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A Beginner’s Guide to Making Espresso

A Beginner’s Guide to Making Espresso

So you've finally decided to be a coffee aficionado and join the delightful world of espresso.  Espresso may be one of the most intense, purest, and delicious ways of enjoying coffee. Learning to make a great espresso will make you feel like you're in coffee heaven, even if the process looks like a science experiment. This guide will walk you through the basics so you can begin your espresso adventure as smoothly as possible.

Image courtesy of Earl Of Coffee


What is Espresso?


Espresso is simply coffee that is brewed under pressure. Hot, pressurized water passing through a finely-ground “puck” of coffee creates the complex and delightful flavors of the highly-concentrated beverage that we proudly call espresso. The result is a far more flavorful and bolder drink than your average cup of coffee.  


Tips for Making Espresso


When considering how to make espresso, we suggest first settling on a quality espresso machine. Earl Of Coffee has a number of great suggestions for espresso machines for beginners, and machines that work best for at-home use. Find the machine that fits your needs.


Image courtesy of Earl Of Coffee


Making a great espresso is not difficult, but it does require practice and precision. A few easy steps can get you started on the right track:


  1. Choose the right coffee beans
  2. Dial in on the right grind and dose size
  3. Tamp your grounds
  4. Lock in the portafilter
  5. Brew


Choose the Right Beans


Picking the right beans is an often overlooked first step to creating a delicious shot. Espresso extraction is a much more concentrated brewing method than other methods, making bean quality especially crucial. Use fresh beans that have been opened within the last two weeks. We recommend using a light or medium roast for a more complex flavor.


Freedom Hill Espresso Roast is a great choice for making espresso. The medium-dark espresso roast has a rich flavor profile well-suited for espresso style coffee, as well as drip, French press and pour over brewing methods.


Dialing In on Grind and Determining Dose


When making espresso, the grind of the bean directs flavor by affecting the shot's extraction time. The ideal grind size for making espresso will be a little finer than granulated sugar. You’ll know whether you’ve achieved the perfect grind by how long it takes to extract your shot. A shot of 2.5 ounces should extract within 25 to 30 seconds. If the shot extracts too quickly, go for a finer grind. If it is too slow, try a coarser setting. When you have dialed in on the right grind, you may find that the grounds clump together.


The dose, or amount of dry grounds required, will depend on your machine’s portafilter basket size, your flavor preference, and whether you want to make a single, double, or triple shot. For example, the standard dose for a double shot is about 16 to 18 grams of coffee.


Image courtesy of Earl Of Coffee


Tamping the Grounds


Tamping is indispensable to making excellent espresso. The goal of tamping your grounds in the portafilter is to build a consistent surface through which the brewing water can flow evenly.


When the grounds are in the portafilter basket, shake it lightly from side-to-side to distribute the grounds equally and level it off by brushing your finger across its surface.  On a level surface, use your tamper to apply a firm but measured amount of pressure to the grounds. We suggest using around 30 pounds of pressure to start.


Make sure not to over tamp or use too much force, or you can create small fractures, known as channeling, in the puck of coffee. When brewed, the water will flow through the channel rather than the puck, creating an uneven or poor extraction.




After you've tamped down your coffee, lock the portafilter into the brew head and let the brewing begin. Again, aim for about 25 seconds of brewing time for your standard 2.5 ounce shot. Now go enjoy your very first shot of espresso! 


Image courtesy of Earl Of Coffee


Enjoy the Espresso Journey


Preparing your espresso shot can vary from a regular, everyday habit to a full-fledged hobby. It’s all about the time and enthusiasm you put into it. We wish you all the best in your espresso journey!



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