Why is my espresso coming out too fast?

low angle bad shot of espresso extraction from naked portafilter into white cup
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I love a strong, aromatic espresso shot. I love them so much that I ventured out and purchased a small espresso machine of my own. My brewing adventures, however, have come with some trial and error.

In order to achieve an authentic-tasting Italian espresso, the steps must be followed both accurately and precisely. Even though there are only a few steps involved in brewing this style of coffee, if everything is not done correctly, the espresso can come out watery and underflavored. One common problem, which produces weak and bitter espresso, is when the water is forced too quickly through the tamped portafilter.

Brewing Espresso at Home

When looking at the directions, the steps to brewing espresso with a machine at home can be broken down into four steps. Don’t let this fool you, however. If these steps are not followed and measurements are not perfect, this classic brew will not taste right.

Grind Your Dark Roast

Espresso is traditionally made with dark roast coffee beans. If you are looking to achieve that authentic taste, this would be the roast to use. In order to brew the espresso properly, the grounds need to be fine, almost powdery. If the grinds are large or unevenly ground, it can mess up the brewing process.

Weight Out the Coffee Grounds

To make a single espresso shot, between 6 and 8 grams of coffee grounds are needed and should be weighed out. If making a double shot, closer to 15 grams of coffee grounds need to be measured out. This step is essential. According to the size of the portafilter, an accurate measurement of coffee grounds is required to achieve a delicious espresso.

Fill The Portafilter and Tamp It Down

Once the coffee grounds have been measured out for the size of the espresso being made, the next step is to fill up the portafilter. Make sure that the basket is on a flat surface. This will allow for the most even-pressured tamping. If the grounds are not packed down firmly and evenly throughout the filter, it can cause a weak or even a bitter-tasting espresso.

Pull The Shot

Once the tamping is finished, it is time to place the filled portafilter into the espresso machine. With machines today, you can either manually force the hot water through the coffee grounds or the machine can do it automatically with the push of a button. Pulling the shot, which refers to the act of forcing hot water through the compact coffee grounds, should take somewhere between 25 to 30 seconds to complete.

Espresso Pulling Too Fast?

There are three common problems that can lead to an espresso brewing too quickly. From grinding coffee to packing the coffee into the portafilter, something can go wrong during each step of the brewing process.

Coffee Ground Size & Tamping

Air pockets can become trapped when tamping coffee grounds that have not been ground fine enough. This could lead to the hot water making its way through the grounds quicker than it is supposed to, which would result in weaker and unsatisfying espresso.

If the coffee has been ground too fine, the grounds become packed tighter than needed when tamping. As a result, the water would flow unevenly through the basket. Being under a high amount of pressure, the water would forcefully carve tunnels through the packed coffee grounds, leaving most of the basket dry. This quick extraction would brew a weak espresso.

The Amount of Coffee & Tamping

If there are not enough coffee grounds in the portafilter, there will be too much room left in the basket after tamping. This extra space above the puck, in turn, will not provide enough resistance to help force the water evenly through the basket. Not only will this result in a watery, mushy puck, but it will also brew too fast.

If there are more grounds than needed in the basket, the situation will be like if the coffee grounds were too fine. Tunnels of water will be pushed through the basket, leaving most of the coffee grounds dry, resulting in a quick exit and weak espresso.

Operator Error & Stale Coffee

Make sure that the portafilter is properly inserted into the espresso machine before pulling the shot. If the basket does not seal properly against the machine, it can cause the water to flow on the outside of the basket, instead of through the portafilter.

Using fresh coffee will result in a slower more desired pull. On the other hand, coffee that has been ground and sitting around would need more attention and grinding to get the same results. Overall, using fresh ground coffee is always best when brewing espresso at home to ensure the shot is pulled in the right amount of time and the extraction is flavorful.

Getting The Right Pull

I love brewing espresso at home on the weekends. Not only do I enjoy sipping on them, but I also have fun with the brewing process. It takes patience and precision to make a thick, sweet, and bold espresso (with a perfect crema layer on top).

It often comes down to how fast it is to pull the shot. If espresso is brewing too quickly, it can mean that the coffee grounds, measurements, and/or tamping were not done correctly. Other factors that can result in a quick pull are a misaligned portafilter and stale coffee.

In order to create a decadent espresso shot at home, fresh and fine coffee grounds need to be measured to the gram and tamped into the portafilter evenly with the appropriate amount of pressure. Then, the basket needs to be securely and accurately locked into position. This, in turn, will ensure a perfectly brewed shot of espresso.