How to Guides

How to make the perfect Espresso

To the untrained eye it might appear that because espresso always seems to come from a similar looking espresso machine that there is not much control over the way in which your espresso was made and hence the result is always likely to be similar. This could not be further from the truth. There are a huge number of variables that go into making any espresso shot meaning that espresso can end up bitter, weak, smooth or anywhere in between. If you have ever had bad espresso (either from a cafe or one that you tried to make yourself) then the chances are you understand some of the complexities that go into making espresso. If you’ve ever tried to grind and pull the shots then you’ll certainly know just how many variables that go to making the perfect espresso shot. Here we will cover some of the basic things that you need to be thinking about but that by no means is this the full story. It’s just the start of your espresso journey.

Photo by Ana Neves on Unsplash

Grinding

Just as there is an enormous range of different types of espresso machines on the market there is an enormous range of different types of grinders too. If you have a bean-to-cup device then you will have no choice over the type of grinder that is used for grinding your beans before you start to make an espresso. If however you have a stand-alone espresso machine then not only do you need to purchase a suitable grinder but the grinder itself will have a number of choices. You can choose from Blade Grinders, Conical Burr Grinders, Flat Burr Grinder, Hand Grinders and many other types. We won’t go into the pros and cons of various different types here, but it’s important to note that to get a good espresso shot you need a very high quality grin down to a fine level of grounds. One of the most important things that you’ll be looking for at this stage is to ensure a good consistency of the grounds. What you don’t want to be doing is having large chunks of coffee bean mixed in with fine powder. This is sometimes the case with blade grinders and for that reason we would suggest avoiding blade grinders for espresso machines. Now, you can also buy coffee that’s already been ground for espresso from some specialist espresso brands. They provide a good level of pre-ground but if you’re not using this then it’s worth thinking about spending about as much money on your grinder you do on your espresso machine.

Tamping

Tamping is the act of putting a flat circular disc on the top of the coffee that you have placed into the portafilter in order to create a nice ‘puck’ for the hot water to flow through. There are a number of variables that you need to be thinking about for this this. Most importantly is that the tamper is flat and level and that it is at the right pressure. Also so you will need to ensure that your tamper is an exact match for the basket (in terms or diameter) that you are tamping your coffee into.

Pressure

When your espresso machine pull a shot, the ideal pressure is around 9 bars. This is 9 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level. Most modern machines have the ability to be able to change pressure, even if that means opening up the machine and adjusting it manually inside. This is different if you are using something like a pressurized portafilter or a Nespresso machine but we won’t cover those here.

Volume (and flow)

A traditional single espresso is about 1 to 1.25 ounces and a double espresso is 2 to 2.5 Oz. The important thing to note is the amount of extraction that you are getting on with coffee beans..

Temperature

Again most machines will allow you to vary the temperature of your espresso. You should be looking for approximately 190 to 196 degrees Fahrenheit. This will give you a temperature in your cup of between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is lower than this you will under extract your coffee. If the temperature is higher than this then you’ll burn coffee.

Summary

We hope to provide more in-depth how-to guides on making the perfect espresso but hopefully this has provided a starter for 10 and at the very least, has given you the right topics to ask us questions and we will elaborate more. If espresso isn’t your thing, then you maybe take a look at our ultimate guide to coffee bags.

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