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How To Pull An Espresso Shot: Learn How to Pull the Perfect Shot of Espresso Step by Step

Home baristas: If you've always wanted to learn how to pull an espresso shot, this is the ultimate tutorial for you!
how to pull an espresso shot

As a specialty coffee barista, discovering the art of how to pull an espresso shot is where my passion for coffee first bloomed. 

If you’re a coffee lover and espresso novice, learning how to make a single and double espresso shot at home is so rewarding. 

These concentrated coffee espresso shots are known for their intense flavors and can be enjoyed on their own or used as a base for various espresso-based beverages. 

In this brew guide, we’ll explore the step-by-step process for creating espresso singles and double espressos and the key elements that contribute to their distinctive qualities. I am excited to share my technique and practice with you, so let’s go!

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What You Will Need To Follow This Tutorial

To learn how to pull good espresso shots with me, you’ll need the following:

  1. Fresh whole coffee beans: Choose high-quality coffee beans for the best flavor.
  2. Espresso machine: An espresso machine capable of maintaining the correct pressure and temperature.
  3. Coffee grinder: A grinder to finely grind the coffee beans.
  4. Portafilter: The component of the espresso machine that holds the espresso grounds.
  5. Tamper: A tool used to evenly compact the coffee grinds in the portafilter.
  6. Scale: You’ll need a coffee scale to accurately measure the coffee dose.
  7. Water: Filtered water is recommended for better taste.

Now let’s dive into the step-by-step instructions for how to pull an espresso shot.

How To Pull the Perfect Espresso Shot (Step by Step Guide)

Let me introduce you to some espresso terminology.

A single espresso shot, usually referred to as an espresso single or a solo shot, is a particular serving size of espresso that customers at the cafe I work at frequently request. 

how to pull an espresso shot
how to pull an espresso shot

Single shot espresso is made from roughly 6-8 grams of finely ground coffee beans. It is famous for its strong flavor and intense qualities and is often brewed using a specialist espresso machine. A single shot often serves as the base for coffee and milk drinks, but people love to have it by itself as well for a quick caffeine boost.

After you make sure your espresso machine is turned on and warmed up, here is how to pull an espresso shot properly:

Step 1: Get Your Grinder Out

how to pull an espresso shot

As always, you will grind your coffee fresh. Start by grinding fresh coffee beans to the proper consistency for espresso. The grind size is crucial for achieving the right extraction rate and flavor profile.

Step 2: Dosing into the Portafilter

how to pull an espresso shot

Use a scale to precisely weigh the ground coffee for the correct dose (mine is an Acaia Pearl coffee scale) typically around 6-8 grams for a single. Pour the measured coffee into the portafilter of your espresso machine.

An important note: Since I am using a professional machine, it has a double portafilter. This means it always brews double shots, so I always use 18 grams of espresso. If you have a single portafilter, use the 6-8 grams mentioned here.) 

Step 3: Tamping the Coffee

how to pull an espresso shot

Use a tamper to evenly and firmly compact the coffee grinds in the portafilter. This step ensures proper extraction and that a consistent flow of water can make its way through the grouphead.

Step 4: Extraction and Brew Time

Lock the portafilter into the espresso machine, and then pump hot water under pressure (usually 9–10 bars) through the coffee grounds. The extraction process should take about 25 to 30 seconds. When you are first starting out, I would stop the shot a couple seconds earlier so you can get used to how your machine handles coffee distribution.

Step 5: Yield

how to pull an espresso shot

If you’ve followed along with me on how to pull an espresso shot so far, your result is a concentrated espresso shot, usually weighing around 1 ounce (30 milliliters). Although the shot you pull might be a tad heavier or lighter depending on how much ground coffee you end up tamping in.

Remember: Every shot is slightly different based on the espresso beans you use, equipment, and technique! As you practice brewing the perfect espresso shot at home, you’re aiming for consistency with all these factors. 

Single Espresso Tasting Notes

Espresso single is renowned for its concentrated flavor and distinctive qualities.

Concentrated Flavor

Due to its small serving size, single espressos are powerful. It allows the complex characteristics of the coffee beans—such as acidity, sweetness, bitterness, and fragrance—to shine.

Crema

how to pull an espresso shot

A layer of golden-brown foam should be visible on top of a well-made single shot. The emulsification of oils and carbon dioxide during extraction leads to its formation, enhancing the shot’s mouthfeel and visual appeal. Good crema is what great coffee is all about if you ask me.

Strength

Espresso singles are often perceived to have a higher caffeine content than other coffee drinks due to the extraction process. Remember that producing a flavorful espresso single relies on the quality of the coffee beans, the consistency of the grind, the extraction conditions, and the espresso machine you use. If you find your shots to be weak, you should make your grind smaller and more consistent with a higher-quality burr grinder.

How to Pull Espresso Double Shots (Doppio)

A double espresso, commonly referred to as a Doppio, has more espresso than a regular single shot. When compared to a single shot, a double typically contains about 14 grams of finely ground coffee beans and makes twice the amount as a single shot. 

Now, let’s practice how to pull an espresso shot, doppio.

Step 1: Prep and Use Your Coffee Grinder

Grind fresh coffee beans to the appropriate consistency for espresso, just like in the previous process.

Step 2: Dosing into the Portafilter

how to pull an espresso shot

Measure the ground coffee for the precise dose, typically around 14 grams, and add it to the portafilter.

Step 3: Tamping

how to pull an espresso shot

Use a tamper to evenly compact the coffee grinds in the portafilter, ensuring steady water extraction and flow. When you’re practicing how to pull an espresso shot, tamping firmness is a critical area to practice on because too hard, your water won’t pulse through properly and you’ll have astringent espresso. Too light, and it’ll be watery.

Step 4: Extraction

Seal the portafilter in the espresso machine, and then push hot water through the coffee grounds under high pressure (usually 9–10 bars). The extraction typically lasts for 20 to 30 seconds.

Step 5: Yield

A double espresso yields more than a single shot, usually around 2 ounces (60 milliliters).

Double Espresso Tasting Notes

Doppios share similarities with making just one espresso but also have a few distinctions:

Strength and Concentration

Definitely keep this in mind while practicing how to pull an espresso shot: Double espresso is known for being intense. With more coffee and caffeine, it tastes twice as assertive as a single shot. This particular coffee concentration is the foundation of some delicious drinks, so you want to practice making sure each shot is pulled correctly!

Crema

Similar to espresso single, a properly prepared double espresso should feature a layer of crema, enhancing its overall flavor, texture, and visual appeal.

Versatility 

Double espresso shots serve as an excellent base for various espresso-based beverages. They can be enjoyed on their own in shot glasses or used to create drinks like cappuccinos, lattes, and Americanos, by adding more water or milk according to preference.

Whether you prefer espresso single or double espresso, mastering the art of how to pull espresso shots will pay off in the long run of your relationship with coffee. Experiment with different coffee beans, grinds, and extraction techniques to find your perfect cup.

About the Espresso Machine I’m Using: The Iberital Expression Pro

BTW, the espresso machine that we use where I work as a barista is an Iberital Expression Pro – a heat exchanger espresso machine. 

how to pull an espresso shot

Iberital is a Spanish firm that produces the Iberital Expression Pro, a commercial espresso machine that’s popular here in Bucharest. The Expression Pro was one of Iberital’s flagship products. It’s crafted with strong, beautiful stainless steel and is fun to work on. 

It often has two or three groupheads, which enable baristas like me to make several shots of espresso at once. The machine also has a robust boiler that delivers a steady temperature for brewing, which is helpful if you’re first learning how to pull an espresso shot.

But if you need a cheaper way to make yours at home, pick one of our best espresso machines under $200.

Final Thoughts on How to Pull the Perfect Shot of Espresso as a Home Barista

I hope my tutorial has helped you! If you want to make the best coffee at home possible, then discovering how to pull an espresso shot and mastering the art of it is essential.

By following the step-by-step instructions, using the right equipment, and paying attention to crucial factors like grind size and extraction, you can create exceptional espresso at home or in a professional setting.

How to Pull an Espresso Shot FAQs

  1. How do I pull an espresso shot?

    If you need to practice how to pull an espresso shot, start by grinding fresh coffee beans to a fine consistency. Tamp the coffee grounds evenly into the portafilter, ensuring a level surface. Insert the portafilter into the espresso machine and start extracting. The machine will force hot water through the grounds, resulting in a rich and concentrated espresso shot.

  2. Single vs double shot espresso time: What is the ideal extraction rate?

    The ideal extraction time for either a single or double espresso shot typically ranges between 20 to 30 seconds. 

  3. What is the recommended brewing temperature for pulling an espresso shot?

    The recommended brewing temperature for pulling an espresso shot is around 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C). This temperature range helps extract the flavors and oils from the coffee beans effectively. If you’re just getting started with how to pull an espresso shot, using a food-grade thermometer is helpful.

  4. Why is the grind size important when pulling an espresso shot?

    The grind size plays a crucial role in how to pull an espresso shot because it affects the rate of extraction. A finer grind size allows for a slower flow of water through the grounds, increasing the contact time and extracting more flavors. Coarser grind sizes can result in under-extraction, leading to a weak and sour-tasting espresso shot.

  5. How much coffee should I use for one espresso shot?

    To make a proper brew for just one shot, a standard coffee dose is around 6 to 8 grams. But I like using 18 grams for an espresso shot because I have a double portafilter. It’s essential to adjust the coffee dose to achieve the desired taste and strength of the espresso.

  6. What is the crema on top of an espresso shot?

    The crema is the reddish-brown foam layer that forms on top of a well-pulled espresso shot. It consists of oils and gases released during the brewing process. It adds texture and a pleasant aroma to the espresso, indicating proper extraction and freshness of the coffee beans. If you’ve mastered how to pull an espresso shot, a quality coffee crema will let you know.

  7. Can I use regular coffee beans for pulling espresso shots?

    While regular coffee beans can be used for pulling espresso shots, it’s recommended to use beans specifically labeled as “espresso” or “espresso roast.” These beans are typically roasted to a level that brings out flavors suitable for espresso extraction. They are often darker and have a more robust taste.

  8. How can I adjust the espresso grind size for different extraction times?

    To adjust the espresso grind size, if the extraction time is too short, resulting in under-extraction, try using a finer grind size. If the extraction time is too long, resulting in over-extraction, a coarser grind size can be used. Make small adjustments when next practicing how to pull an espresso shot, and observe the changes in extraction time to achieve the desired balance.

  9. How much caffeine is in a double shot of espresso?

    A doppio typically contains around 80-128 milligrams of caffeine. However, it really depends on the type of beans you use. Generally, espresso has higher caffeine concentration compared to regular brewed coffee due to its preparation process and the smaller serving size.

  10. How many grams of espresso in a double shot?

    You normally make it with 14 – 20 grams of ground coffee, probably on the higher end if you tend to grind finer. 

  11. Should I clean the espresso machine after each shot?

    It’s good practice to clean the espresso machine after each shot. Remove and rinse the portafilter, wiping away any residual grounds. Regularly cleaning the brewing components helps maintain the machine’s performance, prevents clogging, and ensures the longevity of your espresso equipment.

  12. What does pulling the shot mean in espresso brewing?

    Pulling the shot is the process of making a shot of espresso. It involves using an espresso machine to force hot water through the finely ground coffee at high pressure. It's a key step in espresso preparation that determines the flavor, strength, and quality of your espresso.

  13. How do I find the right grind size for my espresso?

    Finding the right grind size is crucial for pulling a perfect shot. Your grind should be fine enough to create resistance against the water flowing through but not so fine that it blocks the flow. Dialing in your grinder involves making small adjustments and pulling shots until you find the best grind size that gives you a delicious, well-extracted espresso.

  14. Why is distributing the coffee in the portafilter so important?

    Distributing the coffee evenly in the portafilter ensures that water can flow through the coffee bed uniformly. Uneven distribution of spent grounds can lead to channeling, where water finds the path of least resistance, over-extracting some areas and under-extracting others. This results in a less balanced and inferior shot of espresso. Plus, it can lead to an under-extracted shot or over-extracted shot, which no one wants.

  15. What is the best espresso recipe?

    The best espresso recipe can vary depending on your taste preferences and the coffee you are using. However, a good starting point is a 1:2 brew ratio, meaning for every gram of coffee, you extract two grams of liquid espresso. Adjusting the ratio, grind size, and tamping pressure can help you dial in your grinder and make the perfect shot.

  16. How important is tamping pressure when making your espresso shot?

    Tamping pressure is one of the important elements in espresso preparation. Consistent and even tamping ensures that the water is evenly distributed through the grounds, reducing the chance of channeling. You should aim for a pressure of about 30 pounds, keeping your arm perpendicular to the counter to ensure evenness.

  17. How do I insert the portafilter into the group head correctly?

    First, ensure that the portafilter is evenly filled and tamped. Align it with the group head and turn it firmly into place. Make sure it's locked in securely to prevent any water from escaping during brewing, as this can affect the pressure and, ultimately, the quality of your espresso.

  18. Can I still make a great shot with a home espresso machine?

    Absolutely! While every espresso machine is different, with the right technique and by paying attention to the variables of espresso brewing—like coffee quality, grind size, brew ratio, and tamp pressure—you can pull a perfect shot of espresso at home. It might take some practice to master how to pull the shot just right, especially with dialing in your grinder specific to your machine, but it's certainly achievable with patience and practice.

  19. What are some signs of a well-pulled shot of espresso?

    A well-pulled shot of espresso should have a rich, reddish-brown crema on top, indicating fresh coffee and proper extraction. The shot should flow like warm honey and have a well-balanced taste, neither overly bitter (over-extracted) nor sour (under-extracted). The exact taste profile will vary based on the coffee used, but it should be complex and satisfying. 

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