Espresso is an Italian beverage famous for its “crema’ – the brown foam sitting on top. The taste is usually intense, with amplified bitterness and sweet/acidic accents, making it a preferred drink of millions of people worldwide.
Unfortunately for espresso drinkers, the beverage tends to be quite expensive when you consider how little of it you get. If you plan to enjoy it regularly, it might be more economical in the long run to learn the recipe yourself. But how do you pull the perfect espresso shot of the kind served by professionals?
You’d be surprised to know that the process isn’t complicated. First of all, you’ll need some equipment and espresso accessories. Once you have that, all that’s left is to follow the preparation process step by step.
Purchase the Necessary Tools
To make your typical home-brewed coffee requires nothing more than a cup and a kettle full of steaming hot water. With espresso, however, the situation is different.
You can’t make a perfect espresso shot without investing first in several appliances and devices. In the case of their absence, even the best result would be simply a pale approximation of this tasty beverage.
The first obvious choice of equipment is the espresso machine. You should also invest in a good-quality grinder to reliably reduce your chosen coffee beans to a desired, fine state. Buy a portafilter to hold your coffee grounds during brewing and a tamper to compress the ground coffee products evenly into said container.
You also might need a scale to ensure that you’re maintaining a good coffee to water ratio. Last but not least, you shouldn’t forget about dedicated espresso cups – making the whole drink in a regular mug is not the best idea.
So now that you have these essentials, you can start preparing your first perfect espresso!
Begin with Preheating
It would help if you always started with this step when making espresso. The idea here is to warm up your appliance and the portafilter and the cup before you put your ground coffee in.
The espresso temperature is very important to the outcome of your brewing process. If you start doing your brew without preheating, the espresso might be colder and sometimes even bitter.
To properly preheat everything necessary, you can do a blank shot. In essence, hot water running through these tools will make them warm enough not to steal the heat from the brewing drink.
Grind Your Beans
While everything you consider necessary is preheating, it’s time to reduce your espresso beans from whole to the desired consistency. You might ask yourself, why do it every time you want to brew espresso, instead of grinding the entire bag of beans and putting the result into a tight container?
To put it simply, this way, it’s always fresh. No matter how good your seals are, the coffee might lose some of its perfect flavors after some time. So play it safe and grind your coffee each time you want a drink.
If your espresso beans end up too finely ground, your shot might taste bitter and burnt. On the other hand, if the bean fragments are too big, the entire drink might come out too weak and watery. Try to aim for something similar in texture to sugar.
Now that your coffee is finely ground, it’s time to put it into the portafilter. Be aware that the amount you place in the container will impact the espresso shot itself. For example, if you want to enjoy some double shot espresso, it’s best to fill your portafilter with 14 to 18 grams of ground product.
But how are you supposed when enough is enough? That’s why a proper kitchen scale is so necessary. It doesn’t need to be a particularly high-end model – even a basic one should be sufficient to measure the right amount.
Now that you have coffee in your container, it’s time to make sure it’s well distributed. It’s best to use a tamper to press it evenly, removing unwanted spaces under the surface.
What matters here is the consistency – the pressure you apply is not as important as the length of tamping (the finer your ground is, the less time it takes to get the right uniformity). One of the methods you might want to use is holding your elbow at 90 degrees and applying pressure on a portafilter laid on an even surface.
Brew Your Perfect Espresso Shot
Now it’s time for the last step of the process. Take your filled portafilter and lock it into the machine. Make sure your espresso cup is placed under it – you wouldn’t want all this work to go to waste. Once that’s done, pay special attention to time.
If your espresso machine doesn’t have an inbuilt timer, use the one on your phone. Ideally, the first part of your soon-to-be-made shot should be rather dark and, after a while, turn to a golden brown color. The volume for a single shot is usually around 30ml (1 oz.) with around 20 to 30 seconds of brewing.
If the time differs significantly from these estimates, chances are that either your grind, dose, or tamp is insufficiently well done. Moreover, check your crema for color (preferably hazelnut) and density (quite thick) for additional clues. But don’t worry if it’s not ideal on your first try; repeat the process until you get the desired state – practice makes perfect!
As you can see, brewing your own espresso shots isn’t a very complicated process. All you need is a bit of guidance and the right tools, and you’ll be making amazing espresso shots with ease. Just remember to follow the process step by step and pay attention to your ingredients and end products as much as possible. Don’t forget to experiment and see what works best for you – the best espresso in the world is one you prefer the most! Good luck!