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Are your espresso shots coming out of the machine too slowly? Here’s if that’s a problem and what you can do about it.
Slow espresso shots can be the result of a clogged machine or filter. Regular cleaning is mandatory maintenance for espresso machines. If that’s not the problem, reducing the amount of fines in the grounds, using the correct basket size, and increasing grind size are factors to change.
Let’s go a bit deeper into what is possibly going wrong and how to speed up your espresso shot.
Should Your Espresso Shots Be Faster?
While espresso was created to make coffee very fast. Do you want to make it even faster? If you’re just looking to make espresso faster, but you’re happy with the taste of your espresso, maybe you shouldn’t.
In general, espresso shots should pull in about 25-30 seconds. Click this link for an in-depth post about shot timing. That means you get about 30 grams of liquid in the cup in 25-30 seconds. That’s from starting the pump to stopping the pump. If your shots are in that ballpark and good, don’t change anything in the recipe, grind size, puck prep, etc.
If your shot is flowing too slow and you don’t get 30 grams of liquid in 30 seconds or even a little more time, it’s time to make some changes. Keep reading below to find out what you can do.
How To Make Espresso Faster?
In case your espresso flows too slow, there are a few things you can change;
1. Clean Your Espresso Machine
Limescale can build up in espresso machines. Especially if you have ‘hard’ water in your area, this can go pretty quickly. The scale builds up in the lines and group head. This means there is more resistance in the machine before the water ever gets to the coffee grounds. More resistance leads to a slower flow.
In case you noticed the shots getting slower over time without changing anything else, this might be the reason.
Luckily It’s a pretty easy problem to solve. It just requires an espresso machine cleaning product and some time. It’s as simple as dropping a cleaning tablet in the reservoir and running the machine for as long as the packaging prescribes. Don’t forget the milk steamer.
2. Clean The Filter Basket
The filter basket itself can also be clogged up. Espresso is full of coffee oils, residues and compounds that can clog up the tiny holes in the filter over time. Of course if the holes are clogged, the liquid comes out slower. Its’ possible to visually check the holes and see if they’re open. Running the machine without any grounds in the basket and seeing if there is any difference in flow with or without it.
Using the same espresso machine cleaner as for step one will work perfectly fine. You can run the espresso machine with the filter basket in place and the cleaner will work on the basket. However, if there is a lot of scale in the machine, the basket might not be cleaned properly.
Separately boiling the cleaner and basket in a pot of water will work great as well.
Is your Espresso puck wet and muddy after pulling a shot? Click here to find out what the problems could be and how to fix it.
3. Upgrade your grinder
Is your machine clean? Check your ground coffee. Do you see a lot of fines (coffee dust)? This might be the reason why the espresso isn’t flowing properly. The dust particles provide a lot of resistance because the gaps between them are very small.
They also often end up on the bottom of the filter basket where the holes are. So you might not notice the holes being clogged after cleaning but they still are during brewing.
Lay some grounds out on a white tissue and spread it out. That will make it easier to see the grind distribution and if there is a lot of coffee dust. Some fines are almost unavoidable but lower quality grinders have much more than high quality ones.
Blade grinders are not good for grinding coffee, especially not for espresso. A high quality burr grinder like the 1Zpresso JX-pro or Baratza Sette 270 will produce few fines, consistent grinds and have very fine adjustability which makes them great for espresso. Lower quality burr grinders usually still produce too much fines for good espresso grounds.
Pre-ground coffee from a coffeeshop or supermarket might not be the freshest but usually it’s ground on high quality grinders so the amount of fines is limited.
You can try tamping slightly less hard if you’re going super hard at the moment. Especially if you use a pre-infusion period, it’s not necessary to turn the puck into something that is as hard as a diamond. Just tamp as hard as necessary to get the air pockets out.
A calibrated tamper can help. It clicks when the ideal tamping force is reached so you can’t overdo it. You can find a good calibrated tamper here on Amazon.
5. Check Your Recipe
Check how much coffee grounds you’re using for your espresso and if the basket is the proper size for this amount. More coffee takes longer to get through so it could make your shot take a bit longer. However, of course if you are using the correct amount to get the ratio you want and the taste is good otherwise, this isn’t really a problem.
What could be a problem is if the basket is too full. The coffee grounds swell up when they get wet. If the basket is too full, the grounds will push up to the group head. Because they swell up, there is no space for water to flow and if it’s bad enough it might even be enough pressure to block the holes in the group head.
Check what amount of coffee your basket is rated for and use a bigger one if necessary. Using a coffee scale will help you get the right amount of grounds and helps improve consistency as well.
6. Coarser Grind Size
In case all the things above fail to make a meaningful change, it’s time to change the grind size. Most people will change this first but it’s important to check all the other things first otherwise changing the grind size won’t matter.
The coarser the grind size, the faster the liquid will flow through the puck. Of course it’s necessary to have an adjustable grinder for this. The 1Zpresso JX-PRO (Amazon) or Baratza Sette 270 (Amazon) recommended above deserve another spot here.
Increase the grind size in small steps and see what happens. Of course don’t only check the time it takes to finish the shot but also keep an eye on the taste. The taste is probably more important to you than 5 second time saving.
Recommended Espresso Equipment
Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:
- Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
- Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
- Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
- Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
- Grinder: To make the best of your fresh beans, a good grinder is necessary. Espresso requires a good grinder to get the best results. The Baratza Sette 30 (Amazon) is a good espresso grinder that can also be used for other brewing methods and while not cheap, is good value for money. If you prefer hand grinders, the 1ZPresso JX-PRO is one of the best options (Amazon)
- Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.