It’s your job, as a barista or café owner, to work out the best brew ratio for your menu. It’s not always easy: it will vary according to the coffee, your customer’s preferences, and more.
However, there are some guidelines that can help you with this task:
A low yield and high dose (such as a ristretto) lead to a more concentrated, full-bodied, acidic, and less sweet beverage.
The classic espresso (or normale) should be balanced and well-bodied, with good sweetness and acidity.
High yields, such as with the lungo, are more diluted and generally low-bodied. They can sometimes taste bitter, if they end up being over-extracted, although other people celebrate them as a way to demonstrate a coffee’s complexity.
Since extraction time is normally linked to brew ratio, you can often see the same pattern emerge here:
Fast extractions (15 to 20 seconds) result in acidity, reduced sweetness, and high bodies.
“Standard” extractions (30 to 35 seconds) tend to be sweet, acidic, and well-bodied.
Slower extractions (36 to 40 seconds) can be bitter and low-bodied.
The “best” brew ratio will depend on a lot of factors. Many people would consider 1:2 or 50% a standard espresso. Yet as third wave coffee culture has evolved, you’ll find a wide range of brew ratios in use to suit people’s tastes. What’s more, since every coffee is different, the best ratio will vary according to the origin, roast profile, and more.
To master brew ratio and create the best recipes, you will need to experiment. Start out with a 1:2 or 50% ratio and then slowly begin adjusting it. Make sure to keep everything else constant for the most useful comparisons. Pay attention to extraction time, taste the espresso, and take notes.
Over time, you’ll develop an understanding of the complexities of brew ratio and how to play with it to match both the beans and the desired cup profile.