Straight of the bat I am gonna say that this will piss off a lot of people.
We all know that espresso is a very, very old drink. Most coffee shops still work with the standard espresso recipe: 7g/ 25 ml/ 25 s. That is the classic, Italian standard, that works well in the commodity coffee industry cause of reasons I can’t be asked to share at the moment. We wont be talking about them but mainly about how single espresso is perceived in specialty coffee.
Specialty coffee “workers” understand that coffee is a tad more complex than we might of initially thought.
People recently started (past couple of years) to really challenge the concept of an espresso.
One of the first steps was to stop brewing coffees at the mythical 9 bars. People have covered low pressure profiling already, so I won’t upset you even more. You can read about it here, here and here. I do want to share the fact that we brew espresso at 5.1 bars but I do think you should find the same reasoning behind the death of the single espresso even when brewing at 9 bars.
Single espresso is long dead and it is about time we face it. I started monitoring espresso shots to see what TDS margins they have about 6 months ago. I am talking about well distributed, individually weighed single espresso. I have always had a hunch that even with an even extraction and equal amounts of coffee in the two shots of espresso, we yield from a double spouted portafilter, there was always a noticeable difference between the pair of single espressos. So to follow that hunch and gather some hard, objective numbers, I made it my daily chore, for the past 6-7 months, to measure as many paired single espresso extractions as possible.
Too put this in perspective a bit, I need to explain how our shop works. We serve 3 different single origin espressos and change coffees on a weekly basis, working with some of the best roasteries in Europe. In the past 6 months we actually had around 30 different coffees to use and test.
We went and selected random paired single espressos, and when I say paired I mean 2 single espresso that came out of a double spouted portafilter, and we took TDS readings to be able to quantify the variance between the pair of single espressos.
For the sake of the test, any shots that weren’t extracted equally and weighed the same (+0.1/0.1) weren’t taken in account.
Even with equal weight and a well distributed shot, the TDS readings variance was between 0.3 – 0.6 for the two single espresso pair.
After all this was done and dusted, we decided to switch to double espresso and kill the single espresso for good.
One of the things people kept asking me when I talked about the death of the single espresso is why we didn’t change the milky drinks as well (latte/cap).
The reason behind this decision is the fact that the difference in TDS when adding milk to the single spro is unnoticeable, whilst in the single espresso case, the difference was not negligible, and we believe it didn’t fully represent the coffees we were serving.
I don’t want to delve too much into the matter but if you have had any doubts about it in the past and/or want to prove me wrong you are welcome to pick up your friendly VST III and spend the next weeks taking numbers and tasting spros.
*We checked each TDS reading for 15 times per sample and around the 10 mark we saw that the readings became stable. We did this so there is no room for error, and the coffee reaches optimum temp for a stable TDS reading.
**In the shop we use portafilters with the standard double stout and VST 18 g baskets.