The God Shot
It’s the dream of every beginning barista – to pull the ultimate espresso, the singular experience that is so incredibly heavenly, it seems only God himself could have pulled it. At least, that’s what it was originally conceived of to be. However, as noted by Mark Prince, coffee guru extraordinaire over at coffeegeek.com in a 2002 article, the definition of the God Shot has undergone considerable change since it was only used by a small group of coffee geeks on the alt.coffee Usenet group. Where once the God Shot was the top of the bar, the creme de la creme, the espresso shot that a true barista might manage to pull once in a hundred pulls – or more – now it seems to be used to describe “an awesome shot”. As in, Dude! What a God Shot!
But the God Shot is more elusive than just a great shot of espresso. It’s the perfect blend of great coffee, the right grind, the perfect tamp, water temperature, steam pressure – in short, when every one of the factors that go into making an excellent shot of espresso are perfect, the result may just be a God Shot.
So what is a God Shot?
Those who have not been inducted into the brotherhood of espresso aficionados may believe that a God Shot is simply a really good espresso. Leave it to coffee geeks, who are, after all, geeks at heart, to give it a technical definition. A God Shot, according to Mark Prince’s definition, is a double ristretto – an espresso that is even more concentrated than espresso. Says Prince,
“A God Shot, by nature has to be the double ristretto. This is a double shot of espresso that is specially prepared to produce a 1 ounce (give or take a quarter ounce) beverage using the same amount of grinds as a normal (3 oz) double, in the same rough time as a normal double (25-30 seconds).”
But this is just the beginning of the definition – and not terribly helpful to the novice espresso drinker. Here’s a slightly more helpful definition. The God Shot is the pure essence of the coffee bean, pure flavor of coffee, a drinkable form of the aroma of fresh roasted coffee. It is characterized by the thick, rich caramel colored foam called crema that is the tail end of the espresso. The espresso itself is a deep rust color, and from the beginning of the pull, it is pure crema. It can take up to thirty seconds for the coffee and crema to separate, but when it does, the crema fills the top third of the cup. The aroma is pure coffee, without any burnt smell to it. The flavor is indescribable – it’s said that a God Shot can make an espresso lover out of anyone. If ambrosia was the nectar of the gods, then surely, the perfect espresso is ambrosia.
So What Goes into a God Shot?
Pulling a God Shot requires that everything be just perfect. You won’t get a God Shot with mediocre equipment or poor coffee. You’ll need freshly roasted beans ground just seconds before you prepare your espresso. The grind is vital, since the God Shot depends on a combination of grind, tamp, heat and time to come to fruition. Your grind should be just a little softer and smoother than granulated sugar. Your equipment should be scrupulously clean so that old coffee oils don’t taint the flavor. Your machine should be in perfect working order, with the temperature gauge perfectly calibrated so that you can control the temperature of the liquid being forced through the coffee grind. Measure your coffee precisely, and tamp it using just the right amount of pressure. These things are things that you only learn through experience. The tamp packs the coffee to slow the water’s path through it, and that is the true secret to making a perfect espresso.
Even then, you only have a slight chance of brewing an actual God Shot. Follow all of the above, and you will consistently brew great shots of espresso for sure. And eventually, it will happen. There will come a moment when right before your very eyes nectar will be dripping from your portafilter and a God Shot will appear. And when it does, savor every drop of it. The next one will have to be even better to qualify.