I stopped timing shots a LONG time ago. Once in a while I glance at a clock for laughs, but you can pull good shots in 20 seconds of 40 seconds. If the espresso tastes good, and you can do it consistently shot after shot, then you can play with other variables which may or may not affect taste, but all that matters is taste. Time means nothing. of course, it can be an indicator, and if you are pulling 15 second, 60ml shots and it tastes bad, that short of time will be obvious, but then it becomes a matter of what caused it- again, time was just an indicator and nto a benchmark. I suppose it becomes a matter of semantics, but once you get a feel for an extraction that lasts from ABOUT 25 to 35 seconds you are in the ballpark, and from then on just sip the espresso and ignore the clock.
I think my bad tasting espresso from last time was because it was over-extracted, not bad distribution. Nonetheless, I'm using the weiss distribution technique to make sure that's not a factor. I've started measuring my shots into a 2oz shot glass and realized they were coming out *very* ristretto (just around 1oz when hitting the button for a double). So, I dialed back the grind more and got the right volume, but now the extraction seems too fast to me.
Waste a pound of coffee experimenting- pull shots with small doses ground fine. Then pull some with larger doses ground more coarse. Do them all to ABOUT 60ml and ABOUT 25-30 seconds. You should be able to learn the difference by look and taste. Form there you can zero in on teh correct dose and matching grind by taste. You will have learned the difference between over-extraction and under-extraction just by watching. That one pound of "wasted coffee" will pay you back with massive interest over the next decade.
You need to get a gram scale that can weigh to .1 grams. Keeping a consistent dose while varying the grind is critical. That is the science part of all this. Keep all factors constant and have one variable, the grind. When that range is exhausted in terms of taste, then add a bit or subtract a bit to the chosen dose and readjust grind accordingly. You will eventually zero in on what matches your taste preferences.
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