5 tips to the perfect espresso at home

For the majority of coffee lovers it’s true that they haven’t been expertly trained or certified as a barista, but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to be without the skills to pull a perfect espresso in the warmth and comfort of their own home. If you looking to learn how to make an espresso or perhaps just pick up some espresso making tips – read on.

Who doesn't want a perfectly made espresso for breakfast? Beautiful, aromatic, refreshing. Yum!

Who doesn’t want a perfectly made espresso for breakfast? Beautiful, aromatic, refreshing. Yum!

Espresso pulling is often seen as a treturous task, often left to the pro’s in the expensive high street shops. Well you don’t need to be cautious, with a little bit of guidance (and practise) you’ll have the beautiful dark strong taste of espresso within moments.

Inspired by a beautiful infographic produced for the guys over at DailyShotOfCoffee, we have listed 5 simple steps to help you break into the world of excellent espressos, pulled by your own fair hands.

Stage one, retrieve those beans

First thing is first, you need some good beans. If you start off with a poor choice of bean, you’re going to struggle to get anything but a poor espresso. If possible grab yourself some espresso grade coffee beans, preferably organic and fair-trade, or order some espresso roast whole beans online.

We’d always recommend using beans over bought grounds as the taste is just that much superior. If you can only get your hands on espresso grounds, don’t worry, that’ll still make a nice hot espresso beverage to enjoy.

Now that you’ve got your espresso beans, you need to keep them safe from the environment. Like any food product, coffee beans will spoil from exposure to extreme temperatures, water moisture, light etc. Keep them in an air tight container, preferably something like a Vacuvin Coffee Saver if you fancy splashing out.

Stage two, the hard grind!

If you’re unaware why bought grounds sometimes say ‘for espressos only’, or state they’re only for drip machines, that’s because the size of the granules in the grounds makes a big difference to each method of brewing.

The size of the grounds should be uniform whatever brewing process you’re using. Larger sized grounds allow water to pass through them quicker, smaller grounds restrict the flow considerably. This means that if you pull an espresso with grounds that are to course you’ll get a weak and disappointing drink liquid at the end. Conversely, to finer grounds and you’ll get an over-extracted espresso that tastes bitter.

Example of a burr grinder. Sugar grain sized grounds work best for espressos

Example of a burr grinder. Sugar grain sized grounds work best for espressos. This DeLonghi grinder costs only £40

If your grinder doesn’t have a pre-set setting for the perfect espresso grind, we recommend experimenting until you get the grounds down to the size of granulated sugar. That size should produce a beautiful espresso every time.

If possible, only grind a day or twos worth of beans at any one time. The fresher the grounds the smoother the espresso will taste. Obviously if you’re rushing around after children (or husbands/wives) in the morning, perhaps grinding a few extra days worth of beans in advance won’t hurt.

Don’t forget, keep those grounds sealed away in a container too. Not too much light, moisture or temperature change makes for a happy ground bean.

Stage three, the amount of espresso grounds

Now you’ve got the perfect grounds, ground down from your well-kept beans, how much do you use per espresso?

16 grams of espresso grounds produce a great finish and taste

16 grams of espresso grounds produce a great finish and taste

Well, it usually goes that a double shot takes about 16 grams of espresso grounds to produce a good finish and taste. Some people tweak this up or down, but if you’re unsure, start with 16g. Obviously some fine scales help here, until you know how much your grounds equate to on a spoon, then you can probably do it by eye after a while.

Reducing the grams will make for a smoother and more subtle drink, while cramming in a few extra grams will give you an extra kick if you’ve had a particularly short nights sleep.

Stage four, tamping the grounds

If you’re new to the world of home barista work, tamping is a term you’re probably not familiar with. It is the motion of compacting and condensing the grounds into the portafilter with precision so that the grounds are correctly spaced.

This is a hard stage to convey in written words, but the commercial standard of pressure for tamping is 30lbs, but who knows what that feels like?! Well you’ll have to experiment here, just make sure you apply the pressure evenly and on a flat surface.

Stage five, blissful execution

Now it comes down to the espressos final performance piece, the pour. Place your preheated portafilter and glasses into the machine and begin timing as you start the pull.

Ddouble EspressoYou’re looking for a 20-30 second pull, if its much different to that then you should re-adjust your tamp or grounds until you full within the crucial time frame.

You’re aiming for a pour that looks like the classic espresso drink. To begin with the liquid should be dark as it pours into the glass, then it’ll turn into the light golden crema fluid.

You can see what to aim for in the picture on the right.

Stage six… enjoy

Okay so there’s six stages to pulling the perfect espresso – but this stage isn’t a tough one. Sit back and enjoy that beautiful espresso beverage you’ve just made. Isn’t that the perfect way to start the morning.

Drink up 🙂

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