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Espresso

Whether you are a fan of drinking pure espresso, or prefer a smooth-sipping latte or cappuccino, learning how to make your perfect espresso shot is essential to recreating your favorite cafe flavors from home. 

Using far less water than any other coffee brewing method (just two parts water to one part coffee!), great espresso is notable for its concentrated flavors and syrupy body. While this beloved beverage can be enjoyed alone, espresso and steamed milk is widely regarded as a match made in caffeine heaven.

If you've read our blog on what espresso is, then you already know that the term "espresso" refers to both the popular brewing method and the resulting beverage. While any coffee can technically be brewed as espresso, our coffees with espresso in the title indicate an ideal roast and flavor profile for the method described below.

This brew guide details how we make espresso at our cafes with semi-automatic espresso machines: the type with a paddle/level/knob where you both manually start and stop the water flow, like La Marzocco espresso machines. If you have an automatic espresso machine, like the Breville Bambino, we will note those differences in the Pro-Tips section below.*

 

Recommended Coffee to Water Ratio1:2 (intense, rich)

 

What you'll need

  • Semi-automatic espresso machine (with portafilter)
  • Espresso tamper
  • Fresh coffee, fine ground for espresso (18g)
  • Espresso glass or cup
  • Timer


Prep

  1. Have your clean cup ready! The first step of brewing espresso is knowing exactly where it's going. Any espresso glass or ceramic cup will be great— just ensure it is small enough to fit comfortably underneath the portafilter of your espresso machine.
  2. Always start your espresso brew with a clean station and machine. Before dosing out any new coffee, remove your portafilter and set it off to the side.
  3. Flush the the group head of your espresso machine with 2-3 seconds of fresh water so there is no old residual coffee getting into your new shot.
  4. Wipe your portafilter basket clean & dry it to ensure that the fresh coffee you fill it with doesn't stick to the edge. Now we're ready for new coffee!


Brew

  1. Fill the basket of your portafilter with fresh ground coffee, paying attention to distribute the grounds evenly. Most machines use a "double" basket and comfortably hold about 18 grams of coffee (that's what we are using for the reference for this recipe). Pay attention and don't overfill your basket, you want a little space once it's tamped.
  2. Rest the lip of your portafilter on a flat, durable surface, with the basket facing up towards you. Take your espresso tamper and hold it like you would a doorknob. Tamp (or "press down") the ground coffee consistently, level, and ergonomically. Note that the ground coffee should now be packed tight, well below the top of the portafilter basket.
  3. Clean any loose coffee of the sides of the portafilter, especially the "ears" (the two metal components on either side of your portafilter). This is to ensure that excess ground coffee does not get into your espresso machine. 
  4. Insert the portafilter back into your espresso machine and center your cup or glass directly beneath it. Get your timer ready!
  5. Now it's brew time. Immediately start the espresso shot by turning the paddle/lever/knob on your espresso machine to the opposite side. Start your timer and observe the flow of espresso into your vessel. For the 18 gram shot a "perfect" extraction will be 1.5-2oz (30-40g) of espresso, brewed in 25-30 seconds. If your basket is smaller you should expect less espresso, but try to take the same time to extract it, if it's bigger you can extract more. Generally try to make espresso using a 1:2 ratio, or getting about 1 oz of espresso per 9g of coffee used. It only gets easier with practice!
  6. Serve your espresso, or use it to make your espresso-based drink (latte, capuccino, machiatto, mocha, etc.)



Pro Tips

  • Using your espresso to make a latte? Keep on learning with our beginner's guide on how to steam milk for a latte and how to make latte art, where we talk about easy methods for making a heart and a rosetta.
  • After you finish brewing, don't forget the clean-up— future you will thank you! Remove the portafilter, knock out spent coffee into your compost, wipe the portafilter basket clean, flush the group head with water, and depending on your espresso machine, return the portafilter to the group head to keep the portafilter heated.
  • When you can, always try to grind your coffee fresh! Pre-ground coffee loses its flavor quickly, especially when ground fine for espresso. Grinding your coffee fresh from home will ensure you're brewing coffee with peak flavor retention. Here at Equator Coffees, our home coffee grinder of choice is the Fellow Opus.
  • *If you own an Automatic Espresso Machine, your machine automates the total brew time. Instead of pulling a paddle to start and stop the brew, you will generally be pushing a button. And if you own this machine, there's no need for your own timer— automatic espresso machines stop your brew on their own. Still be sure to follow our instructions above about filling and tamping your portafilter, as well as any additional cleaning protocols your machine dictates.
  • Other "Super Automatic" machines may even grind the beans for you, dose the coffee, time the brew, add steamed milk, and clean themselves. With these machines, there may be no need for many of the manual steps we outline in this guide, but make sure you are still using freshly-roasted coffee meant for espresso.