A double espresso is 15 grams of uniformly ground bean, 9 bars of pressure at the group head, and a 30 second pull at 92ºC (±2º). If you have ever stood by my side as I pulled a shot, you have heard this stated as fact. I suspect on some Platonic level it is fact. I also freely admit a certain amount of pride in both knowing this magical formula and being able to extract espresso that tastes great by using this formula. It’s not surprising then that I have invested a certain amount of confidence in said numbers. Today that confidence was utterly and totally shattered by the owner of Ltd Espresso.
Ltd was recommended to me by Katie of Black Sheep Coffee, a small roasting outfit here in Brisbane. After talking shop with her at the farmer’s market for probably way too long, she recommended that I stop by Ltd to speak with Luke about coffee. She seemed pretty confident that I would be psyched if I did. I stopped in this morning and Luke seemed to be expecting me. He sat me right down and started pouring. First a demitasse from a vacuum pot that he had just brewed for another customer, then a shot of espresso pulled by the numbers, then three more shots pulled with differing profiles. Each shot was unique and perfect in it’s way. The first, pulled by the numbers was super bright and effervescent. Yes, I said effervescent, it had a mouthfeel like carbonated water. Honestly, these are not my most favorite coffee characteristics, but they are a true representation of the origin and roast profile of these beans, and Luke pulled the shots perfectly.
After a few shots Luke invited me to come behind the counter to watch him work. I stood behind his gorgeous La Marzocco Strada and blanched as he boldly stated that he doesn’t care about extraction time, or pressure. He wasn’t ignorant either, I had tasted his shots, he knew his art. He pointed out that ambient temperature and air pressure have a direct effect on the brew. He pointed out that coffee brews differently as it ages, and that different roast profiles need more or less pressure. I realized as he was talking, that I knew all of this intuitively, but had always adjusted the grind (the only thing I had any control over) to accomplish what he used his fantastic machine for.
By the time I left Ltd my nerves were a bit frayed by over-caffeination; my mind was a little blown by this new coffee worldview; and I knew with absolute certainty where I would be getting my espresso while in Brisbane.