Troubleshooting Espresso Shots

Espresso Shots Pulling Oddly?

Below are common mistakes that are often the cause of funky shots.  More importantly, read on to see how to remedy those issue.
(NOTE: if you’re opening the shop, consult this guide or this quick-reference to make sure your grind is calibrated for today’s weather)

Once you've identified a problem, use this record-keeping guide to monitor your progress in getting your espresso back on track. 

Good Luck!  

Uneven Tamping

  • This Takes Practice: As you press down, hold the tamper by the handle like it’s a golf putter, except your thump print and the edge of your index-finger should rest along the flat of the tamper's back.  
  • Use your thumb and the edge of your pointer-finger to stabilize for your tamping, so as you push down, you’re depressing the grounds on an even plain.  

Neglecting to Purge Grounds From the Dispersion Screen.

  • Ultra-Easy fix: between each shot, run water through the depression screen for a second or two once the protafilter has been removed.  This flushes out grounds that have already been spent.

Leaving the Espresso Puck In to Bake

  • Easy... Once You're In the Habit: Don’t leave the puck of espresso in the grouphead between shots.  This can cause unwanted residue to bake into the dispersion screen and grouphead, making for unwanted flavors to pull out into future shots.

A Wet-Bottom Tamper (or dirty tamper)

  • Easy-Fix & Long-Term Solution: Your cafe should have a consistent, dry, clean place for your tamper to return to after each tamping.  If it gets wet, just dry it off and go about your day.  A wet tamper will pull up clumps of espresso and cause channeling.  
  • While drying the tamper is an easy solution, if you have to add drying the tamper as a consistent step every time you tamp, that adds up throughout a shift.  Make sure you’ve got a dry, clean refuge for your tamper and make sure that's where the tamper returns after each use.  You’ll be grateful for it.

Tamping Form the Wrist 

  • Long Term Solution:  No-joke, this is a well-being thing you want to be aware of from the first day you start as a barista.  Don’t apply pressure with your wrist.  Press down with your shoulder’s muscles, letting that pressure go through our wrist.  You’ll surely notice some fatigue in your wrist if you are tamping incorrectly.  
  • It's worth repeating: Tamp with your shoulder, not your wrist.

Clanking the Portafilter

  • Super-Easy Fix: … don’t.  This invites channeling of water and means it’ll be a bad shot.  If you notice you’ve done this, use the knock-box to ditch those dry grounds and start again.  

Forgetting to Clean Out the Basket

  • Easy Fix:  Make a habit out of this: after you’ve pulled the portafilter from the group-head, you use the dry rag near the knock box to clean out the basket.  Especially if there are any grounds clinging to the basket, make sure that basket is clean and dry before you get your new round of grounds from the grinder.