How To Make a Triple Shot Espresso

Do you like to start your day with a triple espresso shot? If so, then it is important that you know how to make this delicious drink correctly. This blog post will teach you how to make a triple espresso shot! And before you say: “I know how to pull a shot.” let me tell you, a triple shot is not the same as a double shot.

A triple espresso shot is more popular in North America than in the rest of the world. I guess this is our obsession with being correctly caffeinated throughout the day. In fact, the Italians, which you know, are the inventors of this beverage, drink mostly solos. Solo means one shot.

To each their own. We are not here to tackle the solo vs triplo debate. I know I love my triple shot, and I love the single shots too. But let’s see first what a triple shot of espresso is, and what variants we have.

triple espresso pulled in wide glass cup

What Is a Triple Espresso Shot?

A triple espresso shot is a an espresso pulled in a triple basket. A triple basket holds about 21 grams of ground coffee, as opposed to a single basket, which hold only 7 grams. Any coffee that get brewed with a triple basket gets qualified as a triple shot, but there are a few way to pull that triplo, so let’s see how these are different.

If you really know your espresso, down to variable tweaking, you probably know that there isn’t anything special about making one. You take that brewing knowledge and apply it to tweak your triple shot. Here is the article where we explain how to make espresso with an espresso machine, if you need a refresher. Otherwise stick with me further on, as this page should explain everything you need.

The traditional way of pulling a triple shot was to get a three ounce beverage, with the same strength as a single shot. Note that the flavor profile of a triple is slightly different than the flavor of a solo, because the brew variables are different. We’ll get to that in a moment.

A modern way of pulling a triple, and we see this in many coffee shops in North America, is to pull a restricted version of the triple. The resulted beverage is a almost a ristretto, and is 1 to to 2 ounce beverage, depending on the brewing variables.

This restricted triple shot is even more different than the traditional espresso, because it’s a ristretto. The “normale” version of the espresso is a thick, bold and flavor rich coffee, but the ristretto is even thicker. The flavor is smoother, with more sweetness than the normale. Sugars in coffee are extracted first, and only at the end the bitter compounds get extracted.

Does this mean the ristretto is better than normale? Not at all. It all depends on your taste. I prefer normale, sometimes I go for a lungo, even. I love a little bitterness in my coffee, that’s what makes it coffee. A ristretto is more expensive, because we tend to drink more than one. Let’s be honest, one shot is never enough. And the caffeine level in a triple ristretto is lower than in a triple normale.

To make things more complicated, with the same triple basket we can create a few more straight espresso drinks. We can make: Americano, Long Black, lungo, and café crema. We are only going to be talking about ristretto and normale on this post, but we’ll give you links to how to make the other ones too, if you like a coffee cup that closer to a standard American coffee.

How To Make a Triple Espresso Shot

pulling triple espresso with double spout portafilter for latte
Pulling a triple espresso with a double spout portafilter for a latte. The wide cup makes it easy to pour the espresso with a double spout portafilter.

Pulling Off the Basics

Pardon the pun, though it was intended. Most likely, you are an espresso veteran, if you landed on this page. If that’s so, feel free to skip o the next section. We will be covering the basics of preparing a great espresso.

The traditional triple shot is prepared with 21 grams of ground coffee. It requires a coarser grind, and a bit more tamping than a single or a double. As we said before, you need a triple basket, and sometimes you will need to change the portafilter as well in order to accommodates the filter basket. Many portafilters are not deep enough, and the tall basket doesn’t fit in the portafilter.

Not all espresso machines can take a portafilter equipped with a triple basket. So you might need to change the espresso machine. And we are talking about pump espresso machines in this article, we are not talking about steam espresso coffee makers, or the Moka pot.

Check with the basket manufacturer and see how much coffee does it take. On some baskets it is marked on the side how much coffee it holds. Typically, the filter baskets hold between 19 to 22 grams.

Step By Step Instructions to Make a Triple Shot Espresso

  • Place about 3 rounded scoops of fresh beans in the grinder. My scoop is about 30 ml. Don’t stress about dose at this point, we’ll measure later with a better precision. If you are like me, you don’t hold any beans in the grinder hopper, the precious stuff need to be kept in an airtight container.
  • If you pull a ristretto, adjust your grinder one or two steps coarser.
  • If you pull a normale, you can grind even coarser than that. You will pull a few shots, until you calibrate the grind size.
  • If you have a fancy grinder, grind and dose straight into the portafilter. I love these, but I don’t own one at home. They make the barista life so much easier… If your grinder doesn’t have a doser, just transfer the coffee grounds in the portafilter
  • You probably know how much your portafilter weighs by now, (including the newly purchased triple basket). If you don’t you need to, because it’s the easier way to dose. If you hate using a scale for coffee, (I have a friend who hates the idea), you could do without it. The grind size is really the most important variable, tamping and dose are important but not as important as the grind size. But if you do volumetric measurement, you need to initially weigh your three scoops of beans, and adjust based on your basket size.
  • Tap the portafilter on the counter a couple of time to make the puck go under the basket’s edge. This prepares it for the next step.
  • A triple basket has a little distribution problem. This problem often leads to channeling. I strongly recommend raking. If you use a naked portafilter, you can see less flow from some areas of the basket, and you will see areas where the shot blondes faster.
  • Tamp at 30 to 40 pounds. If you pull a ristretto, the fine grinds needs less tamping, otherwise the flow will be too restricted. For coarser grinds tamp harder. When you tamp try to avoid puck shifting in the basket as you tamp. If it happens, to start over, or you will get channeling.
  • You need to leave some room in the basket after tamping. The coffee puck cannot touch the brew head when you lock in the portafilter. This is called headspace. This probably one of the most overlooked details in espresso brewing, yet so important.
  • If you have a PID, set the temperature at 199-201°F. If you have lighter roasts, you could go a bit higher to increase extraction. If you have a very dark roast you can go lower than that.
  • When you time your shot, you need to start the timer with the first drop of espresso. The 25 seconds extraction time is the time coffee is in contact with the water. You can also calibrate various extraction times, and see ho you like it. I like the whole range from a ristretto to a lungo. Sometimes my lungos take 30 seconds to pour.
  • When the shot starts to blonde stop the shot. From this point on you will extract bitter compounds. If you don’t mind that, and you love a longer shot, you can extract it a few seconds longer, but never too long.
  • Enjoy it responsibly. A ristretto doesn’t have the same amount of caffeine as a normale or a lungo, but you shouldn’t chug it anyway. You can do that with a single shot, but a triple sot might give you some heart palpitations and make you jittery.
Pulling Triple Espresso with Single Spout Portafilter
Pulling a triple espresso with a single spout portafilter. A dual spout could not fit in this cup.

Adjust the Grind Size for Your Triple Shot

The reason for the coarser grind, if you want to make a normal strength espresso, is that you want to keep the extraction time between 20 and 25 seconds.

If the shot pulls too slow and you let it pour over 25 seconds, you will get an overly bitter shot. If the grind is too coarse, the shot pulls too fast and you will get a weak, (under-extracted shot), and sour.

Why do you need to grind coarser? Well, think about it. If you keep the same grind size, and you have a taller coffee puck, you create more restriction in the coffee bed. How do you normalize the restriction? Grind a little coarser.

You might need to grind a bit coarser even if you want a ristretto. Just a tad coarser than for a solo.

Take In Consideration the Roast Level

Different roasts will require more grind size adjustments than other. Do not assume that you can use the same grind size adjustment for all coffee beans. If you change beans, tweak your shot until you find the right grind size.

What Else Can you Do?

Well, many of the folks I know that started to pull triple shots, got very serious about espresso, and they also got a naked portafilter for their triple basket. Now, this might not be for you because it’s going to get you down the rabbit hole. Pulling a shot with a naked portafilter, requires precision, but that a subject for another blog post.

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