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How to make espresso

Espresso coffee is the world’s leading form of coffee. It has become firmly ingrained in Italian coffee culture, where ordering “un caffè” will produce an espresso every time, and has spread all over the world to become the most consumed type of coffee globally. Espresso shot styles such as espresso, lungo, or ristretto can be mixed with foamed or steamed milk to form popular espresso drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes. Alternatively, enjoy espresso straight for a powerful and traditional espresso coffee experience.

The espresso coffee brewing method consists of pressing hot, pressurized water through a puck of ground espresso coffee at approximately nine bars (130 PSI) of pressure. Beyond these characteristics, espresso coffee brewing is extremely varied from method to method and from machine to machine. 

The coffee puck is formed of very finely-ground espresso coffee beans, though not so finely ground as to block the pores in the basket or portafilter. Achieving the exact perfect espresso ground coffee is a fine art as the ideal grain size varies from coffee to coffee and from machine to machine, though all well-ground espresso coffee should exhibit a uniform grain size and shape.

This guide will explain how to make espresso coffee at home to bring out espresso flavors to the standards of cafes and coffee houses. Find the best espresso coffee online with Portfolio Coffee and try out this espresso coffee-making method today!

What you’ll need to make espresso 

what you need to make a espresso Coffee

 

The first step in the process of brewing the perfect espresso coffee at home is to make sure you have the right equipment. 

You will need a grinder. Espresso coffee lovers universally prefer burr grinders. It can be a hand-grinder or an electric grinder but it should be capable of grinding very fine espresso ground coffee.

You will also need an espresso coffee machine. There are many varieties available on the market and they aren’t all bank-busting! There are also manual espresso machines that allow you to pull an espresso shot with the power of your arm and some clever levers. 

A tamper, timer, and scale will all be necessary. A puck rake is optional but useful. 

And, of course, you’ll need some coffee! For the best experience get recently-roasted single-origin whole beans from specialty coffee suppliers. Portfolio Coffee's products are the perfect place to start!

Right, now that you’re set up with all the tools and ingredients, let’s get started…

Can you make espresso without a machine?

Yes! More specifically, you can make espresso coffee without a complex and expensive electric machine. There are hand-press espresso coffee makers on the market that use sophisticated leverage systems to allow you to press the hot water through the espresso coffee puck at the appropriate pressure by hand, usually by correctly depressing and raising a lever attachment. Some of these products feature electric water heaters, though others are completely free from electricity. 

Manual espresso coffee makers take work to master but, once committed to muscle memory and if paired with good, well-ground beans, well-ground, they allow the consistent production of good espresso shots.

Method to make espresso at home 

Method to make espresso at home

 

Grind your selected coffee beans and dose your shot. Most modern grinders will grind to a single dose. This is to preserve the beans and their freshness, as ground coffee goes stale more rapidly than the beans. 

The grind you are aiming for should be fine - similar to that of confectioners’ sugar or baby powder. Consult Portfolio Coffee's Grind Size Chart for further information about which grinds to use for which processes. If you do not have the time to master the grinding process, espresso ground coffee is available!

Remove the portafilter or other basket. Wipe it clean and dry out the basket. Zero the scale and grind between 17 - 20 grams of espresso coffee. Make sure to put a tiny drop of water in with the espresso beans - no more than a single drop - to prevent static retention in the mechanism and chute. 

Once the ground coffee is in the basket, tap it repeatedly and use either your finger or a puck rake to make sure that the espresso coffee is evenly distributed in the basket. Use a tamper to tamp down the puck until you feel mild resistance - this is important to form a firm screen against which the hot water can push and which the hot water must be forced through. Improperly distributed or tamped coffee pucks suffer channeling, ruining the espresso shot with uneven extraction.

Next, prepare the espresso coffee machine. This process will vary from espresso coffee machine to espresso coffee machine, though all will feature some variety of a water heating process and an activation process. 

Once everything is ready, pass boiling water through the group head to make sure everything is hot. Lock the portafilter into place and place a cup under the portafilter.

Start your timer and pull an espresso shot, either by activating your espresso coffee machine or pulling the lever on your manual espresso coffee device. This will involve engaging the group head and watching the espresso coffee machine for a steady stream. The extraction process should last 23-28 seconds. Longer, slower brews require coarser grinds. Quick, under-extracted brews require finer grinds. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy; trust us!

Serve and enjoy your espresso!

Tips to get espresso right

Puck preparation is important. Use a puck distribution tool or a needle to mix the espresso ground coffee in the basket or portafilter before preparing your espresso coffee and make sure that it is evenly mixed throughout to make sure the water moves evenly through it and is not channeled through a thin patch, ruining the espresso shot.

Get the grind right. This may require some experimentation with your specific espresso coffee machine, grinder and setup but once you have found the grind size that best serves your tools, make sure that you are able to consistently produce that grind. 

Remember: too fine and you’ll clog your basket and get channeled. Too coarse and the water will not have enough resistance to be slowed down significantly as it passes through the puck, resulting in an under-extracted espresso shot.

What are the best coffees for espresso?

Straight off the bat, here are some specialty coffees offered by Portfolio Coffee that are perfect for pulling the perfect espresso shot.

Fazenda Sucuri single origin Brazilian coffee is a high-altitude, single-origin natural coffee. It is processed naturally, this means that it is dried in its Yellow Catuai coffee cherry which gives it a lower acidity and a strong, varied flavor. This is a dark roast, silky espresso coffee with notes of dark chocolate

Fazenda Eldorado single origin Brazilian coffee is a single-origin coffee from the renowned Eldorado farm in Brazil. This espresso coffee is a medium roast with a full body, hints of red berries and hazelnut with an aftertaste of smooth chocolate.

Equilibrio blend Brazilian Nicaraguan coffee has notes of chocolate, caramel, and cashews with a light, sweet floral aftertaste. It is a blend of Brazilian coffees from the Alta Mogiana region and Nicaraguan coffee for a unique blended flavor experience.

Fazenda Cachoeira single origin Brazilian coffee is a single-origin coffee from a known farm in Brazil called the Cachoeira farm. It is a clean, citrusy medium-roast with notes of chocolate and caramel. It has a dense body, long and slow aftertaste, and low acidity.

Now, let’s explain what, in general, is considered to make a coffee appropriate for espresso! 

What makes a coffee appropriate for espresso

what make a appropriate espresso coffee

 

Specialty espresso coffee lovers promote single-origin espresso coffee, often from South American and West African countries although India, China, and some South Pacific nations are increasingly producing contender espresso coffees. 

It is agreed that espresso coffee from a single origin can be prepared so as to foreground and highlight that particular coffee’s known strengths and weaknesses, resulting not only in extremely refined espresso coffees specialized to particular taste notes but also strange and wonderful new flavors which are discovered and cultivated all the time. Experimental espresso coffee flavors are an emerging favorite globally!

The more singular the origin, the better, as espresso coffees with known-origin farms outperform espresso coffees with known-origin regions, which in turn outperform espresso coffees for which only the country of origin is known. 

Individual farmers may prize and refine particular qualities in their crops. Minutiae that are not transferable from that particular valley or mountainside create a unique and nuanced flavor when not mixed with other espresso coffees from elsewhere.

Of particular note are espresso coffees are grown at high altitudes in Central America and the northmost countries of South America. The coffee plant is a naturally altitude-adapted plant and high-altitude coffee is typically very productive and aromatically both rich and potent.

Benefits of Espresso Coffee

Aside from being delicious and delivering a refined and interesting espresso flavor experience every time, espresso coffees are high-caffeine drinks. Those who love espresso coffee believe it is good for boosting energy and concentration as well as mood and mental wellbeing.

Straight espresso shots are relatively low-calorie and the caffeine may suppress the appetite, potentially assisting with the reduction of inter-meal snacking and other problematic eating habits, though these benefits are absent from espresso coffee with milk and sugary espresso coffee drinks. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is special about espresso coffee?

It’s partly the process. It’s partly the flavor. It’s partly the atmosphere. 

The process of making espresso coffee, with its specialized machinery, expert knowledge and deep subtlety is alchemical, magical, and transcendent. It is a joy to watch a talented barista pull a perfect shot of espresso and it is an even greater joy to learn how to do so yourself.

The broad, rich, and full espresso flavor profiles offered by extraction processes are difficult to match in any other process. The high-heat, high-pressure brewing environment makes for a complete extraction of all the various groups of aromatic agents that give espresso coffee its irresistible flavor. 

Is espresso better than drip coffee?

Whether or not the individual coffee drinker prefers espresso, pour-over, drip, or filter coffee is a matter of personal preference. However, it is true that certain coffee drinks work best in certain environments. Straight espresso shots or ristretto shots give a brief, powerful espresso coffee experience while the longer-lasting lungo, or coffee-with-milk drinks made from espresso shots, linger at a slightly lower level of intensity. 

Pour-over and drip filter coffees are typically better at expressing the unique, specific nuances of the beans used, while espresso coffees are generally better at extracting a full profile of aromatic compounds for a rich, bold, strong cup.

Is espresso just strong coffee? What is the difference between espresso and regular coffee?

Espresso coffee refers to a specific method of coffee brewing in which hot water is forced through a puck of finely-ground espresso coffee at high pressure (approximately nine bars). 

The extraction of the aromatic compounds that define coffee drinks happens quickly and the contact between the water and the espresso coffee grounds is maximized by the high-pressure environment.

The resulting drink can be, and usually is, strong compared to a filter coffee or pour-over. However, strength is not the defining feature of espresso coffee. Coffee’s many flavors are decided by which aromatic compounds are brought out of the coffee grounds in brewing. The high-pressure espresso brewing pulls some of the more difficult-to-dissolve compounds into the water which gives espresso its rich and full flavor. 

Is espresso healthy for you? Is espresso good for weight loss?

In moderation, espresso coffee is thought to offer potential benefits to heart, blood, and mental health. The mildly stimulating effects of caffeine are thought to improve mood and concentration. 

In excess, espresso coffee may cause caffeine overdose and long-term caffeine overuse effects. Espresso coffee that is heavy in milk and sugar can also have other health impacts not related to the espresso coffee itself.

Straight espresso coffees are typically low in calories. In addition, the potential appetite-suppressant and energy-boosting effects of caffeine may help manage between-meal snacking and overeating issues, making straight espresso a potentially useful part of the toolkit of people who are trying to lose weight. Espresso coffees with milk that feature milk and/or cream and/or sugar are less weight-loss-friendly than their straight, unsweetened counterparts.

All-in-all, it is best to enjoy espresso coffee in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Are cappuccino and espresso the same?

A cappuccino is a type of espresso coffee. It is made with an equal mix of a double espresso shot and steamed milk, topped with steamed milk foam and (usually) powdered chocolate. Cappuccinos are named after the similarity between the color of a properly made cappuccino and the color of the robes worn by the monks of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.

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