Espresso Shot Troubleshooting

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Espresso shot troubleshooting guide

If you’re struggling with your espresso shot brewing too fast, too slow, or is lacking crema, try a few of these different fixes that might help solve your espresso problems.

Espresso machine drips too slow

If your espresso machine is dripping to slow, try:

  • adjusting the grind to a coarser grind. The larger the espresso grind, the faster the brew flow of the espresso.
  • tamping too hard – if you tamp the espresso too hard, the compacted espresso beans will not allow water to flow through it well. Try tamping a little less hard and see if your espresso brews faster.
  • machine needs descaling. If your water is heavily mineralized, your espresso machine will be coated in minerals, which will cause a buildup and water will not be able to travel through your machine. Try running white vinegar through your machine to remove the minerals. Only use distilled water through your machine if your water contains too many minerals. This way you will not have to descale your espresso machine.

Espresso shot drips too fast

If your espresso shot is dripping out too fast out of your espresso maker, try these simple fixes:

  • adjust the grind to a finer grind. The smaller the espresso grind, the slower the espresso will come out of the machine
  • old coffee beans – coffee beans will age over time, and change their ability to pull a good shot of espresso. Use fresh beans that have been recently roasted to have your espresso pull slower out of your espresso machine.
  • tamping too lighting – aim for tamping 30 lbs of pressure. Try using your tamper on a scale to see how much 30 lbs of pressure is. Then try tamping your coffee at the same amount of pressure.
  • gasket not fitted correctly – could be a buildup of coffee underneath the gasket. Scrape the excess coffee grounds and refit with a new gasket. Gaskets should be replaced once a year.

Espresso channeling

Espresso channeling can give an espresso shot a lack of crema, weak flavoring, and can cause the espresso to brew too fast. This results in too much espresso that you would expect for an espresso shot.

Water flowing through espresso is going to find the path of least resistance.

If you’re filling your portafilter with espresso, sometimes you’ll get one side too high and the other side is lower with espresso beans. If you tamped an uneven dose of espresso, you’ll get espresso channeling.

Espresso channeling can cause under-extraction and over-extraction at the same time, if not dosed correctly.

If you inspect the espresso puck after brewing, you can tell where the water is channeling around the puck.

Espresso channeling can be due to:

  • undersized tamper – if your filter basket is larger than your tamper, you’re not tamping all of your coffee, even if you run it along the edges of the basket. Try a precision basket with your properly fitted tamper, and this should help
  • uneven tamping – espresso is not dosed correctly.

Espresso not creamy

Creamy espresso is the golden standard for an espresso shot. Crema is formed by pulling a fresh shot of espresso using fresh beans, tamping 30 lbs of pressure, and using the proper grind.

Espresso is usually not creamy if the espresso beans are old. Freshly roasted espresso beans are needed to achieve a creamy espresso shot.

Portafilter Wet or Dirty

Clean your portafilter with water to remove all of the remaining coffee beans that may be present. Dry the portafilter thoroughly before grinding your next espresso shot. You don’t want your espresso to be prematurely wet prior to extraction. This can cause uneven tamping and a more bitter espresso shot.

When to start timing espresso shot

Start timing your espresso shot when the first drop hits your mug.

Your espresso shot should brew within 20-30 seconds.

espresso machine drips too slow