A “shot” is a very ambiguous term. It’s a generic word for a small amount of liquid that can usually be consumed in one go. But that doesn’t actually help very much when you want the answer to how many ounces in a shot of espresso.
In the coffee world, a shot of espresso is 1 fluid ounce or 30 milliliters. The ratio of coffee to water for the perfect espresso varies depending on the machine used and the drinker’s preference but usually falls around 1:2. So, it can be anywhere from 7-12g of ground coffee beans for a single shot and 18-22g for a double.
This is important to know if you’re looking at making espresso drinks like latte, cappuccino, or cortado as each requires a specific volume of milk based on the volume of coffee. This article is for you if you want to learn some fundamentals to consistently nail that espresso shot volume at home. Or to help you understand exactly what the trendy coffee shops are putting in your cup.
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Any coffee connoisseur worth their salt will tell you that espresso is the best way to enjoy the great, nuanced flavors of your preferred type of coffee beans.
Originally, espresso was any coffee brewed under pressure in general. This was typified by the Moka pots in Italy that brew at around 1 bar of pressure. The Industrial Revolution in Europe in the early 1900s paved the way for the very first espresso machines to be invented. These involved a manual lever that could extract under 1-2 bars of pressure. But the result was more closely related to drip coffee today.
Over time, more modern espresso machines were invented which are capable of pulling more consistent espresso shots at the, now standardized, 9 bar pressure.
The exact amount of ground coffee used for a single espresso shot can vary between 7 and 12g. A lot of this depends on the size of the portafilter placed in the machine. The machines used by most professional coffee establishments house a larger portafilter that can hold more coffee. Whereas, a lot of home espresso machines will hold 7g as an absolute maximum.
In Italy, a certified Italian espresso (yes, certification is a thing) must be made with 7g of coffee (+/- 0.5g), with an extraction time of 20-30 seconds at a pressure of 8-10 bar. The result is 25ml (+/- 2.5ml) of the perfect shot of quality coffee in the (very specific) espresso cup. By comparison to those being pulled in the US, this is a small shot.
Looking to the US, the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) defines espresso as:
“…a 25–35ml (0.85–1.2 ounce [×2 for double]) beverage prepared from 7–9 grams (14–18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195°–205°F (90.5°–96.1°C) has been forced at 9–10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20–30 seconds”.
OK, so that’s pretty precise. But the reality is most premium coffees in the US are not brewed to these standards.
In fact, a recent survey by the Barista Guild of America found that most baristas use using 18-20g of coffee to extract a 2-ounce shot of espresso. The “single espresso” was basically non-existent and some respondents don’t even consider espresso in terms of “single” or “double” anymore.
What this means for you, the espresso drinker is that in the US, baristas are using 9-10g of coffee per espresso rather than the 7g historically stated as the “correct dose”. As a result, a regular espresso will have a richer, fuller flavor.
To get the highest quality drink, you’re going to need an espresso machine. You also need to start with high-quality coffee beans. It is best to grind your whole coffee beans immediately before brewing to keep your coffee fresher and retain the delicious flavors.
A single shot should take around 20 seconds to extract. If the result is bitter, it is over-extracted and you should reduce the time by using a coarser grind size or less coffee. Or, if it is acidic with more fruit notes, it is under-extracted and needs longer. A double shot should take around 25 seconds up to an absolute maximum of 30 seconds.
You can also alter the length of extraction by changing how hard you tamp your grounds. But this is more difficult to control than adjusting grind or weight.
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Ristretto’s taste sharper but have more fruit notes than a regular shot of espresso. This is beacause the extraction is stopped before the rich but more bitter flavors are extracted. It’s certainly an acquired taste but worth trying if you’re already a fan of drinking straight espresso.
To make Ristretto, you start with as much ground coffee as you would for espresso. Where the two drinks differ is that you cut the extraction at halfway.
Have you come across Ristretto and Lungo/ Long Shot and not sure what the difference is? If so, check out this guide:
The shot of espresso used as a starting point should still conform to the standard sizing discussed here. What will vary is the ratio of the espresso shot to milk, water, syrup, chocolate, or any other ingredients required for the recipe.
Again, there will be some variation depending on where you are in the world as not all espresso-based drinks are universal either. For example, an American cappuccino contains double the amount of milk as it’s Italian counterpart.
So, that short, simple answer we promised? Well, that depends on how you like to enjoy your coffee drinks. But, generally speaking – and especially throughout the US – an espresso should be 1 ounce or 30 ml.
With an extraction time of 20 seconds, you should get a rich, full-bodied coffee with both the bright fruit notes and the richer, more chocolate and smoke notes from the beans. Espresso is a great way to taste the nuance between different single origin coffees or as the building block for various coffee drinks like latte and cappuccino.
So, now you know how many ounces in a shot of espresso you can get back to the important stuff: drinking great coffee. Cheers!
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