Why We Coffee Shot // How We Coffee Shot

by Tanner Morita

Why We Coffee Shot //

You're in a new city, excited to pop into the local café and see what this city's coffee culture has to offer.  It's a Saturday morning and the shop is bustling.  "This must be the spot to be!" you think to yourself, excited that you picked the right café.  As you wait in line you notice the elaborate looking pour-over stand at the center of the bar and watch the barista swiftly dance from cone to cone pouring tiny amounts of hot water over each.

The line is long and it takes a bit to get to the front where you can place your order, but finally you're there and ready for some coffee.  You peruse the coffee offerings list and pick out the one with the most interesting flavor notes -- citrus, berries, caramel.

You're order is in and now it's just a waiting game.  You watch the barista move with kettles in both hands, constantly emptying their contents slowly through each cone and topping off again, checking water temperature and waiting for the perfect moment to begin pouring, double checking the scales to make sure that he's hit the target weight to the gram, and watching the time to make sure that he's on the mark.  You can see your cup in line.  It's 9th.  The barista is midway through one round which takes roughly 5 minutes to finish, and he does four cups at a time.  That means that he's going to finish up this round, and then your cup won't be in for another two rounds of drinks.

Twenty minutes later.  

You finally have your cup of coffee and can settle in and enjoy it before you start your day.  You don't have as long left to relax, but you want to really focus and enjoy the experience before you move on to your day.  You find a spot to sit and breathe in deeply the aromas of the brew.  You slurp loudly because you want to take in the flavor the right way.

The coffee... kinda weak.  Kinda sour.  Kinda grassy.  But there's some berry!  Definitely some citrus, but you don't pick up anything close to the caramelly sweetness that the tasting notes promised.


This scenario is one that's all too familiar.  

The experience doesn't need to be that way, and it's an underwhelming misrepresentation of that coffee for which the farmer and roaster worked so hard.  This is not to say that it can't be done -- I've had some great cups of coffee from some very busy pour over bars, but in my experience it's been uncommon.  The fact of the matter is that pour overs are difficult and inconsistent.  In a busy bar, managing all the variables that go into a pour over setup lead to brewing with lower temperature water than ideal, inconsistent pouring patterns, uneven brewing, and quick extractions.  When this happens over and over, we begin to excuse the imperfections and the baristas get used to the routine of under extraction.  After that, there's no hope at all for receiving a full, sweet, flavorful cup of well-extracted coffee, and our guests become accustomed to these grassy, astringent, flat-tasting brews.

At HEX Espresso Bar we've ditched the pour over stand all together for the sake of focusing strictly on espresso.  This doesn't mean that we don't offer filter coffee.  We knew that if we offered filter we wanted to do it in a way that would remove the most variables and inconsistencies, and in a way that we could still offer by-the-cup brewing so as to not waste liters of batch-brewed coffee.

Our solution: Coffee Shots.

In 2013, at the World Barista Competition, a very smart barista named Matt Perger used a technique to brew filter coffee through the espresso machine and dubbed it "The Coffee Shot".  This Technique allows the barista to utilize the consistency inherent in espresso brewing and apply this to brewing filter.  We've taken this approach and applied it to all brewed coffee at the Espresso Bar.  This technique blurs the line between espresso and filter, as it's pulled through an espresso machine, it initially has crema just like an espresso, but has the extraction, strength and flavor typically associated with filter coffee.

This allows us to dial in the coffees that come into the shop by deciding on a grind setting and water output.  Because of the consistency of the espresso machine, we know the coffee will brew the same way every time.  That coffee will have the same full, flavorful extraction time after time, and with any barista on the machine.  Also, this allows us to brew in not three-and-a-half-to-four minutes, but in 40-50 seconds flat.


How We Coffee Shot //

First thing's first, we use an EK43 Grinder.  I'm not saying that it's impossible to achieve a tasty Coffee Shot without one, but I imagine that it would be more difficult.  The EK43 is great at presenting coffees with a clear, focused flavor, and a high extraction -- the finer grind and quick extraction is perfectly suited for this  (imagine the slow loss in temperature for a pour-over lasting 4 mins).

We grind our coffee a good bit coarser than espresso, and a good bit finer than for a pour-over -- roughly halfway in-between.

Using lighter roasted coffees, we've noticed increasing the boiler temperature has increased extractions for Espresso and Coffee Shots, so we brew at 201.5 (F).

From there, everything is the same as for pulling an EK Espresso shot.  Grind into the tumbler, dose using the jam funnel, and tamp (albeit slightly lighter).

We add a "bloom" stage of "on" for two seconds and "off" for three seconds before the shot begins.  This bloom increases the coffee's initial temperature, which will speed up extraction, and saturates the puck -- resulting in a more even extraction, and alleviating some variance in distribution/tamping.

We use a 17:1 brew ratio, accounting for about a 2:1 Liquid Retention in the basket.  So for us, this means 15 grams in, 225 grams out in 40-50 seconds.

From there, it's just filtering crema and clarifying body.  The easiest method we've used is pouring the Coffee Shot through a V60 filter, though we've also experimented with single and triple aeropress filters.


The beauty of a Coffee Shot is in it's amazing aromatics and clarity of flavor.  When your Coffee Shot is not quite dialed-in, you will know it -- this means that other methods will be more forgiving.  One could argue that Batch Brew is as consistent as a Coffee Shot, and I would probably agree -- but no other brew method is nearly as efficient at producing delicious, flavorful Filter Coffee presented at it's beautifully sweet, clear and full-extraction.