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Turbo Shot Espresso: Super-Charged or Over-Hyped?

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

Our review process | Our team

Espresso is the bedrock of modern coffee culture; it revs up our mornings and powers us through lackluster afternoons. In the course of your coffee adventures, you may (or may not) have heard of turbo shot espresso.

Espresso is the bedrock of modern coffee culture; it revs up our mornings and powers us through lackluster afternoons. In the course of your coffee adventures, you may (or may not) have heard of turbo shot espresso.

Is it a new form of espresso? Not quite.

In fact, espresso hasn’t changed much since its inception. It’s pretty much the perfect coffee that channels the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos.

Still, turbo shots have changed how we can prepare and serve espresso coffee. In this guide, I’ll explain what it is, how to make it and how to brew a cup compared to anormale espresso.

What’s the Definition of Espresso?

To the coffee lover, an espresso is coffee elevated to its highest and purest form, 100 percent coffee goodness in a miniature espresso cup.

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Most coffee professionals and baristas agree that you need a portafilter espresso machine to make this coffee the right way. To make an espresso, you’ll also need:

  • Freshly roasted coffee beans.

  • An espresso machine capable of maintaining 9 bars of pressure during operation.

  • A suitable burr coffee grinder.

To make a classic espresso shot, a professional barista will:

  • Dose ground coffee from a coffee grinder into the espresso machine’s portafilter.

  • Form a puck by evenlycompressing the ground coffee. This takes practice: baristas apply a firm but gentle pressure (20-30 pounds) on the coffee using an espresso tamper and twist the tamper upwards to ensure the puck has a level surface.

  • Preheat an espresso cup using hot water and place it under the machine spout.

  • Lock the portafilter in place and extract your coffee by pulling/pushing a lever or pressing a button.

The filtered water temperature during extraction should be 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (90-96 degrees Celsius).

Because of the fine grind and larger surface area, a double espresso extracts within 25-30 seconds. The result is a sweet, chocolaty, nutty and potent coffee with the consistency of warm honey.

A well-pulled shot has a stand-out crema, too (the golden, creamy layer that forms on top of the coffee). It should be thick, consistent and sit pretty on the rich, dark coffee.

Finally, espresso is best served immediately and savored as is.

Is Espresso Changing?

Shock, horror! Could traditional espresso be going out of fashion? Not espresso per se, but how we make and serve it.

Coffee lovers are forever coming up with new ways to enjoy their favorite cup of joe. As such, coffee purveyors and baristas are paying attention to sourcing and systematically improving espresso extraction. They’re constantly refining how they prepare and serve it in line with new inventions, methods and tech.

Espresso Glas Fokus

Take the double espresso or doppio, for instance. This power shot contains double the espresso of a normale. Coffee lovers who want a higher caffeine fix or a larger espresso drink prefer the doppio over the single.

So too, the ristretto. This concentrated espresso, made with the same amount of ground coffee as a regular espresso, extracts in half the time and uses half as much water. Devotees swear it is sweeter and more complex.

This change isn’t happening at the coffee shop alone, but at home too!

Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, the uptake in home coffee gear made baristas of us all. Super-automatics, espresso machines and portable espresso makers got us experimenting with brewing methods, times, ratios and more.

There’s also been a noticeable shift toward lighter roast Arabica espresso blends. It seems younger coffee enthusiasts aren’t hyped about the old school darker roast coffee blends anymore. And this preference has brought with it a significant change in coffee preparation.

 You may ask: is all this change a bad thing? No, I don’t think so. Traditional espresso as a coffee drink is ever-evolving. Change is a constant in life, and coffee isn’t immune.

What Is a Turbo Shot Espresso?

With all that said, what is a turbo shot exactly?

For starters, turbo shot espresso is still an espresso, just prepared and extracted slightly differently. It gets its name from the faster extraction time. But you probably already guessed that!

How and why did turbo shots come about? I mean, why change a good thing, right?

While espresso is a beautiful drink, it can be hard to get right. At the hands of an amateur, the risks of under- or over-extraction are high, yielding a sour or bitter shot, and ending with a sad face.

In 2020, research scientists and coffee professionals carried out a study in which they explored systematically improving espresso. They employed experimentation and complex mathematical modeling to achieve a high-quality, tasty espresso brew.

Ultimately, it was scientifically proven that if you use coffee grounds with a coarser grind size (less surface area) and lower pressure as you extract coffee, you’ll end up with shots that run faster but taste consistently good.

In essence, you end up with a faster flow rate and higher extraction yield than with a traditional shot. You’ll extract more flavor from the bean without significantly reducing the coffee’s strength. Even better, bitter-tasting flavors and other variables at play never even have a chance to make it into the shot!

The result? The birth of the turbo shot – a sweeter, well-balanced espresso with lighter body and more clarity. The beverage weight or yield remained the same as a normale (40 grams) but with a higher extraction yield and lower coffee dose.

How to Make a Turbo Shot Espresso

Flair Classic Coffee Grinds

While regular espresso requires 7-9 grams of ground espresso coffee for a single shot, you’ll need a dose of 15 grams to make turbo shots. Oh, and remember to set a coarser grind size on your coffee grinder.

A turbo shot has a shorter extraction time and requires lower pressure than a regular espresso. Count on 15 seconds for extraction and drop your pressure to 6 bars to brew this shot.

Despite a 1:2.6 yield ratio in turbo shots compared to a 1:2 ratio in regular shots, the espresso extracted or beverage weight is consistent for both (40 grams).

This low-pressure espresso has consistent taste and texture and is difficult for baristas to mess up. In a coffee shop’s professional setting, this can save precious resources, time and money.

Incidentally, turbo shots are perfect for bringing out the brighter flavors and fine acidity of lighter roasts, which are fast emerging as a consumer preference.

Turbo Shot vs Allongé

Café allongé is an espresso accredited to Montreal coffee expert Scott Rao. Lungo means “long” in Italian and allongé, the same in French Canadian. As such, this variation is much like a café lungo but bursting with flavor.

Like the turbo shot, allongé uses a coarse coffee grind size extracted at a higher 9-bar pressure, resulting in a faster shot.

To make this coffee:

  • Use a coarser grind size than you would for regular espresso.

  • Use a dose of 18 grams of ground coffee, and aim for a 30-second pull.

  • You still use 9 bars of pressure to extract your coffee but with a faster flow rate. The shot may behave messily towards the end, but don’t fret; this is quite normal.

  • You should aim for an extraction yield ratio of 1:5, with a beverage weight of 90 grams.

Best-suited for light roast blends, a well-pulled allongé coffee is an intriguing mix. It boasts a rich, sweet, nutty taste with a thick espresso crema and the flavor complexity of a pour-over. It all comes down to mastering the right grind size.

Turbo Shot vs Lungo

Breville Barista Touch Pulling Shot of Espresso

Café lungo is an espresso variation “pulled long,” hence lungo, which means “long” in Italian.

It’s somewhere between an espresso and an Americano. This is a coffee for those who can’t handle the strength of an espresso shot but fear a drip coffee won’t provide their caffeine fix for the day.

To make a lungo:

  • Use coffee with a coarser grind size.

  • Lower the pressure to 6 bars on your espresso machine.

  • As with turbo shots, dose 15 grams of coffee into your portafilter.

  • Aim for a shot time of 35-60 seconds. As soon as it begins to blond, end the extraction immediately.

The starkest difference between lungos and turbo shots is in the pull time; the lungo’s is quadruple that of the turbo shot. Thus, the yield ratios and final beverage weights also differ.

A turbo shot espresso will give you a brewing ratio of 1:2.6 and a final beverage weight of 40 grams. This, compared to the lungo’s 1:5.3 yield ratio and weight of 80 grams.

The longer extraction time also allows for a higher caffeine content, light texture, more soluble solids and pronounced roasted notes in the final cup. Unfortunately, this extraction method comes with the real risk of a messy flow and uneven extraction. Keep an eye on the flow rate and temperature to create a well-balanced coffee.

Ultimately, a lungo has a drier taste and smokier flavor than a turbo shot espresso. It’s an extraction method best suited to darker roasts.

Turbo Shot vs Sprover

Espresso Bottomless Portafilter

The sprover, aka spro-over, aka café crème, has been a thing in Switzerland and northern Italy since the 1980s. It’s another espresso variation that uses a coarse grind and greater yield ratios.

Why the strange name, sprover, though? Well, it’s all in the extraction, which resembles a pour-over. As always, grind size is super important. Grind coarser than for espresso, but aim for a finer grind than you’d use in a drip coffee maker.

With a café crème, we’re better off aiming for a 1:10 brewing ratio, although slightly different ratios are fine. You’ll need to dose 16 grams of coffee into your portafilter to achieve a 160-gram extraction yield.

Like a traditional shot, aim for a shot time of 25-30 seconds. Keep an eye on the flow rate to avoid ruining this shot. And pick a lighter roast level using quality coffee beans for surprisingly good results.

Final Thoughts: The Lowdown on Turbo Shot Espresso

As more of us begin to brew espresso at home, turbo shot espresso is emerging as a game-changer, allowing us to experiment and achieve the perfect shot.

With the rise of lighter-roast espresso blends, it’s clear that this innovative, low-pressure espresso extraction method is here to stay.

If nothing else, it’s easier, faster and yields sweeter coffee. It also gives you a good excuse to really get to know your espresso machine!

I hope this article answered all your questions about turbo shot espressos. Have you tried this trendy version of espresso? I’d love to read all about your coffee adventures in the comments section below! 

Turbo Shot Espresso FAQ

A turbo shot espresso comes from fine grind coffee extracted under 6-bar pressure and pulled within 15 seconds. It has less body, less clarity and tastes sweeter than regular espresso.

This coffee contains 15-17 grams of coarse-grind coffee and hot, filtered water. It has a 1:2.6 ratio of coffee-to-espresso yield by weight compared to a regular espresso with a 1:2 ratio. Although a turbo shot has the same yield and volume as a regular espresso, it has a lower coffee dose.

A coffee with three espresso shots is a “dead eye.” This contrasts with a “red eye” containing one and a “black eye” containing two espresso shots.

A double espresso is also known as a “doppio.”

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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