What is a Single Espresso, What is a Double Espresso?

Delonghi Dedica Maestro Plus EC950 pulling a shot
Delonghi Dedica pulling a double espresso

Single Espresso Defined (by Italians)

One of the most common questions new home baristas ask is, “what’s the difference between a single and double espresso, and can’t I just do a single?”

I think this is a common question because coffee beans, especially high quality freshly roasted ones, are expensive. So a lot of people might want to get away with making a single espresso to save a little money.

But what is a single espresso? Let’s see what Italy has to say about it. According to the Italian Espresso National Institute, a single espresso is 7 grams of coffee extracted for around 25 seconds, for a yield of about 25ml. This should be done around 9 bars of pressure, and extracted around 88 degrees celsius.

But as you’ll notice, that’s a brew ratio of about nearly 4:1 of yielded espresso out, to the ground coffee in. Let’s talk about Brew Ratios, or espresso recipes.

Brew Ratios

The easiest way to track your espresso recipe is not through volume, but rather by weight. I generally weigh my doses, and aim for a 2:1 ratio, or about twice the weight out, compared to the input weight. So, if I have a 10 gram basket for a single dose, then I will use 10 grams of ground coffee beans, and then measure the espresso output, and aim for 20 grams out. This keeps things simple, and reproducible.

It’s important to realize that volume can be a bit deceiving. If you have a shot glass with millimeter markings on it, it will read differently depending on how much crema you are getting. If you have a super fresh batch of beans, or beans with a lot of robusta, then the cup will fill up faster.

That’s why I just weigh the output, and pay less attention to the volume in the cup. Back to brew ratios.

Depending on the mouth feel you’re going for, and your beans and roast level, you might want to try various ratios:

  • Ristretto: 1:1 to 1.5:1 for a thick mouth feel and compacted shot
  • Espresso: 1.5:1 to 2.5:1 for your standard espresso
  • Lungo: 2.5:1 to 4:1 for a longer espresso drink

Single vs Double Espresso

So what’s the difference between a single and double espresso? Well, the double will generally have 2x the amount of beans as the input, and twice the yield.

So for example:

  • Single is 8 grams in and 16 grams out
  • Double is 16 grams in and 32 grams out

What do I use? For me, a single espresso is not enough to stand up to milk drinks, which is my preference. I almost always make cappuccinos for my wife and myself, so I ALWAYS use double espresso baskets, and aim for about 30-35 grams out of my baskets that fit 16-18 grams of ground coffee. These stand up to the added milk much better than single shots.

Splitting a Double into a Single Espresso

If you have a spouted portafilter and want to split the double shot into two equal shots, you can certainly do that – in fact, many cafes do this. I’ve worked at a famous cafe in Bavaria, and their recipe was 15.5 grams in, and roughly twice that out (although we didn’t weigh the shots, it was programmed volumetrically). We’d split these doubles into two single cups, and use one cup for a single espresso order, and the other we could use for a small cappuccino. Mind you, these were professional expensive machines, tuned to get the maximum extraction yield out of the beans.

Beware of the Single Espresso

Just know that if you want to extract a single espresso, this is more challenging than a double. The coffee puck has the same surface area, but is shorter in depth, thus creating a thinner coffee puck. Therefore, your puck preparation (distribution, tamping) has to be on point. I also find that I need to grind just a little finer for single baskets, in oder to get that 2:1 ratio in the alotted 25 seconds time.

Espresso Baskets

IMS makes some of the best espresso baskets out there. They are based in Italy, and their baskets are made there, too. VST is another good manufacturer of high quality baskets. For cheaper baskets, I like Capfei and Neouza.

Just know that for the Dedica, there is currently no single basket from IMS. The closest would be the H22 (depth of 22 mm). I use the H26 for my double shots, which comfortably fits 16 grams. The H32 can fit more like 20-24 grams of coffee, for a triple shot!

Check out the baskets below for examples for Delonghi machines.

All Delonghi machines by the way use 51mm baskets!

51mm Single Basket

Single Basket for Delonghi

IMS 51mm espresso basket, H26 mm in height

Double Basket for Delonghi

IMS 51mm espresso basket, H26 mm in height

Triple Basket for Delonghi