We Are Here To Help You Brew The Best Coffee

Recently, we received an email from a coffee subscription customer.

Graham wanted a little more information to help him brew the best coffee using his espresso machine. We thought ‘ Hey, if Graham is asking, maybe others would find the information useful too.’ And so, we share our response with you all, below.

His question was:

“Received your new Living the Dream today and just trying to get my recipe correct. Can I ask what ratio you are using for this bean? I haven’t been doing this very seriously until about 6 months so still learning the methods :)”

Graham – Troop member
coffee grinding into portafilter


Awesome question Graham – let’s get into it and talk more about ratio and extraction time.

Extraction time and ratio will change from machine to machine. For instance, some machines use larger portafilters, and some have a pre infuser.

With that in mind, firstly, we need to work out how much coffee your portafilter (handle) will hold. A double shot (the larger basket) will hold twice as much coffee as the single basket (the one which is the same ‘size’, but smaller internally. Doubles and singles are used to create different drinks.


espresso pouring from an espresso machine


The double is usually the more popular, so let’s go with that. Popping your portafilter on the scales isn’t usually advised, as part of it (the end of the handle) usually touches the worktop meaning the scales are not accurate.

Instead, tare a bowl, then add 20 or so grams of ground coffee to it. Then, spoon this coffee into the portafilter until it is full, with a mound on the top. Tamp this down, and if it sits somewhere near the ‘line’ on the inside of the filter basket, then winner. If not, tip it out and start again. See how much is left on your scales, and voila, the size of your basket is determined.


tamping a portafilter



Next, put this tamped portafilter into your machine, and let the water run through. Even if this doesn’t pour correctly, we have to start somewhere. For now, weigh the contents coming through and time how long your correct extraction takes. For instance, coffee is run on ratios. A traditional espresso shot is a ratio of 1:2 ( ie, 18g in, 36ml out) a ristretto is 1:1, and a lungo is 1:4.

If it takes too long to get your desired amount, the coffee will be over-extracted. This leads to a bitter taste in the cup. If your coffee comes through too fast,  this will be under-extracted. This leads to a sour taste in the cup. A pre infuser machine (like the Sage Barista express) will wet the coffee bed with a lower pressure before ramping the pressure to create the extraction. Pre infuse machines, therefore, take longer than a machine without one.


Usually, around 20-26 seconds for an espresso (1:2) would get you somewhere near the ‘sweet spot’, depending on your machine. The sweet spot is the bit between under and over-extraction where the coffee tastes amazing.


coffee being tamped in a portafilter


Finding the right grind

After pouring this 1st shot, evaluate the info collected and taste the coffee. If it is sour in taste and came through in, say, 15 seconds, then you can go back to your grinder and grind it finer. The finer ground will slow the water moving through the coffee bed. Alternatively, if the coffee comes through too slow, making it taste bitter, then adjust your grinder to be coarser.

The other variable that can control how fast or slow the coffee extracts is the amount in the portafilter. A thinner coffee bed creates less resistance and allows for a faster pour; but as we have already sorted the amount previously, it is now just the grind size to play with. This way, we are only changing one variable. Change two at a time, and no one knows which fixed the issue.


coffee grinding into portafilter


Once you are all set and have your ‘perfect extraction’, all you need to do is save it. Your grinder should be all set with the grind size so we just need to change the timer on the grinder so it gives you your desired amount every time. Run the grinder, weigh the coffee and adjust.

Next, we need to override the timed water buttons on the machine. To enter the menu, consult the manual for your particular machine. Then, make a coffee as normal, with your new weight and grind size, and time the extraction through again using scales and a timer. Usually, you press the button you are programming once to start the flow, and another time to stop it. This then saves this so it will do the same every time.

Lastly, set the single shot up. There is no need to adjust the grind size as this is spot on, just the amount of coffee (but most machines have this sorted by having the option to change between a single and a double at the push of a button) and the time the water runs for.


pouring milk into a mug


After dialling in, you can put the scales and the timer away as your machine will do the same every time now, ensuring you get the best coffee possible.

Andy at Two Chimps Coffee


Here at Two Chimps Coffee, we are here to help as much as we possibly can. With this in mind, ask us anything about brewing, coffee, or even unrelated coffee questions (:-)), and we will always reply. We might even share the information with others, as we have done here.

So, if you have a burning question about coffee or a brewing conundrum that’s really tickling your brain box, get in touch with the team today.


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