There are several indicators that will tell you whether an espresso shot is any good or not before you even taste it. Below we have listed the most common signs you can look for to tell if you're extracting your espresso shot correctly. These signs include the pour, the crema and the puck.
The pour is the term we use to describe the espresso extraction itself, as it literally pours from the group handle into the cup. The espresso shot should pour steadily and remain golden in colour, with just a little blonding at the end. It should look like a long ‘mouse tail’.
The crema is the oil from the coffee that floats on the top of the espresso. It should be 3-5mm high and be a dark caramel colour.
The puck is the used coffee grounds in the portafilter. If your grind was right, the grind should stick together in a solid round 'puck'. It should be firm and dry, easily snapping into 3-4 pieces.
Troubleshooting Your Espresso Shot
If the shot is extracting too quickly, check the puck by pressing the tip of your finger on the surface: if it's soft and wet you need to increase your dose; if it's firm and dry you need to make the grind finer.
If the shot is extracting too slowly, check you haven’t overdosed the basket. If you have overdosed, you will struggle to lock the handle into the head. Another potential issue is the grind may be too fine and you need to make it coarser.