Besides being a flavorful beverage with a rich taste, espresso is a key component of most coffee-based drinks.
Obviously, if you master your espresso, your overall home barista skills will level up.
So, stop spending money on Starbucks coffee. I am here to show you some tips on how to make a perfect espresso with an espresso machine like a barista.
Prepare your grinder, pick your favorite roast, and let’s begin.
The Basics of a Good Espresso Shot
As you probably know, the word “espresso” has Italian roots and means “pressed out”, referring to the process of beverage preparation. Hot water under pressure passes through the ground coffee beans and “presses out”their taste and aroma right into your cup.
Despite the fact that there is no exact espresso recipe, many baristas have come to some compromise. So, to get a good, full-bodied espresso you should follow the guidelines below:
- for the most balanced flavor profile, set the extraction time on your espresso machine for 25 seconds;
- take 8-10 grams of coffee per single espresso shot;
- the single shot usually yields 25-35 ml and is served in a demitasse cup with a volume of 70 ml.
These are general guidelines. Once you have mastered brewing espresso using these parameters, feel free to play with proportions or make other variations of this beverage:
- for doppio, take 18-22 grams of coffee grounds and increase the serving volume up to 60 ml;
- ristretto has the same volume of coffee grounds as you use for a single shot, but the overall serving is reduced to 18 ml;
- for lungo, the volume also remains 8-10 grams but the serving measures 60 ml.
“Sometimes traditional espresso and ristretto are served with a glass of water so that you could independently adjust the strength of the drink.”
Guide to Your Perfect Espresso
So, how do you brew the full-bodied espresso at home like a pro?
Well, it’s actually easy.
You will need:
- espresso machine;
- freshly roasted coffee beans;
- coffee grinder;
- fancy cups.
Now, let’s dig into details about the process.
Espresso Machine Is Key
Yes, you can make your espresso without an espresso machine, but it might not taste as good.
The reason is obvious:
Only a coffee brewer can provide the pressure needed to make this beverage.
So, what makes a good espresso maker?
Today’s market offers a vast variety of coffee brewers, and the choice of the perfect one depends solely on your preferences. But let me walk you through the basics to make this choice easier.
All espresso machines can be divided into 2 categories:
- steam-driven espresso makers
As the name implies, these brewers use steam pressure generated in the boiler to force water through the coffee beans.
Think of these coffee makers as an electric version of your good old Moka pot.
“Steam coffee makers, unfortunately, aren’t capable of brewing the “right” espresso since the steam pressure that they can offer rarely exceeds 1.5 bar.”
- pump-driven brewers
These coffee makers are more common. Their obvious advantage over steam espresso machines is that two different elements — the pump and the boiler — are used to provide the desired pressure (9-10 bar) and the water temperature required for proper extraction (about 200-205 ° F).
You can also select a coffee machine based on the control method.
For home use, you can choose between the following types:
- Manual. Perfect for challenge lovers. To get the desired drink, you will need to push a lever yourself to create pressure instead of just pressing a button to activate a mechanical pump.
- Semi-automatic. These have the mechanical pump, but you still need to grind the beans and tamp them on your own, as well as use a steam wand to froth milk.
- Automatic. This machine will do everything you had to do manually with the semi-automatic one. Plus, it can be programmed to make coffee at a specific time and will automatically switch off after the beverage has been brewed.
If you are still not sure how to choose a coffee machine that suits you personally, I suggest you explore these Coffeegeeklab’s top espresso machine picks as a good starting point.
Coffee Beans 101
So, after choosing a coffee machine, let’s move on to coffee beans, as they’re another key component for making a good espresso.
I’ve gathered some recommendations below to help you choose the beans that will make your espresso rich and flavorful:
- Ideally, you should buy coffee beans that are roasted no more than 1-2 weeks ago. You can easily find them at the coffee shop that has its own roaster. However, if there aren’t any coffee shops in your area, good-quality coffee beans from the grocery store will do fine.
- Grind coffee and brew it immediately. The reason is simple: coffee beans lose their flavor very quickly after grinding. Therefore, it is better to grind them in small batches right before brewing.
- Use a fine grind. Electric grinders allow you to adjust the grind size, but if you use a manual one, make sure that the consistency of the grind is somewhere between sugar and flour. A too fine grind will require more time and higher pressure for extraction, which can result in a bitter and burnt taste. A coarse grind, on the contrary, will lack flavor and give you a rather sharp taste.
Tamping Is Important
You have certainly seen the barista doing this at the coffee shop while making your coffee. But you still think that this is a bit redundant for a homemade brew?
Well, you’re not right. And let me tell you why.
Tamping allows you to remove excess air pockets and get a uniform density and texture. This will lead to even contact with water during the extraction process and a more potent and complex taste of your espresso in the end.
Therefore, I advise that you try to do this at home at least once.
The process of tamping consists of the following steps:
- put your portafilter on the even surface;
- hold your elbow at 90 degrees;
- take the tamper and apply pressure with spinning motions until the surface of your coffee looks polished.
Observe Your Espresso
Finally, you can insert the portafilter back into the coffee machine and start brewing your espresso!
Put the preheated cup in place and turn on the brewer.
If your model has no time tracking option, use a timer. Remember: you need 25-30 seconds to brew a cup of espresso.
Now, how can you understand that your espresso shot is perfect?
There are at least three signs:
- the color of the coffee mixture should be rich dark brown;
- the coffee stream should have no breaks all the way through (which means that the pressure on the coffee puck is uniform);
- the crema foam should have a golden brown color and take about a third of the volume of the serving.
That’s it! You’ve just pulled your first espresso shot!
I recommend making a couple more shots to train your hand, and you can start surprising your friends with good home-brewed coffee!