail, sure-shot espresso bar. Before long, your customers will notice, and they’ll be lining up for more. So do a little planning, schedule that espresso tasting with your team, and knock it out of the park!

We know that espresso can be a complicated beast. With decades of experience in the specialty coffee world, we have all the tools to make your cafe a success. Book a consultation call with us by emailing us at . We’re here to help!





How to Make AeroPress Coffee

When you’re craving a short, strong and delicious pick-me-up, look no further than the AeroPress. The AeroPress method is a favourite for coffee lovers because it does justice to specialty coffee with perfect, even extraction. If you’re finding your morning coffee routine is taking too long or isn’t tasting to your liking, consider adding this to your arsenal. Read the rest of this article to find out how you can make AeroPress coffee yourself.

AeroPress Coffee Maker

AeroPress style coffee is so established and beloved that there are even barista world championships for the best AeroPress. But don’t let that make you think it’s too complicated for you to master. On the contrary, making a delicious AeroPress is easy! Follow our complete guide to making a perfect AeroPress for a delicious single cup.

What does an AeroPress coffee taste like?

The AeroPress makes a small, bold cup of coffee with lots of clarity (ie. no sludge or coffee grind particles). While it does have the element of immersion just like a French press, it doesn’t have the same grittiness. In a way, it combines the best of a French press (immersion) and a pour over (clarity). The fine filter stops a lot of particles from passing through.

The brew ratio for an AeroPress is different from a standard pour over or drip coffee. While the ratio of a standard pour over is 1:16, the aeropress ratio is 1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water). This makes for a strong tasting coffee. 

AeroPress Coffee process

What are the benefits of an AeroPress?

The AeroPress is a favourite for many reasons. It’s a great travel accessory for the stubborn coffee connoisseur. It works well if you’re staying in a hotel in another city where good coffee is scarce. It’s also perfect as a low-tech method of making coffee while camping or day-hiking.

The AeroPress is known for being easy to transport. Because it’s made of plastic, it’s shatterproof, virtually indestructible, and lightweight. And because it’s relatively small, it doesn’t take up too much room in your bag. 

It’s made of BPA-free plastic, so you don’t have to worry about plastic leaching from pouring hot water into the chamber. Generally, pouring hot (or even warm) water into plastic is not recommended as it can release harmful toxins.

After brewing, the AeroPress is easy to clean. Just hover over the organics bin and push the plunger until the spent coffee puck pops out. Then, rinse the outer part of the plunger to remove leftover grinds. 

The biggest benefit of the AeropPress is that it makes a truly delicious cup of coffee, and fast. It’s perfect if you’re craving a small, strong, delicious cup.

Is the AeroPress for me?

If you were hoping to make a large amount of coffee for a group, the AeroPress might not be for you. While you can make multiple cups, it’ll take some time, and everyone will have to wait their turn. For multi-serve options, check out the Chemex Classic 6 cup or the Hario Craft Coffee Maker.

If strong coffee isn’t your jam, you might not enjoy the AeroPress method. The 1:13 brew ratio makes for a strong cup. You might want to choose a brew method with a weaker ratio, like the pour over method, which has a ratio of 1:16.

Hario Kettle

How to make the perfect AeroPress:

Brew ratio: 

1:13 (1 part coffee, 13 parts water)

What you’ll need:

Pour over Kettle

  1. Begin by boiling your water. By the time you’re ready to brew, it should be about 60 seconds off the boil. For best results, use a gooseneck kettle, or pour your hot water into a heat-proof pitcher with a spout.
  2. Grab a paper AeroPress filter, and place it in the screw-on filter. Place the filter over the sink, and gently pour a bit of boiling water over the filter. This rinses the paper filter, preventing a papery taste. Once the filter is rinsed, screw the filter cap onto the chamber, and place on top of your favourite mug.
  3. Next, measure 17 grams of Fratello coffee. Grind your beans on the burr grinder on a medium-fine setting. The grind should be slightly finer than pour over. Place the grinds into the chamber, and give the chamber a firm tap to level out the coffee bed. Place the chamber on top of a mug, and place the mug on a weight scale. Set it to zero.

Coffee on scale

  1. Pour 220 mL of hot water very quickly over the grinds. Using the stir stick provided, gently stir the slurry to make sure all the grinds are submerged. Place the plunger on top of the slurry, but don’t plunge just yet. Placing the plunger just on top creates a vacuum so the water doesn’t draw down all at once. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
  2. After 2 minutes, begin your plunge. Slowly and gently plunge until you hear a hissing sound. Your AeroPress is ready. Enjoy.

AeroPress troubleshooting

If your AeroPress is tasting less than fantastic, here are some basic troubleshooting tips. You can’t fix a cup that’s already been brewed; just grind some new coffee, and start over. You only need 17 grams of coffee, after all!

Problems and solutions:

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for more tips for brewing that perfect cup of coffee? Check out our article on why you really need a burr grinder!



Back-to-school: Tips for Coping with Parental Burnout

The back-to-school season stirs up a lot of emotions depending on who you are. For many, it's the season of excitement, nerves, nostalgia, new beginnings, and the madness of activity. This time of year can bring joy, in the form of hunkering down on studies or reuniting with classmates. But, if you’re a busy working parent, it can mean something entirely different: parental burnout.

Mother and daughter

Sure, the smell of fresh notebooks and the first signs of autumn bring a pleasantness to the air. But it can also be a return to that familiar hamster wheel of eat-work-sleep. Between making lunches, a full-time job, preparing dinner, and taking your kids to and from soccer practise, there’s exactly zero downtime. 

Working a full-time job is stressful enough on its own, but when you add raising kids to the mix, it can be crazy-making. Not only is this compounded stress a crappy feeling, but studies show that chronic stress literally makes us sick. Constant stress leads to high blood pressure and heart disease. High amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone, has been linked to cancer. The mind and the body are more interconnected than previously thought. 

As a parent, it can feel impossible to find some calm. If you continually let your own needs fall to the bottom of the priority list, that’s where they’ll stay. Don’t wait for downtime to occur–be proactive and make your own downtime. 

Here are our 5 tips for beating parental burnout so you can get the school year off to a great start.

5 tips for combatting parental burnout

Meditating woman

Carve out time for meditation 

Meditation, or mindfulness, is the practise of focusing on physical sensations and senses instead of on our thoughts. If you’ve never tried meditation before, you’ll be amazed at the effects on your mind after just 2-4 weeks of doing it regularly. 

Meditation exercises create new pathways in the brain, ie. new habits, new thought patterns, etc. If you tend to catastrophize, regular meditation creates a new, more level-headed way of thinking. 

Even if you only have 15 minutes a day, meditating 5-6 days a week can greatly ease parental burnout. Common meditations you can do anywhere and anytime include deep breathing and body scans. There are several free online guided meditation courses, such as the Palouse Mindfulness course. 

Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. To do something mindlessly would be to do something physical, like walking, without noticing your surroundings or sensations. Instead of focusing on the walk itself, you’d be caught up in thoughts about insecurities, bills, health, etc. A mindful walk, however, would involve focusing on the motion of your hips or the sounds of the birds in the trees. In essence, mindfulness is the practise of living life in the present and not missing what’s around us, however ordinary. 

Fratello coffee

Develop a new relationship with coffee

Sure, coffee contains caffeine, that thing that keeps our eyes open so we can deal with the demands of parenting. But rather than be used as a drug, coffee should be enjoyed. If you’re hitting up the drive-thru multiple times a day for a large triple-triple, you might be leaning on coffee. Parental burnout and too much caffeine tend to go hand-in-hand.

Change your relationship with coffee from one of caffeine addiction to one of mindful enjoyment. Start by drinking better coffee. Use the moment of drinking coffee to fully enjoy it. If you can, take a moment to sit down and enjoy it, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Even the act of making a pour over can be meditative. To fully enjoy the alertness benefits of coffee, try not to drink more than two cups a day.

If coffee isn't your thing, try making a matcha latte at home, and read about the health benefits of matcha.

Soak up parenting wisdom

Regardless of what age your kids are, it never hurts to take parenting classes or read parenting books. Not only will it help you beat parental burnout, but it will strengthen your relationship with your kids. Parenting wisdom can teach you how to deal with tough moments. Sometimes, kids will throw food at the walls or engage in naughty or rebellious behaviour. How you respond to these incidents is what makes the difference.

Parenting wisdom can also open your eyes to some of your own bad habits that you’re not even aware of. It can also demystify how to get kids to chores and homework without antagonizing them. 

A lot of unchecked life trauma can find its way into your family dynamic, damaging relationships. In general, parents can always benefit from seeing a therapist.  Studies show that kids with frazzled parents were much more likely to be stressed themselves

Mother and child

Do fun things with your kids regularly 

A lot of times, a major factor of parental burnout is too much work and not enough play. Regularly engaging in fun activities increases serotonin levels in the brain, the chemical associated with happiness. 

Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as simple as making cookies together on the weekend or going to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Even though it may be tempting to do nothing on the weekends after a draining week, fun is essential to well-being. It’s also a form of bonding with our family. Many parents with grown children report having regrets about not spending enough time with their kids when they’re growing up. 

Have some alone time

While it’s important to bond as a family, it’s equally important to find solitude. Solitude is important to our mental health. Being alone helps us to work through personal struggles, improve our concentration, relax, think deeply, and more. 

When you have kids, you practically never have alone time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have it–it simply means you have to make the time. Protect this time with your life. Book off a day in the calendar to get out of the house and call a babysitter or a relative to watch your kids.

It can be as simple as going to a coffee shop to get a few chapters in or going to the art gallery by yourself. If you let quality alone time fall to the bottom of your to-do list, you’ll become irritable, depressed and anxious. 

child doing homework

Turning parenting into child’s play

Parenting is indeed hard. It requires good time management skills and being “on” more than we’d like. But the mental strain that comes with parental burnout can add an extra layer of “hard” on top of a jam-packed schedule. The key is to set boundaries around your self-care routine and to inject more joy into your life. This school year, get off to a good start, and don’t wait to start implementing self care!