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January 30, 2017 /
Espresso Recipes: Understanding Yield

Yield, the second component to every espresso recipe, is simple to measure but a little more complex to understand and apply. Very simply, it’s the weight of the espresso in the cup. More yield means more espresso in the cup. Less yield means less espresso in the cup.

This week I’m going to explain yield, how it’s just a simple compromise, and how to get the most out of it. It gets a little complex so I strongly recommend reading my previous posts on Extraction, Strength and Dose before continuing.

Yield, at its very core, is a compromise. It’s a compromise between extraction and strength. You can have more of one, but it’s always at the expense of the other. If you’ve ever been frustrated by espresso, this is probably why.

Here’s how the compromise works.

More yield gets you more extraction, but lower strength.

Less yield gets you less extraction, but higher strength.

That’s it.

More yield means you’ve pushed more water through the coffee, extracting more flavour. But more water means more dilution, which makes the espresso weaker.

Less yield means you’ve pushed less water through the coffee, extracting less flavour. Because you’ve added less water to the equation, the espresso isn’t diluted as much and ends up stronger.

.

So there’s three main camps in the Battle of Yield:

  1. Those who seek strength and richness at the expense of extraction.
  2. Those who seek extraction at the expense of strength.
  3. Those who seek balance between the two.

If you’re looking for a stronger, richer espresso, you will be drawn to use recipes with lower yields. This will come hand in hand with a lower extraction. Cast your mind to the last ristretto you had—strong and rich, but sour and under-extracted.

If you’re looking for flavours achieved by higher extraction yields (more sweetness, ripeness etc.) you will likely be drawn to recipes with higher yields. This will give you the extraction you desire at the expense of a lower strength.

If you’re looking for balance, you will be drawn to recipes with yields somewhere between the two. But you’ll probably be disappointed a lot. A rich, sweet espresso can only be achieved with a high extraction and high strength. Unfortunately both cannot always be achieved simultaneously.

“What Matt? Have you given up trying to make great espresso? A good Barista can extract a coffee however they like!”

Wrong.

Sometimes your hands are tied, and you have to submit to compromise. Here’s why.

 

 

Watch this animation a couple times. It’s a regular 30 second espresso shot. You’ll notice no numbers apart from time. This is deliberate, because this example could be any combination of dose, yield, time, extraction or strength. The specifics don’t really matter. What matters is how the different elements move and change through time. I’ve used 30 seconds for this example as it’s what most baristas are familiar with. If your shots normally run for 22 seconds, all of this will happen within that timeframe; if they normally run for 40 seconds, the same applies.

Now, I want to give you a few specific things to look out for in this animation. After reading each one, go back to the animation and look for it. There’s a lot of things moving and changing through time in an espresso shot and you need to appreciate all of them at once to gain a thorough understanding. Please spend some time going back and forth to the animation – it’s really complex and I don’t want you to miss anything!

Yield.

  • Starts slow as the espresso drips out of the spouts. Then as time goes on it accelerates to the finish line. This increase in speed is because the coffee grinds’ flavours are being dissolved, and the remains are offering less and less resistance to the water pressure.

Extraction.

  • Races to 50% with the first drops of espresso. Then it gradually decelerates through until the end. At the end of the shot it’s barely clawing its way forward. Coffee gives away a lot of its flavour very quickly, then it becomes harder and harder for the water to extract as much flavour.

Strength.

  • Stays nice and high at the start when the coffee has lots of flavour to give, but very quickly drops down as water is added. That high strength at the start is because the coffee has quickly provided the water with so much soluble flavour.
  • The quickly diminishing strength at the end is because the coffee has almost had all of its flavour dissolved by the water. What’s left is hard earned. So, the water being pushed through the coffee is extracting a tiny bit of flavour, but mostly it’s just diluting the espresso.
  • Someone who seeks out strength will stop the shot right before it starts rapidly diluting. In this example, that’s probably around 00:21-00:23.

All together.

  • At the very end of the shot, yield is increasing very quickly, strength is decreasing very quickly, and extraction is increasing very slowly. You need more fresh water and longer contact time to get those last bits of flavour out of the grinds. Those difficult last bits of flavour are what people who chase a higher extraction are after. They’re OK with losing a bit of strength to get them.

So we have this compromise between strength and extraction. If you increase the yield, extraction increases and strength decreases. You cannot increase or decrease extraction and strength simultaneously by manipulating yield.

Let’s attach some numbers to this concept.

Now that you have fixed your dose, yield is really easy to understand and manipulate. I’ve found the best way to understand and communicate yield is as a multiple of the dose (some people prefer %’s, others prefer the ratio).

eg a dose of 20g and a yield of 40g is a multiple of 2.

a dose of 18g and a yield of 54g is a multiple of 3.

So we don’t need to worry about communicating dose any more – communicating just the multiple will tell us everything we need to know about that Barista’s prefered compromise.

The larger the multiple, the weaker and more extracted the espresso will be. These lighter, more delicate espressos will have multiples of 2.5 and above.

The smaller the multiple, the stronger and less extracted the espresso will be. These heavier, richer espressos will likely have multiples of 2 and below.

The range for today’s most common specialty coffees is between 1.8 and 2.5. There are most definitely exceptions to this rule but they are either very deliberate, or an honest mistake.

Here are some yield multiples plotted on a graph of extraction and strength. Note how increasing the multiple doesn’t result in a linear increase of extraction. As you add more water the espresso is being significantly diluted but the extraction is only increasing slowly.

No matter what espresso recipe you use, you will be stuck on that line. More yield moves you down the line, less yield moves you up the line. A very sobering, and sometimes depressing fact of coffee life.

Improving the Compromise.

Alas! There’s hope yet!! You’re not completely stuck. There are ways to improve the compromise. This, friends, is the secret of why some Baristas just make better espresso.

Remember all those posts I’ve written, harping on about evenness of extraction? You were probably bored by me constantly mentioning it. Well it’s crucial here.

If you can make your extraction more even, your compromise is reduced. With more evenness comes a simultaneous increase in extraction and strength.

An uneven extraction will invariably under-extract some grinds. They’ll be left out, and won’t contribute any flavour to the brew. This means that your brewing is inefficient. With a particular dose and yield, an uneven extraction won’t dissolve all of the flavour that it could. With a more even extraction, more of the coffee will be extracted, which makes the espresso stronger. You don’t need to add more water or increase the brewing time because that flavour was sitting there all along. The even extraction just allows it to be dissolved in the water with the rest. Magic!

When you improve extraction evenness, you’re still stuck on the line. That hasn’t changed. What you’ve actually done is move the line! With the same yield, your espresso is now stronger and more extracted.

A more even extraction will move the line up and to the right. This means that, with the same yield, your espresso will be stronger and richer. BONUS!!!

Of course, the opposite holds true. If you extraction is less even, the resulting espresso will be weaker and less extracted.

Here’s a summary of everything you should be doing to improve extraction evenness:

  • Use better baskets. I only recommend VST baskets and get nothing for it.
  • Use a perfectly flat tamper that fits your basket real snug.
  • Make sure you’re tamping perfectly level with your perfectly flat tamper.
  • Distribute your grinds really well before tamping. It should look like a putting green before you even touch the tamper.
  • Don’t knock the portafilter when inserting it into the group head. This creates channeling, which is death for evenness.
  • Use a grinder that doesn’t produce too many boulders. Conical burrs are generally worse. Generally.
  • Don’t use blends whose components have significantly different solubility.

With some of those boxes ticked, you’ll be able to make a truly, objectively, obviously, significantly better espresso. Tick all of them and you’ll see stratospheric improvement.

That said, the line does stop moving. Once you’ve maxed out all of those variables, it’s not moving any further and you’re back to being stuck on the line of compromise. A better line to be on, yes, but you’re still stuck on it.

So, back to Yield.

It’s a compromise. Improving evenness can reduce the compromise, but only so far. You have to choose a yield that creates the best balance of extraction and strength. Once you understand how that compromise works, it’ll be easier and faster to achieve an espresso you’re happy with.

You’ve decided on a dose and locked it in. Once you’ve settled on yield, lock it in too. Because next up we need to experiment with time!

 

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Mark
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Mark

Is there a working link to the animation referenced toward the beginning of the article?

Thanks!

BHLearn
BHLearn

Hi Mark, We hunted down that gif and popped it back in there. It was somehow lost when we upgraded out website. Thanks for letting us know. BH

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Barnaby Marshall
Guest
Barnaby Marshall

Hi Matt, Awesome article, super helpful. Question – I want to figure out the method to maximise the extraction yield? Anything over 25% extraction is the goal I am wanting. How would you go about doing that?

Matthew Perger
Matthew Perger

That’s the holy grail and really really hard. Roast more evenly and grind finer with better grinders, yet without clogging things up.

Callum
Guest
Callum

Incredibly useful, demystifying stuff as usual, Matt. Exactly how does grind size enter the brew ratio equation? If I grind one shot brewed at say a dose multiple of 2, extremely fine and another coarse, exactly how am I effecting yield and extraction?.. Seems like I’m upping strength and lowering extraction the tighter I go but what’s the difference between a shot ground so tight I wind up with a TDS value at 14 secs that’s the same as if I pull a shot between the (rough…) standard of 25 and 30 seconds? How is a tighter, lighter shot brewed… Read more »

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

I don’t have much experience with lever machines, no 🙁

Paul
Guest
Paul

Interesting read Matt. Very informative. Just curious, have you looked into the specifics of yield v’s extraction on lever machines? In particular, the length of preinfussion time and the results on yield and extraction ..I use a San Marco Leva and have noticed that longer preinfussion will give a nice balance between intensity of flavours (strength) and higher yeild volume. The same shot cannot be replicated on a pump machine.

KJUU
Guest
KJUU

Your timing is impeccable. Thank you!

swagv
Guest
swagv

Thanks, Matt, One of your better hustles.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

This is what I’ll be covering next week – Time!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Thanks mate 🙂

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Glad to be of service!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi Dan, thanks!

I don’t understand your point. No matter the basket size and dose, the balance of extraction/strength available to you is pretty much the same. This piece is relevant for any dose in any basket size.

Hughie
Guest
Hughie

From the article above: “Now that you have fixed your dose, yield is really easy to understand and manipulate. I’ve found the best way to understand and communicate yield is as a multiple of the dose (some people prefer %’s, others prefer the ratio).”

P.S The lack of sourness in your underextracted ristretto is the result of something known as a “dark roast”.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

You state that it is not possible to get more yield while achieving say, 19.5%ext & 12%st, correct?!? If my dose is 15g & yield 30g, all I have to do is up my dose to 20g and I can yield 40g at the same 19.5&12. I believe you are saying you can’t maintain the same tds & ext and get more yield at a set dose and agree but it is not clearly stated up front and barely implied. That’s what I’m saying. That and I think your blanket statement on ristrettos being sour and underextracted is not a… Read more »

Joe
Guest
Joe

he said damning with faint praise :-D.

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

You do not understand my analysis of the article. The article basically states that It is not possible to keep extraction and strength at the same points and get more yield. If my espresso shots have a 15g dose, 30g yield at 19.5% extraction and 12% strength and I want a 40 gram yield at 19.5% ext and 12% st the article states it cannot be done, plain and simple. Plain and simply all I have to do is move up to a 20g dose and I can achieve exactly what I had before WITH A LARGER YIELD. As I… Read more »

Alex Bernson
Guest
Alex Bernson

I only have anecdotal evidence to offer here, but I’ve worked a decent bit on pressure profiling machines, which allow similar playing around. That being said: Matt and I actually discussed in an earlier version of this hustle as to whether or not it was the amount of water passing through the puck that was affecting the yield & extraction numbers, whether it was the time, or whether it was both. When I pull on pressure profiling machines, I do both a long preinfusion ramp up, and then a shorter ramp down (3-6 seconds depending on shot time) in pressure… Read more »

Tanner
Guest
Tanner

Dan, I think you’re getting rather worked up over the fact that this article is very specifically talking about the properties of “yield”. Matt had an article a few weeks back talking about the dose aspect of an espresso recipe, and stated very clearly that if you want more or less espresso beverage – change your dose. THIS article has nothing to do with that. You’re falling into the classic internet stereotype of overreacting on a comment board. Please don’t muck up the discussion on here with heated accusation — we’re all trying to be better baristas and learn from… Read more »

Nicholas Brewer
Guest
Nicholas Brewer

You’re right that you can keep strength and extraction percentage the same with a larger yield/beverage weight—if you also change the dose. It read to me as though changing the yield/beverage weight was only in reference to keeping the same dose and—reflecting—I think the paragraph where he’s talking about the specific numbers not mattering is where he clarifies that if he’s talking about increasing the yield/beverage weight, it’s in relation to an unchanging dose. If he gets too carried away with clarifying, these articles would be way too long, careful, and boring. As far as your hang up with ristrettos,… Read more »

Nick Mabey
Guest
Nick Mabey

Achieving the same numbers by scaling up ratios is not nearly that simple, especially when aiming for higher extractions, dilution becomes disproportionate as matt implied

Brian Alan Valette
Guest
Brian Alan Valette

Great Hustle ! Making things very clear !
One question though… about the effect of evenness (red, black and green curves) :

You mention our tong is not naturally design to reach flavours in high concentration liquids.
What I get from this graph is that for a given extraction level, an even shot will be stronger/uneven weaker. Not saying eveness is useless, I wonder if this extra strength won’t hide the flavours you got from the coffee ?

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi again Dan So after reading your comments I can see where you’re coming unstuck. Please let me explain. In this article I’m communicating yield as a multiple of the dose. This is a really handy catch-all way of talking about dose because it eliminates dose. If you’re using a multiple of 2x, your strength/extraction compromise will always be the same. What you’re suggesting as freedom from said compromise is the ability to adjust dose. 15g dose / 30g yield is a multiple of 2, and when you change it to 20g it’s a multiple of 1.5. These are very… Read more »

Ryan Plaza
Guest
Ryan Plaza

Just wanted to stop in and say thanks for putting all of this information out there! It can be extremely difficult for some of us to find clear/concise tutorials when taking classes somewhere simply isn’t an option (Hawaii problems, yeah yeah, I know). And then to have so many people come together to discuss each one in depth in a professional and respectful manner is just an awesome reminder of why I love this industry so much! Thanks Barista Hustle! And thanks to everyone who reads and comments for helping to flesh out this awesome little community!

J B
Guest
J B

I think the point of these articles is to understand how to manipulate one variable at a time. Yes, if you’re not concerned about actually understand what’s going on in the cup and are only concerned about plugging in someone else’s formula, this could be very misleading. But for the rest of us I think this articulates some wonderful ideas and helps put specificity and concreteness into the concepts we use at our shops every day. I for one have found these articles on extraction to be beyond helpful in clearing up my understanding for how espresso works. Will some… Read more »

Bill Tartaris
Guest
Bill Tartaris

Hi Matt
Can you please elaborate a bit more on the advice regarding blends components solubility?

mo
Guest
mo

We are looking for higher strength and higher extraction at the same yield, not higher yield at the same strength and extraction. This is what Matt explains is the compromise. We can’t have what we want. More yield just = more coffee.

Paul
Guest
Paul

My thoughts with respect to a pressure profiling machine or a lever (similar objectives for extraction I guess) are that a longer preinfussion will allow additional water from the boiler to bring the coffee puck up to a higher moisture content, before full extraction volume and pressure is applied. Because the coffee is already saturated, then there is less loss of ‘extraction’ water to the puck and more yield in the cup.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Hi Bill

A blend with lighter (less soluble) and darker (more soluble) components will extract unevenly because, during the same time of extraction, the darker roast will reach a higher extraction and the lighter roast will reach a lower extraction. I wrote a whole piece on it here: https://baristahustle.com/to-blend-or-not-to-blend/

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Thanks Ryan!! The comments are easily the best bit.

If you like adult, professional discussion I’m starting up a new project you might be interested in. Keep an ear out in the emails!

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Yield is the amount of espresso in the cup. It cannot be anything but that.
I get caught up in semantics as I feel it vitally important to make sure everyone is on the same page.
My bluntness can come across heated but I am not and I am sorry for hurting your feelings.
You don’t understand what I was saying if you think I was accusing Matt of . . . ?!?

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

Nick,
thank you for being the only commenter that actually understood what I was saying.
I never said it would be simple but it is no different that the work done to achieve the results at the lower yield.

mp44
Guest
mp44

Understanding the yield in your “Time” graphic is a bit different in essence for me and may be caused by faulty technique in dose and distributing the bed of coffee. I tend to see an onset of espresso around 5 seconds and it comes out relatively quickly, certainly no dripping. What could be a cause of this. I use a Robur E and a NS Aurelia Semi Auto

Mark Burness
Guest
Mark Burness

Irrespective of roast you can sneak in before excessive sourness with a lower than typical extraction yield around 13%EY (not 13%str/TDS). This may be why Dan doesn’t exclusively equate under-extraction with sourness. 13%EY can be tasty, but less focussed & complex than 18%+EY.

mo
Guest
mo

so lets take your shot: 15/30, 19.5%ext, 12%str. there it is. We don’t want this same shot but larger.. Matt doesn’t want more of your hypothetical shot. What @mattperger:disqus wants and what we all want is that same shot at 22%ext and 15%str AND we can’t have it. but maybe what we can have is 15/30, 22%ext, 8%str. and maybe that will taste good enough!

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

No, my aim is 19-20% ext. That is the literal sweet spot for my palate and guinea pigs I’ve had the pleasure of experimenting with. I prefer lighter roasts and roast lighter myself but I roast a little farther than most of the well known west coast light roasters. I try to maximize the sugar development while roasting. I’ve come to the theory that many light roasters stop at aromatic development and haven’t developed the sweetness available creating a cup that tends to be sour and then extract more to compensate which doesn’t really work for my palate.

AndyS
Guest
AndyS

Hi Mark: after years of experimenting with higher yields, now you’re tempting me to try much lower ones! 😉 It rings true, though, since others (notably Scott Rao) have made similar observations. And the best espresso I ever had was a ridiculously concentrated ristretto; there was no way it was near the conventional 18-20% extraction yield.
Is your 13% figure with a conventional grinder or an EK? (I find the EK extraction yields have to be about 3% higher than Robur yields to get somewhat comparable flavor balances).

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

I think Matt wants clarity, everyone to understand what he is talking about. I don’t know though and I would never be so presumptuous to talk for Matt, let alone everyone who reads Barista Hustle. Is 22% ext what everyone wants?

Dan Kennedy
Guest
Dan Kennedy

You do not understand what my comment is pointing out. I acknowledged the “fixed your dose” aspect.

p.s.- stuck in the “ristretto paradigm” I see.

mo
Guest
mo

sorry just went back and read your last post. you’re getting caught up because you wanted matt to write “given a fixed dose”. i find this a little nit-picky and a waste of time. i’m wasting my time right now just talking about it.

mo
Guest
mo

haha, don’t be upset, look these are all hypotheticals, forget about numbers, forget about 22% and 19.5%. In this article matt explains a very simple theory. This article is not about increasing yield. That’s in part what matt’s last espresso related article was about. You seem to be missing this point. What you are saying is actually correct it’s just out of place. This article is about the search for higher strength and higher extraction at the same yield, not higher yield at the same strength and extraction.

Nick Mabey
Guest
Nick Mabey

No problem, people often ask me the same questions about pulling lungos as opposed to espresso ratios etc and why cant they scale up to get higher percentage extractions. I think the point is if your aim is to achieve high extractions then that should be your aim, but its not to say you’re doing anything wrong if you’re failing to achieve 23% extractions that do not taste good subjectively. The fact that you may be limited by the equipment you’re using means perhaps you should reconsider what your actually looking for. I think what matt is stressing that it… Read more »

Mark Burness
Guest
Mark Burness

Hi Andy, ~13% with a conventional grinder, I don’t have an EK but maybe try a % or two higher (I have heard of tasty 15% EK shots anecdotally)? It’s not really somewhere I’d aim in the 1st instance but I have landed there by accident in the past and been surprised as to how tasty it was & lack of sharpness/sourness. I look forward to seeing what you find.

AndyS
Guest
AndyS

Great, thanks. There are so many things to try (but I will definitely put this on my list)!

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Yeah it’s a little different for everyone. I tried to find a balance where it would be relevant for more combinations of grinder and machine etc.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

Thanks Dan. I didn’t read it as aggressive, and I hope my reply wasn’t.

I hope you saw that I included “It gets a little complex so I strongly recommend reading my previous posts on Extraction, Strength and Dose before continuing.” at the very top of the post, referred directly to fixing dose twice, and inferred it another two times. Any more than this and my posts will become bloated with reminders and back-tracking making it impossible to actually read.

Shaun
Guest
Shaun

Hello! Another excellently put together hustle! I was wondering a similar thing, I’ve no real experience with pressure profiling but theoretically, from this it would certainly seem logical to ramp the pressure down towards the end of a shot to slow the flow rate as extraction rate flows, perhaps that might tighten the curve? Or is that too optimistic 😀

Dave Viscardi
Guest
Dave Viscardi

Hi Matt
Thanks for these series on Espresso. Not easy to come across detailed professional analyses in our industry yet. To keep the ball rolling, would love to hear your thoughts on keeping consistency during busy shifts and ever changing settings on grinders (heating up / or not!)
Keep on trailblazing mate.

Wong Weng Sun
Guest
Wong Weng Sun

Hi Matt,

Nice post here. Thanks for sharing.

Just wondering how temperature plays its part in the compromise.

Thanks!

Alex Bernson
Guest
Alex Bernson

that’s what my experience would suggest, but I have zero numbers to back that up.

Matt Perger
Guest
Matt Perger

If the strength becomes **too** high, then yes. It won’t taste great.

But usually when one finds the strength too high, they can A) increase the yield to dilute it some more (if the extraction isn’t already too high) or B) increase yield and grind a little coarser to reduce strength without reducing extraction drastically. Hope that helps!

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