Dialling in- By taste or by recipe?

Hey there,

I started off my speciality career dialling in by taste and I’ve always found doing it that way made my job feel more enjoyable and it made me more proud of the product I’m producing, however, the last two companies that I’ve worked for have both used set recipes that you can’t change, regardless of any factors that affect the taste, it works by having a set dosage, a set time and a set yield, at all times.

I’m curious as to see whether the latter is a fairly standard practice used among store owners, why you’ve chosen to do a set recipe instead of letting your Barista’s adapt the espresso to the needs of the bean (I.e roast date) and also how your Barista’s feel about it?

To me, I feel like having a set recipe at all times is a sign of not trusting your Barista’s to do a good enough job, and it’s preventing from your coffee and your Barista’s from reaching their next level, I learned so much more about taste perception and efficiency when I was dialling in to taste, but it might just be me.

Curious to hear both sides of the question from you all!

Thanks a bunch, Nico


I almost feel like the best of both worlds is to have a set recipe which is changeable with approval from the shift leader, and notes in a barista journal - that way if it is indicative of a needed shift in the set recipe (due to a change in the roast, blend, origin, etc.) there is a record of the experiences.


I agree with @joshuadusk. I think you can have the best of both worlds with having a set brew recipe and by going by the taste of the coffee.

With having a set brew recipe you are able to make sure that your brews are consistent with the best/most recent recipe you have made. Customers are expecting consistency with your brews every time they come in to a shop and order that type of coffee. This is good for you and your shop and baristas by having a set recipe that they can repeat over and over and you know it will always taste that way. Obviously, you can check/change the recipe any time you’d like to make sure it’s on point and tasting the best. Especially, if you just roasted a new batch or changing the roast recipe, that is also a good time to check/readjust the recipe.

Also, I agree with what your saying about taste. I truly think that it is a great idea to be able to dial in to taste as well. When I first started as a barista at the shop I’m currently at now the owner would have me try certain coffees even before I knew how to make the coffee. I feel this has helped me understand what the coffee was supposed to taste like, when it was under extracted, over extracted, certain flavors or body types. Definitely a good starting point for any new barista or anyone starting into the specialty coffee world.

Both ways work really well. I think they both can coincide at any shop and should go hand-in-hand if you are wanting your coffees to have the best and most consistent extraction and taste. If you want to take that a step further, having a refractometer can help dial in the extraction/roast even better. The shop I’m at now recently purchased a refractometer and it has stepped up our game, big time. We go by recipe, taste and extraction/total disolved solids. By using all three we are making sure our recipe (grind size, dose, water weight) are correct/consistent and that we are doing those for the best taste, it’s tasting great with that recipe and with that recipe measuring our extraction with the VST tool in the app (helps with making sure the roast is good, grind size, dose and water weight) to see if we are close to getting a solid extraction percentage and taste. It’s kind of hard to explain, but @MattPerger does a great job of explaining what a VST tool is and how it works on his blog if your interested. I’m still learning as well! Cheers to better coffee!