Brew Ratios and Espresso: A Guide for Your Flair
In the world of espresso, understanding brew ratios can be difficult. What is a double shot, and is it even relevant anymore? What is a ristretto shot or a lungo shot? And how do each of these impact my coffee’s taste? These questions all pertain to your brew ratio, or the amount of espresso that is yielded from your coffee grounds. This article will discuss brew ratios in general, and also how they relate to, and can be managed, with your Flair. The video above is a detailed explanation by one of our favorites in the world of espresso, James Hoffman.
Measuring by Volume vs. by Weight
In the past, espresso was measured by volume, where a single shot of espresso was roughly 30 milliliters and a double shot was roughly twice this volume, or 60 milliliters. However, this type of measurement is not accurate when it comes to really understanding what is going on with the coffee in your cup, as it doesn’t take into account how much coffee, or grounds, is creating that shot, or shots. In other words, 60 ml of coffee will taste wildly different if it comes from 18 grams of grounds vs 24 grams of grounds.
In addition, if you only measure your espresso shot by volume, it’s impossible to match up or stay consistent with your recipe as your coffee slowly off-gasses and has less crema. As an example, a coffee that was brewed two days after roasting will have significantly more crema in 60ml of a double shot than if that coffee was used two or three weeks after roasting. The volume of the shot is the same, but the amount of crema will differ vastly, meaning two very different tastes from two different recipes.
Ratio by Weight
Because of this, it’s important to measure your espresso shot based on the input weight of your coffee grounds compared to the output weight of the espresso in your cup. This relationship, or ratio, between your grounds and your coffee dose is called a brew ratio, and it’s imperative for controlling the taste of your espresso as you dial-in and seek to brew a similar shot time after time.
Why is Brew Ratio Important?
Your brew ratio is important because it’s a wonderful way to manage and replicate the desired taste of your espresso once it’s been dialed in. Beyond this, a brew ratio is an important factor to manage because it deals with the extraction of your coffee grounds by the extracting agent, your brew water. The more water you force through your coffee grounds, at pressure, the more your grounds will be dissolved. This is what’s known as your extraction. This is a three-part relationship, meaning that as you increase the water used in brewing, and increase your extraction, you’ll also decrease the relative strength of your beverage, as it will be more diluted. So, dialing in your extraction means finding the relative “sweet spot” between the weight of your coffee grounds and the weight of your drink. You want to find a range where your shot is not under-extracted, but also not overly diluted, providing a well-balanced taste and mouth feel.
Common Brew Ratios and What They Mean
The most common brew ratios that you’ll see are a ristretto, traditional and lungo shot. The ristretto shot is also known as a restricted shot, and typically features a brew ratio between 1:1 and 1:1.5. A traditional espresso is typically 1:2-1:2.5 and a lungo, or long shot, is usually about 1:3.
It's important to remember that these ratios aren’t hard rules, and are more like guidelines. In general, you should dial-in your espresso to ensure that your taste and mouthfeel is as you want it.
Ratios with the Flair
To ensure that you’re able to get the desired weight of espresso in your cup, based on your desired brew ratio, it’s important to understand the size differences in the two brew heads that Flair products utilize: our Standard brew head and our PRO 2 brew head. The standard brew head has a maximum reservoir capacity, or maximum amount of water that will fit into the brewing chamber, of 60ml. But, the maximum output from the Standard brew head is just 45ml. In the PRO 2 brew head, the reservoir is 70ml with a maximum output of 60ml. This loss is due to absorption within the coffee cake during extraction, and it is important to note because, volumetrically, this indicates the upper level of espresso you can yield. As such, the standard brew head cannot yield a volumetric double shot, but it can easily extract a beautiful and balanced weight-based double shot of espresso.
As another example, consider the PRO 2 brew cylinder and its 60ml maximum volumetric yield. Because the density of coffee is very close to water, we can assume that 60ml roughly weighs 60 grams. So, if you use a typical dose of 20 grams of coffee in your PRO 2 portafilter, fill the cylinder completely with brew water, and lower the lever all the way, you'll yield roughly 60 grams of coffee, making a 1:3 ratio and a lungo shot.
To effectively measure the weight of your coffee as an output (instead of just guessing as in the example above), simply place the same scale used to measure the weight of your beans under your Flair while brewing. Lower the lever, and cut your shot short as necessary when your scale reads the appropriate weight of coffee based on your selected ratio.
It’s important to note that when stopping any shot short on the Flair, hold the lever in place until the pressure has dissipated from inside the cylinder, or when your pressure gauge reads close to zero. We also recommend expelling the residual water before taking apart your brew head for cleaning. A simple process for this is to stop your shot, and while holding the lever replace your cup with a second and expel the residual water by lowering the lever completely.