How to make Espresso Coffee

So, you decided that it is time to make espresso at home.  A few things you should know, making espresso is an art form.  It is an ever changing process with a multitude of equipment.  There are a few basics that remain.  Let me give you a quick breakdown of what it is and then we will go over some equipment that you’ll need and the basic steps to get you started.

The first espresso machine was patented in 1884 by a dude with a great goatee named Angelo Moriondo, so it has been around for a while.  The basic principles behind this insane machinery is to force hot water thru tightly compacted coffee using high pressure resulting in a short extraction time.  The result of all this craziness is the beautiful robust shot you drink to kick start your day. 

As always, make sure you are using at the very least filtered or spring water any time you brew coffee as the minerals and chemicals in your tap water do not taste very good.  And you need to make sure you are taking care of your equipment.  Clean it regularly.  Lime and scale buildup inside the machine can ruin an otherwise amazing cup.   The proper water temperature for coffee extraction is right around 205 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re machine runs too hot or too cold it can alter the original profile of your beans.

Here are the things that you will need to get started on your espresso journey:

  •  An espresso machine (duh).
  • A burr grinder if you are planning on grinding your own beans.  Stay away from the blade grinders, especially when it comes to espresso.  Coffee grounds need to be uniform in size and the grind size is extremely important when it comes to espresso.  Your Brewtality beans should be ground on a fine setting.  They should be smaller than grains of table salt.  Again, that part is super important.
  • Coffee beans or grounds.  See the above statement.  For a double shot of espresso (roughly 2 ounces) which is mostly the standard you will likely need between 18-21 grams (.6 to .74 ounces) of finely ground coffee.  This is referred to the “dose”.  Once you tamp your coffee it becomes the “puck”.
  • A tamper.  A tamper is exactly what it sounds like.  It has a small handle with a flat circular surface on the bottom.  You use it to compress your grounds in the basket.
  • A decent scale that reads in grams.  Grams are a much more accurate way to measure input and output.
  • And a cup, or shot glass, or whatever you plan on holding your espresso in. 

Let’s get started:

  1. Turn your machine on and let it heat up.  Anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the machine.  Let that bad boy heat up to it’s normal operating temp.  Take your time.  Once it’s heated up completely run the group for a few seconds to purge any old water from the system.
  2. Grind your coffee into your portafilter basket, again 18-21 grams.  You’ll figure out exactly where you want to be as you learn your machine.  Shake the basket gently to level the coffee out as much as you can.  It is important to have the coffee be smooth AND level in the basket.
  3. Tamp your “dose” firmly.  Put the basket on a hard, clean surface, insert the flat end of the tamper into the basket and let it rest on the coffee itself.  Now as level as you can, keeping your wrist, arm, and elbow all in line with the handle of the tamper and push down firmly to compact the coffee into a “puck”.  Scientifically speaking you want to apply 30lbs of pressure down on the tamper.  You’ll get the feel for it after you do it a few times.  We like to say push on the coffee until the coffee pushes back. 
  4. Once you’ve done that, as you are releasing your pressure, give the tamper a slight, gentle twist.  Remove the tamper.  This is called “polishing the puck.”  You need to be gentle with the filter basket at this point.  Inspect the puck for cracks or unevenness and make sure it’s level.  Any unevenness or other defects will cause the extraction process to be uneven itself, meaning all of your grounds wont extract at the same rate and can cause your espresso to taste differently than it’s supposed to.
  5. Carefully lock your portafilter into the group head.  Be sure to not bang or knock the portafilter against anything.  Doing so could cause the puck to crack or break. 
  6. Position your cup on your scale below the portafilter and start your brew, either by starting the pre-infusion setting or by starting the pump.
  7. Stop the pump just short of your desired yield which should be right around 56 grams. 

Stir and enjoy!

Discard the used puck and flush the group head to rinse away any debris and any left-over coffee oils and wipe out your basket.

Take all that extra energy you now have and kick today in the face!


Stay Brewtal!