Espresso, mistakenly spelled and pronounced as expresso, is probably the most famous way to brew coffee. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a type of roast or a type of coffee bean. It’s actually a method—a beautiful, systematized method. As a matter of fact, any type of coffee can be an espresso, the resulting tastes will just differ.
To make an espresso is to include pressure. This method requires you to push hot water through a tight puck of coffee grounds at high pressure, normally nine times stronger than the atmospheric pressure at sea level.
Store-bought coffee bags with the label “espresso” means the coffee grounds are fine and ideal for the espresso method. Either that or it’s a mixture made that can create balanced flavors when it’s brewed the espresso way.
Anyway, enough with the introduction. Let’s get to work!
Add cold water to the machine’s reservoir. Make sure the water is filtered. Don’t use distilled water; it’ll damage the boiler, unfiltered water will make the coffee taste weak, and hard water will gather up in the machine.
Switch your espresso machine on and let it heat up. Don’t rush this step. The time will depend on how big your machine is, but it usually takes 15 to 45 minutes. When will you know if it’s high time for brewing? Not as soon as it reached the brewing temperature, but when the machine feels warm.
Grab the portafilter and lock it in the grouphead before letting the machine run for a couple of seconds. This step is essential in bringing fresh water to the front and heating up the components that are nearest to your coffee. After running the machine, clean the portafilter’s inner part as well as the grouphead’s underside. Ensure that they’re entirely clean and 99% dry.
This is a ground test. I repeat, this is a ground test. To examine for proper fineness and to remove stale grounds from your grinder, grind a small number of beans. The coffee must look powdery and loosely cluster. Still, when you rub them between your clean fingers, they should feel sandy.
Now it’s time to grind the real coffee. This is no longer a test! Add 18 to 21 grams of ground coffee to your portafilter. While the coffee is exiting the chute, turn the portafilter to allow the grounds to evenly fall in the basket. With your forefinger, flatten the grounds.
With your wrist, arm, and elbow directly placed over the middle of your portafilter basket, start tamping. Be sure that you’re evenly pressing with your fingertips and that they’re feeling the edge of the basket. Check the dry puck; the bed should be level.
Place the portafilter back to the grouphead and start brewing. Some machines provide a pre-brew stage. If your machine has this separate stage, do this one first. That will emit the stored gases prior to the full infusion. Do this stage until you start seeing the first drops make their way out of the portafilter.
Start the infusion and end brew. You can begin at two fluid ounces or about 30 grams. Before you serve this, make sure you stir or pour the espresso into a new cup.
And that’s it! If you’re unfamiliar with the parts of an espresso machine, I suggest you get to know the machine and their functions first. We’ve written a guide on how to choose the best espresso machine for basic home needs.