Espresso is made by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee beans. Flavors and chemicals in espresso are very concentrated because of the pressurized brewing process and typical cup of espresso have 120-150mg of caffeine. This is more caffeine per unit volume then in most other coffee drinks but total content of caffeine in a cup of espresso is less then in a mug of standard brew coffee because of the serving size of espresso.
You can use any kind of coffee beans or roasting levels to produce espresso, but a darker roast is generally prefered. As you may already know, espresso is the base for many other coffee drinks, you can read more about this in my article about most popular coffee drinks.
If you are interested in making a certified Italian espresso here are the technical parameters outlined by the Italian Espresso National Institute.
How to make espresso
Making a great espresso isn’t so hard as you may heard before. You need quality beans, clean espresso machine and grinder. Of course, you need to know the best practice to actually pull the espresso shot.
Doesn’t sounds like rocket science, right?
After over 15 years of experience in making coffe drinks, as a barista and coffee lover, I’m confident that I can teach you how to make your favourite drink better and tastier anywhere, at any time.
Here are my tips and steps that I follow every time to pull a great espresso.
1. Grind your beans
For the best taste of espresso I recomend that you always use freshly ground coffee. Reason for this is that the taste of coffee is in oils, and oxidation (aprox. 10min) after grinding makes coffee go stale.
But you use only ground coffee?
That’s ok, I know most people buy only ground coffee. It’s easiest way to use and you can find it on shelves in any grocery store. If you’ve never had freshly ground coffee, you may not even know there is a difference.. Trust me, there is a difference.
If you grind coffee just before brewing it, the flavor is much stronger and the subtle tastes of specific type of bean are more noticeable. It takes some practice to get into grinding, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect at the begining.
The most important thing with grinding is to get the right texture. If your coffee is too fine, the espresso will taste burnt. If it’s too coarse, the water will run through the beans too fast, and your shot will be thin. Aim for the texture like granulated sugar and you’ll be good.
2. Clean your portafilter
Before dosing your ground coffee in portafilter you have to make sure that you remove any leftover grounds and moisture from your portafilter. Both of them will get your espresso taste bitter. I use piece of dry cloth for this, but you can use paper towels too. Just make sure to do it fast so the portafilter stays warm.
3. Dose your ground coffee in portafilter
You’ll need 8-10 grams of coffee for single shot or 14-18 grams for double shot. Depending of the grinder you are using, you’ll need to pre-set the dose on grinder or use scale to measure exact quantity of coffee.
4. Distribute grounds evenly
No matter how you dose grounds in your portafilter it will be unevenly distributed. Uneven distribution leads to chanelling, so just tap your portafilter with palm of your hand or use distribution tools.
5. Tamp consistently
Did you heard before that for tamping you need to apply about 30 pounds of pressure? Forget about that, cause after 15 years and many tampings i still don’t know how hard to press to get 30 pounds of pressure.
It’s actually very simple.
First of all you should have a tamper that fits in your portafilter. Idea behind tamping is to remove any air pockets from the coffee puck. Got it?
Now press until puck is compressed ( tamper stops going down). Also pay attention that the puck is horizontally leveled to avoid chanelling. It’s always better to press harder because if you haven’t pressed hard enough, water will go through the beans too fast, and you’ll be getting a shot that’s bitter and thin.
6. Rinse your group head
Before putting portafilter on group head you’ll have to rinse it to remove any grounds leftovers. Grounds that stuck on group head gets burnt and it will affect the taste of your espresso if you don’t rinse.
Rinsing is also called “blank shot” and it helps to properly heat the group head before extraction.
7. Put portafilter on group head and start brewing your coffee
Now put portafilter on group head and start brewing your espresso. Start brewing imediatelly because heat from group head will burn the surface of your grounds and you’ll get bitter shot. The ideal brewing time is around 20 to 25 seconds so check your timer if this is first espresso after setting your grinder. Coffee should start pouring after couple of seconds if you done dosing and grinding right.
The shot come out too fast? You either haven’t pressed with tamper hard enough or you should change your grind size to be more finer.
Is it taking too long? Change your grind size the other way.
That’s it.. After couple of brewed espresso you’ll get everything in order to make a great shot. Like I said, it’s not rocket science.. Right? Just follow this steps and you’ll be good.
When done don’t forget to throw used grounds from portafilter and rinse it and the group head. Last thing to do is put portafilter back on group head, lay back and enjoy your espresso.
So what do you think about my routine for pulling an espresso shot? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to answer all of them.