How To Make The Best Espresso At Home

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woman drinking espresso at home
Photo By: Maksym Azovtsev

It’s a comforting action, going to your local cafe/coffee shop for your favorite espresso in the morning. Something about the feeling they give. Comfortable, relaxing. It’s easy to get lost in a good book or on your laptop working away. Sipping that deliciously perfect espresso made with love from your favorite barista. Watching the world go by without a care.

Wait, I know of a place just like that, a place we all call, home. What if you could make that deliciously perfect espresso there? In the comfort of your own home. How comforting would that be? Though it is nice to get out and change the scenery a bit, after a while, that can get expensive. So I’m going to tell you how to make the best espresso at home, in the comfort of your own. This way you can experiment and explore different ways of brewing, and find what you like the best, perfect it, and repeat it.


First Things First, The Coffee

For the majority, an espresso is made with dark roasted coffee beans, but it is not written in stone that you have to use this type of roast. If you don’t prefer darker roasts, you can easily make an espresso with whatever fits your liking.

NOTE:  You can buy coffee beans roasted and pre-ground to an “espresso” like level to get the best taste.

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When a coffee bean is roasted to a darker level, this brings out the oils from within the bean. These oils are where those rich and thick flavors come from. The longer the roast the richer the taste. Though there are many roasts out there to choose from, so take your pick.

espresso beans, cup of espresso
Photo By: Nathan Dumlao

It is best to start with whole bean coffee and not pre-ground coffee. Reason being, when a coffee bean is roasted, Co2 forms inside the bean. This Co2 is what helps keep the freshness of the bean. Once the roasted bean is ground, the Co2 is released and oxidation starts almost immediately, losing flavor, smell, and caffeine. So my advice is to grind your own beans and only grind what you need, right before you need it. This will help to ensure you have the freshest, best tasting shot you can get.

If you have access to a local coffee roaster, I suggest getting your beans from there as they will be the freshest. Make sure to store your beans in a cool dry place, and in an air tight container that blocks out any or all outside light, as this will help keep your beans fresh. Whole beans can last up to one month if properly stored. As opposed to ground coffee which only lasts one to two weeks if properly stored.


Grinding For Espresso

whole bean and ground espresso coffee
Photo By: Vassamon Anansukkasem

When making an espresso, the coffee beans are always ground to a fine sand or table salt like substance. This is because of the amount of pressure needed to brew the coffee properly. Depending on the type of espresso machine you have, you may need to grind the beans more coarse than mentioned above. You can tinker around and try different ways of grinding until you find what works for your machine.

If you have a steam driven machine, you will most likely want your beans to be of a coarser grind, since the machine does not have as much pressure behind the brew to push the water through finer ground coffee.

If you have a pump machine, you will want to use a finer grind because this machine has enough pressure behind it to push the water through the grounds at about nine bars. Bars are equal to the atmospheric pressure at sea level, so nine bars is equal to nine levels of atmospheric pressure.

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Espresso Machine
Photo By: Mike Marquez

The finer grind size also exposes more of the surface of the bean, releasing more of those rich and smooth flavors of a darker roast. If the grounds are too coarse, the water can flow through too easily and less of the surface is exposed. This will inhibit the water from snatching those great flavors in the bean, leaving you with a less desirable shot of espresso. If the grounds are overly fine, they will pack down tight and let little to no water through, leaving you with another, less desired shot. This is where your tinkering, trial and error come in to play.

Note: Be sure to purge the grinder before and after each use, to ensure you get rid of the remaining grinds of the previous size. If not, you will have a variety of grind sizes in your shot and will have to continue your trial and error phase to find the right size.


Measuring The Grind

measuring spoons filled with coffee grounds
Photo By: Iryna Melnyk

When measuring your shot of espresso, it is advised to use a scale. If you do not have one you will be okay, just do your best to measure close to the exact amount. One shot of espresso is exactly 7g (or 1 tbsp.) of coffee grounds per1oz of water. A double shot of espresso would be between 13g and 18g of coffee grounds per 2oz of water, the more the stronger and vice versa.

A good way to tell if you have the right amount of grounds is after you tamp the grounds into the portafilter. You want to have just enough space at the top, leaving room for brewing once you have locked the portafilter into the espresso machine.

Note:  There is a nice little aspect of the espresso machine that can come in handy when brewing your shot. You can dial in the size of your grounds so the machine knows how much water to push through. This will help ensure all the grounds get completely saturated, and you get the results you want.

Find the perfect Coffee Grinder for your morning ritual here!

Making The Shot

Now that you have your coffee ground to your preference, it’s time to make that sweet sweet espresso shot. So after you have measured your grounds, pour them into your portafilter. At first, it will look like too many grounds, and this is where the tamper comes in (usually included with the espresso machine). You will want to tamp the grounds into the filter, slightly turning as you push down.

portafilter filled with espresso coffee grounds, tamper
Photo By: Monstar Studio

Do this repeatedly until you have just enough space at the top of the portafilter for brewing. This tamping process will eliminate any air pockets that may form, leaving you with an even distribution of the grounds in the filter. Then you can wipe away any remaining grounds from the rim of the filter.

Once you have tamped to an even level, you can lock the portafilter in the machine. Grab a glass/glasses, preferably clear so you can watch the shot develop, see the levels separate, and the crema form on the top, set it under your filter and start brewing.

Note: Be sure to run the espresso machine for a few seconds before you lock in the portafilter. This will purge any remaining grounds on the group head (where you lock in the portafilter) from the previous brew.


Watching The Clock

If you really want to make sure you have the best shot of espresso, you will want to time your shots (how long it takes to brew). A single shot should take anywhere from 18-23 seconds to brew, while a double shot should take anywhere from 24-30 seconds to brew.

espresso decorated with clock
Photo By: Marina Keremkhanova

If your brew time is too short, you mostly likely have ground your coffee too coarse. If your brew time is too long, your coffee grounds are most likely too fine. So you can tinker around until you find the right size for your machine and what you like. I could go on and on with how to do it, but you will be the ultimate decision maker in how you want to make your morning shot.

Note: Be sure to clean out your portafilter after each use so coffee debris doesn’t get built up inside of it.

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Sweet Sweet Espresso

espresso machine, coffee
Photo By: Jonathan Borba

You are the ultimate judge on how you want your espresso to taste. So if your not happy with the results, try, try again, until you get it just the way you like it. Brewing any type of coffee drink is an art, it takes patience, practice, and knowledge to achieve the perfect cup.

If you appreciate coffee like I do, then you understand what I mean.  Coffee time is my time! Make it your time too, in the comfort of your own home.

Now that all the hard work is done, you can enjoy your sweet sweet espresso!


If you would like to leave any comments or have any questions about this post, please leave them in the comment section below.  I would love to hear from you!

For the Love of Coffee





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