What is...

Just what the hell is… a God Shot?

April 29, 2017

God Shot. A term shrouded in mystery. You might hear the words, spoken softly, from the passing breath of an awestruck barista. Or see the term, mentioned reverently, on the 63rd page of a diehard coffee forum thread. So what is it?

It’s a term that is used by experienced baristas or espresso enthusiasts or maybe even just your tea-drinking uncle trying to connect with the surly barista serving his Lemon Frappuccino.

I’m going to go over what is, for me, the three different ways that people use the phrase god shot .

The classic definition

The classic definition is that a God Shot is a pull of espresso that is, objectively, a perfect 10. We’re talking the absolute best of the best, perfect conditions and perfect equipment, all the planets have aligned etc. The key point with this definition is that experienced coffee drinkers would all agree. This is a god shot. Hence the word ‘objectively’.

a god shot being poured, perhaps

To make a classic god shot the conditions need to be absolutely on point. We’re talking an A* espresso machine, high quality espresso coffee beans, top tier grinder. The works. All this equipment must be setup by a pro and the pull must be done by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing.

For a god shot to even occur, you need to be capable of consistently putting out top level coffee. And even then, you’re lucky if you’re able to pull a God Shot 1 out of 20 times.

One final point, this definition is probably where the term originated.

The layman’s definition

You might also hear the term used for a really good shot. Perhaps from someone who’s not experienced with espresso but is really happy with how they made this one.

If I assume that you’re normal. That you don’t keep the company of those who fraternize in secret coffee cults. That you don’t spend an unhealthy amount of time reading internet coffee forums. Then this is the most likely definition to hear.

Think your wife calling from the kitchen, “Oooh this one’s really nice, I think I’ve made one of them god shots!”

cute espresso machine

The experience definition

I remember being on vacation in Southern Europe back in the late 2000s. I was with three friends, sat on fold out chairs in a cute European cafe. I left my coffee to cool a little, as I always do, and listened to my friends talking about what great coffee they served. I ignored them, thinking they just didn’t know as much as I did.

When I put the coffee to my mouth it was like I entered another state of consciousness. All my thoughts disappeared and I was left with a powerful clarity. I was acutely aware of my surroundings. The latte glasses shining in the morning light, the clock performing its steady march forward in time, the melange of people who gathered here all with their own lives and thoughts.

I felt the caffeine high hit me instantly and the notes were dancing on my tongue. It was a bright, sweet flavor. Extremely smooth. I didn’t talk for a good five minutes. Sat there, silent, enjoying the world around me. I know that sounds pretentious but that’s really how I felt.

Regardless of if we are referring to the casual or proper definition of a God Shot, there is a beautiful quality that comes with drinking a really fantastic coffee.

Being a total coffee nerd I’m happy to say I’ve had this experience a number of times. A more casual coffee drinker might have experienced it a handful of times. Either way, it’s special when it happens and might just provoke a reaction along the lines of… “Wow, is this a God Shot?”

How do I get a God Shot?

single origin coffee farm in the mountains

Honestly, if you’re asking, you’re probably quite far away from making something that would be considered a ‘real’ God Shot. Being able to distinguish a God Shot from a merely great pull of espresso requires years of experience.

To start making really good espresso you need to get experience. Lots of experience. That means having an espresso machine that you use every day and experimenting as if you were Einstein.

If you’re just getting into the world of espresso I recommend taking a look at my article. Think of it as a fast-track guide to smashing out the best espresso that a beginner can make. Follow the steps and you’ll move quickly down the road to making your own god shots.

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