So, you’ve finally decided to be a coffee aficionado and join the delightful world of espresso. Well, who wouldn’t want to? Espresso may have to be one of the most intense, purest and delicious ways of enjoying coffee. Learning how to make a great espresso will make you feel like you’re in coffee heaven – even if the process looks like a science lab experiment. This beginners’ guide will walk you through the basics of making espresso coffee so you can begin your coffee adventure as smoothly as possible.
What is Espresso?
Before we begin, let’s find out what ‘espresso’ actually means and what it is.
In Italian, ‘espresso’ can translate to ‘direct’, ‘fast’ and – much like what it sounds like: ‘express’. Similarly, in the coffee world, it’s coffee brewed under high pressure. Water at a high temperature and high pressure directly pass through finely-ground coffee, brewing the coffee in a matter of seconds. This method allows the coffee to obtain its complex and delightful flavours into a highly-concentrated beverage which you can drink as it is. The taste is far more flavourful and bolder drink than your average cup of coffee with milk.
The Golden Rule of Making Espresso
How do I know if I’m pulling the perfect espresso? The golden rule is to pull 60 mL (2oz) of espresso within the 25 second period – this is your ‘extraction time’.
Troubleshooting Espresso Pulls
|Espresso doesn’t extract 60mL in 25 seconds||The coffee grind is too coarse. Adjust grind to a finer size.|
|Espresso is streaming too slowly||The coffee grind needs to be coarser.|
The closer you get to the exact shot time – the smaller the adjustment you need to make to the grind size. This process is called ‘dialling in the grind’, or simply: ‘dialling in’. It’ll do a lot of good to your espresso, so get comfortable with it.
Extra Tip: Tamp Pressure
Pay close attention to the amount of coffee you are filling in the portafilter basket and the tamp pressure. A basic tip is to grind 18g of coffee for a double shot and apply a level tamp with around 13kg (30 lb) of pressure. The tamping pressure may vary depending on the kind of tamper you have. Use whichever one is most comfortable for you – so long as you are consistent with it.
Making the Perfect Espresso
The first few times of making espresso can be intimidating. However, with practice and precision – you’ll be set to confidently pull the perfect shot. Follow these steps to help you get on the right track:
- Choose the right coffee beans according to your preferred taste
- Grind your beans correctly
- Fill portafilter and tamp coffee grinds with enough pressure to make compact
- Attach portafilter and brew
Choosing the Right Coffee Beans
The first step to creating a great show is choosing the right beans – which is often overlooked. We have a wide range of coffee beans available online.
The beans’ quality is crucial because espresso extraction is a much more concentrated brewing method than others. Think of it like cooking: quality ingredients make for a flavourful dish. The same goes for making coffee.
Quality in coffee beans can be determined by origin, roast level as well as the method of storage; the latter is the most important aspect. Whichever beans suit your preferred taste – use fresh beans and store them correctly. To contain the flavours for as long as possible: keep your beans stored away from sunlight in an airtight container and use them within two weeks after opening.
For a more complex flavour: choose a light or medium roast.
Grind Size & Dose
A way that flavour is directed is the grind size and how the shot timing is controlled. Ideally, when making espresso, the grind size to start with should be a little finer than granulated sugar. The correct grind size and dose should pull a shot of about 60 to 70mL (2 to 2.5oz) within 25 to 30 seconds. Your coffee grinder should allow you to adjust accordingly.
The dose will depend on whether you want to make a single, double, or triple shot, including the type of brewing equipment you’ll be working with. For example, the dose for a double shot is about 16 to 18 grams of coffee, depending on your portafilter basket size and your flavour preference.
|Fast extraction||Adjust to a finer grind.|
|Slow extraction||Adjust to a coarser grind.|
Correct tamping pressure will also affect your espresso pull. Your main goal when tamping is to build a consistent surface so that the brewing water can evenly flow.
Distribute the ground coffee evenly in your portafilter and tamp with enough pressure so that the coffee grinds are compact. Tamp your portafilter on an even surface and apply enough pressure so that when it’s tipped upside-down, the coffee grinds remain intact.
Here’s how to avoid poor extraction when tamping:
|Fast extraction||Under-tamped. Need to apply more pressure.|
|Slow extraction||Over-tamped. Need to apply less pressure.|
After you’ve tamped down your coffee, it’s time to lock in the portafilter into the brew head and let the brewing begin! As mentioned earlier, aim for about 25 seconds of brewing time for your shot. Et voilà!
These are just some of the basics of making espresso and, as a beginner, should direct you in the right direction and perhaps spark making espresso as your hobby. Of course – other variables can affect your espresso preparation and extraction; you’ll be able to master it with trial and error. It’s all about the time and enthusiasm you put into it.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you grasp the basics of espresso making. We wish you all the best in your espresso journey!
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