How to make espresso coffee

Make great espresso coffee at home

This guide is based on how to make espresso coffee at home using your espresso machine.  There are of course other ways to make an espresso but using an espresso maker is now one of the most popular.

As with anything How to make espresso at homeelse, you get what you pay for, so be prepared to spend a little extra to make sure you get a good quality machine that will give you a sensational cup, and do everything you want it to.


Each machine will have their own recommendations on weight and measurements, so the information given here is a rough guide on how to make espresso coffee at home.

What is espresso?


The word ‘espresso’ actually refers to how the coffee is brewed, and this involves two methods:

    1. Hot water:  forced under high pressure through a packed layer of ground coffee so the extraction provides a thick concentrated beverage that is highly flavorful.
    2. Made fresh:  each cup of espresso should be made fresh with freshly roasted coffee beans that are ground moments before you make the espresso.

What makes the perfect espresso?

‘Machelli’ according to the Italians, is what makes the perfect espresso, and they should know!

There are 4 M’s involved to get the beverage just right, and each one is very important:

La Macchina…the machine

La Miscela…the coffee blend

La Macinadosatore…the grind and the dose

La Mano…the person making it

The perfect espresso will have a wonderfully thick reddish-brown crema balancing on top and should always be served hot in a warmed demitasse cup.

If you’re grinding the coffee beans yourself, then use a “burr” grinder and not a blade grinder.  A burr grinder will enable you to finely grind the coffee beans down to the size you want, which for espresso is roughly the particle size of table salt.

However, if haven’t got a grinder you can buy your espresso coffee from the supermarket.  Shop bought “espresso roast” tends to be made up of dark brown beans.  This is misleading really as espresso coffee is mainly a blend of beans that range from dry milk chocolate colored beans through to oily black beans.  Nearly any bean can be used for espresso, except for cinnamon roasts and very light roasts.

If in any doubt, visit your local roaster who will be able to advise you, or alternatively there is a lot of roasters online such as Sweet Maria’s who sell a fantastic range of coffee, and also sample sets so you can try a few and decide which you like best.

Other things to consider when making espresso coffee

        • make sure your espresso machine is VERY CLEAN and any remaining coffee grounds have been cleaned out…this is so important.
        • preheat your portafilter and cup by pulling a blank shot; running water through the machine and into the cup will maintain your shot’s temperature during the process.
        • only grind your coffee beans just before making your espresso as this will give you a fresh cup.

          Make Espresso at home

          Make sure your coffee is leveled off and is nice and even.

        • use filtered water if possible, if not, then fresh tap water.
        • ensure your coffee grounds are always leveled off in the basket so you don’t get under-extraction or over-extraction.

What could go wrong?


My espresso is too sour and acidic
this might be due to:

        • water in the machine is too cold.  Remember to pull a blank shot prior to making your espresso so it will be at the right temperature.
        • your coffee beans might have been too lightly roasted to make a good espresso.
        • the problem might be with your coffee beans, they could either have been not ground enough and are too coarse.
        • not enough coffee has been used so your dose could be too low, try using more coffee and this might solve the problem.

My espresso is very bitter
this might be due to:

        • the water is too hot.
        • the machine hasn’t been properly cleaned since it was last used.
        • your roast might be too dark.
        • the grind could be too fine giving a slow, over-extracted shot.
        • you might have used too much coffee meaning the dose is too high.

What should the perfect espresso look like?

Whilst your machine is making you a shot of espresso it will put the coffee through several processes during extraction, such as emulsifying the non-soluble oils forming the crema.

The crema is the velvety light tan colored liquid that settles on top of the darker liquid as a smooth and creamy layer.  It’s also known as the ‘Guinness effect’ by some.

In technical terms, your espresso should not have less than 1/10th crema.

Make espresso coffee at home

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But what if it does have less?  What if it has more?  What if you’ve made an amazingly tasty and aromatic espresso coffee you love?

If you’ve followed the basic guidelines here then you won’t go wrong, but choosing a good espresso machine plays an important part in helping you make great espresso coffee at home.






Sources – Espresso 101 – Coffee 101 infographic

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