What Is a Shot of Coffee and How to Make One

According to a 2020 report from the National Coffee Association or NCA, the average American coffee drinker ingests three cups per day. Some people can get by on just a shot of coffee, as it’s usually highly caffeinated. What is a shot of coffee, and how do you make one?

A shot of coffee is a small, highly caffeinated, and strong-tasting dose of coffee. To make a shot of coffee, you need an espresso machine. Grind the coffee, pack the grounds, tamp them, and then brew a shot.

If you’ve always wanted to brew a shot of coffee, this guide will tell you everything you need to know. Ahead, we’ll tell you what goes into this small amount of coffee and how much caffeine it has, so make sure you keep reading! 

What Is a Shot of Coffee? What Is It Called?

When we talk about a shot of coffee, exactly what kind of beverage are we referring to?

A shot of coffee is commonly referred to as espresso

The espresso hails from Italy. The drink requires boiling water to roughly 190 degrees Fahrenheit, then grinding coffee beans to a very fine texture.

The beans are put through high pressure between nine and 10 bars, which is roughly 130 to 150 pounds per square inch of pressure or PSI. 

Making espresso has three dispersed phases in all. The first phase is when the oil droplets emulsify. 

That’s followed by the addition of suspended solids in the next phase, and then finally, the introduction of foam or gas bubble layers in the third dispersed phase. 

Espresso is a surprisingly versatile beverage, as no matter which coffee roast or type of coffee bean you prefer, you can make a single shot or even a double shot of coffee. 

The consistency of espresso can surprise some coffee drinkers, especially those trying it for the first time. 

Rather than a watery liquid texture like coffee has, espresso has the same kind of viscosity as warm honey. 

So why the consistency difference? Compared to other coffee beverages, espresso has more dissolved and suspended solids.

The beverage is also made at high pressures and has a creamy foam atop it known as crema. These factors all contribute to the consistency.

The pressurization used during brewing also lends espresso a very strong flavor that’s much more concentrated than brewing standard coffee. 

As you can guess, a shot of coffee is also packed with caffeine. Later, we’ll tell you exactly how much caffeine you’ll ingest per shot, so make sure you check that out! 

What Size Is One Shot of Coffee?  

If you brew a single shot of coffee, the volume is between one and 1.25 ounces, which is approximately 29.5 to 37 millimeters. Some single shots are up to four ounces or 114 milliliters.

For comparison’s sake, a macchiato has the same volume. A cappuccino and flat white are each six ounces or 140 millimeters apiece. 

Caffeinated beverages such as mochas, lattes, and Americanos are larger still at eight ounces or 227 milliliters. 

How Do You Make a Shot of Coffee?

A coffee shot, or an espresso for short, is simple to make at home if you own a quality espresso machine. My favorite is the Breville Bambino Plus found here on Amazon.

You’ll need about nine grams of coffee for one shot.

Here’s how to make a shot of coffee.

TAble showing the 5 steps to making a shot of coffee.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each step for more clarity!

Step 1 – Choose Your Coffee Beans

As we discussed in the first section, you can use any type of coffee roast you prefer to make espresso. 

You might use beans you already have in your pantry or treat yourself by going to the store and doing some shopping for fresh coffee beans. 

The texture of the coffee beans is not-debatable. 

You need finely ground beans. The texture is almost like granulated sugar if you need to know what to look out for. 

Step 2 – Grind the Coffee Beans

You don’t have to grind the beans yourself if you don’t want to or if you simply don’t have the time. 

Should you be interested in grinding your own coffee beans, then that would be the next step.

You have several options for grinding coffee, including hand grinders, electric grinders, conical burr grinders, burr grinders, and blade grinders. You can even use a mortar and pestle. Let’s go over the options now so you can choose which is the best for you.

  • Hand grinder: If you’re trying to make a gourmet cup of espresso, then a hand grinder will deliver coffee of that quality. That said, you do have to put all the work in manually, which can be taxing if you want to grind the coffee beans down to the fine consistency needed to make a shot of coffee. 
  • Electric grinder: For your purposes, an electric grinder might be the better option. An electric grinder works in a similar fashion as a hand grinder but without any of the physical exertion needed on your part. Just make sure you don’t overgrind with an electrical grinder until your coffee beans are dust. Then you can’t use them to brew espresso! 
  • Conical burr grinder: Referred to as the industry standard as far as burr grinders are concerned, a conical burr grinder features a center burr shaped like a cone. The grinder also has a serrated burr on the outside that will produce the fine ground coffee consistency you’re looking for. 
  • Burr grinder: A standard burr grinder lacks the conical components but still gets the job done when grinding your coffee. The grinder has two burrs that revolve to grind the coffee, crushing the beans until they’re the desired consistency. 
  • Blade grinder: The opposite of a burr grinder is a blade grinder, which is also the more affordable alternative. With the larger blades and the way they move in the grinder, it’s harder to grind coffee beans to a fine consistency. 
  • Mortar and pestle: Your last option is to use a good, old-fashioned mortar and pestle. This is yet another option that demands a lot of physical effort on your part, but with time and patience, you can grind down the coffee beans as fine as you need them to make a shot of coffee.

Step 3 – Pack and Tamp the Coffee Grounds in a Portafilter

Now that you’ve ground your coffee beans to the perfect consistency (or bought them that way), it’s time to pack them into the portafilter of your espresso machine.

What is a portafilter, you ask? It’s a basket-like contraption in espresso machines that keep the coffee grounds in one spot while you brew.

You need to fit nine ounces of ground coffee beans into the portafilter, so don’t be surprised if the beans form a mound over the portafilter’s top. That’s normal.

Next, you have to tamp the beams, which means pressing on them until they’re flatter and more compressed. 

You should use a tool known as a coffee tamper for this. 

A coffee tamper has rounded handle on one side and a flat end on the other side. Coffee tampers will always result in well-tamped coffee beans that are perfect for making espresso. 

If you don’t have a coffee tamper, you can always rely on glass bottles (such as a beer bottle) or a pestle to do the tamping. It’s just about as good. 

Your elbow should always be at 90 degrees when tamping. Give yourself something soft to lean on such as a towel on the counter so the tamping process isn’t painful.

Step 4 – Pull the Espresso Shot

Now it’s time to get brewing. Insert the portafilter packed full of tamped coffee grounds into the espresso machine brew head. Then put your cup below that. 

Turn the espresso machine on, set it to brew, and it will pull you one shot of coffee. That should take between 25 and 30 seconds.

The espresso will be topped with delicious crema. It will look perfect! 

Step 5 – Enjoy the Coffee Shot 

You can let the shot of coffee cool a little bit, but don’t wait too long to drink it! 

How Much Caffeine Does a Shot of Coffee Have?

As we said we would, we want to discuss just how heavily caffeinated a shot of coffee is. 

The amount of caffeine varies but can be anywhere from 40 to 64 grams of caffeine per shot. That’s why most people only need one shot of coffee to feel ready for the day ahead. 

A full cup of coffee is still more caffeinated, containing 95 grams of caffeine per cup, but the flavor and caffeine both feel less concentrated. 

Other Espresso-Based Drinks to Learn and Sip 

A single shot is far from the only type of espresso out there. To wrap up, here is an overview of other espresso-based beverages you might come across when brewing and buying coffee from cafés. 

Doppio

A doppio is an Italian word that refers to double, hence why a doppio is a double shot of espresso. 

While it varies depending on the café you visit, when you order an espresso, many of them make a doppio by default rather than a single shot of coffee.

Flat White

A flat white is a variation of the doppio, as it’s a double shot as well. The difference is that a flat white also has aerated milk, which reduces the foaminess that espresso is known for. The flavor is still rich, and this beverage tastes nice and creamy.

Cappuccino

Although much bigger than your average single shot of coffee and even a doppio, a cappuccino still takes a page from the espresso’s book. 

The drink includes frothed milk, steamed milk, and a shot of espresso, so each ingredient is added in equal quantities. The texture of a cappuccino is soft, velvety, and rich.

Café Latte 

The classic café latte consists of two shots of espresso heated up and mixed with steamed milk. 

Then, extra frothiness is added to the top of the caffeinated beverage so that talented baristas can draw incredible latte art. Be sure to snap some photos of your cup before you start sipping! 

Ristretto

A ristretto is another Italian coffee beverage. It’s a single shot of espresso that’s ultra-concentrated so all you get is delicious flavor without any bitterness. The size of a ristretto is quite tiny, about 0.75 ounces.

Some ristrettos are made with two shots of coffee and are up to 1.5 ounces. 

Lungo

The espresso-based lungo means long in Italian. That’s due to the length of the pull on the espresso machine to make this beverage. With two times the hot water but the same amount of coffee grounds as a shot of coffee, the flavor of a lungo is quite bitter. 

Final Thoughts 

A single shot of coffee, also known as espresso, is highly caffeinated and packed full of flavor due to the way that an espresso machine pressurizes the coffee grounds during brewing. 

If you haven’t ever made your own shots of coffee at home and you have an espresso machine that needs some dusting off, take some time this weekend to treat yourself. You certainly won’t regret it!  

Can you Make Espresso with Coffee Beans?

What to do if Your Coffee Tastes Salty

Have you recently drank a cup of coffee, only to find that you get a salty taste in your mouth? Depending on the quality of coffee beans you use and how it is brewed can bring up different attributes of the coffee, but salty isn’t one you’re hoping for.

A great-tasting cup of coffee will usually have a balance of different flavors and qualities where they all complement each other. Some people prefer their coffee to have a bit of a salty taste and may even add salt to it.

But, if saltiness isn’t what you desire and you are tasting it anyways, continue reading. Your coffee can taste salty for a multitude of reasons.

Other than the possibility that the water used in the brewing process is salty, to begin with, under-extraction is most likely the culprit of the salty coffee. Under-extraction can occur when insufficient water is used during brewing, the coffee grind is too coarse, or the machine is broken. 

Let’s take a further look into each of these culprits and how to rid your coffee of that unwanted salty taste.

Common Causes of Salty Coffee

The most common causes of salty coffee is that the water used during the brewing process is salted to begin with, or the coffee beans are being under-extracted. First, we’ll dive into using salty water.

Salty Water to Start With

Coffee is made from two components, coffee beans and water. The quality of the water you use to brew your coffee will affect its overall taste. In fact, your favorite cup of coffee is made with mostly water, so it makes sense to go to the primary source first.

The saltiness you may taste in your water is due to sodium chloride, more commonly known as table salt, in the water. This sodium chloride can get into your water because of possible seawater seeping into the water lines or salt deposits found in the soil.

Another possible cause of salt in your water may be a faulty water softener system installed in your home. If the water coming from your faucet is salty and you have a water softener in your home, check out the system for any logical causes of malfunction. You may need to call out a repairman if you are unfamiliar with how your particular system works.

Check out our other article, “What type of water should I use in my coffee maker?” for more in-depth information on the best water to use when brewing coffee.

Using the tap is not the best source to get water from, especially if you live in areas with lesser quality. Some cities tend to have better water than others. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collects data all over the U.S. and allows the public to access the water quality where they live.

Under-Extracted Coffee

If you’ve checked the water used to make the coffee, and it seems perfectly normal, then your salty coffee is most likely due to under-extraction.

Extraction is the process of pulling the flavor out of the coffee bean through hot water. When water is combined with coffee grounds, a chemical reaction dissolves the flavor compounds. If you are using a French Press, extraction refers to the amount of time the coffee grounds are immersed in water.

When coffee grounds are over-extracted, it can result in bitter-tasting coffee, and saltiness can occur when the grounds are under-extracted.

Under-extracted coffee can occur for three reasons:

  1. Not enough water is used during the brewing process.
  2. The coffee grind is too coarse.
  3. The coffee maker is not functioning correctly.

Too Little Water Being Used

Determining the correct amount of water to use in brewing the perfect cup of coffee may take some trial and error. Everyone is going to have a different preference, so start somewhere and start experimenting.

Remember that using too little water in the brewing process can lead to a coffee with a salty taste. If you are only using a small amount of water, the coffee is not allowed the entire time it needs for the full flavor to be extracted by the water. This is what leads to that salty taste.

For more in-depth information and a table showing how much water to use, check out our other article, “What is the best coffee to water ratio?”

Coffee Grind Too Coarse

Grinding your coffee beans can take some practice. Two things will dictate the fineness or coarseness of the grind size you’re looking for. First, the brewing method significantly determines how fine or coarse your grounds should be.

For example, if you are brewing with an Espresso, your grind size should be very fine, like the size of table salt. If you are using a French Press, you will want to use a coarse grind.

Below is a table explaining in more detail how fine or coarse you want to grind your beans depending on what device you are brewing with.

Table showing how fine or coarse you should grind your coffee beans if you are using an espresso, aeropres, v60, Chemex, or French Press.
The second thing that will determine the coarseness of your coffee grind is the amount of coffee you are brewing. Typically, the more coffee you make, the more coarse your grind should be.

If your coffee grind is too coarse, the water will pass through too quickly and not be able to extract enough of the coffee flavor in the process. When your grind is the correct size (not too coarse), there is more surface area of the coffee, allowing the water to extract more of the coffee flavor.

For further explanation of how to determine how fine to grind your coffee beans, click here!

Coffee Machine not Functioning Correctly

Unfortunately, under extraction can result from your coffee maker not functioning correctly. Often, if your coffee maker is older, it may begin to have a difficult time heating the water to the necessary temperature.

When this occurs, the grounds are under-extracted, preventing all the good oils and coffee flavors from being extracted to make that perfect cup of coffee.

Another issue with a coffee machine not functioning correctly is when the brew time is shortened to the point that the water does not have enough time to extract all the good oils and flavor from the coffee grounds.

For the typical person, these issues usually warrant a new coffee machine.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’ll be able to determine the cause of your salty-tasting coffee after reading this and doing your investigative work. Remember to check the water you are using first, and then if that isn’t the cause of your salty coffee, follow our other recommendations.

How Long Does Coffee Creamer Last?

While some coffee lovers enjoy their cup of coffee black with no additives, many of us, including myself, wouldn’t dare drink it without our favorite coffee creamers. Nowadays, there is such a variety of creamers to choose from.

Depending on what type of coffee creamer you are using will determine how long it can last refrigerated or not. So, how do you know how long your specific coffee creamer will last?

Liquid dairy coffee creamers are good for up to a couple of weeks past the “use-by” date on the package if left unopened. However, once opened, it will only last one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Other variations of coffee creamers will last longer.

Let’s delve deeper into multiple kinds of creamers, how long they should be good for, and what can happen if consumed after it’s gone bad.

Variations of Coffee Creamers and How Long They Last

Thankfully, there isn’t a one size fits all creamer for our coffee in the coffee world. From liquid to powered and dairy to non-dairy, there are plentiful options. Then, there are the ever-changing flavors you can try. Let’s look at the various creamers to choose from and how they hold up regarding their longevity or shelf life.

Dairy

Dairy creamer typically consists of milk, cream, sugar, and often flavoring. As a result, refrigeration is always needed, whether it’s unopened or opened, and should be used within one to two weeks once opened. Always check the “use by” date on the packaging as well.

Non-Dairy

Luckily for those who can’t or wish not to drink dairy, we have the option to use non-dairy creamers in our coffee.

If the product you are using is a non-dairy powder, then storing it in an UNOPENED, tightly sealed container in a dark and cool cupboard is just fine.

If unopened, check the “best used by” date and use it within four weeks after the date. If opened, be sure to store it in the refrigerator and use it within one to two weeks.

Powdered

Powered coffee creamers are probably the easiest creamer to store and stays good the longest. This type of creamer can stay good for months even after the “best used by” date on the package.

I store mine in a cupboard with the lid tightened to prevent moisture from entering. If your powered creamer shows signs of moisture or is clumping up in balls, I suggest tossing it and using a new container.

This moisture and/or clumping could lead to bacteria growth and thus spoiling your creamer.

Liquid

Any creamer, whether it is dairy or non-dairy, that is liquid isn’t going to last as long as powdered. Always check the “best used by” date on the package; if unopened, I suggest only using it one to two weeks after the date.

Once you open the liquid creamer, use it within one week, two at max.

Individual Containers of Creamer

Individual creamer packages are typically found at restaurants but can also be purchased for home use. These store longer than your typical liquid creamers, and refrigeration is unnecessary.

Although these single-serve creamers don’t need to be chilled, they should never be left in a warm sunny area. It’s best to keep them in a cupboard or drawer.

Always check the “best by” date on the packaging, but single-serve creamers are often good for six months. Once the cup is opened, it is preferable to use it immediately, but if necessary can be stored in the refrigerator and covered for a couple of days.

Table showing how long different coffee creamers last opened and unopened.

The figures listed above are just estimates. It is always best to inspect your creamer if you are unsure.

How to Tell if Your Coffee Creamer is no Longer Good?

We’ve just gone over how long each type of creamer lasts, either opened or unopened, but sometimes you may not be sure how long ago you opened your coffee creamer. What do you do then? How do you tell if it is safe to use?

This is when your detective skills come in. Examine the creamer for changes in appearance, smell, and taste. This is especially true for your liquid creamers.

Image answering the question "Is your creamer still good?" Look for changes in taste, smell, and appearance.

If you see any signs of a change in texture, as in clumps or chunkiness, throw it away! Also, smell to see if there is a sour smell or if it just doesn’t smell right. Lastly, if its appearance and odor have not changed, do a small taste test. Drink a teaspoon before pouring it into your cup of coffee.

What Can Happen if Bad Coffee Creamer is Consumed?

While it is often completely fine to consume certain foods after their expiration date, you must be cautious about coffee creamer. As we discussed earlier in this article, any coffee creamer that is liquid and/or dairy will spoil much faster than other powered and non-dairy creamers.

Once a particular creamer goes bad, they become contaminated with fungus and bacteria. If consumed, your stomach will likely not be too happy with you and let you know. Consuming spoiled creamer can cause food poisoning that can often lead to digestive issues, including stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Drinking only a tiny amount of spoiled coffee creamer, such as when you are doing a taste test, will not likely cause severe digestive symptoms. However, consuming larger amounts can cause the issues stated above.

These symptoms will likely resolve within 12-24 hours. If you aren’t feeling better after this timeframe, consult your doctor for further care.

How to Make Coffee Creamer Last Longer

Freeze It

If you are looking for ways to make your creamer last longer, one solution is to store it in the freezer. Like many other foods, freezing it will, in a sense, freeze the expiration date on the label.

When freezing a liquid creamer, it’s best to place it in the freezer before opening if possible. This can add about six months to your shelf life. As soon as the bottle is removed from the freezer and opened, you start the one to two-week period in which it should be used.

If powered creamer is your preferred coffee additive, then you can again store it in the freezer as well. What’s nice about the powered variation is that you don’t necessarily need to thaw before using it. Simply take the container out of the freezer, scoop what you need into your coffee, and immediately return it to the freezer.

As with liquid creamer, freezing powered creamer should give you about six months of shelf life.
One important thing to note when freezing powdered creamer; it is essential not to let the powder thaw outside the freezer unless you are going to use all of it right away. The reason is that once the powder begins to thaw, moisture starts to build. This moisture can lead to bacteria growth, which obviously we don’t want going into our bodies.

Another tip when storing liquid creamer in the refrigerator is to place it near the back of the fridge, where it tends to stay colder. Keeping it in the refrigerator’s door is not a good idea because this area tends to be the least cold spot.

Keep Tightly Sealed

Storing it in a tightly sealed container will help preserve its freshness regardless of what type of creamer you are using. If the packaging doesn’t seem adequate or shows signs of damage, pouring it into another storage container may be best, preferable one that doesn’t let in any light or air.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you can now drink your coffee and creamer with ease knowing it’s fresh and safe. Remember that powdered creamer will always outlast liquid creamer by far, and refrigeration or freezing is your friend!

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