Dialling in without timings

September 20th, 2010

Just a quick post – not really designed to be a how to, more a little anecdotal incident that I wanted to share. It is interesting how Extract Mojo starts to change the way you think about espresso.

This morning I was chatting to Jess as we were pulling shots (for in house consumption I should add).  The coffee wasn’t tasting great and we started talking about dialling in  and what we would change.  I like having a timer around for dialling in, aware that I am woefully inconsistent when it comes to mental timekeeping and it is a key variable in dialling in – brew time has been something I’ve been trained to focus on.  Couldn’t find the timer, so instead we grabbed the scales.

I know that I like our espresso blend when it is pulled at a brew ratio of around 65%.  This means that the weight of the ground coffee used is 65% of the weight of the brewed espresso liquid.  Our 20g dose would therefre yield a little under 31g of espresso.

What we did was keep the brewed mass as a fixed variable, ignore time and go by taste.  This proved surprisingly quick – the first shot was overextracted, so we nudged the grind a little coarser.  Second shot was better, but again the rough finish indicated overextraction.  One more nudge coarser and then sudden deliciousness.  One of the best espressos I’ve had in a long time – juicy, sweet, balanced, tonnes of clarity. 1 Out of curiousity I tracked down a timer and timed the next shot – 29 seconds…

It has been a while since I’ve done this exercise – it was interesting to choose a desired strength (which is essentially what a brew ratio does – assuming you are going to consistently extract the coffee properly).  Ignoring time and just using taste was oddly liberating.  I think that it also feels weird to think of that end mass as being fixed as the industry tends to defer (incorrectly in many ways) to the look of the pour.  “Blonding” has long been problematic for me.  Aside from the massive potential for subjectivity (which isn’t hugely useful when it comes to communicating), blonding is the result of the flow containing less solubles than before – but offers no clue as to the quality and flavour of those solubles.

I posted this because this little exercise felt worthwhile, and I’d recommend other people try it.  I think around 65% as a brew ratio is a great place to start – enough liquid that you stand a chance of properly extracting the coffee, but still tonnes of texture and mouthfeel.  I’m not saying all espresso should be about 12% strength (what 65% as a brew ratio works out to in a proper extraction) – strength should always remain an individual preference I think.

On a side note – a quick tip:  some days on bar the coffee tastes great.  When it is tasting exactly how you like it then grab a weight measurement of dose and brew liquid.  When your coffee doesn’t taste so great – and that will happen – check your numbers and, 9 times out of 10, working back towards the tasty numbers will quickly improve your shots.

  1. I should add that while we didn’t use the Mojo, I have no doubt that the extraction was around 19% – mostly due to the correlation between shots I’ve enjoyed in the past, and their readings  ↩︎

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