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Or, how to diagnose espresso extraction problems.

The Italian four M's (barista, grinder, blend, and espresso machine in English) encompass the key elements of producing exceptional espresso. It's tempting to focus on the last one; indeed, one of the most frequently asked questions on Home-Barista.com's forums is a variant of "What espresso machine should I buy?" Once a shopper narrows their list to a few choices, one of the issues experienced home baristas regularly debate is the techniques and merits of obtaining ideal brew temperature. The previous how-to, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love HXs, was my contribution to the finer points of brew temperature management. Despite the importance of the espresso machine to the final result in fact the search for equipment reviews is what brings most readers to this site I argue the other three elements are equally if not more important. At the top of my list is the contribution of the barista, and not only in the careful choices that bring these elements, but also the skills the barista needs to master. How well the barista has developed these skills is first revealed while watching the less than half-minute extraction that produces an espresso and ultimately in the cup. Appreciation of the importance of the extraction to exceptional espresso reached a new level of clarity last year with the introduction of "bottomless portafilters" by members of the Barista Guild (the modified portafilter is also referred to as a "naked portafilter" or "crotchless portafilter"). Inspired by Chris Tacy's diagnosis series Training with the Naked Portafilter, I started my own case study. Join me in a revealing look at what's happening beneath the business end of an espresso machine's portafilter! Our journey starts with a brief review before jumping into the diagnosis hints and tips for espresso extractions gone awry.

Why baristas like to watch


A smart barista will intently watch the stream of espresso Tiger striping is a good visual cue pour out during an extraction. While appearance alone isn't definitive proof of a good cup, it does go a long way in verifying the barista's technique. Describing what the barista is looking for requires we first review a few terms, some of which are excerpted with permission from the Espresso Glossary by Mark Prince: Blonding denotes the color transition of a pour from dark brown and tiger-striping to a light, uniform pale blond. This normally occurs in the last third of the pull and is a signal to end the pour. This overly-blond portion of an espresso is thin, nearly flavorless, and if allowed to continue too long, will dilute the body and taste characteristics of an otherwise enjoyable shot. Channeling is the rapid passage of water through fractures in the coffee puck, which produces a thinner, under-extracted espresso. When it occurs, you'll often see sudden appearances of blond streaks in the stream of espresso; sometimes the puck will even have pencil lead-sized holes where channeling occurred.

Crema is one of the sure signs of a properly brewed shot of espresso (in non crema-enhancing espresso machines) and is created by the dispersion of gases air and carbon dioxide in liquid at a high pressure. The liquid contains emulsified oils, and forms a dark golden brown layer resembling foam on top of an espresso shot. [excerpted M.P.] Extraction is the act of forcing hot water from the boiler though ground coffee, which in turn "extracts" flavors, oils, colloids, lipids and other elements that turn water into brewed coffee or espresso. [excerpted M.P.] Golden rule is a common phrase that describes the ideal extraction time and volume for an espresso. The Instituto Nationale Espresso Italiano provides a working definition of the characteristics of an ideal espresso, although I consider these parameters more "golden guidelines" than hard and fast rules. My own brief definition of an espresso is an extraction using approximately fourteen grams of coffee to produce a sixty milliliter double in 22 to 32 seconds (timing from the moment the pump starts). Over-extraction occurs when too many coffee solids are extracted, resulting in a strong, harsh flavor. The visual signs are a low-volume extraction having a dark, thin crema. A dark "halo" at the edge of the cup is another classic indictor of an over-extraction, or of brew water that is too hot. Pre-infusion: the act of pre-wetting the bed of ground coffee inside an espresso machine before actually commencing the brew. Some espresso machines do this by using the pump; water is pumped to the coffee for a second or two, and then halted for another second or two. After this pause, the pump activates again, and continues brewing the shot. Super automatics and some automatic espresso machines use this pre-infusion. Another type of pre-infusion is called "natural" or progressive pre-infusion, and occurs in espresso machines equipped with an E61 grouphead. When the pump is activated, a secondary chamber must fill prior to full pressure being applied to the bed of coffee. This gives a 3 to 7 second saturation time for the grounds before the pressure builds up. This type of pre-infusion is preferable to pump and pause active pre-infusion. There is a school of thought that progressive pre-infusion improves overall extraction from the coffee. [excerpted M.P.] Tiger striping and mottling are leading visual indicators of a good extraction. Tiger striping is formed by the contrast of darker and lighter crema in the espresso stream; ideally it begins early in the pour and is sustained through the end. Mottling is the in-cup confirmation of a good extraction; it is the darker brown speckling and reddish-brown splotches formed on the surface of the crema. Under-extraction occurs when too few coffee solids are extracted, resulting in a weak, dull flavor. The visual signs are a rapid, high-volume extraction having a uniformly light blond crema.

Terminology out of the way, we can now turn to how to recognize a proper extractionand the bottomless portafilter can certainly make it obvious! To the right is an example extraction from a Cimbali Junior DT1 that shows excellent tiger striping. The coloring is evenly distributed and was consistent throughout the pour.

The "Golden Rule" of espresso


As mentioned in the mini-glossary above, the "golden rule" of an ideal espresso specifies an extraction timing and volume. They are good guidelines, but the coloring is in many ways a better indicator of the correctness of the grind and tamp. Watching the extraction using a bottomless portafilter dramatically shows how the extraction is progressing, however one isn't absolutely required. Careful attention to the stream exiting the pour spout of a "normal" portafilter will show many of the same signs. Coloring will give you a clear idea when is the correct cutoff time, keeping in mind that tiger striping fades as the beans age. Also note that decaffeinated coffee stripes very little; it generally starts out darker and more uniform than the caffeinated equivalent and turns blond earlier. Of course, freshly roasted beans have more color striation during the pour too. Depending on the blend, four to ten days post-roast will give you the best results. Although stopping the extraction when blonding ensues will generally get you the best shot possible for a particular extraction, correcting for an improper rate of extraction leads to the road of better espresso. If the extraction is too slow, the espresso may be bitter with a dark brown crema; if the extraction is too fast, the espresso tends to be sour and the crema uniformly cinnamon colored. Taste is your ultimate guide to correcting errors in grind, dosing, and temperature. Applied consistently, getting good shots is mostly a matter of technique. Let's assume your espresso machine's brew pressure is properly regulated and the brew temperature is correct. I recommend setting the brew pressure to 8.2 to 9.5 bar and the brew temperature to 202 degrees Farenheit as a good starting point. Given that you've selected a quality grinder and fresh espresso blend, the final result now hinges on the extraction. And a lot happens in the twenty-five seconds of an espresso pour. If you have a standard portafilter, your observation is limited to the stream as it exits the spout. The bottomless portafilter offers a new vantage point to part of this process. Before getting into the common extraction flaws, I'll briefly cover how to properly prepare the coffee for extraction, loosely based on the techniques proscribed by David Schomer, owner of Vivace and influential barista trainer, in his article Espresso Packing Techniques: Update 2004. The first page of the online article is a step-by-step reference card; the scanned text is hard to read, so I've excerpted portions of it below, starting with the third picture: 3. [Begin with a] little pile of fresh ground coffee in the basket. 4. After filling in the any low spots, compress the coffee towards the 12 o'clock position. 5. Now, from the top, compress the coffee drawing your finger to the 6 o'clock position.

6. Bring the excess coffee to the middle of the basket & repeat compression strokes. 7. Pack down with 40 pounds of force. Twist as you lift the [tamper] off the coffee. 8. Tap lightly; note the portafilter has been lifted off the countertop. 9. Train staff to pack with 40 pounds of force using a bathroom scale. 10. Finish with polishing the coffee by turning the [tamper] clockwise with 20 pounds of force. Using the steps above as guidelines, let's review dosing, distribution, and tamping in a little more detail. Dose: A barista working in a commercial environment is making espresso after espresso. Practically all professional baristas dose the coffee grinds by volume. The techniques they use to assure the same amount of coffee for each espresso varies, but the net weight from shot-to-shot should ideally be one-half gram or less. The production speed requirements for a typical home barista are less demanding and the dosing techniques can be adjusted to better conform to a low-volume pace. Some home baristas, who have the luxury of choosing only to cater to small groups, weigh out the coffee beans and run the grinder until it is empty, then sweep the doser clean. This eliminates coffee waste, but adds extra steps. Still, if you have an analytical bent and a precise scale handy, weighing helps assure consistency, especially when first learning. I often tare each measure of beans when I'm in "research mode" and switch to volume dosing once I'm comfortable with a particular espresso machine's use. It saves coffee and eliminates a source of shot-to-shot variance. Whatever method you choose, keep in mind that the thickness of the puck is more important than the precise weight. If the puck is too high in the basket, locking into the grouphead will slice the top of the puck, especially on the right-hand side. This can lead to side channeling as shown in the first image of the Hall of Shame. The stock double basket capacity of most espresso machines is approximately 14 grams. That is, if you cut a level over a gently filled basket the same way you would measure flour, it will contain nearly precisely 14 grams of coffee. Following the compression strokes prescribed above, the basket will contain closer to 16 grams of coffee, hence why it is called an "overdosed" basket. The optimal weight will vary for the grind setting, beans, and type of grinder (i.e., any of the grinders in the site's summary review will produce a "fluffier" grind than say a Rocky Rancilio). It is important to have some clearance between the dispersion screen and the top of the puck. This facilitates the even distribution of water over the surface and allows the puck to expand upward to meet the dispersion screen as it absorbs water. At the maximum dose, a coin (2mm thick) placed on the top of the puck will graze the dispersion screen when the portafilter is tightened down, but recall that if the puck is getting grated on lock in, side channeling is likely. Distribute: It's tempting to blame an uneven extraction on an inconsistent tamp, but in the majority of cases, improper distribution is at fault.

I prefer to overdose the basket slightly differently than the steps described by David Schomer. Instead of overdosing by compression strokes, I gently tap the portafilter on the grinder fork twice when the basket it about 3/4 full, and then finishing filling. Finally I do four leveling drags South-North, North-South, West-East, and East-West without compression. The particulars of my preferred technique versus others you may read on the web are less important than consistency. Consistency is the key to continuous improvement and the ability to diagnose problems when they invariably occur. Inattention to small steps in your process can inadvertently add variability. For example, I saw during a recent barista competition some competitors who would tap the portafilter once to settle the grounds for their first shot and four times the next, followed by a finishing dose to the top of the basket. A finely ground coffee powder will settle slightly with each tap, so these competitors were likely seeing one or two gram variances between shots, which adds or removes several seconds to the pour time. Tamp: The purpose of tamping is to improve the density consistency of the coffee puck. Left untamped, the high pressure of the extraction is more likely to open fissures in the puck. As defined earlier, the increased flow of water through these fissures is known as channeling, and results in water that would otherwise go to extracting coffee solids evenly throughout the puck being concentrated along a narrow pathway. Flavor and body characteristics of such an espresso are very similar to the final seconds of an extraction after the onset of blonding: Thin, nearly flavorless, and no sweetness. Hold the tamper handle like you would grasp a doorknob, that is, with the shaft along the length of your hand and the end resting in your palm. Applying thirty to forty pounds of tamping pressure is often quoted as the standard for professional baristas, partially because of concerns about occupational overuse. This is also a good guideline for the home barista, but again, consistency should be your primary concern. Consider using a training tamper like the Espro, which is calibrated to thirty pounds, or using an inexpensive bathroom scale to train yourself how to apply correct and consistent pressure. My preference is the so-called "Staub" tamp, credited to Carl Staub. The Staub tamp focuses on getting the coffee off the sides of the basket by tamping once in the center, four times at the points of the compass, each time lifting the tamper out of the basket, and finally a light polishing tamp. There's not a lot of clearance between a tamper and the sides of the basket, so saying that you're tamping the "edge" is a bit of a misnomer. Professionals may not have the time for the added steps with a long line of harried customers, but since I have only a few tries at a great shot during the work-week before heading out the door, I believe it is worth the extra time assuring that the tamp is not canted and the puck is tamped firmly all along its perimeter. Let's assume that the brew pressure and temperature are correct, the equipment is clean, you have a quality grinder, and the coffee beans are fresh. A quick checklist for diagnosing an improper extraction follows.

Irregular pours?

Remember to dry the basket before dosing, and double-check the distribution is even. Verify the dispersion screen and water jet breaker are clean and clear. If the water in your area is hard and the machine hasn't been descaled regularly, check for scale build-up.

Too fast or too slow? Correct the grind. If you own a Mazzer Mini, Cimbali Junior, or Macap grinder, check out the site's reviews for general hints on adjusting these premium choices.

Old grinds in the dosing chamber? Grinds dry out rapidly and extract much more quickly than fresh grinds. A mixture could create pockets of unevenness. Either run the grinder for a couple seconds and discard the first grinds exiting the chute since the last shot (when dosing by volume), or always brush the chute clear after grinding (when dosing by weight). Also remember to grind for couple seconds after changing the setting to clear the chute, and then empty the dosing chamber.

Uneven extraction, premature blonding? Not enough coffee, uneven distribution, or canted tamp. Try overdosing (dose the portafilter until it is about three-quarter full, tap it gently on the grinder fork two times to settle the grinds, dose the remainder, then distribute and tamp as usual). Double-check that the tamp is level. Verify the dispersion screen is clear and water exits from it evenly.

Channeling from the edge? This could be caused by too much tapping or rapping the side of the portafilter after the first tamp; consider a Staub tamping style. Another possibility is the top of the puck is grinding against the dispersion screen during the portafilter lock-in; verify there is adequate clearance to allow the puck to expand up to meet the dispersion screen. If channeling is near the handle, remember to rotate the portafilter while dosing to avoid front-loading the grounds and confirm you are not "working around" the handle when distributing.

Convex versus flat-bottomed tamper? Baristas endlessly debate the merits of flat-bottomed versus convex-bottomed tampers. Careful readers will note that David Schomer switched sides between his original article in 1998 on packing techniques and the 2004 update that advocates a domed bottom. His thinking is that a slightly domed bottom will help push grounds to the edges for a better seal without unduly thinning out the center of the puck. Since I do a Staub tamp, the convex tamper doesn't offer much for me in terms of improved edge adhesion. On the other hand, those in a rush may prefer Schomer's less tamp-happy compress-and-polish approach with a modestly convex tamper. Reg Barber makes a very nice one with a

gently domed bottom and he'll even re-size the tamper base to precisely the basket's diameter for a reasonable $15 fee. Imagine two baristas pulling morning shots to "dial in" their equipment. After a few pulls, the espresso is still wanting. The conversation might go like this: Barista 1: Whoa, what was that? It's harsh man, the grind is off. Barista 2: Maybe you're right, it was a slow pour. Let me loosen it up. ...one minute later... Barista 1: Better. But a little sour. Did you futz with the temperature? Barista 2: Me? No, I checked it this morning. Barista 1: Well, it's still a little sour. I wasn't looking closely, did you dose the same amount? That pour looked too fast to me. Barista 2: Hey, I dosed like always. You want to show me how it's done smart guy? All baristas, if pressed, will admit that sometimes they are guessing what went wrong with an extraction. So following the adage, "wise baristas learn from their mistakes," this section will focus on intentionally bad extractions. Please pause for a moment to reflect on the many wonderful beans that were sacrificed to bring you this learning experience.

Side Channeling
Our study begins with one of the more common extraction flaws, as shown in the image to the left. To readily produce this shot, I increased the brew pressure to 10 bar and intentionally canted the tamp with one side of the puck visibly higher than the other by about three millimeters. The tigerstriping is gorgeous on the left-hand side and the beautiful coloring held there until the end, but trouble began very early on the right-hand side. The photo was taken approximately seventeen seconds into the pull.

Loss of adhesion leading to channeling

The channeling on the right side is likely due to broken adhesion between the walls of the basket and the puck. In addition to canting, hard or excessive tapping to knock grinds off the side of the basket during tamping can cause this type of channeling. It is more difficult to detect this kind of channeling than catastrophic failures since the stream would look passable if viewed from a normal pour spout. Without the bottomless portafilter, the scant evidence of a problem would be a thin blond thread in an otherwise medium to dark stream. You may also see twirling "barber pole" striping in such pours. The shot itself was drinkable by average caf?standards; it did however suffer from lower body and reduced sweetness.

The Blond Gusher

The next example is regrettably the most common mistake you'll encounter in commercial establishments: The infamous fifteen second espresso. To produce this blond gusher, I reduced the pressure to 8.5 bar Blond gusher = pours too fast and moved the grinder adjustment two clicks coarser. The tamp was not intentionally flawed and you can see that overall the extraction is even. The photo was taken at approximately twelve seconds into the pour. The cone has already formed and is growing at this stage; a correct pour would still require several more seconds until the cone reached this size. In addition to a grind setting that is too coarse, extremely high temperatures will accelerate blonding, as will happen if the barista forgets to perform a cooling flush before the extraction. High speed pours are invariably thin-bodied, sour, and weak. If you're served a shot like this at a cafe, you may be tempted to blame low temperature for the sourness, but quick pulls are more often the real cause. It's very difficult to distinguish a low brew temperature espresso from a blond gusher by taste alone.

(A Brief Intermission for the Test of Thirds)


A good way to roughly categorize the effects an extraction fault introduces is to do a proper extraction divided into three parts, what I call the "test of thirds." Improper extractions exhibit a stronger tendency in one of these three parts, which throws the rest of the shot's qualities out of balance. Therefore recognizing the taste characteristics of a divided espresso will give you important clues about the stage in which the extraction went astray. The first third of a pour is the most pungent and gives the espresso its "punch" in the same way that the higher percentage of cocoa defines the character of dark chocolate. Depending on the initial starting temperature, the first third can also tend towards sour flavors. The second third of an espresso pour is the crowd pleaser. In fact, some baristas intentionally let the first few seconds of the pour fall into the driptray to emphasize the sweet and creamy nature of the second third, but in doing so you'll potentially sacrifice the character that makes the blend interesting. The last third is weaker, lacks body and sweetness, and in some blends tends towards bitter flavors as more caffeine is extracted. Some baristas are tempted to end the pour well before the last third is complete and before the onset of blonding, but skilled professionals often let it flow longer than newcomers, knowing that the last portion can add a pleasing complexity to the shot.

System Meltdown
Returning to the tour, please direct your attention to the disastrously bad extraction shown on the left. To produce this nightmarish pour, I returned the grind to the same setting as the first in the series, but intentionally distributed the grounds unevenly, tapped the portafilter against

When everything goes wrong

the countertop, and tamped with scant attention to proper level. In the hopes of producing a really good jet stream, I also raised the brew pressure to 11 bar. My reward is the wonderful "dot dot dot" captured in the photo as a fine mist sprayed out from a pinhole in the bottom of the puck. If you look carefully near the right edge of the photo, you'll see side channeling that establishes a new low point in extraction mishaps. The leak spewed out with such force that the channeling stream overran onto the side of the portafilter and missed the cup completely. I was surprised the camera lens didn't get sprayed! The front of the espresso machine and parts of driptray were covered with teeny droplets of coffee. Perhaps safety glasses are wise for the first few uses of a bottomless portafilter? One bit of common advice offered to those reporting poor shots is to reduce the brew pressure. But based on the bottomless portafilter extraction analysis, I suspect in many cases those blaming excessive extraction pressure for lackluster shots are actually seeing the consequences of increased channeling due to the higher pressure. That is, the prevailing advice offered to inexperienced baristas to improve shot quality by lowering brew pressure may be more about reduced channeling than a genuine comparison of a proper extraction at a lower versus higher pressure.

Too Much Information


One drawback of the bottomless portafilter is it can provide too much information. The image to the right is an example of analysis taken a step too far. Highlighted is a "dead spot" where no coffee is coming out and a light reflection that tarnished the appearance of an otherwise beautiful extraction, but the taste was as good as the double shown at the beginning of this article. Focusing too much on the process can blind you to the goal enjoying better espresso!

Beware of T.M.I.

The bottomless portafilter is a handy diagnostic aid, especially for espresso machines that demand careful attention to technique. But there are limitations to what it reveals since not all channeling is visible from the bottom of the basket. Intuitively one might think of channeling as a "hole" that runs vertically through the puck, but uneven water pathways aren't always straight conduits from top to bottom. Fissures can be transversal between layers in the puck; you can produce impressive horizontal channeling by hard packing a half-dosed portafilter, dosing the remainder, and then lightly tamping. The upper layer of coffee will be less extracted than the lower layer below. Visible evidence of what is occurring will be absent from the vantage point a bottomless portafilter offers the giveaway is extraction coloring that begins dark, the tigerstriping ends early, and boom! A sudden uniform blonding about fifteen seconds into the pour. Now allow me to introduce professional barista Chris Tacy as "guest author" to close out this how-to with his perspective on what really matters to the pros.

People seem to get really carried away with (or perhaps obsessed with) the most unusual tiny aspects of producing espresso. These can range from the brew temperature of the espresso machine (it's important, but do you really think that the problem with the shots you're pulling is that you don't have electronic temperature control on your machine?) to arcane and complicated tamping techniques to bizarre cleaning rituals and beyond. The reality is that there are more than 100 variables going into a single espresso. As a result, it's all a dance. Or, perhaps more accurately, it's one of those plate-spinning acts while dancing with a partner. Hmm... yeah, pretty complex. Anyway... we try to be consistent in controlling as many variables as is humanly possible. But there is always variance and there is always going to be variance. So... I think the key is to pay attention to the most critical variables, and then understand the relationships between all of the variables and how they affect the results. Understanding this allows you to then pay attention to the results in light of all of this (the key variables and the inter-relationships between all the variables and their outcomes).

Keys to exceptional espresso


So what are the key variables? Well, there are some that can be reduced to constants like brew temperature and brew pressure and the coffee and the consistency of grind. So let's assume you're working with acceptable equipment and high-quality, fresh coffee. Given this, what are the key variables for a barista to focus on?
1. Grind.

Grind is the one variable that should remain a variable. The goal in general is to try to be so consistent and controlled at a tiny detail level that all other variables approach being constant. Now... of course... this is very Zen. I mean, it's basically impossible (and thus the idea of understanding the relationships between all the variables). In any event, grind is the variable you use. By this I mean that you tune the extraction of your espresso by adjusting the grind. Learning how changes in grind affect things, striving to understand the complexities of the grind is 90% of being a barista.
2. Distribution.

Distribution is the most misunderstood, neglected and really critical variable within your control. For good espresso, a requirement and the goal is to create an even density of coffee within the basket. This is actually a non-trivial problem. For most baristas (professional or passionate enthusiast) this is where technique fails most noticably. There are a couple of options when it comes to methodologies for distributing coffee within the basket. The two that seem the easiest to grasp, most predictable and most reliable are the Schomer Method and the Stockfleths Move (video). The best thing to do is figure out which one works for you, practice it, and get good at it. Keep in mind all the time what the goal is... to create an even bed (an even density of coffee within the basket). If you get this right, then your odds of correct extraction are going to go way, way up.

3. Dosing.

For each coffee, there is a range for your dosage that works with a set combination of grind, distribution, tamp and extraction style. You simply have to stay within that window. For target tolerance, 0.1 grams is desirable but probably excessive, but 0.5grams is really the maximum variance that will work. It's worthwhile to actually practice your dosing with an eye towards this tolerance. A good thing to try is to grind, dose and distribute your coffee in a clean and totally dry portafilter, and then dump it into a clean, dry paper cup. Repeat nine times. Now weigh each one. Practice until your tolerance gets to a personal target (I'd suggest 0.3 grams). To be honest, everything else is less important when it comes to a constant evaluation. For example, the tamp is not nearly as important as everyone seems to think. The goal with your tamping is to preserve the distribution and to create a firm enough surface. You need to be consistent with your tamp, but then again you need to be consistent with everything you do. Preservation of distribution is an important thing to keep in mind. There is no point in creating a near-even distribution only to then destroy it. How can you destroy good distribution? The most common ways are: whacking the hell out of the portafilter (we've all seen baristas who seem to be performing some percussion piece using the tamper on the portafilter); tamping off-level; rattling the portafilter side to side in the grinder fork; tamping multiple times with a too-small tamper; etc. Anyway... back to tamping. Basically, if you preserve the distribution, tamp at least 30lbs of pressure, tamp with consistent pressure and don't mangle the coffee by polishing under pressure, tilting the surface, etc., it's all good. So... other "obsessed upon" variables? Well, time and volume are then going to be tools to help you get close to the right grind. When you get close you start tasting while tweaking the grind to get yourself to the point where the grind is right. At that point, however, throw away the tools!! This is an art as well as a science and is meant to be tasted as a method of evaluation. So instead of watching the stopwatch, watch the flow of espresso. Even when you're being as consistent as you can possibly be, there will be variances (not just in your technique but in other factors). So in watching the flow, you manage volume and time based on that flow. And taste, taste and taste some more. Because at the end of the day... it's the taste of what's in the cup (not the size, not the time, not the look, blah blah blah) that matters. Drink the coffee love the taste.

Parting shot
Thanks Chris for the reminder of what really matters! In closing, I'm including one last image, but not of an extraction failure. The image to the left is a "gloppy" pour. Ristrettos are renowned for exhibiting these drippy, honey-like extractions. If you

Ristrettos are often "gloppy"

like to emphasize body and sweetness in your espresso, try pulling lower-volume shots like these. If you're lucky, you may also catch the image of a mid-air droplet or stalactites of rich espresso. The bottomless portafilter craze has spawned websites dedicated to photographing these "beauty shots," as exemplified by the pictures and videos in the next article of the how-to series, Banish Uneven Extractions with the WDT. Want to try it but don't have the spare money? Then read Dave Stephens' How To Make Your Own Naked Portafilter.