If you didn’t know already, the key to a great tasting espresso beverage is the shot (or shots) of espresso itself. Even if you have the best machines, the best beans, the best milk and syrups, and whatever else, if you can’t pull a good shot of espresso, your beverage will not be anywhere near what it could be.
If you’re drinking the espresso by itself, it’s going to be an even worse experience.
Now, it would be great if perfect espresso shots could be fully automated and easy enough for everyone to make right off the bat, but that’s not how things are. The truth is that a perfect espresso shot is reliant upon a number of factors that go beyond the espresso machine, beans, and your own skills.
Fortunately, brewing a perfect espresso shot is definitely possible, and fairly easy with a little practice -- and all the right tools and ingredients.
Read on to find out how to master the perfect shot of espresso.
- Espresso Machine
- Filtered Water
- High Quality Coffee
Here are instructions for make perfect espresso.
Perfect espresso starts with the not just the beans themselves, but getting them ground to the right consistency.
Start by first purchasing high-quality beans from either a local roaster, or a reputable national roaster. Many different types of beans can be used for espresso, but we recommend something a little darker, just past a medium roast. This gives the coffee a fuller and more balanced flavor, while avoiding the excess oil amounts found with dark roasts.
Now for the grinding part. You have a lot of different options in terms of grinders, but an electric burr grinder is going to be the easiest, especially if it has a dispenser that’s made for portafilters, allowing you to grind and then dispense into the basket.
The grinding consistency is key. If you go too fine on the grind, the water will come out too slow and get clogged in the portafilter. Use too course of a grind, and the water will pass through the grounds too fast, resulting in a weaker shot with less flavor.
The ideal espresso grind consistency should be similar to grains of table salt. If it seems powdery, you’ve gone too far. If it looks like standard drip brewer ground coffee, it needs to be ground longer.
The next step is to add the proper amount of coffee to the portafilter basket. You should be able to fill the basket past the top, and then tap it on the counter to settle down some. You can then use your finger or tamper handle to level off the grounds.
If you need to make two shots, you’ll need anywhere from 14-18 grams, and half of that for one shot. Most of the time, your portafilter basket will have just enough space for whichever shot amount you’ve selected, depending on if it's for a single or double shot.
Tamping is essential for making sure the coffee is compacted down for optimal brewing. Take the portafilter and place it on a level surface. Then take the tamper and lightly press down across the top of the grounds, and then apply the pressure all around if needed.
Give the ground one final, firmer push, and the top of the ground should now have a glossy, smooth appearance. Be careful to not press down too hard, as it will restrict water flow.
Now you’re ready to brew. After your water has heated up and the pump is ready, turn on your brewer using the appropriate switch or button. Using a kitchen timer or stopwatch on your phone, begin timing the shot as soon as the espresso start pouring into the cup.
If you’ve used the correct grind, amount, and tamped it right, the espresso should be dark when it first comes out, before quickly turning into more of a golden brown color. As it pours out, the shots should have a honey-like consistency. If it’s dripping, it’s too fine, and if it’s rushing out, your grinds are loose and/or too coarse.
The shots should be within 12-20 seconds if you’re pulling a double. You can time single shots using half that time frame, but double shots are much more accurate.
If your shots meet all of the above criteria, you’ve got the perfect shot! Enjoy.
Pulling a perfect shot is a great feeling when you accomplish it. Although it may take some practice, the payoff is certainly worth it. With just a little practice, you can acquire the feel and skills needed to routinely pull perfect shots every time, providing a superior coffee experience at home.