August 30, 2023

Find yourself staring blankly at your home espresso machine, wondering to yourself why it’s only making temperamental coffee that just does not want to run properly?

Even the most seasoned of baristas struggle with this at times!

Before you give up and drop a bunch of cash on a takeaway, or worse, simply drink subpar coffee (gasp!), try these super handy tips from our in-house coffee specialists. 

Why does my machine work with some coffees but not others?:

To put things plainly, if you have a decent machine and you are buying decent coffee beans, they will almost always be compatible with one another. What it really comes down to is finding the perfect recipe for that particular coffee that will allow the flavour profile to truly shine. 

What is a coffee recipe? 

We know they can look pretty intimidating at first but following a coffee recipe is actually pretty simple once you get your head around how it works. Basically, a recipe is the best way to gage a coffees extraction. Coffee professionals use it as a guideline for ensuring optimum extraction. For the everyday home brewer, a recipe is great for making sure you’re getting the absolute best out of your coffee and for knowing what to fix if your espresso shot doesn’t seem to be running at 100 per cent. 

With every Thieves Coffee delivery you receive, you will find a poster that gives you the recommended recipe for that month’s featured specialty coffee. This recipe is key in what sets specialty coffee and commercial grocery store coffee apart. Essentially specialty coffee refers to how coffee beans have been sourced, processed, and brewed. Exceptional care is taken into consideration in every step of the process. In order to hero that particular coffee so that we can showcase it’s individual and unique flavour components, aromas, and profiles – you really should follow the recipe provided by the roaster. Coming up with this magic equation is known in the coffee world as ‘dialling in’ and this process is one of the many factors that sets specialty coffee apart from commodity-grade coffee. 

No batch of beans are ever quite the same, even if they come from the same far or roastery. That is because there are so many factors that play both from an agricultural perspective and during the roasting process. Of course, as consumers we don’t have much say in that, but what we can do is play around with variables on our home espresso machines to achieve the best possible outcome.

Sounding a bit much for a morning cuppa? Here's why using a recipe is totally worth it when brewing delicious specialty coffee:

Consistency: Specialty coffee is all about balance and consistency. A recipe ensures that each cup of coffee you prepare maintains the same level of excellence every time, where the coffee's distinctive qualities shine through in every cup. Luckily for you, we already provide a recipe for you to go off!

Showcasing Individuality: Specialty coffee beans exhibit intricate and nuanced flavour profiles that simply do not compare to commercial beans. We can push the coffee to it’s potential using a recommended to bring out the specific tasting notes that make that particular brew special. After all, discovering the exciting world of specialty coffee is half the fun of a Thieves subscription, so why not celebrate every batch!

So we’ve given you an ideal recipe for this month’s coffee but if you’re still scratching your head and gaping at your espresso machine wondering what went wrong, then keep scrolling.

The hard science behind espresso recipes and extraction:

At its core, espresso extraction is the process of extremely hot water passing through finely-ground coffee at a high pressure.  This leads to the extraction of solubles that contribute to the unique flavour and aroma of an espresso. 

You’ll know a shot isn’t running well or up to standards if it seems to be spurting out coffee incredibly quickly, or the coffee is dripping at a painfully slow pace. A well-extracted espresso shot will look rich, full-boded and full of crema. 

There are three variables we look at when dialling in coffee for optimum espresso extraction: 

Dose in - This is the amount of coffee that goes into a shot.
Dose Out - This is the amount of liquid that comes out of the machine in the form of a coffee shot. Also known as ‘yield.’
Run Time - The length (in seconds) it takes for the espresso shot to run. 

For example:

This month’s ultra delicious espresso brew from Rumble Coffee suggests a recipe of: 

Dose: 21g
Yield: 40g
Time: 30 seconds

That means you’ll be tamping a total of 21g of coffee. The total weight of the shot that comes out of the machine should be around 40g (ml), and that shot should run for 30 seconds. 

Generally a good rule of thumb to follow is that espresso will have a 1:2 ratio of coffee to water.

It is important to remember that every home machine is different, and may not have the pressure power of commercial machines. So if you find yourself still trying to get that coffee pouring perfectly even after following the recommended recipe to a ‘T’, then you can use these troubleshooting tips to guarantee the perfect extraction. 

My coffee is running too quickly/giving too high of a yield/tasting acidic:

This means that your coffee is underextracted. The granules are too coarse and water is running through the basket way too fast. Try tightening the grind size. If this still does not work, increase the starting coffee dose, or consider tamping a little harder than usual. If your machine permits it, increase the temperature setting of your boiler by 0.5-1 degree. 

My coffee is running too slowly/giving too low of a yield/tasting bitter:

This means that your coffee is overextracted. The granules are too fine and packed together, and water is struggling to drip through the compressed coffee grinds. You can coursen your grind size so that water can permeate the coffee bed easier. 

Espresso extraction isn't a one-size-fits-all process. Each coffee batch, roast, and machine can behave differently and lead to  many different variables. Optimal extraction can be achieved by ‘dialling in’ using a recommended recipe carefully curated just for that particular coffee batch. This involves adjusting variables such as grind size, dose, temperature, and sometimes even how much pressure we use when tamping. It's a dance between technical know-how, understanding how extraction theory works, and sensory perception.

Ultimately, trust your instinct! Although we provide recipes, if your gut feeling is telling you that todays espresso shot seems to be running a little off- play around with the grind size. After all, the best way to start the day is with a delicious coffee. You can use the above tips when you believe your coffee is not running up to speed. Alternatively, our in-house coffee specialists are always up for a chat via our online chat box to help you get the most out of your Thieves Coffee subscription.