Time to say sayonara to your cheap Mr. Coffee and invest in a prosumer espresso machine. Not having a good espresso machine in your home these days is basically like throwing money in the toilet. After all, think about how much money you spend on an annual basis on burnt Starbucks coffee. Please stop - Starbucks espresso is a disgrace. Don't believe me? Next time you're in Starbucks order a double shot of espresso, drink it without any milk, sugar or hot water and tell me you didn't want to vomit.
Before we get into the nittty gritty details of how to make espresso, we need to go over some vitally important variables and everything you'll be needing.
Espresso Grinder/Grind Size
You can spend thousands on an espresso machine. Literally - thousands. If you don't pair it with a quality grinder, that machine is basically a very large, heavy, pretty paper weight. Your grinder is the single most important factor when making espresso.
Poor grind = poor espresso.
Making espresso requires an incredibly fine grind. The grinders you find on Amazon for under $100 usually don't have the ability to go very fine so you'll need to really do your research or give us a call to help. Your grind is going to look something similar to table salt or sand.
Dose refers to the amount of coffee grounds placed in your portafilter. For a double shot of espresso, the typically dosages ranges between 18 and 21 grams of ground coffee. Going above 21 grams with intensify your espresso shot and vice versa.
While the coffee nerds on the forums will have you believing there's an exact science to this, your dosage just needs to fit the flavor profile you're going for. Test out different doses to see what delivers the best results for you!
After you've ground your beans up, dosed and have your portafilter ready to go, there's one more important step - tamping. This is the process of compacting the ground coffee in your portafilter to reduce the amount of time it'll take for water to pass through. Without tamping, water will race through your portafilter resulting in an incredibly poor shot of espresso.
It's best to start with 30lbs of pressure when tamping. If you find your shot is extracting too quickly, tamp a little harder next time and vice versa.
How much espresso should I be getting out of my shot?
30 grams of espresso is about right. This number will increase or decrease depending on your dosage and basket size (most bottomless portafitlers contain triple shot baskets!) so be sure you know what you're working with!
What's this crema word I've been seeing?
Crema is that fluffy, burnt orange layer on top of your espresso shot. You should be shooting for about 1/2 inch of crema on all your shots. Crema yield depends a ton on your beans, though so you'll have to do some experimenting. Some coffees yield less crema than others.
When making espresso, shoot for an extraction between 25 and 30 seconds.
Grab your portafilter and place it in the group head of your machine while it's heating up. You always want your portafilter to be warm and ready to go!
Remove your portafilter and purge your group head with warm water for 5-8 seconds.
This is vital to prepare your machine by getting hot water running through the group head. You'll be doing this again after making your espresso.
Grind your beans.
For a double shot of espresso you'll need anywhere between 18 and 21 grams of coffee. A kitchen scale is a useful here. The proper grind and dosage is essential to creating good espresso. Too little or too much and your espresso will be bitter or sour.
Evenly distribute your grounds using your finger or distribution tool. For espresso to extract evenly, this is a very important step. Discard any excess grounds.
Insert your portafilter and begin extraction. Make sure you have your desired cup below and ready to go! Preferably heated.
Examine your shot. The ideal extraction should take between 25 and 31 seconds. If its coming out too quickly, you'll need to play around with your grind, dosage and tamping. If too slow, your grind is most likely too fine and needs to be loosened.
Don't get frustrated! Making espresso is a learning process. Once you get it, I promise its well worth it!