For many years espresso was inherently conservative.
The Italians invented espresso many years ago. Then they perfected it, and when something has reached perfection, you don’t need to improve upon it. Right?
Coffee forum bros would hand down the same sacred methods year after year.
Of course, small experiments were going on in faraway places like Australia, but espresso didn’t change much, and Italian names were usually used.
Words like ristretto, normale, lungo….
However, recently it seems that espresso has had a reincarnation. There are so many new recipes and styles out there, and none of them seem very Italian.
I think there are several reasons that we see this development at this very moment in time.
- Machines like the Breville Dual Boiler and especially the Decent give users more control over parameters than before. This technology encourages experimentation.
- Lighter espresso roasts has become very common. And they are challenging to brew using the typical espresso approach.
- There are many more coffee discussions in different corners of the internet than before, which again snowballs trends a lot faster.
- The pandemic happened. For 500 days, people were locked up in their homes with no entertainment besides Netflix and making coffee.
So what are these recipes, and how do you pull them off? Glad you asked. I’ll break them all down for you here.
The Turbo Shot
This espresso recipe is a modern take on the good old shot. It’s the same size, just brewed differently.
The idea behind the turbo shot is that it’s essentially a more efficient and consistent way of achieving a tasty espresso.
Traditional espresso requires a very fine grind, 9 bars of pressure, and thick and slow-flowing espresso.
When this approach works out, it not only tastes great; it also looks great. However, traditional espresso is finicky – if it’s not done right, you risk an uneven extraction.
A group of scientists and coffee professionals came together to work on this problem.
Through mathematical models and experiments, they realized that coarser grinds, lower pressure, and a slightly longer ratio would result in a higher extraction yield. It seems counterintuitive at first, but when you start to think about it, it makes sense in a mind-blowing way 🤯
I.e.: If you can get a 25% extraction yield with a 16-gram dose, it’s the same strength (TDS) as 20% yield with a 20-gram dose.
- Grind coarser
- Go from 20 g to 15 g doses
- Lower pressure from 9 bars to 6 bars – this will help you with consistency
- 40 g in 15 seconds
Turbo shots have a bit less texture in the cup compared to traditional shots. On the flipside, they have more sweetness and clarity. They are also more consistent and will help cutting costs in a professional setting.
This coffee drink resembles a lungo, but often with more nuance and flavor.
Lungo means “long” in Italian, and Allongé has a similar meaning in French Canadian. This recipe is closely connected with coffee guru Scott Rao, who operated a coffee shop in Montreal. Many customers would order allongés, so he sought to improve the drink, so it wasn’t just a bitter and watered-down espresso.
The Rao Allongé tastes instead like a fruit bomb espresso. This type of shot is excellent with lighter roasts. The long ratio allows sweetness to be extracted.
The trick to making an allongé is to get the grind size right. You need to grind just a bit coarser than standard espresso. You’re still aiming for 7-9 bars of pressure, but you want a much faster flow rate. If you’re using a naked portafilter, the shot will look quite messy, especially towards the end. Don’t worry, this is normal. But of course, you should always try to aim for excellent puck prep.
It should still feel like espresso and have a crema layer, but remind you about the good things from a pour over.
- Ratio 1:5. Once you master the shot you can try even longer ratios.
- Aim for a 30-second pull. Make the grind size a bit coarser than your normal shot.
- 18 g in, 90 g out.
The Modern Lungo
I first heard of this shot from the brilliant Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood on his YouTube channel.
The idea is that modern espresso can be too overpowering for many non-coffee people, while modern filter coffee is seen as being too weak. What if we can create a beverage that sits precisely between these two extremes in the “no-mans land,” as he puts it?
The modern lungo is a forgiving shot that will work with a wide variety of beans, espresso machines, grinders, and baristas since it uses a coarser grind size and a low pressure.
At first glance, this concept seems similar to the Allongé, but some crucial differences remind me of the Turbo Shot.
- 15,5 g in, 80 g out
- Grind coarser – aim for resistance on the manometer of 4-6 bars
- Lower the flow rate on your machine if you have the option
Okay, now we are starting to understand the theme of modern espresso—longer ratios, coarser grinds, etc. The sprover takes this to an extreme.
Imagine the modern lungo at an even weaker ratio; then you have the “Sprover” or “Spro-over”.
As the name indicates, you have a “spro” that is extracted almost like a pour over.
Generally, we’re aiming for a 1:10 to 1:16 ratio with this style of drink. You can insert a paper filter underneath the puck if you want something even more similar to drip coffee.
- 16 g in, 160 g out (but you can try up to 250 g)
- Grind coarser – aim for resistance on the manometer of 1-2 bars
- Lower the flow rate on your machine if you have the option
- It’s a good idea to lower the temperature if you have the option since this shot takes a while to pull
- (optional) paper filter underneath the puck
As you can see, many of the modern espresso drinks follow the same trajectory.
After a few years where pressure profiling and preinfusion were all the rage, the pendulum has swung over towards low pressure, coarse grinds, and longer ratios.
Personally, I think this is excellent news. Dark, ultra-soluble espresso beans are becoming rarer and rarer in specialty coffee, so it’s only natural that coffee geeks come up with new extraction techniques.
If you want to explore this new coffee paradigm, you should consider a machine like the Breville Dual Boiler, where you can adjust all brewing parameters, or maybe a lever machine. However, if you have the option, it can be sufficient to drop your espresso device to 6-7 bars.