Espresso machines typically pull shots with 9 bars of pressure. This is the norm in the industry. But at Prototype Coffee in Vancouver, British Columbia, they have perfectly good reasons as to why they pull their shots with only 4-5 bars of pressure.

You have to know the rules before you can break the rules, and the coffee pros at Prototype know what they are doing when it comes to brewing up great coffee.

The Roasting

When roasting for espresso coffee versus filter coffee, Matt Johnson, the Owner of Prototype Coffee, tries to amplify different aspects of the coffee. For example, when roasting for espresso he tries to focus on bringing out the sweetness rather than too much acidity. Whereas for filter, he aims to highlight the acidity to bring brightness to the cup.

“If you have a really high acidity roast profile and you pull it on espresso, it could be really hard to drink straight. When you pull an espresso, everything is amplified compared to filter so if it’s a high acidity cup on filter, it might be far too acidic on espresso,” Johnson explained to us.

This is why coffees are often categorized as either espresso or filter roasts. Unless, it’s an omni-roast, as this coffee is. An omni-roast means the coffee is roasted to express itself well on any brew method.

Johnson shared with us the balancing act he does to achieve an omni-roast on this coffee. “We try to achieve as much flavour as we can without bumping up the acidity. With espresso, we are okay with slightly higher acidity as long as it’s balanced out with really good sweetness and flavour.”

Pulling the shot

Prototype strays from the norm when it is time to pull the shot.

“Because our espresso roasts are on the lighter side, we find that we can push extraction pretty hard,” Johnson told us.

Prototype runs their shots at a higher temperature and with low pressure for 50-60 seconds. They find that by doing this, there is less of a chance of channeling, and it produces more consistent shots. Also, of course, it impacts the taste of the coffee. Johnson walked us through what you could expect from a low pressure shot.

“You get a really good flavour clarity with the low pressure. I find it to be a really delicious balanced espresso. You get a unique mouthfeel from it too. With a higher pressure shot, you get a more viscous body. But I find with lower pressure shots you get a medium, smooth body.”

Because it’s unlikely those of us at home will be tinkering with the pressure on our espresso machines, Johnson suggests playing around with preinfusion, which we’ll talk about next. If you are able to change the bar pressure on your machine and want to give it a shot, Johnson suggests this recipe: 204.5 Fahrenheit, 19g in, 45g out, for 50-60 seconds at 4 to 5 bars. If you do this at home, please let us know what you think of the low-pressure shot!


Preinfusion is the equivalent of a bloom when you make a pour-over. It is the slow introduction of water into the grinds to help it expand and get ready for extraction.

“It’s almost like the things you are going to pull out of the coffee get loosened up, and the puck starts to form a better shape for extraction. Then, when the pressure ramps up, the water tends to flow more evenly through the coffee bed. I definitely recommend playing around with preinfusion especially if you are doing higher pressure shots. It can really help balance a shot if you have high-acidity coffee,” Johnson recommended.


Coffees by Prototype Coffee in Issue #11

The Espresso Pack

Puerta Verde Espresso

•A washed Guatemalan with tasting notes of vanilla, cherry and caramel. 

October 21, 2022 — Zara Snitman

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