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To updose or not?

November 21, 2011

A traditionally brewed espresso shot is about 7 gram of coffee pulled into a 1-ounce(oz) drink. A Italian-conventional double shot will be 14 gram of coffee pulled into 2-oz volume. However, what I’ve noticed is that, the recent trend has been to updose to a bigger volume like 16g-21g of coffee to be pulled into same amount of shot(~1.5oz). Most roasters’ recommendation is also in the range of 18-21g, pulled into normal 1.5 oz shots. Most of the blends were also created with high dose in mind. Sometimes I even read that there’re some that updose up to a hefty 23g of coffee in a triple!


 


 


Why are we observing this trend? There are some theories out there but I personally don't see the rationale. As for me, I tend to linger around 8-9g singles and 12-16g doubles. The highest dose that I normally go to, even in a triple basket, is just about 16g in my previous espresso machine. I did not notice that much of a difference in taste for 18g versus 16g. 


 


 


So, was it because of our tendency to supersize everything? Maybe. Some say that to make the coffee stands out in the milk drink, the coffee has to be stronger and in a bigger quantity as not to lose the flavor in the milk. I agree. But why not stick with a more traditionally sized cup instead of the super mumbo jumbo 20 oz? For example, with a 8-10 oz latte, it’s perfectly possible for a 1.5-2oz coffee to stand out excellently and not tasting like coffee-flavored milk. There’s no need to go to 15oz or 20oz in my opinion. Just stick with the moderate cup. Less is more sometimes.


 


 


Another theory is that the coffee tastes good when updosed. Well, maybe I am not a good taster enough to comment on this. For me, a 9g coffee brewed into ~1oz (or 15g by weight) tastes almost as good as a ~2oz (30g) shot pulled from 18g coffee. Same thing for anything in between. What matters, in my opinion, is the coffee to shot volume ratio(aka the brew ratio). The absolute weight of coffee used is relative and meaningless, unless your final goal is a bigger volume of shots, definitely not better tasting.


 


 


One huge disadvantage of updosing that steer me away from doing it is the waste involved. For me, I enjoyed a 1-1.5oz shot as much as a 2 oz to 2.5oz shot. With less coffee volume, I can enjoy the shots many times in a day without going jittering too much. A high-dose 2oz shot will actually make it less enjoyable because I get a uncomfortable feeling after drinking that much of caffeine in one go. So a normal dose actually enhances my total enjoyment with the same amount of beans. Try imagining :  you have only 63g of coffee beans, your usual dose is 21g and it took about 3 shots to dial in for an acceptable pour, you’d have wasted 63g of coffee by the end of the dialing session! With that, you have no coffee left to enjoy. With the dose of 9g, you would waste about 27g in dialing in, PLUS, an additional of 36g of coffee beans left (4 shots worth) to enjoy. You choose.


 


By updosing, it arguably tastes a bit better; but you actually wasted a lot more coffee than what you get from it. With the ever-increasing price of coffee, using a lower normal dose will probably prevent ‘falsified’ increase in demand, and thus delaying the increment in coffee prices. A high dose usage pattern probably will allow the roasters to earn more in the short term; in the long term, it will most likely increase the price of coffee, thus decreasing the overall consumption of coffee. Less beneficial for the consumer, roaster, everyone.


 


 


Well, this is my thought on this updosing trend. I personally don't endorse it at all, unless a big volume is what we're looking for. Maybe any one of you can enlighten me with the benefit of updosing?


 


 


 


Here's the Klatch's Belle Espresso 6 days post roast (12g coffee pulled into 1.4 oz). Great flavor intensity and very close to a ristretto. Chocolate laden with fruit notes here and there. Very excellent body. Similar style to the Metropolis Redline that I enjoyed. And also great aftertaste that lingers around for 30 minutes. Proof that high dose is not critical for a good pull.


 


 





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