Thursday, January 19, 2012

From espresso with love

When producing an espresso shot a lot of gear, gadgets and patience are required, because you need to control all the different variables that can interrupt when brewing an espresso shot. The different variables that can occur is wrong setting of the coffee grinds size, incorrect tamping, water temperature and brew pressure.
Ristretto shot with naked portafilter

Of cause you need all of this to be in order along with a fresh roasted coffee to produce a shot for the gods, as seen in the picture. This kind of shot will maybe never reveal itself to the common amateur coffee enthusiast but for those who master the right technique, this shot will be a medal of self-confidence of the highest coffee level. For those whom are not gifted in the art of brewing, a naked/bottomless portafilter is properly the best way to go.

The naked portafilter is a useful tool that has utilization in both café setting and especially for the home enthusiast. In theory a naked portafilter is exactly the same as a normal portafilter handle, with the spouts removed, showing the bottom of the basket that holds the compressed coffee. Having the basket exposed means that you can watch the entire extraction process, and diagnose any problems with the shot extraction. This sounds complicated, but its really not. Keep in mind that to create a quality espresso or ristretto, you need water to be pushed evenly down through the basket of coffee. If the shot is coming out unevenly its said to be channelling, which can be seen easily with a naked portafilter as the water will pour from the side of the basket rather than brought the middle.

If you current have a closed portafilter, you can turn it into a naked portafilter by using some simple tools, as shown by a bloke at Home-Barista, link here. Because I chose a Francis Francis X1 as my first espresso machine I thought I had closed the opportunity for a naked portafilter cause there are no factory made naked portafilters for this machine, but I was wrong. After I had read this post at Home-barista I transformed my original portafilter into a naked portafilter by cutting the bottom off, which I never have regretted.

Extraction diagnose:

  • A very blond (light) shot may be an indication that you need to dose more coffee in your basket or perhaps your grind is to coarse. 
  • A very dark shot is caused by the opposite, dosing to much coffee or grinding your coffee too fine.
  • Uneven tamping will cause channelling and thereby leading the water trough the path of least resistance. You will be able to see blonde patches, which indicate where the coffee is not compressed as tightly or where less coffee is distributed.

When you have dialled in your brewing technique, you may be able to get a gorgeous look at the extraction process like the picture below shows.

Perfect extraction stages from a naked portafilter
The color of the shot you pull through the naked portafilter can also be a good indication of whether you are getting it right, a perfect espresso shot should have an even, golden to reddish brown color that starts to blonde (lighten in color) around 25 to 30 seconds in the brewing process. 

From a taste point of view, there are more then a few opinions whether the naked portafilter affects the flavors versus the standard portafilter. In my opinion I have seen an increase of produced crema which also is more airy and therefore makes it more suitable for latte art. The flavors are more cleaner than an extraction that has to run through a portafilter spouts.

Don´t forget that enjoying a cup of coffee is a subjective experience, everyone has a different personal taste and preference, so keep this in mind when you hopefully are experimenting with the naked portafilter.

// Hendrup

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