It is also the basis for most of the specialty drinks which you will see in high-end coffee shops.
Without an espresso, there are no latte, cappuccino, and, oh yeah, pumpkin spice lattes (and we know you love them).
That tiny cup of coffee is what we want you to think about:
What exactly is an Espresso?
In this guide, you will learn the basic knowledge of Espresso Coffee, the equipments used to extract Espresso and how to make Espresso shots, step by step.
Feel free to jump around sections using the content list below!
Table of Contents:
What is an Espresso?
What Affects the Brewing Process?
Tools of Trade
↳ Espresso Machines
↳ Coffee Grinders
↳ Espresso Tamper
↳ Weighing Scales
↳ Espresso Vessels
Buying an Espresso Machine
Maintaining Your Espresso Machine
↳ After Every Use
↳ Weekly Maintenance
↳ Every 3-6 Months
↳ Every 6-12 Months
Choosing a Coffee Grinder
Coffee Grinder Maintenance
↳ Blade Grinders
↳ Burr Grinders
Become a Tamping Master
How to Pull the Perfect Espresso Shot
↳ Grinding Coffee
↳ Dosing Coffee Ground
↳ Tamping Espresso
↳ Pulling the Great Espresso Shot
Tips for the Perfect Espresso
Espresso Shot — Troubleshoot Guide
How to Steam Milk (Frothing Milk)
↳ How is Coffee Roasted?
↳ Single Origin vs. Espresso Blend
Common Home Barista Mistakes
The Barista Terms - Glossary
What Is an Espresso? ⤴︎
An espresso is created when you pass almost-boiling water through tightly packed, and finely ground coffee, with a lot of pressure, resulting in around 25ml - 30ml of concentrated liquid coffee.
Espresso has been around for a long time, far longer than you may imagine.
It was back in 1884 that the first espresso machine was created (that we know of).
The machine used steam to generate the pressure needed to extract the coffee from the coffee beans.
The very first machine created bulk espresso, and it would not be until 17 years later that the very first single-serve espresso machine was built.
From there, the popularity has only grown.
And, What Should It Look Like?
The look of a great espresso is characterized by three things:
The heart, the body, and the crema.
The crema is the creamy layer on the top of the espresso.
This thin, golden-brown layer is where the sweetness of the espresso lies.
This layer should look distinctly different from the rest of the espresso shot, and you know that you are on the way to a great espresso shot if you have a smooth crema on the top.
The heart is the darker region at the bottom of your espresso shot.
This part of the espresso will be a deep, dark brown color and will hold the bitterness of the coffee.
The layer between the two, which will move and swirl as the shot settles, is known as the body.
The body will have a caramel-brown color and will make up most of the espresso shot.
So, how do you actually make an espresso shot?
How Coffee Extraction Works ⤴︎
Now, comes the science part.
If you do not want to get down to the actual science of coffee, then skip this section.
Coffee gets its flavor, color, and body from the compounds which are extracted from the ground coffee beans.
The extraction of these aspects of the coffee bean rely on a few things, including the grind (amount of surface area to extract from) and heat (livelier water molecules dissolve compounds quicker).
There is a specific order in which the compounds are extracted, and that extraction comes down to time.
It does not matter how you make your cup of coffee; whether you use a paper filter or an espresso machine, the same compounds are extracted in the same order.
Up to 30% of a coffee bean is water soluble, and espresso can have up to 12% of those dissolved compounds compared to 1%-2% in filtered coffee.
When hot water comes into contact with the ground coffee, the extraction process begins.
The simplest compounds will dissolve in the water first, with the more complex compounds being extracted later.
If the water is not hot enough; or not given enough time; or not given enough surface area to extract from; or does not have enough pressure to extract adequately, the resulting coffee will be under-extracted.
If the opposite happens, then the coffee will become over-extracted.
Acids are the simplest compounds.
They are the compounds which are extracted first by the water. They give the coffee its sour flavor. Extract just this, and that is the only flavor you will have.
Oils and fats are the compounds which are extracted next. They are not simple compounds, but they are hydrophobic, which means that they are washed out of the coffee bean easily by the water. They add body to the coffee.
Sugars come next, more complex than acids; and you definitely want them in your espresso to balance the sourness of the acids.
With enough time or the right circumstances, the fibers of the bean will begin to break down.
These have a dry and bitter taste. A little will give balance to the coffee, but over-extraction will result in a bitter-tasting espresso.
Extraction will also draw out the natural flavors and aromas in the coffee bean, such as fruit, floral, and aromatics.
Getting the extraction right plays a big part in creating the perfect bittersweet shot of espresso.
What Affects the Brewing Process? ⤴︎
Espresso is more the brewing process than it is a coffee bean.
When we talk about the brewing process, we are talking about how the water comes in contact with the ground coffee to extract the flavors and compounds.
For such a small drink, there are numerous things to think about when it comes to creating the perfect espresso shot.
Let’s start simple.
There are two ingredients needed to create an espresso shot: coffee beans and water.
What should we be looking for in these two ingredients?
A great cup of Espresso starts with a high-quality coffee bean.
We recommend buying whole beans and grinding the coffee yourself at home, or having the coffee ground at the moment you buy it, to keep it fresher for longer.
Once you have your ground beans, it is best to use it within four weeks after being ground.
You should also look for when it was roasted. The closer in time the beans were roasted, the fresher the coffee is going to be.
Look for a roasting date on the bag of coffee instead of an expiry date. If there is only an expiry date, then ensure that you have enough time to consume the coffee before it begins to lose its flavor.
Most coffee roasters will have a coffee which has been roasted explicitly for use in espresso machines, and this will be your best bet over other types of roasted coffee.
Most espresso roast coffees have been roasted longer to increase the caramelization of the coffee bean and bring out the sweetness of the coffee.
This is definitely what you want for creating a great shot of espresso. If you cannot find espresso beans, then look for beans which have been roasted for longer and are darker.
Of course, you do not want to choose beans which have been roasted for too long, or you are going to have a burnt flavor instead of the caramel sweetness.
You would not drink water which was not fresh, just as you would not use stale water to create espresso.
This is why, if you have an espresso machine with a water reservoir, you use fresh water each time you are creating espresso.
The better the water tastes, the better your coffee will taste.
We often think of water as a blank canvas, and while water is the flavorless conduit for the extraction of coffee flavors, certain water can hinder the process.
Water will naturally have minerals in it, but too much minerals in your water can be detrimental to the final flavor of your coffee.
The more mineral content, the less the water can take from the coffee. Steer clear of the mineral water.
The water from your tap may taste great, and it is fine to use in your espresso maker, but filtered water is going to take it to the next level.
The flavor in espresso is all about nuance and balance.
You may not notice the difference between espresso made with tap water and that which is made with filtered tap water, but if you make that small change along with all the other tweaks (grind, ratio, etc.), they are going to soon add up.
Using a water filter will take out any impurities in the water and leave the water tasting fresh.
If your water is hard, you may notice that you have scale build up in your kettle or shower head.
If you use this hard water in your espresso machine, then that same scale buildup is going to happen in that machine too!
This can lead to your machine becoming damaged and broken.
Use fresh water, and you will not be disappointed.
You can use the best coffee in the world, but if you grind the beans wrongly (or have them ground wrong), then you are not going to create the perfect espresso; in fact, you may be so far away from it, that your coffee is undrinkable.
Espresso makers use pressure to force hot water through your ground coffee.
This means that the water is pushed through the espresso quickly without a lot of time for extraction.
You should be using a fine grind for espresso beans for two reasons: surface contact and flow rate.
The hot water does not have a lot of time with the coffee so the fine grind will slow it down.
Think of water running through sand as opposed to running through pebbles; — This is fine grind vs. coarse grind.
A fine grind will give the water more time to extract the compounds from the coffee.
The contact time of the water and coffee is not very long, but by using a fine grind, you give the water a larger surface area to work with.
This makes it quicker to extract the compounds needed to give espresso its signature taste.
Your ground espresso should be similar in texture to table salt.
You will usually have the option of having your coffee beans ground by whomever you buy them from; you should ask for them to be ground for espresso.
If you are grinding them yourself, you may need to use a little trial and error to find the perfect grind.
If you find that the water is running too quickly through your machine (the ideal hot time for espresso should be between 20-30 seconds) or that the coffee tastes under-extracted and weak, you may have to use a finer grind.
If it was the other way round, and your shot time is too long, or you have a taste which is too bitter and dry (remember the plant fibers which are broken down last), you will have to opt for a coarser grind.
Now that you have your delicious beans and have ground them for use in your espresso maker, you have to think about the dosage.
This is the weight of espresso which you are going to use, the amount of espresso you are going to run the water through.
Depending on the style of the espresso machine which you are using, this can be anywhere between 5-30 grams.
We recommend using around 20 grams if you are ever in doubt.
Once you have your grind right, your espresso maker will generally take care of the water pressure, resulting in a consistent pour time.
Most people think that adding more espresso to the espresso maker will result in a stronger espresso, or that using less espresso will make a weaker coffee.
But the truth is, once you have perfected your grind, the only reason you should change the amount of coffee you use is when you want to change the amount of espresso you produce.
If you pour the same amount of water through more ground coffee, then the water is going to extract a lot of the sourness at the beginning of the extraction process while missing out on the sweetness which comes after.
If you pour the same amount of water through less ground coffee, the water is going to get to extracting the bitter compounds which are usually missed with the correct dose.
Either way, changing the dose without changing anything else is going to ruin your espresso.
The only reason to change the dose is to give a higher yield by passing more water through it.
If you double the dose, then you should increase the water to double the amount of espresso you create.
Sticking with a consistent dose will help you to track changes as you make other small tweaks (like changing the grind).
A good test that you are using the correct dose is to look at the coffee puck.
When you are done creating your espresso, you will remove the portafilter (the place where the ground espresso is held) and clean it out.
If the puck sits high in that basket and touches the screen above, then you know when you are using too high of a dose. If the puck looks watery and wet, then your dose is too low.
If you have the correct dose, then you should have a nice puck-shaped block of coffee which you can often knock out onto a surface.
The dose is important. Once you are using the correct dose, do not change it unless you need to make more or less espresso.
Okay, so you have your great coffee and your fresh water. Your coffee is ground perfectly, and you are consistently using the correct dose.
The espresso tastes good, but you feel that it could be a little better.
Are you tamping your coffee ground?
This simple act will take you two seconds but can make all the difference when it comes to the taste of your coffee.
The correct grind will allow for the water to flow through at the correct rate (remember sand vs. pebbles?), but what would happen if you had the correct grind, but the grounds were spread out?
Imagine watching the water flow through sand which has been spread over a large area vs. sand which has been compacted. This is where tamping comes in.
The act of adding your ground coffee to the portafilter will immediately group your coffee grinds together and compact them a little, but you still need to compact them further so that the water has ample time to extract the necessary compounds and flavors.
You also need to counteract the pressure of the water being forced through.
When the water begins to pour, pressure is added to push the water through the coffee. This allows for the extraction.
If the coffee grinds are packed too loosely, the water will be forced through quickly and will not have time to begin the extraction process.
If the grinds are packed too tightly, the water is not going to be allowed through at the correct rate, and over-extraction is going to occur.
Tamping is the act of compressing your ground coffee so that the extraction is consistent across all of the coffee grinds. You will generally use a tamper for this (though it can be done without one).
A tamper will make it easy as the bottom is circular in shape and is sized to just fit inside a portafilter so that you can compress all of the coffee at the same time.
Once you dose your coffee, you will have a peak formation in your portafilter.
You will use your finger to scrape the excess off the top, making the grounds level with the top of the portafilter. You then use the tamper to compress the coffee to below the top of the portafilter.
You should then use your tamper to push the coffee down into the portafilter.
You should meet the resistance of the coffee without forcing it to compact. You want to move the grinds together.
Evenly tamped coffee will allow the water to run consistently through the grinds and extract at the correct rate.
Now that you have your grind, dose, and tamp, it is time to talk about your yield.
This is where it gets a little more technical, and where you can really make a difference with your espresso.
Your yield is the amount of espresso extracted into your cup.
Now, we talked about changing your dose only if you want more or less coffee. But there is some leeway within that where you can push more or less water through your coffee grinds to find a balance between extraction and strength.
The extraction of the coffee depends on how much time the water has had in contact with the coffee to extract the compounds, ranging from sour, through to sweetness, and on to bitterness.
All of the compounds will play a part in giving you a great shot of espresso.
Strength deals with the concentration of dissolved coffee solids. As the water passes through the ground coffee, the coffee solids are quickly dissolved.
The first drops of espresso which come out of the machine are stronger than the drips which come out last. The more water which is poured through, the weaker the espresso gets (this does not mean that the shot will not taste good).
Espresso is 10 times stronger than filtered coffee. This means that already, the flavor is intense.
Even the weakest shot of espresso has an intense flavor. You should also know that a weaker espresso will allow for the subtle coffee flavors to come through where a stronger espresso may not.
A weak espresso will have a smoother and softer taste while a strong espresso will be more intense and robust.
So, looking at strength and extraction, you can see that they run to opposite ends of the spectrum.
As the water is first passed through, the coffee solids are quickly dissolved. In the beginning, the coffee is strong, but there is not a lot of time for extraction, so the flavors are not developed yet.
Near the end of the water passing through, the coffee solids have been dissolved, leaving a weaker espresso, but the extraction process has had time to pull out all of the compounds and flavors.
So, how should you brew your espresso?
This is where some trial and error comes into play. It also depends on how you like your espresso.
You may want a more intense espresso at the expense of flavor, a flavorful espresso at the expense of the strength, or a balance between the two.
Just so we are clear, we are not talking about massive changes in the amount of water.
We still want our shot time to fall within a consistent range. A slight change in the amount of water will give you a significant difference in the strength vs. extraction.
You will also need to think about how you are using your espresso shot.
If you are drinking it straight, then you may want to brew it to showcase the subtle flavors, but if you are adding it to milk, then you may want more intensity to cut through the creaminess of the milk.
So, in essence, once you have your grind, dose, and tamp, pouring less water through the coffee will result in less yield, more strength, and less extraction, while pouring more water through the coffee will result in a higher yield, less strength, and more extraction.
Time is an important factor in espresso, just as it is an important factor in our lives.
The water needs contact time with the espresso to dissolve the coffee solids and extract all of the flavors, no matter what the grind, dose, and yield are.
You may have a large dose and fine grind, but if the water passes through the coffee in five seconds, then you are not going to have a great tasting espresso.
Time plays a vital part in the espresso process.
Too quick and the espresso will be watery and highly acidic, too slow and the espresso will be too heavy and bitter.
It is the Goldilocks Zone which you want to find: just right.
Time is something which you can play with, once you have the correct dose and yield. Three main things will affect how quickly the water passes through the coffee.
We already talked about water passing through sand vs. water passing through pebbles.
A finer grind will cause the water to run through the coffee slower while a coarse grind will let the water through quicker.
The pressure used by the espresso machine will also affect the time.
You could use the same grind and dose, but an espresso machine with 12-bar pressure will force the water through quicker than a machine with 9-bar pressure.
The size of your portafilter and the size of the holes in the basket will also affect the time.
Large holes mean that the water can run through quicker while small holes will restrict the water. The physical size of the basket will also dictate how quickly the water can flow through.
If the coffee grounds are spread out, then the water has less thickness to permeate. If the basket is deep, then the water has a long way to go before it can get out.
Once you have your machine, the only real thing you can change, which will affect the time, is the grind.
If you find that your espresso is being poured too quickly or slowly, then you will need to adjust the grind to fit the time.
Remember, you should not be changing your dose to change the time. Once you have your dose, keep it.
One key thing to remember is that the time is flexible.
If your dose and grind are giving you the yield you desire, and it falls within a good range of time, then you do not need to worry about the extraction time.
We can put a lot of these things together to land on the brew ratio.
This is the ratio between the amount of coffee needed to brew the espresso (the dose) and the amount of espresso in your cup (the yield).
The brew ratio will depend on how you like your espresso, and we went into that a little in our yield section.
There are basically three types of espresso shots: ristretto, classic, and long.
A ristretto (or short) shot uses a high dose of coffee and gives a low yield.
Less water is poured through, leading to a stronger coffee which is full of body, more acidic, less sweet, and more intense.
A classic espresso shot (around 25ml) is balanced: a regular dose results in a regular yield.
The result is a balance between sweetness, bitterness, and acidity. The shot is not too strong and intense, but it is also not too weak or sour.
A long shot (or lungo) uses a regular or high dose to create a high yield.
This type of shot can result in over-extraction and the addition of bitter flavors, but that flavor profile can make it appealing to some people.
The best way to start with your brew ratio is to start with something simple, like 2:1. Use 1 dose of coffee to create 2 units of yield – e.g., use 20g of ground coffee to create 40g of espresso.
Over time, you can play around with the size of the dose and yield to create the perfect cup of espresso for you.
Once you have perfected your ratio, keep the dose and yield consistent.
A good grinder (or pre-ground coffee) will help you to maintain the consistency of your dose.
Investing in a set of scales or other measuring equipment will help you to dose your coffee correctly.
A reliable machine will also help to keep your yield consistent. If the machine can dose the water for you, then you should get similar results every time you brew your espresso.
If you are dosing the water yourself, make sure that you have an accurate way to measure it.
The ratio is key to creating your perfect espresso. Play around with it and find what works best for your palate.
Tools of the Trade ⤴︎
Now that you know a little bit about brewing espresso, and how important each aspect is, it is time to talk about the actual equipments which you will use to create your perfect espresso.
There are many types of espresso machines on the market, as well as a variety of equipment available.
The machine and equipment will depend on what you are looking for.
To help get you started, we have broken it down for you and presented you with your options for brewing espresso.
Types of Espresso Maker ⤴︎
There are five main types of espresso machine which you will use in your home. Each has its benefits and uses, and the one you choose will depend on your needs.
Let’s take a closer look at what they are and how they work.
Stovetop Espresso Maker
These types of espresso makers are great as you do not need to plug them in.
They, as the name would suggest, sit on your stove where the water is heated. They are easy to use, clean, and understand. They also produce espresso which is rich and bold.
A stovetop espresso maker is broken down into three main parts.
The bottom section is where the water is held. The middle part holds your ground coffee. The top part is where the espresso will end up.
To brew with a stovetop espresso maker, you fill the bottom with water, dose and tamp your coffee in the middle part, add it onto the base portion, and screw on the top part.
You then place it on the stove.
As the water is heated towards boiling point, it begins to turn to steam. This steam rises up through the coffee, extracting the compounds and flavors before condensing again in the top of the espresso maker.
Once all of the water in the bottom has evaporated, your espresso will be ready to drink.
Capsule Espresso Makers
Capsule espresso machines are comparatively new on the market.
They basically take a capsule filled with pre-ground coffee, pierce it, and force water through it.
They have recently become very popular, and you will find many brands with their own machines. The main selling point is their simplicity and ease of cleanup.
The coffee is pre-ground for you, and the machine is programmed to dose the water. All you have to do is add the capsules and press a button.
When it comes to cleaning up, all you need to do is remove the capsule and throw it away.
Modern espresso machines also comes with reusable capsules which you can fill with ground coffee so that you’re not throwing the plastic capsule away every time you use the machine.
Manual-Lever Espresso Machines
If you want an espresso machine which you can really get involved with, then a manual-lever machine is the one for you.
Most machines will use a piston or steam system to force the water through the coffee, but with a manual-level machine, it is you who is applying the pressure.
Water is added to the reservoir, and the machine is turned on. This will heat the water until it is close to boiling point.
Once the water is heated, you can dose your coffee (grinding it just before adding, if it is not pre-ground). The portafilter is placed back on the machine, with a cup sitting under.
By pulling down on the lever, the hot water is forced through the coffee and espresso comes out.
Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines
This machine does a lot of the work for you. The only thing which you need to worry about is the grind, dose, and tamp.
You will need to add water to the reservoir and turn the machine on to heat the water. As it is heating, you can grind your coffee, dose it into the portafilter, and tamp it.
The portafilter is then connected back to the espresso machine. A press of a button will start the water flowing (after the water is heated).
These machines will dose the water for you and take care of the pressure while leaving you to work on your grind, dose, and tamp.
Some semi-automatic machines will also come with milk steamers/frothers.
This allows you to make specialty drinks as well as shots of espresso, opening up a world of lattes and cappuccinos.
When it comes to semi-automatic machines, there are a number of ways in which the water is forced through the coffee.
Some will generate pressure with steam and others will be piston driven.
Both types will give you a great shot of espresso, though the piston driven machines will create a better tasting espresso (they also cost more too).
If you are a purist, then look for piston driven espresso machine.
Super-Automatic Espresso Machines
If you want to take the work out of espresso making and leave it all to the machine, then a super-automatic (or fully automatic) espresso machine is the way to go.
Not only will they take care of the water and pressure, but they will also take care of the grind, dose, and tamp for you.
You add water to the water reservoir and turn the machine on to heat the water and you also add whole beans into the bean reservoir.
When you press the button to pour your espresso, the machine will grind the beans for you, dose them, tamp them, and then run the water through the ground coffee.
The used coffee grinds will then be dumped into an internal waste container.
Most of these machines will come with a milk steamer/frother so you can make specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. The best thing about this machine is how easy it is to use.
There will be settings which you can change to manipulate the variables (such as the coarseness of the grind and dose). You can play with the settings a little, but everything is fully automatic.
They make it easy for you to create espresso without having to put in the work. They are also more expensive than the other types of espresso machine.
Types of Grinders ⤴︎
If you want to have the freshest beans possible, then you are going to want to have your own grinder at home.
When it comes to coffee grinders, there are two main types: blade and burr.
The main difference is in the way they grind the beans.
Let’s take a closer look.
Blade grinders are simpler than burr grinders and less expensive.
The name gives you a big hint at how the grinder grinds your beans. They have a set of blades which resemble those you would see in many blenders or food processors.
The whole beans are placed in the grinder, and the blades will chop the bean into smaller pieces.
The blade spins extremely quickly, and the coarseness or fineness of the grind is dictated by the amount of time the coffee spends with the moving blades.
The more time the beans spend in the blade grinder, the finer the coffee is going to be cut up.
They are very cheap when compared to many burr grinders, but they have a lot of downsides too. The grind is dependent on the time the beans are in there.
This relies on your judgment, and there is also the chance of an uneven grind. They are not as precise as burr grinders.
The blades also move quickly which can create a lot of heat. Heating the beans, even slightly, can affect the taste.
When you place the whole coffee beans in the grinder, there will be a button which you can press to start the blades.
You can check the beans after a few seconds to check the size of the grind and grind the beans longer. If you grind the coffee too much, then there is no going back.
This type of grinder is easy to use and a lot more affordable than burr grinders.
If you want something simple, then this is a great grinder.
Burr grinders use a grinder wheel instead of blades.
The grinder wheel pushes the coffee beans against a static surface (usually the interior of the outside of the grinder). The coarseness or fineness of the coffee is dictated by the position of the grinder wheel in relation to the static surface.
The position of the burr is entirely adjustable so you can choose the size of the grind by positioning the burr wheel instead of relying on a certain amount of time.
This makes burr grinders more precise than blade grinders.
With burr grinders, you can break them down into two sub-types: wheel burr grinders and conical burr grinders.
Wheel burr grinders have a wheel which spins quickly.
This makes it the noisier burr grinder out of the two. It makes them loud and messier, but they are still a more accurate choice than blade grinders.
They also generate more heat, due to the speed. This means that they can affect the quality of the finished product more than a conical burr grinder will.
The upside of a wheel grinder is that it is more affordable.
Conical burr grinders on the other hand will give you the best ground coffee. But they are also the most expensive type of grinder on the market.
Conical burr grinders work at a lower speed than wheel burr grinders.
This means that they are quieter and make less mess. They are also less likely to become blocked.
Most blade grinders will only have the capacity to grind a small number of beans at a time, and the ground coffee will stay in the same place that the whole beans are added to.
With a burr grinder, there is a place for whole beans and a place for the ground coffee to go.
Another option, while still being a burr grinder, is a manual grinder.
These grinders work by manually turning a crank to grind the whole beans.
The longer you turn the crank, the finer the grind will be. These grinders benefit from being inexpensive, relatively noise-free, and not needing a power source.
When you buy an espresso machine, it will most likely come with a portafilter (or not need one).
Even if your machine comes with a portafilter, you may want to purchase an additional one.
So, what should you be looking for?
It makes sense that the bigger the portafilter, the more coffee you can use in it.
You want to make sure that your portafilter fits your machine, and one which has more capacity will allow you to play around with the dose.
You should also think about single, double, and triple shots.
Some portafilters will allow you to switch out the baskets inside so that you can increase your dose from a single shot to a double shot or triple shot.
A single-shot basket should allow you to hold round 10g of coffee, a double shot shout hold around 20g, and a triple shot should hold around 30g.
When you use an espresso machine, the pressure is delivered by the machine itself, but you can sometimes get portafilters which increases the needed force through smaller holes in the filter.
These smaller holes mean that the pressure builds more. You can use this type of portafilter to create more pressure in a machine which cannot generate the high pressure itself or add to the already existing pressure.
Spouted and non-spouted portafilters will still create great espresso.
Spouted portafilters come in a single or double spout. Double spouts are the way to go.
You can use them to pour single shots into a single cup or pour a double shot and split it between two cups.
Non-spouted portafilters have no spout on the bottom. The espresso drips out of the holes and into your cup.
Both types of portafilter will work, but a non-spouted portafilter does have the advantage that you can see if the espresso is coming through evenly, meaning that your tamp is right.
They also create more crema and are easier to clean.
Espresso Tamper ⤴︎
A tamper is a tool which is used to condense (or tamp) your ground coffee.
The purpose of a tamper is to tamp the grounds evenly into your portafilter (or wherever they are being placed) so that the water is forced through the grinds evenly and consistently.
There are many different tampers available, but they all share similar properties. They have an end which is flat and around the size of your portafilter and a handle.
A dual-head tamper has a flat end on both ends of the handle, one usually smaller than the other.
If you have a variety of portafilters, then the different sizes will give you versatility.
Handle tampers look like a stamper; with a flat bottom and a round handle on it.
Weight-calibrated tampers allows you to apply a desired amount of force to your coffee.
A puck tamper looks just like a puck, and you hold it as you would hold a puck.
Be sure to get a tamper to ensure that you have consistency with your espresso, and always check that the tamper is going to fit in the basket.
Weighing Scale ⤴︎
Getting the dose right is critical for great espresso.
You want to measure your coffee precisely, and as you are dealing with such small quantities, you need to find a scale which can give you this precision.
An electronic scale is going to give you a lot more accuracy than a non-electronic scale.
Make sure that your scale fits in your kitchen and is small enough to fit around your espresso machine.
Vessels for Espresso ⤴︎
You need to have something for the espresso to be poured into.
Any cup (as long as it fits under the portafilter) will work, but if you want to gain accuracy, then a specific shot glass will help you.
They often come with a line to measure the shot. They are also made from glass so you can see exactly how the shot is pouring.
What To Look For In An Espresso Machine ⤴︎
Choosing an espresso machine is no easy task.
There are a lot of things to think about, especially when you see how intricate the art of espresso can be.
If you want to put your espresso knowledge to good use, then you should look for a machine which is going to elevate your skills and knowledge instead of hinder them.
Here is what we recommend looking at:
The price is always an important factor, no matter what you are purchasing.
With any appliance, you generally get what you pay for.
Set out your budget for an espresso machine but do not forget that if you skimp on your espresso machine, you are not going to get the perfect espresso.
You also need to factor in the type of espresso maker which you are buying.
A stovetop espresso maker has no moving parts or electronics meaning that they will not set you back much.
In fact, you can get a stovetop espresso maker for as little as $20.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a fully automatic machine for your office, then you can expect to spend closer to $1,000.
If you are serious about coffee, you are going to want to spend the money and get a machine which is going to help you craft the perfect shot of espresso.
If all you want is some espresso and do not care about the flavor, then invest in a lower-end machine.
One way to think about it is by comparing the cost of a machine to the espresso you drink on a daily basis. Add up the cost of espresso and espresso-based drinks which you have on a regular day.
Translate this into how much you spend in a year.
Now, think about how much of that espresso would be replaced by an espresso maker, and you are on your way to seeing how much money you can save (of course, you need to factor in the cost of beans, etc., but homemade espresso will always be less expensive than a high-end coffee shop.
Spending a little more will also get you a high-quality machine with high-quality parts. This can often save you money in the long run.
A cheap machine will break down quicker and need to be fixed more often. Take all of these factors into account and decide how much you can spend.
Believe us; no amount is too much in search of the perfect espresso.
Style and Type
Do you care about how your espresso maker looks?
If you do, that is fine. You can find some great machines out there which not only look great but also get the job done.
You do not have to sacrifice quality for style.
The other thing to think about is the type of espresso machine which you are going to use. If you want something quick and easy, then a capsule machine will be perfect for you.
If you want a high-quality espresso, then an automatic machine can be your friend.
If you want to be able to control the grind and tamp, then stay away from a fully automatic.
Think about how involved you want to be with the espresso making process, and choose your machine based on that.
Espresso is a small shot of coffee.
Once you have everything in place, it should only take 20-30 seconds to pour your espresso shot.
You have probably been into your local Starbucks, ordered an espresso, and had it in your hand seconds later.
This is not always going to be the experience with a machine in your home, and you should keep this in mind.
A powerful fully automatic machine will cost you a lot of money, but they can always be ready to brew.
Most automatic machines which you will use at home will need some time to warm up so, if you are looking for a quicker machine, then you will want to invest in one which heats the water quickly or instantly.
You should expect to wait longer than you would in a coffee shop, but you should be able to reduce that speed if you want to.
How often are you going to be drinking espresso?
If you are the kind of person who saves espresso for the weekend, only having some on a Sunday morning, you are not going to want a machine with a large footprint.
You probably want something which can be stored away when it is not in use.
On the other hand, if you are the type of person who cannot get started without their espresso, you are not going to mind having a machine with a large footprint permanently which sits on your counter.
With most machines, the more they can do, the larger they are.
If you do want a machine which can do it all, you will want to have the space to house your machine.
If you do not have a large kitchen, then you may want to choose a machine which has a smaller footprint.
There are many popular coffee brands around the world.
One reason to go with a company which specializes in coffee or coffee equipment is that they have a vast knowledge base and experience with coffee.
If you go with a company which is solely focused on coffee, then the espresso machine is going to be designed to give you the perfect shot.
You should also be warned that brands which specialize, generally have higher prices due to a lack of diversity and a focus on a high-quality product.
What are the main two ingredients of espresso? Water and coffee.
If you combine both together perfectly, then you are going to have the perfect shot of espresso. With an espresso machine, it is a definite benefit to having enough capacity for lots of both.
A large water reservoir will mean that you can store a lot of water and make multiple espressos without having to refill the reservoir (of course, make sure to use fresh water each time).
You should also recognize that a large reservoir will also mean a larger machine with a larger footprint.
We have had no problems in using a small water reservoir, and filling it often is not that much of a chore.
You should also think about the capacity of the coffee reservoir if you are purchasing a fully automatic machine.
You want to hold enough coffee to stop you from refilling it often, but if you are working with a small coffee reservoir, it is really no big deal to fill it often.
One of the main areas you should think about when it comes to capacity is the portafilter.
Look for a portafilter with the capacity to brew at least a double shot, but with the option to brew a single shot by swapping out the basket inside.
How often do we go for price over quality?
With every appliance, we should be looking at the quality, even if it means spending a little more on the espresso machine.
Look at the machine from the outside.
Does it seem high-quality? Is it made from high-quality materials?
If an espresso machine is quality on the outside, then it is probable that the internal workings are high quality too.
A better quality machine will also mean less chance of the machine breaking down, and, of course, a better machine will mean better espresso (generally).
Modes and Features
What do you want from your machine?
Do you want it to grind and dose the espresso for you?
Do you want to be able to steep milk to along with the espresso?
Do you want it to be able to handle a lot of drinks at once or a single espresso at a time?
Do you need a powerful machine, and are you willing to pay for that quality?
Do you want to be heavily involved in the brewing process or do you want the machine to do it all for you?
Espresso machines can be complicated.
There are many internal moving and electronic parts in the newer models. You should always go into a purchase with the knowledge that it could break down.
For a high-end espresso machine, this could mean a pricey repair.
A good warranty will protect you should the machine break down, and this is something which you should factor into your budget.
If you are buying an expensive machine, then we recommend backing it up with a good warranty.
Many newer espresso machines will lure you in with the host of extras which they provide.
Some of these extras will not help you create the perfect espresso while others will help you to create more than just espresso.
There are some extras which we would recommend looking for when you buy your espresso machine or purchasing if the machine you want does not come with them (if they are available for purchase).
Most automatic espresso machines will come with a steam wand.
If you want to turn your espresso into a milk-based drink like a cappuccino or latte, then a steam want is what you need.
Have you ever heated milk on the stove?
It is not as smooth or as silky as the milk in your latte. This is because a steam wand will not only heat your milk but aerate it by adding steam.
This is what gives the milk the silky texture and sweeter taste.
We recommend looking for a steam wand if you want to move past espresso (it is handy to have no matter what).
Look for one which is easy to use and easy to clean. If it is removable, then it is going to be easy to clean the milk residue which builds up in it.
Machines with higher pressure will also generate better steam.
When you turn your machine on, the water will begin to heat up.
Many machines will alert you when the water is hot enough to brew espresso, but a temperature gauge can also be used to monitor the temperature of the water.
Water Level Indicator
Your espresso machine will probably have a water reservoir.
Many water reservoirs are transparent, allowing you to see exactly how much water is in them, while some have an indicator which will tell you how much water is left in the tank.
If you try to brew espresso without there being enough water, then you can end up with an under-extracted shot, and there is also a chance of damaging your machine.
Are you the kind of person who cannot start their day until they have had their morning cup of coffee? What if you could walk downstairs and your espresso was ready?
With a delay timer, you can set your machine up the night before and have it switch on and even brew your espresso without you having to do anything.
We recommend having a grinder to go with your machine. This could either be one which you buy or one which is inbuilt into the machine.
Having a grinder means that you get the freshest ground coffee.
The main thing to look for with an inbuilt grinder is the ability to change the fineness and coarseness of the grind.
Look for an espresso setting but make sure that there is enough variety on either side should the ground coffee not be fine or coarse enough.
Re-usable Pod Filter
Using a capsule machine means that there is a lot of waste, but the machine is extremely easy to use without you having to do much cleanup.
When the espresso has been brewed, you are left with a capsule filled with used coffee. This coffee and capsule go into the landfill waste.
It would be helpful to be able to compost the used coffee grinds (they are great for your garden) and cut down on waste.
Re-usable pod filters remove the problems associated with regular capsules, but there is a little more cleaning involved.
With re-usable pods, you fill the pod with ground coffee and then use it in your espresso machine. When you are done, you open the pod again and remove the used coffee.
This also gives you control over the beans which you use, your dose, and the grind of your bean.
If you have an espresso machine with a steam wand, then you are going to want to have a milk jug too.
You could steam your milk in any milk container, but you would not get the same effect.
Milk steaming pitchers are designed to circulate the steam and aerate the milk more effectively. This gives you creamier and better tasting milk.
If you have read our guide on what you need to brew espresso, then you know how important a tamper is.
You need a tamper to compress your ground coffee so that the water moves through it at the correct speed and comes into contact with the coffee for the correct amount of time.
A tamper which is included with an espresso machine will fit the portafilter, but if you are buying one separate, then that is what to look for.
The quality of a tamper can vary, but as long as you have something which can condense the coffee, then you will be fine.
Maintaining Your Espresso Machine ⤴︎
Now that you have your espresso machine, it is important to maintain it.
This can be as simple as wiping down parts of the machine when you are done with them to descaling and back-flushing your espresso machine.
Taking care of your espresso machine is not only essential to the longevity of your machine but also crucial for brewing perfect espresso.
Failing to maintain and clean your machine will result in the taste of your espresso becoming tainted.
Keeping your machine in tip-top condition is easy, and we have broken it down, so you know what to do frequently and less frequently.
After Every Use ⤴︎
If you have a milk steamer, then it is critical that you clean and flushes the steam wand after every use.
If any milk products are left on or in the steam wand, they will begin to go bad and, not only will this make your milk taste bad, but it poses a very real health threat to you and your family.
After using the steam wand, purge the steam wand by running some steam through it. Take a cloth and wipe the outside of the steam wand, making sure to get any residue off.
When you pull a shot of espresso, you should remove any used coffee grinds before they have had a chance to begin to go rancid, throw them in the compost, and rinse the portafilter.
You should give the shower screen a wipe (not with the same cloth as the steam wand, or before you clean the steam wand). The shower screen is the part which sits just above the portafilter and where the water comes out.
Once you have rinsed the portafilter and wiped the shower screen, place the portafilter back on the machine and run a little hot water through it to rinse out any other impurities.
There may be a grate where your cup or shot glass sits.
This may need to be wiped, and the container below may need to be emptied of any rogue espresso or hot water.
Take the time to give any surfaces a quick wipe down to save any deep cleaning at a later date.
Weekly Maintenance ⤴︎
After a week, depending on how much you use your machine, you will find that the shower head will begin to get dirty. You have two options for cleaning this.
If the shower head can be removed (usually by removing a screw), then soak it in hot water and scrub it clean.
You can then give the group head (revealed when you remove the shower screen) a wipe. If the shower head cannot be removed, then scrub it in place.
Every 3-6 Months ⤴︎
Depending on how often you use your machine, you should backlash it every 3-6 months.
For this, you will need to purchase some tablets which are specifically used in espresso machines. One purchase of backlash cleaner will last you for a long time.
To use the cleaner is a simple procedure. Add some of the detergents to the back-flush basket and place it in the portafilter.
Follow the instructions in your user manual to flush the accumulated oils out of your espresso maker and ensure that there are no contaminants which can affect the flavor of your espresso.
When you have back-washed, make sure to remove the shower head and give the group head a good clean.
As you are back-flushing, save some of the water and detergent and place in a large container. Use this water to soak any parts of the espresso machine which can be removed.
Allow the parts to soak for around an hour and then scrub and rinse clean.
Once you have put the espresso machine back together, rinse some water through the system until you are sure that there is no detergent left inside.
Every three months, you should also deep clean your steam wand. You can find a milk wash solution, which you can add to the hot water in your steaming pitcher.
Place the steam wand inside the steaming pitcher and aerate it to agitate the mixture around the wand.
Remove the tip of the wand (if you can) and clean out the holes with a pin. Use a pipe cleaner to clean the inside of the wand. Clean everything, rinse it and replace it.
Every 6-12 Months ⤴︎
If your water is hard and unfiltered, you will need to descale your machine more regularly than if you are using soft water and a water filter.
Either way, it is good practice to descale your machine to prevent the scale from building up inside and increasing the pressure inside, which can lead to your espresso machine breaking.
The scale can build up in your water reservoir and in the lines from the tank to your portafilter.
Purchase some descaler.
Dissolve the recommended amount of descaling agent in your water reservoir.
Turn on your machine and pull some of the liquid through your machine (including the steam wand). Turn off the machine, leaving the liquid inside the machine.
Let it sit for around 20 minutes. Turn the machine back on and run some more of the liquid through the shower head and the steam wand.
Replace the reservoir water with fresh water and run that through the shower head and steam wand to purge the cleaner.
Taking care of your machine will ensure that you are creating the best espresso possible.
Choosing a Coffee Grinder ⤴︎
Why would you even want or need a grinder?
I mean, you can get your beans ground when you buy them, and there are bags of pre-ground coffee for sale in my local grocery store.
What difference does a few weeks make?
The answer is all the difference. As soon as beans are roasted, they begin to lose their flavor. As soon as they are ground, they start to lose their flavor even more quickly.
If you can hold off grinding your beans until you need them, then they are going to retain their freshness and flavor for a long time.
If you are after the perfect shot of espresso, then you are going to want to have a coffee grinder in your home.
We have talked a little about the difference between a burr grinder and a blade grinder.
If you do not have a lot of money to spend, then a hand grinder may be the way you go.
If you have the money, the burr grinder will give you more precision when it comes to the grinding.
Out with the choice between blade and burr, what should you be looking for in a grinder?
It goes without saying (or it should), that you should be able to adjust the grind on your grinder.
You may want to grind coffee for espresso one day and grind coffee for a French press the next. Your grinder should be able to cope with all types of grind.
You should also look for a grinder which you can make fine adjustments with.
The difference between good espresso and great espresso can be as simple as a tiny tweak to the fineness of the grind.
If a grinder makes big jumps between grind settings, then you are not going to get the accuracy which you need.
If you are grinding a lot of coffee, then your grinder should also be able to cope with that.
For single servings, a blade grinder is perfect, but you are restricted to the capacity of the grind area.
For large-scale grinding, a burr grinder will pass the coffee through as it is being ground, allowing you to add more coffee beans when you want and catch them as they pass through.
If you want to go the whole nine yards, then look for a grinder which can pre-dose the coffee for you and then grind it.
A blade grinder is going to be smaller than a burr grinder.
The fact that there is no place to pour and store the coffee beans means that it will have a smaller profile and footprint.
If you want something which will be stored away, due to not enough room on the countertop, then a blade grinder or small burr grinder is the way to go.
If you have enough room for a larger grinder, then you can show off with a large burr grinder and have it at your disposal whenever you want freshly ground coffee (and with the fantastic smell, that is pretty much all the time).
Most burr grinders will give you an even grind, due to how they work, but more expensive grinders are going to provide you with a better grinding experience.
If you are grinding your coffee fine for espresso, then you want all of the grounds to be a uniform size. If they are, the extraction can happen at the same rate for all of the ground coffee.
If you have large chunks of coffee bean in there, you are not going to get as good of an espresso shot as you could.
A burr grinder is your best bet for getting an even grind.
Blade grinders can give you an even grind, but they are more unpredictable, and the finished grind is usually down to your own judgment. As the grinding is done based on time rather than size, you may find that there are some grounds which are a different size.
Buying a high-quality burr or blade grinder will give you the best chance of getting an even grind.
When you use your grinder, you will often find that there is a dial which is used to choose the level of grind.
Some grinders will label these with the equipment the desired grind is for, while others will designate the grind with a number.
Make sure that the dial is able to be read clearly and easily.
You should also look for a dial which has incremental steps which can be locked in with the dial. You can feel this when you turn the dial. You will feel it settle into a notch.
This can help you to lock in a grind setting. Just make sure that there are enough to give you enough variety when it comes to choosing your grind.
If you want to get a high-quality grinder, then you can expect to pay anything over $100.
This can put many people off, but you do get what you pay for. A cheaper grinder will work and will give you great espresso, but it will never be on the same level as a high-quality grinder.
The other advantage of buying a high-quality grinder is that it will often cost you less money in the long run.
A cheap grinder will need to be replaced after a couple of years. They also break down more easily. An investment in a great grinder will leave you with a grinder which will last you for a long time.
Cleaning and Maintenance
How easy is your grinder to clean?
If you leave the coffee bean oils in your grinder, they will begin to turn rancid.
Coffee is an organic product and will go bad. Some grinders will come with their own equipment for cleaning, but you should always make sure that the grinder is easy to get into and clean.
Prevention is also the best cure. Look for a grinder which will not spill a lot of coffee dust and one which makes it easy to transfer the ground coffee to where you need it to be.
Stainless Steel vs. Ceramic
With a burr grinder, you will often have a choice between stainless steel or ceramic grinding wheel.
Both types of material will grind your beans effectively. One of the main differences between the two is how they react to heat.
Steel will heat up quicker and cool down quicker while ceramic will take longer to heat up, but once it is heated, it will take longer to cool down.
Heat can be detrimental to the flavor of the beans when you are grinding so the material may play a part in your choice.
If you are grinding for an extended period of time, and not very often, then we would recommend a ceramic burr grinder. If you are grinding in short bursts, then a steel wheel would be better.
Ceramic burrs do have a longer lifespan than steel, but they also cost more.
This can be a big factor if they break, which can happen if hard objects get into the grinder. If a stone were to get in, then a ceramic burr would break when a steel burr would not.
Maintaining Your Coffee Grinder ⤴︎
Cleaning your grinder is a relatively straightforward process, and it is definitely something which needs to be done.
Coffee oils are left in all parts of your coffee grinder once coffee beans have been in there.
These oils (and other coffee dust and residue) can become rancid. This sour flavor will be transferred into your freshly ground coffee and affect the taste of your espresso.
It may also be harmful to your health. Thankfully, it only takes a few minutes to clean your grinder.
Blade Grinders ⤴︎
Blade grinders are simple to use and uncomplicated to clean (though the method may seem a little weird).
Take enough uncooked rice (plain, white rice is fine) to fill your blade grinder until the blades are covered.
Grind the rice until it turns into a fine powder. This powder is going to absorb the coffee oils, allowing you to remove the oils without needing a special cleaner.
Remove the rice by dumping it out and using a small brush where needed. Wipe the inside with a damp cloth and allow the grinder to dry.
If your grinder looks dirty or has a different smell, then use this method to clean your blade grinder.
You should take the time to wipe down the outside of your blade grinder any time you are cleaning your kitchen or espresso machine to stop any gunk from building up.
Burr Grinders ⤴︎
Burr grinders are a little more complicated than blade grinders and need a bit more work when it comes to cleaning them.
If you have a burr grinder, then you probably have a hopper where the whole bean coffee is held.
Remove the hopper and lid, and wash both by hand in soapy water. Rinse them clean and let them air dry.
Run your burr grinder for a few seconds to remove any coffee which may still be inside.
Any other plastic or rubber parts, which come into contact with the coffee also can be removed and washed by hand. Lay them to dry by the hopper.
Follow your instruction guide to remove the internal burr. You may need to use a tool.
Use a brush (again this may be included) to brush off any coffee from the inner burr which you just removed and the outer burr inside of the grinder.
Use a dry cloth to remove as much of the oils from both burrs as possible. Water is not going to do anything, so make sure that you use a dry cloth.
Once all of the pieces have dried, reassemble your machine.
If you do not feel confident taking your grinder apart, then you can also purchase tablets. These tablets are placed in your grinder, and you grind them as if you were grinding coffee.
The tablets remove any pieces of coffee and also absorb the coffee oils.
Once you have run the tablets through, run an ounce of whole bean coffee through the grinder too, to remove the last remnants of the tablet, and then discard the coffee.
Becoming a Tamping Master ⤴︎
Tamping your coffee is a swift action, but it is one of the most important parts of creating the perfect shot espresso (as are most things in the brewing process).
Having the perfect conditions, but failing to tamp your coffee correctly will result in losing out on what could have been the perfect shot.
Tamping is easy to do if you do it right, but doing it wrong can ruin your espresso.
Let’s remind ourselves why we need to tamp.
When we tamp, we take the loose coffee in our portafilter and condense the coffee grounds into a puck. This puck is what the water will run through.
When pressure is applied to water, it will find the path of least resistance. If our coffee is packed loosely, then this means that the water will find the easy route through the coffee.
It will find some cracks and crevices. It will come into contact with some of the coffee but not all of it. This will ruin our extraction process.
When our ground coffee is packed tightly, water has no option but to pass through the coffee at an even rate. For us, this means that the coffee comes into contact with the water evenly and that the extraction process is even too.
The result is a balanced espresso full of flavor and sweetness.
Tamping requires you to apply some pressure. For this reason, we do not recommend using the tamper which is included as a part of some espresso machines. It is going to be harder to get the correct position and pressure needed.
A separate tamper is the way to go.
You should always make sure that you have a tamper which fits into your portafilter as tightly as possible. A tamper which is too big is useless, and a tamper which is too small will not give you the coverage you need.
Also, be sure to maintain your tamper.
This is as simple as wiping it down after every use, and washing it in soapy water if any residue begins to build up.
Store it in a safe place which is close to your espresso machine so that it is on hand when you need it.
Now comes the tricky part.
To get the perfect shot of espresso, you need to apply the correct amount of pressure, and you need to do that consistently.
The best way to find out how the right amount of pressure feels, use a bathroom scale (if you have one).
Place some paper towel between the scale and your tamper and press down with the tamper until you hit 40 pounds. This is the amount of pressure which you want to apply to your ground coffee consistently.
Practice this a few times until you can apply 40 pounds of pressure consistently.
The first step in the actual process is to make sure that you have the tamper in the correct position.
Stand with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Hold the portafilter, filled with coffee, in one hand and the tamper in the other.
Place the portafilter against a surface on which you can press down on. Shake and tap the portafilter a little to ensure that the coffee is distributed evenly.
Place the tamper on top of the coffee, ensuring that the tamper sits evenly and horizontally on top of the ground coffee. If you tamp your coffee at an angle, then you are going to have an uneven extraction.
Your wrist should be straight, and your elbow should be bent. When it comes to tamping the coffee, the pressure should come from your shoulders and upper arms and not from your wrist.
Once the tamper is sitting evenly, you can apply the pressure. Try to recreate the amount of pressure you got when using the bathroom scales.
Apply enough pressure to condense the coffee without overexerting yourself. Before you lift the tamper from the coffee, give it a quarter turn and lift the tamper while turning it.
This will stop any of the grounds from the puck clinging to the tamper.
When you have tamped the coffee, you may find that there are still some loose grinds around the edge of the portafilter where the tamper could not get to them.
Flip your tamper over and tap the sides of the portafilter with the tamper handle to dislodge any loose grounds and move them towards the center of the portafilter.
Flip the tamper over again and apply more pressure to your coffee puck. You do not need to compress the coffee grounds again; you only need to combine the loose grounds with your coffee puck.
When you remove the tamper, twist it again to ensure that no grounds stick to the tamper. You are now ready to pull your shot.
How to Pull the Perfect Espresso Shot ⤴︎
Creating the perfect espresso shot can be broken down into five main steps: preparation, grind, dose, tamp and pour.
Each part is equally important, and you should pay attention to all five to ensure that you get the perfect espresso shot at home.
The first step is to have your equipments ready.
You should have your espresso machine, grinder, tamper, scales, steaming pitcher (if needed), and shot glass or cup.
This equipment should be clean. If your equipment is not clean, the take the time to clean your equipment before you start brewing espresso.
You need to gather your ingredients: coffee and water.
Your coffee should be whole bean coffee to ensure the freshness of the coffee.
Try to find coffee which has been recently roasted for a fresher flavor. If you want the best espresso possible, make sure to invest in high-quality beans.
Your water should be filtered if possible. Always use fresh water in your espresso machine, so dump out any old water from the reservoir and add fresh water to it.
You should give your espresso machine time to warm up, turn it on and leave it to do so.
When your espresso machine has had time to warm up, run some water through it and into your cup or shot glass.
This will maintain the temperature of your espresso shot through the portafilter and into your receptacle.
You are now ready to grind your coffee.
Grinding Coffee ⤴︎
We always recommend grinding your coffee only when you need them. This will give you the freshest ground coffee and the best tasting espresso.
If you do not have a grinder at home, try to grind your coffee as close to using it as possible.
We recommend storing your ground coffee in the bag it comes in (if there is a one-way valve on the front).
The bag with a valve will allow the natural gasses which escape the coffee beans to also escape the bag while not allowing the oxygen in to break down the coffee quicker.
An airtight container is a good substitute if the bag does not come with a one-way valve. Store your coffee in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight.
Place your whole beans in your grinder and choose the correct setting.
You will likely start with the pre-marked espresso setting, but do not be afraid to experiment with other different settings.
Your ground coffee should be somewhere between salt and flour in consistency.
Dosing Coffee Ground ⤴︎
Use your scales to dose out the correct amount of coffee.
Ideally between 7-12 grams is perfect for a single shot. Double it for a double shot.
Place the dose of coffee into the portafilter.
Tamping Espresso ⤴︎
Be sure to take your time and tamp the coffee correctly.
Place the tamper on top of the ground coffee, making sure that the tamper is even and horizontal. An uneven tamp will result in uneven extraction.
Apply around 40 pounds of pressure to the coffee using your shoulders and upper arms.
As you lift the tamper from the coffee, twist it a quarter turn to ensure that coffee does not cling to the bottom of the tamper.
Use the handle to knock any loose grounds from the edge of the portafilter to the center.
Tamp the coffee a second time. Use around half the pressure this time and give the tamper a quarter turn as you are lifting it off to ensure no coffee clings to it.
Pour — Pulling the Perfect Espresso Shot ⤴︎
Place the portafilter back on the espresso machine.
Start the espresso maker and watch as the shot comes out.
Your shot should be between 20-30 seconds. If it is not, then you should change some of the variables (see our troubleshooting section), and start again.
Watch for an even consistency as the shot is being poured. It should flow evenly.
When the shot is in the glass, look for the heart, body, and crema.
Enjoy your shot of espresso.
How Do You Make Espresso Shots: Tips for the Perfect Espresso — Step By Step ⤴︎
Your equipment should always be clean.
Take the time to clean and maintain all of your equipment, including the espresso machine, grinder, tamp, shot glass, milk pitcher, and scale.
If your equipments are tainted in any way, you will not get as great a shot of espresso as you could.
Preheat your machine, preheat the portafilter and preheat the shot glass. A dip in temperature of your espresso as it is pouring can affect the quality of the flavor.
Use Fresh Water, But Also Use Filtered Water If You Can
Hard water will cause scales to build up inside your machine. Water with any impurities will not extract the coffee compounds and its flavors as well as fresh and pure water.
Use Fresh Coffee
The coffee you buy should be bought as closer to roasting date as you can.
You should also wait until you are brewing your espresso to grind your coffee. Shortly after roasting, coffee begins to lose its flavor.
When coffee is ground, it starts to lose its flavor even more quickly. Freshly ground coffee will give you the best tasting espresso.
Grind Your Coffee For Espresso
Your coffee should have a texture between salt and flour for the best results, but remember to play around with the coarseness and fineness to gain the desired flavor profile.
Your extraction time should be between 20-30 seconds. If it is not, then you should look at your grind and dose.
Remember to Tamp Your Coffee Properly
An even tamp will cause the water to run evenly through the espresso while an uneven tamp will cause the water to find the path of least resistance and the extraction will not be even.
Make sure to remove or tamp any loose coffee before brewing.
Use the correct amount of water for a single and a double shot.
Have fun and enjoy your espresso.
Espresso Shot — Troubleshooting Guide ⤴︎
My Espresso Looks or Tastes Thin
It could be the freshness of your coffee
Check when your coffee was roasted.
If you do not see a roasting date on it, then you may have to go by the best before date and try and work out if the beans are fresh.
If the beans were roasted more than three weeks ago, then your espresso may have less body than an espresso made from fresher beans would have.
Time your shot
If your shot pours too slowly, the water will have more time in contact with the coffee. This will result in more extraction and a stronger tasting shot.
If your shot time is to slow, then you may have to grind coarser to improve the pour rate.
Is your yield/dose ratio off?
If you are pouring too much water through too little coffee, then you are going to dilute the espresso with too much water and not enough coffee solids.
You may need to run less water through the coffee or use a higher dose of coffee.
Is your machine running at the correct temperature?
If your machine is not heating the water to the optimum temperature (92°-96° C), then the water is not going to be able to dilute the coffee solids and extract the compounds and flavors.
Check the temperature of the water which is coming out of the machine before pulling your next shot.
Is your machine running at the correct pressure?
If the water is not being forced through the coffee at the correct pressure, then the water is not going to be able to extract the compound and flavors as well.
My Crema Is Too Bubbly
This could also be down to the roasting date, but not in the way which you would think.
When coffee is roasted, it produces carbon dioxide. As the beans settle, the carbon dioxide production dissipates (remember the bags with the one-way seals?), and the beans will create a more stable crema.
If your crema is too bubbly, then it may be that you have used the coffee too close to its roasting date.
If coffee is freshly roasted, give it a couple of days to release any extra carbon dioxide.
I Have No Crema
This can be down to the roasting (see above)
If the coffee is freshly roasted, then carbon dioxide production is high. This leads to large bubbles which dissipate quickly. Wait a couple of days after roasting before using your beans.
If you have stale coffee, then you can end up with no crema. Try to use your coffee within three weeks after they’re roasted.
Excess heat or cold can damage your coffee and turn it stale.
Stale coffee can lead to a lack of crema. When you are storing your coffee, you should not store it in the fridge or freezer. You should also not store your coffee in direct sunlight.
Store your coffee in an airtight container and in a cool, dry place.
Check the brew temperature
If the water is not hot enough when it is being passed through the coffee, it is not going to extract the coffee solids and compounds which are needed to create the crema.
Make sure that your machine is dosing water at the correct temperature.
Have you recently cleaned your machine?
If you have recently descaled or cleaned your espresso machine, then there may be some residue left in the machine.
Run some hot water through your machine and try pulling your shot again.
If you notice that the espresso is pouring through the portafilter unevenly, either by visually watching the espresso flow from your portafilter or seeing that part of the coffee puck is dry, you may have an uneven extraction.
Are you using the correct amount of coffee in your portafilter?
Make sure that you are using the correct dose of coffee for the amount of water which you are pushing through it, and the right dose of ground coffee for the portafilter size.
Too little coffee will result in there not being enough pressure being created.
Is your portafilter or basket wet?
If your basket is wet, then the water will start to react with the coffee in the basket.
This can create a channel at the sides of the portafilter where the water can run more easily when the water is forced through.
Make sure to dry your portafilter before you use it.
Are you tamping evenly?
If you are tamping at an angle, then one part of the espresso puck is going to be thinner than the other.
This is where the water is going to run through more easily. An even tamp will result in an even extraction.
Are you tamping with enough pressure?
If your ground coffee is not condensed enough, then the water is going to run through the espresso too quickly.
This is going to result in under extracted espresso. Be sure to tamp the coffee with enough pressure to condense the ground coffee into a solid block.
Have you performed a second tamp?
After tamping your coffee for the first time, you should knock the loose coffee free from the edge and tamp again.
If you knock it free but do not tamp again, then you run the risk of creating some channels into the side of the coffee puck where the water can run through more easily.
Do not knock the coffee puck unless you are going to tamp it for the second time.
Is your coffee fresh?
If your coffee was roasted a long time ago, then the flavors will have deteriorated, and your coffee may taste bitter.
You may also have sped up the deterioration if you have not stored the coffee correctly. Keep the coffee out of the fridge, freezer, and direct sunlight.
A shot which is pulled too slowly or has too much yield will suffer from the same problem: bitterness.
When water comes into contact with coffee for too long, it starts to extract the compounds from the fibers of the bean.
These compounds are bitter and add a trace of bitterness to your espresso. Check the speed of your espresso pour and adjust the grind as needed.
Check that you are pushing through the correct amount of water for the dose of coffee which you have.
Check the temperature of your machine; if the water is too hot, then it may be extracting the compounds too quickly.
Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water as it is run through the machine.
If your coffee is too fresh (it has only just been roasted), then the extra carbon dioxide in the beans can cause a sour taste in the coffee.
We recommend waiting a couple of days once the coffee is roasted before grinding them up and using them.
Check your shot speed
If the water is running through your coffee too quickly, then it will be extracting all of the acidic compounds without extracting the sweet compounds.
Check that your grind is fine enough and that you are using the correct dose for your coffee.
Check the temperature of your machine
If the heat is too low, then the water may not be able to extract the sweet flavors of the coffee.
Shot Time Is Too Fast or Too Slow
This is most likely a ground problem
If you shot is pouring too quickly, then try a finer grind. If your shot is pouring too slowly, then try a coarser grind.
The shot time can also be affected by the pressure of the machine.
Make sure that your machine is not damaged and is pouring the water out at the correct pressure.
A quick or slow pour can be caused by too much or too little tamping
If you have condensed the coffee too much, then the water is going to find it harder to move through the coffee ground. The water is going to move through the coffee slowly.
If you have not condensed the coffee enough, then the coffee is going to run through the loose grounds too quickly. Try changing the way you tamp your coffee.
Check that you have the dose correct
If there is too little or too much coffee in the basket, then the pressure is going to be affected.
No Coffee is Dispensed
Check your grind and tamp
If the coffee is too fine, the coffee is too condensed, or both, then the water is not going to be able to get through the coffee.
If no espresso is poured, try changing the grind or tamping the coffee a little less.
Check the water flow system
If there is no water running through the machine, then there is going to be no coffee poured. Check that there is enough water in the water reservoir or that the mains water is turned on and hooked up to the machine.
Check that there is not a blockage in the water pipes which are stopping the water from getting through. Perform a deep clean if you suspect that the water pipes are blocked.
The pump may not be working properly
If the machine is making an unusual noise when it is turned on, then you may have a problem with your pump, and your machine may need a repair or replacement part.
Check the group head
If there has been too much ground coffee in the coffee basket, then coffee grinds may have blocked the group head.
There could also be a scale build up if you have been using hard water and not descaled the machine in a while. Descale your machine.
Coffee Leaking From the Top of the Portafilter
There may be coffee grinds on the rim of the portafilter or group head.
If the seal between the two is not tight, then coffee will escape through the gap. Make sure to clean the group head on a regular basis and to knock the excess coffee grinds from the portafilter.
The filter basket in the portafilter may be old and damaged
If they are, then they will not hold the pressure from the machine when the water is poured through. Consider replacing the baskets.
You should also take a look at the portafilter itself. If there are any dents or cracks in it, then it may not be creating a perfect seal with the group head.
If the portafilter is damaged, then it may be time to purchase a new one.
There are Water Accumulating Under Your Machine
There is a leak somewhere in your machine.
You should try and find out where the leak is coming from by observing the machine and taking it apart as necessary, and as your expertise allows.
If you can fix the leak by yourself, then you should do so, or you may have to take it to a professional to get fixed.
Coffee Grinder is Grinding Too Slowly
If too much coffee particulates have accumulated in your coffee grinder, then it may cause the grinder blades or burrs to grind your beans too slowly.
This is a sign that you need to clean your coffee grinder.
Check around the burrs or the blade and check to see whether your grinder needs to be cleaned.
If you put too much coffee into the grinder, then it will grind the beans slower.
Remove some of the beans and try grinding the coffee again. Make sure not to overfill the grinder with coffee beans.
The blade or burrs may be dull.
If you have used your coffee grinder for a long time and frequently, then it may be time to replace those parts or replace the grinder entirely.
Cheaper grinders, or grinders which have been used for many years, can suffer from motors breaking down. It may be time to replace the motor of your grinder.
I Cannot Grind Coffee Finely Enough
If your grinder is not grinding your beans to the desired fineness for espresso, then you may have too much coffee in your grinder. Try taking some and trying again.
The blade in the grinder may be too dull.
Over time, the blade in a grinder will become dull. It may be time to replace your blade or the grinder.
The motor may have broken down over time and no longer be able to cope with grinding beans.
Check to see if your machine is making any unusual noises. You may need to replace your grinder motor or the grinder itself.
How to Steam Milk (Milk Frothing) ⤴︎
Steaming milk is a lot different than heating milk.
If you have ever heated milk in a saucepan or in the microwave, then you know that you get an end product which is often flat and burnt-tasting.
Steaming is about adding tiny air bubbles to your milk as you warm it.
This is what gives the milk its creaminess. Depending on the drink which you are crafting, you will adjust the amount of air bubbles (foam) in the drink.
For instance, a cappuccino is a third foam while a latte has a small layer of foam on the top.
Properly steaming milk takes time and practice, but once you have it nailed down, your friends will be over all the time to taste one of your specialty drinks.
The sign of great foam is tiny bubbles – bubbles so small that you cannot see them.
These almost-invisible bubbles make up microfoam, the goal of all great home baristas.
Microfoam is what makes steamed milk smooth and creamy.
So, how to use an espresso machine to make Microfoam coffee?
Make sure that you steam wand is clean
Turn your espresso machine on and give the water time to heat up.
When the water has heated enough to turn into steam, pull some steam through the steam wand to purge it off any particulates which may still be in there.
Wipe down the steam wand, and you are ready to begin.
Fill your milk pitcher
It does not matter what milk you use (you can even create great foam with soy milk).
Whole milk will give a creamier taste than skimmed milk because of the fat content, but microfoam is possible with milk of all types of fat-content.
Start by filling the milk pitcher halfway to practice and get a feel for steaming milk.
As you progress, you can adjust the amount of milk in the pitcher so that it is all used up in the drink which you are creating.
Place the steam wand in your milk
Place it so that the tip is submerged in the milk, but you do not need to place the entire steam wand into the milk.
Open the steam valve to let the steam out and into the milk
Make sure that the steam wand tip is fully submerged to start so that the milk is not thrown out of the steaming pitcher.
As the steam starts, bring the steaming pitcher down slowly until the tip of the steam wand is right at the top of the milk.
You should hear a change in the sound of the milk steaming. This is where you will start to create the foam for the milk, and you will see the volume of milk increase.
You want to be creating tiny bubbles so do not let the steam wand tip rise above the top of the milk, or it will start to splash and splatter, and produce large bubbles.
This part is a lot of trial and error. The more you do it, the more you will get a feel for creating smooth microfilm bubbles.
Keep the wand tip at the surface of the milk to continue forming the foam.
No matter the drink you are creating, you want to have some microfoam in there to add a silkiness to the drink.
The drink you are crafting will dictate how much microfoam you are going to create. For a latte, it will be a little, and for a cappuccino, it will be a lot.
When you have added the desired volume, bring the pitcher up so that the steam wand tip is below the surface, but still above the middle of the milk.
Keep the steam wand tip near the side of the steaming pitcher to create good circulation. This will mix your microfoam through the steamed milk and heat the milk evenly.
You are aiming for milk around 150° F
You can use a thermometer in the milk to gauge this target, or you can do it by feel.
Keep your hand on the bottom of the milk pitcher as you are steaming the milk, and when it is too hot to keep your hand there, remove your hand and continue to heat the milk for another five seconds.
Turn off the steam by closing the valve
Remove the steaming pitcher from the steam wand and clean the steam wand by purging it with steam and then wiping the steam wand with a cloth.
You can use the cloth to catch any milk residue which comes out as you are purging the steam wand.
Tap the milk jug against your countertop to burst any of the larger bubbles in the milk.
Swirl the milk inside the pitcher to thoroughly mix it, and use an action as if you are trying to fold the surface of the milk over on itself.
Swirl and tap until you have a glossy sheen on the top of the milk. You are now ready to pour your milk.
Roasting Coffee Beans ⤴︎
Roasting is an important step in the coffee process.
If coffee beans are not roasted well, then you may as well throw them away.
Roasting green coffee beans can add to the flavor of the beans, and this is especially true with espresso beans which are roasted towards the darker end of the scale.
When you roast beans for espresso, you add a complex richness to the beans.
Roasting beans for longer bring out the caramel sweetness which is found in espresso.
Darker roasts also have less acidity (which is what we want from our espresso), and the solubility of the coffee is increased (we want the coffee to be dissolved quickly).
So, How is Coffee Roasted? ⤴︎
When coffee beans are first processed, they are green in color.
The beans are usually dried before they are roasted. It will start green and turn a rich brown color as they are roasted.
For expresso roast, green beans are generally roasted for 12-15 minutes to achieve the desired flavor profile.
The beans are loaded into a drum
For large-scale coffee roasting, the drums can be extremely large while small, local roasters may probably be using smaller drums.
The exact time of roasting will depend a lot on the volume of coffee being roasted.
When coffee is added to the drum, it will rotate to agitate and evenly distribute the coffee as heat is applied to the drum.
For the first few minutes, nothing much happens to the beans.
It takes time for the flavors and colors to develop. You may notice an aroma like straw as the beans start to roast. Some of the chaff will start to come off.
The chaff is the final layer which surrounds coffee bean after all of the other layers have been stripped away during processing. The chaff is nitrogen rich and does not contribute to the flavor. It will usually be removed and composted.
As the coffee beans get hotter, they begin to expand. They will start to turn yellowish.
This yellow color will then turn to brown. Sugars start to develop as the coffee turns brown, and the oils begin to be released.
As the sugars start to build, you should notice a sweet and aromatic scent. This is the point in the roast which is most appealing to many people.
The coffee beans continue to expand until they can no longer hold in the heat. At around the 10-minute mark, you will begin to hear cracking and popping.
It almost sounds like popcorn being made. The beans continue to roast until they crack for the second time.
By this time, the beans are a rich brown color. The sugars are developed, and the flavor profile is there.
The heating process needs to stop, and the internal heat of the beans needs to be cooled to prevent them from traveling past the desired roast point.
The beans are removed from the drum and placed in a rolling tray
The beans are then stirred to promote air circulation and even cooling.
It will then be left to rest for a couple days before they are used. Once the beans are cooled, they are checked for any defects.
Any beans which are under or over-roasted, should be removed.
Espresso uses beans which have been darkly roasted for longer than the average coffee beans. They are on the darker end of the scale and have low acidity and full body.
You will usually find that this type of bean has a rich, sweet, clean, caramelly, and pleasant taste.
Blended vs. Single Origin ⤴︎
When it comes to the type coffee beans used to craft your espresso, you have two choices: single origin coffee or a blend.
Both sounds cool, but what do they really mean, and which is better?
Single-origin coffee are coffee beans that comes from one place. This may sound simple and intuitive, but there is a little more to it than that.
A single-origin coffee can mean coffee that comes from a specific region of a country, a single producer, or a single crop.
It could come from a single farm or a co-operative of farms. Single-origin coffee can span an entire region, or it could span part of a single farm.
Coffee blends are beans from multiple locations which have been mixed to create a specific flavor profile.
A blend could contain coffee from two different world regions, or it could span ten different regions.
So which is better?
Single-origin coffees are generally more expensive.
When you are bound to a single location, the crops are often seasonal, vary in volume, and produced less frequently. This leads to a more expensive finished product.
Blends can use any beans in the world (as long as you are creating a great-tasting finished product). This means that blends are cheaper compared to the single origin.
You are not bound by unpredictable crops. You can choose any beans you want and not have to worry about the volume. Blended beans can take advantage of year-round crops.
If you are looking to get into a specific flavor or taste, then single-origin beans are the way to go.
With beans from the same region, you are focused in on a single (and sometimes multiple), stripped-down flavor.
Single-origin coffees are better suited to be enjoyed black and long.
You can really delve into picking up the subtle flavors when a single-origin is brewed as a pour over or drip coffee.
For espresso, a blend is perfect.
You are not looking for a specific flavor profile; you are more focused on the sweetness of the coffee. You are often adding milk to your espresso to create lattes or cappuccinos.
Coffee with fruity or acidic flavors is not going to pair well with the creaminess of the milk. A blend will allow you to focus more on the roast and sweetness.
A blend can also give you a more flavorful coffee. As you do not have to rely on the flavor profile of beans from one region, you can combine as many flavors as you like.
Mistakes that New Home Baristas Make ⤴︎
As a new home barista, there are many mistakes which you will learn from.
Some are avoidable, and some are not. All the mistakes you make will contribute to you being a better barista (as long as you do not repeat them continuously).
So, what should you be looking out for when you are beginning your espresso journey?
Using Stale Coffee
It can be tempting to go ahead and use up that coffee which has been sitting around your kitchen, but you are only going to be making sub-par espresso.
Why did you spend so much money on your espresso equipment just to ruin it by using stale coffee?
If you want to create the perfect cup of espresso, use the freshest beans.
If you can use beans which have been roasted 7-14 days ago, then you are going to get the optimum flavor from them.
Use a Scale
The dose is an essential part of the espresso experience.
With the small amount of coffee needed to create a shot of espresso, even a tiny difference in the dose is a significant difference when you look at the percentage.
Using measuring spoons can give you an approximate dose which could change as you adjust the grind.
The only way to ensure that you are getting a consistent dose for every shot of espresso is to use an electronic scale.
If you can find the correct dose and yield for your espresso, then a scale will help you to recreate that every time you pull a shot of espresso.
Inconsistent tamping is one of the most common problems for a new barista.
It can take some time to get the perfect tamp and to continue creating the same tamp for every shot of espresso.
If you tamp too lightly, the coffee is not going to condense enough, and the shot is going to pour too quickly.
If you tamp too much, then the coffee is going to condense too much, and the shot is going to pour too slowly.
Getting the right tamp is the starting point to troubleshooting your espresso shot.
Only once you are confident your tamp is correct and consistent, you should move on to adjusting the grind of your coffee.
Using Stale or Hard Water
A shot of espresso uses only 25ml of water (give or take).
It can seem like overkill to go out and spend money on a water filter or bottled water.
You have tasted your tap water, and it tastes fine, so what is wrong with using that for your espresso?
Your espresso is mostly water. Any issues with water will carry through to the espresso.
Any impurities will also result in less extraction, and the espresso will not taste as good as it should. Fresh, filtered water will give you a perfect shot of espresso.
Using hard water in your espresso machine will take its toll.
You can descale your machine, but the best cure is prevention. Even with regular descaling, the machine can still become clogged and break down.
If your area does have hard water, make sure that you are using a filter or bottled water to protect your machine and the flavor of your espresso.
Not Enough Cleaning
The longer you have your espresso machine, the less you are going to want to clean it.
Have a regular cleaning schedule and stick to it. Not only will proper cleaning help to keep your machine in tip-top shape (saving you a lot of money), but the flavor of your espresso will also remain consistent.
Coffee is an organic product and, when that product comes into contact with your coffee equipment, oils and particulates are left behind.
This can be obvious when it comes to your grinder, but not so much when it comes to the internal workings of your espresso machine.
If those oils are left to build up, the will begin to eat away at the materials inside your machine.
They will also start to become rancid. This rancid flavor will carry over to your espresso. Cleaning your machine regularly can be a pain, but it is worth it.
Not Heating Your Machine
A small change in the temperature of the brew water can make a big difference when it comes to your espresso shot.
This does not stop at waiting for your machine to heat up, it is also about pulling some water through the machine to heat the water pipes and beyond.
Properly heating your machine all the way will ensure that your espresso tastes as great as it can.
Settling for Low-quality Coffee
You get what you put in, and if you put in low-quality coffee beans, you are going to get low-quality espresso.
A lot of the time, this comes down to money. Higher-quality beans are going to cost you more money, and if you drink a lot of espresso, that cost can start to add up.
The way to think about it is in the money you save.
If you are brewing your own espresso at home instead of buying it from a coffee shop, then paying for high-quality beans is still going to cost you less than buying the espresso made for you.
You also need to think about what you value. If you only want an espresso in the morning to wake you up, then settling for a low-quality coffee with a kick of caffeine may be fine for you.
If you want the perfect shot of espresso, though, then you have to buy the high-quality beans.
You Are Not Using Your Own Grinder
If there is one thing which we have tried to get across, it is that coffee freshness matters.
If your coffee is left too long, it will start to go stale. This process is sped up by grinding.
Ground coffee goes stale faster than whole-bean coffee, and coffee which is stale is not going to create great espresso.
Using a grinder at home is the only way to ensure that you are crafting the best tasting espresso.
Grinding your coffee the moment you are going to brew it will keep the flavors and sweetness locked in.
Just because your coffee is pouring within the recommended shot time, that does not mean that your espresso is pouring at the optimum speed.
Changing the grind to solve a bad pour time may also be papering over your espresso cracks. Getting the grind right is important, but it should also be used in connection with the correct dose, tamp, and yield.
When you have your pour within the correct time, do not be afraid to fine-tune your grind and experiment with grounds which are slightly finer and slightly coarser.
You should also not settle for coffee which is ground unevenly.
This is one of the biggest mistakes which new baristas can fall into. When you have ground your coffee, you should do a visual check to ensure that your coffee is being crushed to the correct texture.
If your grinder is not grinding correctly, then it may be time to calibrate it.
Storing Your Coffee Wrong
You may have heard that storing your coffee in the fridge or freezer is the best way to ensure the freshness of your coffee, but all you are doing is decreasing your brew temperature when it comes time for the water to run through it.
The absolute best way to store your coffee is in an air-tight container, and in a cool, dry place.
Coffee beans should be kept away from any extreme temperatures such as sunlight or ice.
Expensive equipment is expensive for a reason.
Many home baristas buy an old espresso maker and grinder and expect to create the same espresso they get from their local coffee shop.
The truth of the matter is that the brewing equipment has a significant effect on the outcome of your espresso.
High-quality equipment is made better, with better parts, and brews better. To get the perfect shot of espresso, you need proper equipment and the best beans you can find.
You Have Not Practiced Enough
Great espresso is not an overnight thing.
You need to get in a lot of practice before you decide on whether you can create a great cup of espresso or not.
Keep trying until you have improved your skills.
Espresso Coffee Glossary ⤴︎
The pressure ratio on most espresso machines. Most home espresso machines will have a rating of 9 BAR.
An Italian word for someone who operates espresso brewing equipment.
When you craft your own espresso at home and become competent at it, you can call yourself a barista.
The temperature at which water is pulled through ground coffee to make an espresso. The ideal temperature for flavor extraction is between 190°-205° F.
The indicator of a great espresso shot. Ideally, espresso should pour into a shot glass over a duration of 20-30 seconds.
This time starts when the pump is switched on and ends when the shot has poured.
A grinder which grinds up coffee beans by using two blades that spins at a high speed.
A grinder which grinds coffee by pushing the beans between two disks, one stationary and one spinning.
An espresso-based drink, crafted with steamed milk and a little foam layer on the top.
An espresso-based drink which consists of one-third espresso, one third steamed milk, and one third foamed milk.
The top layer of an espresso shot. The crema is a sign of a properly brewed espresso shot, and it is the part which gives espresso its sweet and silky taste.
Emulsified oils are combined with carbon dioxide to create the brown layer of microfoam.
A traditional cup in which a shot of espresso is held. Traditional demitasse is ceramic and has thick walls which will hold in the heat when the vessel is pre-warmed.
The amount of ground coffee you are going to use to create your espresso. A single shot of espresso can use anywhere between 8-12 grams of coffee, with a double shot using double the amount.
Two shots of espresso instead of one. This can be achieved by using a double-shot brew basket and a higher dose of coffee.
You can also pour two single shots of espresso. The word can be used in a drink title to denote the number of espresso shots. For example, a double latte contains two shots of espresso.
The tray which sits under the portafilter and shot glass. It collects any spillages and extra liquid.
A coffee beverage produced by forcing a small amount of hot water through the finely ground coffee.
Removing flavors and compounds from ground coffee by giving hot water time in contact with the ground coffee. The hot water takes on the flavors and compounds from the coffee.
A drink that uses one or two shots of Espresso topped with microfoamed milk to create the velvety, creamy texture, without foam topper.
When milk is steamed by a steam wand, the foam is created when the air is added and tiny bubble form in the milk. Froth adds creaminess to milk-based espresso drinks.
Contains the shower head where the hot water comes out before going into the portafilter.
It also includes the connection for the portafilter to create a seal before the water is forced through the coffee.
The top part of a coffee grinder where the whole bean coffee is stored before it is ground.
An espresso shot which is poured long. More water flows through the same dose of coffee for a regular espresso. The result is a more bitter tasting coffee.
A name for a stovetop espresso maker. Instead of a pump providing the pressure for the water to run through the coffee, water is heated to create steam, and that steam creates the necessary pressure to move through the ground coffee and into a collection area.
When hot water has been in contact with the ground coffee for too long, too much compounds are extracted.
For espresso, we want the sweet compounds and a balance of the other compounds, but too much time will lead to the bitter compounds from being extracted, and this will impact the flavor. Over-extracted espresso can taste bitter.
Pod or Capsule
This is a small container of pre-ground coffee which is used in a pod machine. The pod is punctured at the brew time to allow the water to flow through. After brewing, the ground coffee is contained in the pod for easy cleanup.
This is the part of the espresso machine which holds the ground coffee.
Portafilters generally have a circular area where a brew basket will sit. The brew baskets are sized by the amount of espresso you need.
A portafilter will also have a handle so you can remove it from the espresso machine easily. The portafilter will connect to the espresso machine with a slight turn to lock it in place.
This is the term for the small, hard, puck-shaped block of coffee which will end up in the portafilter once the water is forced through the ground coffee.
The term was given to the act / methods of brewing a shot of espresso. In the past, the pressure was created by pulling on a lever to force the water through the espresso.
Italian for “restricted shot.”
A ristretto uses the same amount of ground coffee as a regular espresso shot but pulls through less water.
A ristretto has a different flavor profile than a regular espresso shot and is more intense due to the coffee solids not being as diluted.
Another name for brewed espresso. Shot and shot of espresso are interchangeable.
The term for a regular-sized shot of espresso. It can also be part of a drink’s name.
For example, if someone were to ask for a single cappuccino, they would be asking for a cappuccino with a single shot of espresso.
A common addition to most home espresso machines. A steam wand is usually a metal tube with a tip.
The tip is sealed except for a few pinhole openings. These openings dispense steam into your milk to aerate it.
The act of condensing loose ground coffee into a puck shape of tightly packed coffee, ready for espresso to be brewed.
Ground coffee needs to be tamped to create the correct pressure of water running through it.
Tamped coffee helps water to run through the coffee for even extraction and prevents water from channeling through the coffee in weak spots.
A device used to tamp the coffee. One end is flat and circular and will fit inside of the portafilter to evenly tamp the coffee. The other end has a handle for the barista to hold.
A device used to track the temperature of steamed milk as it is being heated to prevent burning.
It can also be used to check the temperature of your espresso and hot water before brewing espresso.
When water does not have enough time in contact with the ground coffee, the result is under-extraction.
Different compounds break down over different times. Under-extraction means that some compounds, such as the sweet and bitters (both needed for a balanced espresso) have not had time to break down. The result could mean a sour tasting espresso.
The area in an espresso machine where water is stored before it is pumped through the machine.
The amount of espresso which is poured.