Espresso: double v single

by Reiss Gunson on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:08

I have only recently realised that I have held a deep seated prejudice against single espresso, almost always opting for a double espresso instead. So deep it has almost been a sub-conscious decision. Why this is it is hard to say. Perhaps I felt (wrongly) that such a small volume of anything didn’t qualify as a drink; was hardly worth the effort. I think this view is probably more widely held than you might think

After countless espresso over many years I now acknowledge that there is a significant gap between the shot quality of a double and a single espresso. This is particularly evident if you are using a lever machine as the need to draw the lever up for the second shot severely disturbs the water flow through the puck, adversely affecting the quality of the espresso. So much so I now think of the double basket supplied with lever machines as a ‘ristretto basket’, as opposed to a ‘double shot’ basket

While the gap is narrower with an electric pump machine, the quality of the single shot on a high quality lever machine is superior to the single shot delivered by an electric pump machine as the pulsing motion of the electric pump is eliminated and a spring lever progressively reduces the water pressure through the puck as the extraction progresses (as will a manual lever if you so choose)

Using any given coffee it is easier to replicate the same shot characteristics with a single shot; this is particularly important when evaluating experimental roasts, reduces waste and allows more shots from your machine before you have to refill the reservoir, assuming you are not using a plumbed machine

When you shift to single espresso, you immediately appreciate why the Italians place so much emphasis on the correct temperature for the espresso cup; the volume is much lower (obviously) and therefore the temperature of the coffee is influenced even more rapidly by a cup that is too cool; the simple act of tipping the cup just once will significantly cool the coffee if the cup is too cool

Moving to a single espresso shifts the focus away from treating the espresso as a beverage or a ‘thirst quencher’ and elevates it to a precious nectar of limited supply. A thimble sized cup just half full conveys a heightened sense of scarcity

An extraction of the fruits from the labour of many, a reflection of the terroir of the soil on which it was grown. This is all the more visceral with the simplicity and clarity of a single origin coffee that has been carefully selected, then roasted to perfection for the espresso process

The pursuit of single origin coffee that is suitable for the espresso process is a central tenet of Londinium’s founding principles. Conventional wisdom demands that a blend is required for the best espresso. Try our Costa Rican espresso roast as a starting point and see if you aren’t persuaded by our dogged pursuit in identifying single origin, even single estate, coffee that produces world class espresso

The concentrated nature of espresso also puts your taste buds at risk of over indulging with a double shot. A single shot ensures you are left wanting more, and the flavours seem sweeter, more intense, more concentrated. The aftertaste lingers with more clarity

Yes, the single shot is the finest exponent of espresso; less is more

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