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How to Make An Espresso – A Beginner’s Guide

Making the perfect espresso involves quite simple steps in a sense that most of the job is done by your espresso machine. However it’s still not going to be perfect without your intervention – meaning your coffee-making skills and other important brewing variables like type of water, type of coffee beans, and machine temperature among others should all be taken into play.

Since this is a beginner’s guide, let us get down to the basics first. Maybe you just bought a new espresso machine or you’ve just decided to make your own espresso at home instead of spending your money on it every day at your local coffee shop. Whichever it is, you probably want to learn the essential steps on how to make an espresso, and eventually make it perfect for your taste.

First, what is an espresso?

Espresso is one way to brew coffee. It isn’t a type of coffee bean or a type of roast. When making espresso, you (with the help of the machine) technically push hot water through compact coffee grounds at high pressure.

When you see bags of coffee labeled as espresso, it’s either because the beans were already ground to fine size for espresso brewing or it’s a blend that’s made specifically to taste like espresso when brewed.

Once you purchase a bag of beans, you have to make sure that the beans remain fresh – should be no more than 2 weeks from the roast date and ground right before brewing. Certain aromatics and oils can evaporate from ground coffee within 20 minutes of grinding so it’s crucial that you dose and compact the coffee into a basket or portafilter quickly.

Important Brewing Variables to Consider

Grind: Making espresso requires finer grinds compared to other methods of brewing. Think: particles like table salt. In this case, burr grinders are highly recommended because they produce more even grind and also won’t overheat and cook your coffee.

Water: Too many times, you probably won’t care about the water you use for brewing but in truth, it plays a crucial role in achieving the perfect espresso. Too much unnecessary minerals and sediments may affect the taste of your espresso so it’s important that you know the quality of your water before brewing. You can always ask your local water source for details of your water quality and if that’s not available, you can use a simple carbon filter to get rid of unnecessary particles from your water.

Dose: The standard serving size for a double-shot espresso is usually 18-21 grams of coffee. More coffee means increase in both body and intensity. The dose is, of course, based on the taste you prefer so you can always adjust accordingly. For accuracy, you can also use a gram scale to measure your coffee.


Temperature: Ideally, 195-205F is used when heating water. You will find that some espresso machines will allow you to control the temperature.

Tamping: Since espresso means concentrated way of making coffee, tamping is generally high-pressured creating a restriction in the flow of water which will then force coffee and water to interact. A 30-pound press applied evenly is usually needed. For even extraction, tamping has to be firm and even.

Yield: Start with a 30-gram yield and then depending on your dose and the size of your basket, you can aim for about 2 ounces of espresso out. This is enough to fill a large shot glass.

Time: For a double-shot espresso at 2 ounces, you can expect about 25-30 seconds between the start of extraction and the time your shot glass is full.

Materials to Use:

  • Espresso machine that has solid components, stable temperatures, and a sensible interface
  • Grinder– burr grinder is best since it produces finer grounds
  • Filter – some espresso machines already have this; use a two-spouted portafilter then insert a double basket


  • Tamper– pick one that best fits your portafilter basket
  • Gram scale – use to measure weight, monitor consistency, and produce accurate results
  • Shot glass – a regular shot glass will do but if you want to be very accurate with the espresso you’re pulling, you can use a volumetric shot glass

Steps to Make an Espresso

  1. Place your portafilter on a gram scale and weigh it.
  2. Purge your espresso machine’s grouphead thoroughly with hot water.
  3. Use a burr grinder to grind between 18-21 grams of coffee into your basket.
  4. Make sure the coffee grounds are even in your basket. You can use your finger to distribute the coffee evenly through alternating swipes. Swipe your finger to alternate sides of the basket (top to bottom then left to right) in a series of 90-degree increments.
  5. Put the portafilter on a clean and stable surface. Position your tamper on top of the grounds, making sure that your arm is forming a 90-degree angle.
  6. Apply downward pressure (20-30 pounds of pressure will do) for the coffee to be evenly sealed.tamping
  7. Spin the tamper gently. This spin should smooth or even out the coffee grounds for a more polished and accurate extraction.
  8. Place the portafilter with the coffee grounds back to the machine’s grouphead and start your shot.
  9. Watch as your shot drips slowly and gently at first, eventually creating an even stream or flow of coffee. Just near the 30-second mark, stop the shot just before it starts to thicken and turn yellow.

And that’s just about it; you are now ready to serve your espresso shot! If you made it for yourself, take pride in making your own. If it’s for someone else, you can prepare a tablespoon because some people want to stir their espresso while some people prefer to sip it immediately to get that extra kick right.

Enjoy your espresso!

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