Whether you’re a coffee professional or a passionate recreational lover, extraction tastings are imperative for introducing yourself (or clients!) to a new coffee product. Hosting extraction tastings is an excellent way to draw customers into your shop, and doing them on your own is a great way to better understand the complexity of coffee flavor. To do an extraction, all you’ll need is coffee, scales, a grinder, and an espresso machine—tools you likely already have if you’re reading this blog. You can run experiments with any coffee and grinder.
I recommend starting with a typical espresso recipe. The flavors will likely be balanced, providing you a great “middle of the road” taste for the experiment. Don’t worry about shot times; as long as your grinder is calibrated to make the typical recipe taste great, size and time won’t really matter. The trick here is to make espresso to weight. To do this, grind, weigh, distribute, and tamp your usual dose into the basket, making sure to be as accurate as possible with dose weight. Tare your cup on a small set of scales. Start the espresso shot and place the cup and scales beneath the spouts. As the espresso begins to brew, the weight will increase. Stop the shot when the scale reads between two and six grams less than your target yield. Follow this process to make seven espressos with the same dose and different yields. I like to use intervals of 4 grams (a typical espresso yield is 40g).
Now, it is time to dilute. The longest shot will be the weakest, so you should dilute all other espressos down to the same concentration. The shortest shot will be strongest, so it will need the most water. Add appropriate amounts of water to each espresso so they are roughly the same number of grams. At the end of the process, you will have seven espressos of similar strengths but with very different extractions.
Now comes the fun part: the tasting! You will now have a neat flight of espressos. The first two will be the most aggressive, and the middle (the fourth) will be the “correct” balance. Taste each and record anything that comes to mind. This is a great activity for coffee professionals and enthusiasts, and I hope you enjoy the tasting process!