We’ve been pulling espresso shots pretty much the same way since the invention of the espresso machine. But the rise of Third Wave coffee has brought evolving coffee tastes and fresh ideas for updating espresso. From this evolution has emerged the Turbo Shot.
What is this modern way of making espresso, and how does it compare to the original? Is it really an improvement, or is it just enjoying 15 seconds of fame? Let’s find out.
What Defines An Espresso Shot?
Espresso shots have such a long tradition that you might expect their extraction to be codified in coffee law. But there is no strict definition for dose, timing, or how many bars of pressure for espresso. The most generally agreed-upon parameters are:
- 1:2 ratio of finely ground coffee to espresso yield by weight
- 9 bars extraction pressure
- 25 – 30 seconds extraction time
Double shots are the industry standard for how to make espresso, with most cafes using a dose of 18 to 20 grams of ground coffee to produce 40 grams of espresso.
Why Mess With A Good Thing?
Traditional espresso has its flaws. For one, it’s surprisingly hard to get right. Even as espresso machine technology advances, inconsistent extraction remains a problem.
Evolving coffee tastes also play a role. Traditional espresso was developed with Italian coffee blends – darker roasts often containing Arabica and Robusta beans. These days, consumers prefer lighter roasts with bright flavor profiles that may require different extraction conditions.
The emergence of the prosumer espresso machine market is another factor. Home baristas can access premium equipment, and some home espresso machines let you experiment with pressure.
What Is A Turbo Shot?
Scientific research in 2020 reported that a higher extraction yield could be achieved using coarser grounds, lower pressure, and lower coffee dose – basically flipping everything we thought we knew about espresso on its head (1).
A turbo shot gets its name from its fast 15-second extraction time.
Typical turbo shot parameters are:
- 1:2.6 ratio of medium ground coffee to espresso yield
- 6 bars extraction pressure
- 15 seconds extraction time
A turbo shot is the same volume as an espresso. It has less body, more clarity, and a sweeter flavor. Crucially, it’s more consistent than espresso, making it valuable in a commercial setting.
Watch world-famous barista and coach Lance Hedrick explain and pull a turbo shot in this video:
Turbo Shot Vs Allonge Coffee Vs Lungo
The turbo shot, allonge coffee, and lungo are variations of espresso that are frequently compared and confused. Let’s quickly set the record straight.
Lungo aka Long Shot
A lungo is part of the Italian espresso tradition. To make one, you prepare for an espresso as normal but double the extraction time. The resulting coffee has a thinner body than espresso but more developed flavors. Modern versions of the lungo sometimes use a coarser grind and lower pressure.
Allonge Coffee aka Café Allongé
The café allongé is credited to Scott Rao, who was hoping to improve the traditional lungo for customers in his Montreal cafe (2).
What people have to realize is that if you can pull a longer shot without channeling, you’re going to get a higher extraction and probably a nicer-tasting shot.
His allonge coffee uses a coarser grind but the same 9-bar pressure as the lungo, resulting in a faster flow rate. A well-done allonge coffee has the flavor complexity of a pour over but the heavier body and rich crema of an espresso.
The turbo shot is more than just a flash in the pan. This low pressure espresso tastes incredible, has a scientific basis, and saves coffee shops money by improving consistency. If you have an espresso machine at home, give it a try! Compare it to your traditional espresso recipe, and let us know what you find in the comments below.
What Is Extraction Yield?
Extraction yield is the coffee that ends up in your cup as a percentage of the amount of ground coffee you started with (3). It’s the main quantitative way of measuring coffee quality. A good extraction yield for espresso is typically 18 to 22%.
What Is A ‘Sprover?
A ‘sprover is another modern espresso variation – a portmanteau of “espresso” and “pour over.” It is made with an espresso machine but uses coarser grounds and the coffee-to-water ratio of a pour over.
How Much Caffeine Is In A Turbo Shot?
A turbo shot has a similar amount of caffeine as a double shot, around 60 to 100 mg. Although you’re using a lower coffee dose, this is balanced by a higher extraction yield.
- Michael I. Cameron, Dechen Morisco, Daniel Hofstetter, Erol Uman, Justin Wilkinson, Zachary C. Kennedy, Sean A. Fontenot, William T. Lee, Christopher H. Hendon, Jamie M. Foster. (2020) Systematically Improving Espresso: Insights from Mathematical Modeling and Experiment. Matter. Volume 2, Issue 3, 631-648. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2019.12.019.
- Marley, A. (2021, July 30). Q&A with Scott Rao. Retrieved from https://monastery.coffee/blogs/news/q-a-with-scott-rao
- Aloe, R.M. (2022, January 24). Comparing Methods for Measuring Extraction Yield in Espresso. Retrieved from https://towardsdatascience.com/comparing-methods-for-measuring-extraction-yield-4fd4da584be1