Nobody likes a thin and watery espresso! As a barista in a specialty cafe, I make sure to keep my equipment dialed in to avoid serving lifeless swill to my customers. In most cases, I’ve found that the culprit is a shot that brews too quickly.
Good espresso normally flows into the cup with the consistency of syrup. If your shots are dribbling out in a thin and watery stream, then you need to take a look at your grind size, coffee dose, or tamp pressure. It might also be a case of channeling, which is when water passes through holes or imperfections in your puck.
Calibrating your equipment sounds a bit daunting, but don’t worry too much just yet. We’ve listed some simple fixes to this issue, so read on for those!
- Shots that flow too quickly indicate the need to fine-tune grind size, coffee dose, and tamp pressure to achieve the ideal espresso consistency.
- Channeling can also cause fast espresso shots and is prevented through careful puck preparation and cautious handling of the portafilter.
- The optimal espresso pull time is between 25 and 30 seconds; a finer grind setting and correct machine pressure are two equipment considerations that are crucial for a perfect shot.
How Do You Slow Down Your Espresso Shot?
In most cases, if your espresso machine is pulling shots at a quicker rate than usual, then it’s most likely an issue with the amount of resistance from the coffee bed. The issue of espresso pulling too fast can be fixed with one of three adjustments: the grind size of your coffee, the amount of grounds you’re using, and the pressure with which you’re tamping.
Why Grind Size Matters
The first and foremost reason why your espresso might be pulling fast could be that you’re not grinding at a fine enough consistency. The rule of thumb with espresso grind size is that the coarser the grind is, the faster it will pull the espresso.
So, if you’re looking to slow down the pull of your espresso, then you’ll want to change to a finer grind. Now, if you don’t grind your own beans, we highly recommend doing so, especially for espresso. If not for the better taste of freshly grounded espresso beans, then to ensure you’re getting a decent pull.
Not Too Much and Not Too Little
Another factor that can contribute to your espresso pulling too fast is the amount of coffee grounds you’re using. While this amount can vary depending on the espresso machine and the baskets you use, a typical range is usually anywhere between 17.5 and 18.1 grams of ground espresso for a double basket.
Having your shot within this range should set you up for a good pull, as long as you’re also keeping track of the grind size and tamping pressure.
Don’t Forget the Power of the Tamp
The final thing to consider when trying to figure out why your espresso is pulling too fast is your tamping technique. Now, the whole reason for tamping espresso is to get rid of any air pockets to prevent water from just quickly going through the grinds.
So, if you put a good amount of pressure on your grinds when you’re tamping, essentially until it can’t tamp anymore, then you’ll be another step closer to preventing your espresso from pulling too fast.
What Is Channeling and How To Avoid It
If your espresso is still pulling too fast despite following our tips, you might be dealing with channeling. This occurs when water finds the easiest route, typically through cracks or holes in the coffee puck.
While channeling is normal to some extent, it’s a bit of a problem if it occurs too early. Your shots will come out too fast, causing uneven flavor extraction through the coffee puck. Here are some tips to prevent it.
Shots that channel early often make a bit of a mess.
Be Careful With Puck Preparation
You could have the best espresso grinder dialed in to the proper grind size, but uneven coffee distribution in your portafilter basket can create gaps or crevices in your coffee puck. Before tamping, make sure to level out the grounds as evenly as you can. Some ways to do that are:
- Tapping or knocking the side of the portafilter to even out the ground coffee
- Using your finger or a coffee distributor
- The Weiss Distribution Technique
Treat Your Tamped Portafilter With Care
Once you’ve evenly distributed and compressed the coffee with your tamper of choice, try to insert it into your machine’s brew head as gently as possible. Definitely do not tap, knock, or bang the portafilter after it’s been tamped. Any force may cause small or invisible cracks that can cause channeling.
Check Your Machine’s Brew Pressure
While many espresso machine pumps are rated for 12, 15, or even 18 bars of pressure, the ideal setting for pulling shots should be closer to 9 bars. If your brew pressure is set too high, the water flow may be too aggressive for the coffee puck.
You can check this easily if your machine comes with a gauge for it. If not, consult your manual to check if there is a way to check or change the pressure setting of your machine.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know the basics on how to prevent your espresso from pulling too fast, you still might have a few more questions. No worries, we’re here to answer them, too!
Why Is My Espresso Shot So Watery?
You may find that your espresso shot is very watery. In that case, the espresso grounds you’re using are too coarse. This goes back to where we mentioned it’s better to have a finer grind on your beans so that the pull won’t be too fast.
If the grinds are coarser, then the water will go through it more quickly, preventing the flavor from being properly extracted, and therefore giving a watery and weak espresso shot.
How Do You Fix Underextracted Espresso?
If your espresso isn’t extracting as much flavor out of your grinds as it should be or you’re receiving an uneven extraction, it’s most likely because of a slow pull. So, getting a finer grind, brewing a bit longer, and tamping correctly will help to get a proper extraction.
You also want to make sure you’re always cleaning your machine parts and portafilters. It makes a whole lot of difference when you take care of your espresso machine and use fresh water.
How Many Seconds Should an Espresso Shot Take?
Just as it’s important to be aware of how much your grounds weigh, it’s also important to time your shots, even if you’re using an automatic machine. It’s usually good to brew a double shot in a time between 25 and 30 seconds.
You can tell if your shot is pulling too fast if it’s under this range. If so, then just try to adjust it by using our suggestions above. You should also make sure to start your timer from the moment you push the button to brew your espresso because that’s when the extraction process begins.
What Is the Best Grind Size for Espresso?
No matter what, the grind size for espresso should always be fine. Now, depending on how fast or slow the shot is pulling, you can always adjust between slightly coarser and slightly finer. However, it should always be more on the fine side compared to other types of coffee.
Pulling It All Together
Overall, it’s rather really simple to fix the issue of espresso pulling too fast. With just a few adjustments, you can get your espresso pulling at a normal rate, leading to great-tasting coffee!
The main fix will rely on adjusting the grind size on your espresso grinder to a finer consistency, since the finer the grind means the slower the pull. However, other factors including the amount of grounds, proper distribution, tamping out air pockets, and even the flow rate of your machine also play a part in espresso pulling too fast.
So, hopefully, these tips and tricks have helped you to figure out the perfect pull for your espresso. It’s important to always check these steps before brewing up a new shot of espresso because it’s easy for these things to fluctuate.