Single Espresso Standard

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Single Espresso Standard

Postby Brett Hanson on Fri Aug 01, 2008 10:07 pm

It seems that about every three months somebody (not just Mark) laments how no-one serves true single espresso. Tonight circumstances forced me to bring out my never-been-used single basket (wife was putting the baby to bed and needed a latte, only had enough decaf coffee to make a single, no time to run to the store, you see where I'm going). The result was not good, but everyone survived.

Where can one find a standard for single espresso?

With the latest body of espresso knowledge, what should the single espresso standard be?

Can today's tools execute a good single espresso? For example, should the nubbin-single-basket be used or should a ridgeless single basket be created to take its place?
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Brent on Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:00 pm

personally, I normally have several espresso at a time... one is never enough, and a single just well...

:)
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Sandy on Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:24 am

Brent,
I'm in agreement with you. I also wonder about the single serving espresso. At our shop, we simply split a double, but i often wonder about getting a basket that only allows for half the dosage. I hate the (nubbin?) basket with the narrow portion at the bottom, i don't think the tamp can be accurate. I've seen very shallow baskets before and i'm wondering if they were made for the Swift grinder?
If there is something on the market, i'd like to try it out as it would be a new challenge to my dosing skills.
I personally love to drink singles. I blame it on Trish.

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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby td on Thu Aug 28, 2008 7:53 am

I drink, and we have served singles from the day we opened 13 years ago. Most days over 30% of the drinks we serve are single espressos, it is a drink that seems to be especially well suited to our balmy, subtropical weather. Additionally, we have a large customer base of Southern Europeans ( Albanians, Bosnians, Croats, Spaniards, and some Italians) that seem to be accustomed to single, not double espressos. Also, our shop is more of a sit down than grab and go shop. And we use a 3 group lever ( La Victoria Arduino). All of these things, I believe have an impact on the percentage of straight espressos a particular shop serves. Here are some things we have learned:

1) our single espressos are pulled to 1.25 oz, ristrettos 1 oz.
2) splitting a double changes the taste (and serving temp) of a single espresso- in a negative way. And is a waste of coffee.
3) pulling a single, even with a single portafilter, is much more difficult than pulling a double, and the customer usually has a more discerning palate as well.
4) pre-portioned, timed grinders, are a great tool for getting control of singles,as it is very easy to overpack a single portafilter- especially when busy.
5) singles are a "for here" drink and as such are always pulled into the serving demitasse.

As a personal thing- as a straight espresso drinker myself- I find the taste of singles to be slightly sweeter, and the overall flavor to be more complex than doubles, when the coffee is good. However, singles seem to be more unforgiving of the coffee, the barsita, the machine, and the water quality. Done correctly,a single espresso should be the most exquisite drink on any cafe's menu.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Marshall on Thu Aug 28, 2008 12:08 pm

Terry, do you set a different grind (finer?) for singles? Personally, I have had no luck producing a good single from my usual (double) grind.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby td on Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:40 pm

Marshall,
We set all the grinds based upon singles ( we have 3 espressos everyday 2 regulars, 1 decaf ), as they are more sensitive. After setting things for the single it is much easier to make adjustments to tamping pressure on your doubles. Since the singles are harder to pull correctly, all testing, tasting, etc... is done with the single.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Mark Prince on Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:26 pm

I thought it was pretty fascinating to see how the typical, well schooled and seasoned Italian barista would handle single vs. double orders. If only one espresso was ordered, they would grab the PF with the single basket, single spout, and put it on the grinder, dosing out enough to fill the basket (probably 7-9g). If several customers ordered espresso, they'd grab the double basket, double spout pf, and dose into that, no changes to the grind.

But in some of the better places, I noted no real difference between the visual and taste of a single-pf pulled shot, and a double-pf pulled shot. I was confused because I've done so much experimentation with a single setup, only to have it fail or at best, still be less than what I could do with a double set up, pulling two singles.

Andy Schecter pointed out the obvious to me - temperature differences. He noted on the web the simple theory that less coffee = less heat absorption by the bed of coffee. So to get a fine tuned single required lowering the brewing temperatures - and finding that new sweetspot.

It got me thinking back to watching the best baristas in N. Italy pulling their shots... most of the machines were HX machines, and I remembered that, when a double was pulled, the "flush" of the grouphead was fairly short and to the point, but the flush on the grouphead for a single shot was a lot longer - and very consistently so.

Ironically enough, working on a temp stabilized machine at home meant it was hard to duplicate this effort. So I grabbed two HX machines I have, fired them up and really started experimenting, and while I was no where near the consistency I got to experience (as a drinker, not a dooer) in Italy, there was a marked difference. The longer the flush / the lower the initial brewing temperature, the better the shot, to a point.

This experimentation didn't do any alterations to the grind - the thought was, the filter baskets generally restrict the flow more by design (singles with their smaller filter area); and the baristas in Italy weren't adjusting the grind on the fly, so I didn't want to either.

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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Deferio on Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:18 am

So is pulling a true single espresso more about proving your skill and machismo or is it about taste?
Each time this subject comes up it seems that phrases like "it's much harder than a double" come up as if that is supposed to make people who pull doubles feel like 90 pound weaklings trying to
Just sayin.
-CD
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Mark Prince on Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:36 am

It's not about machismo.

It's about knowing the process... so intimately that it's second nature.

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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby IanClark on Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:32 am

It got me thinking back to watching the best baristas in N. Italy pulling their shots... most of the machines were HX machines, and I remembered that, when a double was pulled, the "flush" of the grouphead was fairly short and to the point, but the flush on the grouphead for a single shot was a lot longer - and very consistently so.


Very cool observation Mark... new respect for Italian coffee is building in my mind!
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby td on Wed Sep 03, 2008 5:24 am

Chris,
Serving single espressos is about serving your market. Doing it well, is about serving your market well. Making leading and loaded comments like the one you made above is about serving....yourself.

If you have legitimate questions, not rhetorical hyperbole, that you wish to ask then ask them. If you wish to be considered as a professional, then please conduct yourself as such.

So Chris, do you have an actual question that has not been addressed above?
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Marshall on Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:59 am

td wrote:Marshall,
We set all the grinds based upon singles ( we have 3 espressos everyday 2 regulars, 1 decaf ), as they are more sensitive. After setting things for the single it is much easier to make adjustments to tamping pressure on your doubles. Since the singles are harder to pull correctly, all testing, tasting, etc... is done with the single.

Thanks, Terry. Now, am I up to the challenge? Hmmm......
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby phaelon56 on Wed Sep 03, 2008 9:34 am

Single shot tamper question... can you use a standard tamper as with a double?

Check out the excellent photo from Mark Prince's Coffeekid site

http://www.coffeekid.com/images/347/150x127/filters_singlelmother.jpg?Popup=1

Does the coffee go high enough in the basket that the surface is tamped across the entire circumference or does it get extra headroom and only get tamped down in the center section that has vertical walls?

I could swear that someone (that would again be Mark Prince) once showed me how you could use the smaller end of a certain aluminum tamper (I think it was the Ergo Packer) to tamp just that center section. That would leave plenty of headroom above the puck.

What's the deal?
Last edited by phaelon56 on Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Deferio on Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:25 am

td wrote:Chris,
Serving single espressos is about serving your market. Doing it well, is about serving your market well. Making leading and loaded comments like the one you made above is about serving....yourself.

If you have legitimate questions, not rhetorical hyperbole, that you wish to ask then ask them. If you wish to be considered as a professional, then please conduct yourself as such.

So Chris, do you have an actual question that has not been addressed above?


Ouch!
Terry, you are right to be frustrated with my post...to be fair I did not read your telling your preference for the taste of singles vs. doubles so that's my bad. Sorry, Terry...my question/statement was answered.

Now with the statement portion of my ill taken post...I was trying to say that when the subject of the single shot is brought up it is usually married with the statements eluding to its being THE test of a baristas skill...which, since I do not pull singles, I could neither disagree with or agree with fully. I feel like leaning toward disagreeing.
I do not mean to offend anyone and I do not go on this board making statement just to rile folks up.

Now to another subject which you brought up ...I do not think my being considered a professional is in doubt here. Maybe my professional career as a savvy online forum poster is...but coffee? Whether or not I am considered a professional by you may be in doubt...I am not trying to gain your approval as a professional...I was wrong in the way I worded things. Period.
Life can now go on.
Blessings to you...
Professionally,
-Chris Deferio
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby td on Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:34 am

Chris,
I have never heard anyone say that the pulling of a single espresso is " THE test of a barista's skill". What I, and others, have said is that it is more difficult to pull a single correctly ( read consistently) than pulling a double. Since I do it nearly everyday, though no longer for a living, I have experienced this problem firsthand myself.

Here are some suppositions on why this maybe so:

1) Due to the smaller amount of coffee all vairiables are more pronounced; portafilter temperature, water temperature, grind consistency, tamp pressure and consistency, inattention during preparation, cup temperature, etc...
This is not unlike what occurs in small batch roasting.

2) It appears ( although I'm not certain of this ) that most commercial espresso machines have single portafilters that are not conducive to good coffee preparation. Many of these problems have been noted by others above.

Short, sweet and simple- just like a single ristretto. And yet not so...

As for this being "THE test...", well if you ask me the true test of a barsita's skill is directly proportional to the level of money in the tip jar. Technical ability is but one of the important skills a good barista must possess to be successful. Often equally important are demeanor, personality, hygiene ( theirs and their workspace ), speed, and overall coffee knowledge. Pulling a good single espresso is just another of the technical skills that need to be mastered ( depending on your market ). Not unlike pulling a good double, correctly steaming milk, understanding grind adjustment, and troubleshooting.

At the end of the day- if professional baristas wish to learn more about the differences in taste and difficulty between doubles and singles- all they have to do is pick up a single portafilter and give it a try for themselves. It amazes me that many barsitas that have played around with SO espressos have never possessed the curiousity to try and learn how to pull a single espresso. After all, isn't experimentation and a driving curoistity part of what is required to be a professional? Ask, Listen, Verify.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Deferio on Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:58 am

td wrote: After all, isn't experimentation and a driving curiosity part of what is required to be a professional?


Yes, I agree, Terry! You've obviously been in this industry longer than me so thanks for sharing your knowledge.You've made me want to experiment more.
Looking for a single basket,

-Chris Deferio
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Brent on Thu Sep 04, 2008 5:58 pm

td wrote:1) Due to the smaller amount of coffee all vairiables are more pronounced; portafilter temperature, water temperature, grind consistency, tamp pressure and consistency, inattention during preparation, cup temperature, etc...


Is the reason why I suggest people start with a double - get the consistency that is easier with more coffee / lower variance.

To me that is probably the key difference between a single and double - the effect of a half gram in the dose is so much more in a single proportionally than a double.

This thread has however given me a renewed interest in single shots - my normal requirement for mulitple doubles is based purely on caffeine dependancy, and 30 mls seems so little...

:)
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Troy Reynard on Fri Sep 12, 2008 4:50 am

This is ridiculous...why would I deny myself the extra shot? :twisted:
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Sandy on Fri Sep 12, 2008 6:51 am

truly, the single is not rocket science.

we pulled our single pf out of the drawer last week and started pulling shots with it.
it defiantely takes a different technique to dose. slow and easy. no tapping on the prongs or over dosing.
nice steady tamp. insert. brew. enjoy.


i think there has been too much hype regarding how difficult it is to pull a single.
sure, if you tap, overdose and tamp on the surface of the counter, i could see where the difficulty would lie. Just don't do that.

pulling a single- it's quite fun actually.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Deferio on Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:24 pm

Sandy wrote:
i think there has been too much hype regarding how difficult it is to pull a single.


hmmmm.
Careful, Sandy...

-Cd
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby td on Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:04 am

I agree with Sandy. Entirely too much hype. What is oddest about the hype, in this case, is that it is being generated mostly by those that do not pull singles. For those of us that do, as Sandy states, it just requires you to adjust your technique. You have to slow down a little, and your dosing has to be more accurate. Not that difficult, really. And pretty much what has been stated multiple times on this thread already.

As an aside, I almost did not post on this question because I knew that someone was going to:
a) get offended because they do not do singles b) use a post like this to draw attention to themselves and hijack a benign thread thereby fomenting a nonexistent controversy.

The original nature of this post was quite clear. It was a technical question, calling for opinions on what a standard for a single espresso should be. I will admit that I digressed a little to include why I believe it is not done that much in our industry. For expanding the scope of the original question, I apologize, but believed that information to be relevant at the time. However, let me repeat, for those of you who did not understand it the first time---- single espressos are largely a market driven phenomenon. As such, there are certain markets that demand them, certain markets where they could be introduced and certain markets where they probably are not relevant at all.

It is your market, do a little surveying, you might be surprised by the results. If you currently do not do singles, bring them in for a limited time and see if they work. If they don't get rid of them. Or not, it is your business. But, markets do change and we are all looking for a way to differentiate ourselves from our competition.

Finally, let me say this as I approach my 15th year in this great industry, I have learned a lot, but I have much more to learn. In fact, the deeper I get into this thing, the deeper it appears to be. When I first got into this industry I was worried that I would never learn enough to be considered an expert before I retired. Now, I am concerned that I will not learn enough to satisfy my own feeble curiosity before I die. This thing is so broad there really are no experts anyway, only professionals with expertise in certain areas of this industry. And even that is changing as innovation and technology continue to push us in ever more directions,as growers, green buyers, brokers, barista, roasters, equipment manufacturers, and business people. That is why it is always important to:

1) Ask Questions 2) Listen to the answers 3) Verify the data
Ask, Listen, Verify. Regardless of whom is giving the answers, it is always your responsibility to verify the data. If you wish to ask questions that you already hold a strong opinion on then go into the bathoom and ask them at the mirror. Enough said, sorry about the further digression.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Brett Hanson on Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:03 pm

My main aim in asking this question was to understand if folks are out there applying all the recent double and triple basket techniques to the single or if the single is just an artifact of an earlier time where a single meant X grams of coffee to a double's (2) X grams.
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Re: Single Espresso Standard

Postby Mark Prince on Tue Sep 23, 2008 1:14 am

td wrote:I agree with Sandy. Entirely too much hype. What is oddest about the hype, in this case, is that it is being generated mostly by those that do not pull singles.


Speak for yourself Terry! LOL :)

Singles are a serious obsession for me, and I hype them all the time ;)

More seriously, I got a couple lbs of coffee from a local roaster. That local roaster/retailer was pulling doubles in their shop with a GB/5 stabilized at 179F on the PID, and at 176F, 174F, 173F and 172.5F (going by memory - it was a 3F drop from PID to group on the first one, and a subsequent drop across the rest) across the four groups, left to right.

Yet he pulled me some exceptional shots with that machine and temperature and coffee. It blew my mind. I ran my Scace on his machine to verify the temperatures. There were some sours in the shots, but they complimented the blend.

So I took his coffee home, and ran it through my single group temp-stabilized PIDed Linea. I had no success on the doubles in his temp range at all - sour sour sour, weak, tepid, underextracted, the works. (still trying to figure this out btw).

BUT. Once I put the LM single basket in place and started playing - I was getting very close to his DOUBLE shots (he pulled 60mls, very traditional Italian style) with my 10,11g singles pulling 25-30mls. At the high end of his temp range (I was pulling at 182PID, 178 grouphead).

It again reinforced the stuff I saw in Italy - lower temps on singles make a big difference.

Next test I plan is temperature surfing on a Silvia, using Rancilio's single basket (most commonly used on in N. Italy) at the bottom end of the Silvia's deadband.

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