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January 30, 2017 /
Espresso Recipes: Analyzing Dose

An espresso recipe captures and communicates the 3 main variables of espresso brewing, which are:

  • Dose – the weight of dry ground coffee in the portafilter.
  • Yield – the weight of espresso made.
  • Time – the contact time between coffee and water.

Dose is the anchor of every espresso recipe. It is the weight of dry ground coffee that you are using to make an espresso, and depending on your espresso style, it can be anywhere from 5-30 grams, though in general modern espresso hovers between 18-21g.

Deciding on your dose is always the first step to creating an espresso recipe. And there’s only one thing you really need to think about:

How much espresso do you want to make?

A larger dose can make more espresso, and a lower dose can make less. It’s as simple as that.

Think of dose in the same way as you would when scaling a cake recipe: using more ingredients = more of the same cake. Dose is the same as the ingredients in that recipe. With scaling, you end up with the same cake. There’s just more or less of it.

Don’t change dose to adjust flavour balance.

Don’t change dose to adjust the shot time.

Don’t change dose to make the espresso stronger or weaker.

Only ever change dose because you want to make more or less espresso.

Of course, if you increase the dose, you also need to increase the size (or yield) of the espresso to match. I’ll be covering this in detail real soon. For now, please keep your dose fixed!

Cup Size and Drink Strength

Let’s say you’re making a lot of milk-based drinks in large cups. A small dose might be making a tasty espresso, but once you fill the cup with 300ml of milk it isn’t so rich and flavorsome anymore. A larger dose (and hence, larger espresso yield) will allow you to increase the intensity of coffee flavour in that drink.

If you’re only making black coffees – or smaller milky coffees – you might choose a smaller dose, as you’re not competing against a lot of milk for flavour dominance.

Some specialty coffee venues, on the other hand, have milky drinks that are too strong. This would be a perfect time to use a lower dose. You can make the same style and quality of espresso, there’s just a more optimal amount of it in the cup.

One More Thing

So there’s another reason to change dose, and that’s portafilter basket size. But it’s not a decision you make to adjust the qualities of an espresso. It’s purely to optimise the extraction for the baskets on hand. Most baskets have been rated to a certain weight of coffee by their manufacturer, and staying within one or two grams of that rating generally gives the best results.

Your dose should never sit so high in the basket that it touches the shower screen when dry. If you insert and remove a dosed portafilter, and can see that it touched the shower screen, you need to reduce your dose. In this case, a higher dose won’t let you make more espresso, it will just become a less efficient and more uneven extraction. At the other end of this scale, if your pucks are quite wet and sloppy after an extraction, this doesn’t mean that the shot was bad – it just means that there’s a lot of room between the grinds and the shower screen. This might happen if your dose is towards the lower end of your basket’s rated amount, or if the coffee is very dense. For more info on puck dynamics, check out this recent post.

If you do need to move your dose outside the basket’s prefered range, it’s not the end of the world. But your espresso quality may likely suffer.

Make Your Life Easier

Changing dose will affect flow rate, puck saturation rate, extraction temperature, extraction yield, strength and extraction evenness. Probably other stuff too.

If you constantly change the dose it will be extremely difficult to understand what’s actually happening. Keeping it the same will make adjusting variables and figuring a coffee out much much easier! By the time I’ve finished explaining espresso recipes I promise you’ll agree with me.

For now, just keep in mind: only dose more or less coffee to make more or less coffee.

 

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What Effect Does Bed-Depth Have When Increasing Your Dose to Make More Espresso? - Barista Hustle

[…] you want to make. To understand the importance of this, read this classic primer from the archives: https://baristahustle.com/blog/espresso-recipes-analyzing-dose/. That article also explains why you should choose a dose that fits your baskets – or better […]

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Saeco XSmall Vapore Review - Espresso Machine Ratings 2019

[…] Espresso Recipes: Analyzing Dose. Barista Hustle.  […]

Ayden Graham
Guest
Ayden Graham

The answer is already outlined in Matt’s post — changing the dose whilst keeping the yield the same does not work out the same as changing the yield for the same dose because of the mechanics of extraction in the basket. The flow rate, eveness, puck saturation etc. will all change. The yield will also likely vary slightly with a changed dose due to more or less water being held in the basket.

You want to change only one variable at a time, aka changing the yield to extract more or less.

Evan Joseph-Piñero
Guest
Evan Joseph-Piñero

I imagine you’re engineering your espresso from a consistent dry dose, largely using beverage weight to determine brew strength (correct me if I’m wrong). But, wouldn’t it be just as reasonable a choice to hold beverage weight constant, (as I’ve read James Hoffmann mention) and vary dose to determine brew strength, so as to provide customers a similar-feeling beverage at any given time? Or would this then cause greater variance in the strength of “long” drinks?

Michael Butterworth
Guest
Michael Butterworth

Matt, I basically agree with your premise “only dose more or less coffee to make more or less coffee”, but I can think of a couple of exceptions. 1. When using a stepped grinder (such as the K30 Twin), sometimes you can’t find the “sweet spot” with a certain dose. The current grind is too fine, but a step up is too coarse (or vice versa). Changing the dose in this scenario is necessary to produce the proper extraction (it, of course, is necessary to adjust the amount of water used accordingly). 2. Every barista has experienced their shots speeding… Read more »

Ayden Graham
Guest
Ayden Graham

Perhaps it is a matter of personal preference; if you cook a chicken in the oven for 10 minutes and it’s still uncooked, you could cook it for longer, or you could use less chicken and cook it for the same time.

Nick
Guest
Nick

You know, if you are going to omit your entire rationale and leave it for later articles, then you may as well skip this article enitrely. What is the purpose of feeding us a potentially controversial mantra such as “Don’t change dose to adjust flavour balance” and then saying youll justify it later? You will have much better chances of convincing people if you dont publish a mantra indoctrination post prior to the post with your actual reasoned argument in it. The word “analyzing” in the title is pretty inaccurate here! And this is coming from someone who is on… Read more »

Evan Joseph-Piñero
Guest
Evan Joseph-Piñero

Of course they will, and I meant nothing to the contrary. My point is that, isn’t it just a matter of personal preference, whether to work backwards from dose or backwards from beverage weight? I’m not suggesting changing dose to dial back in when things go awry, nor am I suggesting that it does not affect extraction. Obviously changing your dose is going to change your flow rate and your extraction, though when dosing within the limits of the basket and machine design, evenness should be a negligible concern. How would you say that changing the dose is changing more… Read more »

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I didn’t see him say he’ll justify anything later. He says if you change your dose you need to adjust all your other parameters, which he will explain later. He clearly states changing dose is not an effective method for adjusting taste. Changing dose is purely for the amount of espresso you want to end up with which should corollate with a smaller or larger dispersion screen matching the dose size. He will explain in the upcoming grind section that grind is flavor adjustment and why, I’m sure.He’s just laying out his methodology. This nobody agrees with his dose is… Read more »

Dallas King
Guest
Dallas King

Tiny question: don’t dose up to the shower screen, that makes sense. But what about the dispersion screw (if present?)

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Some manufacturers have screws that sit very proud. Not ideal, but it will sometimes touch the coffee. Nothing you can do here.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Yeah, totally fine. Just seems to me that most places are up around 18-21. A 15g dose will likely have a higher (sweeter) extraction as the grind size is necessarily smaller.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I agree with dose is about brew mass for sure. On the orher hand, didn’t Scott Rao say in the “Barista’s Handbook” that he found 14g dose shots to be much more sweet than larger 19-21g dose shots but even he didn’t really know why? What’s your take on that?

steve
Guest
steve

Gday Matt,
Just wanted to thank you for your efforts with the Barista Hustle, It is truly appreciated and certainly something I look forward to reading. Despite some who feel negative comments are appropriate!! The majority I am sure are thankful for you engaging the community.
Three Cheers For The Perg

Sebastiaan Verschuren
Guest
Sebastiaan Verschuren

Ha, you gotta love the Silvia.

sevenlist
Guest
sevenlist

Thank you very much again, Matt, for that post :)! It is one of those I have wished for :)! I am using a Rocket Evo v2 at home and the coffee puck only does not hit the shower screen if I use a dose of 16g in a 20g (!) VST basket. But then the coffee expands so much that the puck starts rolling up on the edge, letting water pass by (I guess). What am I doing wrong? Also, checking my extractions with a bottomless portafilter, all is going fine until 18-20s. Then a lot of “dead spots”… Read more »

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

I always start with dose because it’s a MUCH easier mental model once it’s fixed. You can isolate all the variables, yes, but teaching people about the interrelations is faster and simpler when the dose is the same.

Keeping a fixed beverage weight is nice with brewed/filter coffee though.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi Michael

1. This scenario sucks, but you’re right. I’m working on the premise that >90% of grinders are stepless.
2. I would adjust the grind finer here. The coffee is heating up as is enters the hot grinder. This makes it less brittle. If it’s less brittle it will behave as though the grind size is coarser, so the only way to reverse that is to grind finer.

Ben Peterson
Guest
Ben Peterson

Hey Matt, I’ve heard a lot of industry people say that when a coffee starts to age out it begins to mellow and loses its intensity and so an increase in dose will make up for it. Like starting a recipe dose at 18 grams and then after several days have passed, moving the dose to 18.5 grams to compensate. Any thoughts on this?

Gera Davidson
Guest
Gera Davidson

From my understanding, Scott’s comments were more likely related to the use of standard baskets rather than VST, in that case reducing the dose to 14g actually means you’re dosing will be right for the basket and extraction more optimal. I never found that VST 15 to extract higher than VST 22 even though the grind is much finer if anything it usually extract lower – I believe Maxwell Colonna found it more difficult to use as well and his “fix” was to reduce pressure to 6 bars in order to achieve optimal extraction and reduce channeling when using it.

Ana Victoria Mallozzi
Guest
Ana Victoria Mallozzi

I was taught this as well- would be interested to hear your thoughts

Joe Newton
Guest
Joe Newton

Hi Matt,

Can you tell me what you mean when you use the term “Stronger or Weaker”? I’m sure you might have defined this term in an earlier post. If I missed it please just point me in the right direction to find the answer.
Thanks so much! I really enjoy your post!

Joe

James W
Guest
James W

Hi Matt, Simple question and I apologise that it is off topic… Can you recommend a milk that is widely available? Since reading your milk post a few weeks ago I’ve been doing some experimenting between a few readily available brands but have found all their protein, fat etc. to be fairly similar and am finding the same with the end product.

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

Thank you, Max!

I am not only having a dent in it but my wet puck is always sticking at the shower screen if I take the portafilter out (e.g. when using a dose of 16g in an 18g basket). That is why I thought it is causing a more uneven extraction, resulting in the “dead spots” mentioned above.

Has anyone an idea, what I could do to get rid of the
1. stuck puck
2. the “dead spots” during the extraction?

Max Weldam
Guest
Max Weldam

Your wet puck can have a dent in it from the screen, Matt is talking about the dry puck, before pulling a shot.

ericbusby
Guest
ericbusby

I am assuming that Matt is referring to the extraction percentage. Weak, meaning anything 18% TDS and below. Strong, meaning 22+%, if I remember correctly.

However, it depends on personal taste. One may prefer a very heavy, bitter, robust espresso while someone may prefer something that is more “thin” and less nuanced.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I would try a different distribution technique like the WDT or a variation on that to take care of dead spots. This is assuming you’ve got a good dispersion screen that lets, or even makes the water come out pretty evenly.

I would also experiment with smaller and smaller doses (up to a point) until the puck stayed in the basket and then fine tune the grind.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

while that is possible that is serious conjecture. What do you base your conjecture of Scott’s experience on?!?

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

so then, dose weight technically does have a factor on the cup profile if only due to grind size optimization at 14-15g doses?!?

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

actually that’s not quite correct Eric. While you’re correct that TDS measures the strength of coffee, espresso is typically between 9-13% strength. The 18-22% you’re referring to is the flavor extraction optimal zone or ROI- region of interest.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

also, what is your shot weight and time for your 16g dose? I’d start off looking for a 30g shot from a 16g dose in 30 seconds and see what happens with that. I’d fine tune the grind to get a fat head of crema and good aromatics/taste while dressing the in basket dose to avoid channeling. But, of course I am not Matt.

Gera Davidson
Guest
Gera Davidson

ok so yes – He was talking about espresso being sweeter, not lattes. the thing about most baskets is that they are manufactured to suit italian standards of 12-14g per double, this means that in order to achieve an extraction level of 18%-22% you need to dose them with 12-14g and adjust your grind to achieve (for example) a 30sec shot (usually with a 2:1 brew ratio). when you begin dosing much higher say over 16g you’re forced to start grinding courser to maintain the shot time and ratio and it is this courser grind that would reduce your extraction… Read more »

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

Hi Dan, I haven’t used a stopwatch anymore since I am using a refractometer. I guess the extraction takes around 35s from the point on the coffee starts dropping. I am also trying to get a 30.1g shot from a 16g dose.

Gera Davidson
Guest
Gera Davidson

Well Dan, Scott’s comments about lower vs higher doses are mainly taken from his “Barista Handbook”, I have not heard or read him mention then in any other context but might be wrong. the comments relate to his experiences working at cafe’s in the U.S using high doses vs working at a cafe in NZ using lower sweeter doses. I don’t have the book in front of me but am almost certain this is before the existence of VST baskets, never the less there is no mention of the use of particular VST baskets with those doses in the book.… Read more »

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

a heads up on my reply to your replyer/replier (?!?)

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Stronger/weaker as in the concentration of coffee flavour. Sometimes called TDS, Total Dissolved Solids, Strength or Concentration of coffee flavour.

Old Mate
Guest
Old Mate

Hi there, the M4D is a solid grinder, BUT my experience when trying to dose lower than recommended with VST I would get exactly the same naked pours as you describe. My equipment mostly the same except for a different e61 and no longer M4D. No amount of WDT would get rid of the dead spots. My theory is that for the size of the burrs it grinds very quick and this leads to more static clumping and possibly more fines production. Overall I found the grinder very much suited to darker roasts using much coarser grind setting and old… Read more »

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi James – where do you live?

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

I am using WDT + 2x vertical tapping. I have also tried to use a jam funnel and then the horizontal + vertical tapping method.

I am using an IMS 200 IM precision shower.

So the dead spots are not related to my dosing problem but to bad distribution? I still guess that the grinder is producing to much fines and it has something to do with fines migration and the compact layer. Am I wrong?

James W
Guest
James W

That would help. .. haha in Sydney castle hill

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

So, all you’d be doing here is extracting a less of the coffee, or making a stronger coffee depending on what else changes with the dose. I don’t follow this practise.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

It seems necessary for me to write a lengthy post on what strength is and isn’t…

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I am personally very much against tapping whatsoever. I believe tapping is a manor fines migrator. I have no personal experience with Macap but have read that the M4D has serious clumping issues. Your grinder may be a part of your problem. I have regularly had problems with VST baskets channeling which is why I always WDT my shots. Sounds like you have a 40 sec shot which can produce a great shot but I’d be pulling ristrettos with that time. Irrelevant though. I wish I would have known about Matt’s Tamper before I wasted my money on VST’s. I’d… Read more »

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve read plenty of comments with serious confusion between strength and extraction. Strength is volume and extraction is the choice of what is being listened to, as a general analogy, no?!?

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

Hi Dan, thanks again for all the tipps :). * I will try doing no tapping but keeping the WDT. * Yes, the M4D has clumping issues. * I need to get back to shorter pulls, grinding coarser. * As posted below, I will now experiment more with over- than underdosing. * Wow, thanks for the hopper level tip! I did not know that more fines will be produced when the hopper gets empty. I am always putting only (!) the beans needed for the shot into the grinder (weighing them before). So there is nearly no weight on them.… Read more »

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

Woohoo, thank you very much, Old Mate! You saved my day :). I was experimenting with overdosing (19g @ 18g VST), grinding coarser and coarser until I did not get “dead spots” anymore! So it’s really the grinder with its fines! The coffee startet to taste dry, but I think I could get rid of this by grinding a little bit finer again. Sorry to everbody to become off-topic but I cannot send a private message to Old Mate: Can you please recommend a better (your?) grinder? I was thinking about getting a Ceado E37S or Mahlkönig K30 Vario (because… Read more »

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Old Mate with the personal experience . . .

Jackson Swaggert O'Brien
Guest
Jackson Swaggert O'Brien

Hey there Matt I’ve actually had a great deal of success using different doses (while also using different brew yields, maintaining brew ratio) by 1-2 grams as a means of fine tuning my extraction. In my experience a slightly lighter dose while maintaining the same brew ratio typically yields a slightly higher extraction, while a slightly heavier dose while maintaining the same brew ratio yields a slightly lower extraction (which seems counterintuitive as the shot time increases for a heavier dose and decreases for a lesser one). I compare it to the different tuning pegs on a violin: the pegs… Read more »

Max Müller
Guest
Max Müller

Thank you very much!

Old Mate
Guest
Old Mate

All good! Grinder is now E37S and it is a pleasure to use.
Vario with steel burrs for filter brewing.

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