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Cheat’s espresso at home

Cheat’s espresso at home


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Nobody could deny that the world of coffee can be intimidating. Despite being a huge fan of the drink (obviously), I understand how utterly insufferable geekery on the subject can be. Most coffee drinkers couldn’t give two hoots about brew time, grind, water temperature, roast or origin, as I’m often reminded by friends, family, colleagues and occasionally strangers in cafes.

What most consumers enjoy is the simple pleasure of the drink itself, which is why the enormous popularity of the instant coffee or Nespresso machine is so understandable; foolproof, quick, and produces no mess.

Really excellent coffee is an art but, for many people, art is neither appropriate nor desirable as part of a daily routine. Truly understanding coffee takes time, patience and genuine inclination, and this, coupled with the need for access to expensive, specialist equipment, is especially true of espresso.

The traditional espresso

Espresso is a dangerous beast, because the drink’s intensity means bad flavours – oily, sour, hyper-acidic – can become overwhelmingly obvious. Almost anything can be masked by rich milk or sweet syrups, which is why coffee chains can get away with their often-horrifyingly sour espresso. However, by the same token, espresso can bring out the flavours of good coffee magnificently.

The flavour, of course, is not just down to the coffee. The contributing factors to good, traditional espresso are many: dose (weight) of coffee, roast date and darkness, grind consistency (espresso grind is far finer than filter), steady water temperature, length of extraction… the list goes on. All of that means good-quality coffee and large, impractical and very expensive equipment.

The cheat

So what options are open to those who can’t invest the money and time necessary to perfect a true espresso? In my experience there are two that are reasonable for both the wallet and average kitchen – the moka pot and the AeroPress.

Espresso-lovers will be clamouring that what the AeroPress produces is not in fact true espresso but a very strong filter coffee. They will likely also be spitting with rage over the fact that neither produce a “crema” – that gorgeous, velvety, golden foam that sits on top of espresso. However, for a cheat’s version that you can incorporate into your daily grind, these two methods can, with good ingredients, produce a gorgeous taste and are well worth the time of coffee enthusiasts of all levels.

Long before I knew anything at all about coffee, I used a moka pot – or a stovetop espresso maker as they’re often referred to. In those days I knew nothing whatsoever of roasts or grind consistencies, which is probably why my memories of these early cups are filled with bitterness and pulled faces.

It’s remarkably easy to screw up a stovetop coffee because it is still somewhat dependent on roast, grind, water and brew time. It is also frustratingly difficult to keep your moka pot free from that awful metallic taste that creeps up on them after very little use. With all this in mind, I’d say that the moka pot is a fairly admirable way of achieving a cheat’s espresso, but still too much of a specialist procedure with too much potential for error. It’s therefore somewhat surprising that the moka pot is perhaps the most commonly-used economical method of producing an espresso-like drink in the home.

The AeroPress, on the other hand, is specialist only in terms of the quality of the coffee it produces. I use mine daily because of its practicality, its efficiency and, above all, its unfailing guarantee of a magnificent cup of coffee – although 99% of the time I use it for filter-style.

The machine’s magnificently simple design means it can produce almost any ratio of coffee to water, including short and very strong coffee – much like espresso, albeit without the crema. Keeping your AeroPress clean is also beyond easy – once the grounds and circular paper filter have been compressed into a kind of puck, it can simply be popped into the compost (not the bin – don’t be that person), and that’s it – no scrubbing to ward off the oily residue of coffees past. On top of all that, it costs around the same as a reasonable meal out and will probably last you forever (I say probably because, to my knowledge, no AeroPress has ever broken).

There aren’t many instances in which I drink espresso at home – usually it’s for use in baking, or for making long, sinful milky drinks, or even making my own espresso martinis.

It was, in fact, Gennaro’s recent recipe on Drinks Tube for that delightful dark cocktail that inspired me to write this article. Superb as the Italian stallion’s recipe is, it calls for “good espresso” and, well, most people don’t have the good fortune of having one of the gorgeous espresso machines behind the bar at Jamie’s Italian.

If you need espresso at home and don’t fancy forking out for a piece of expensive machinery, my heartfelt recommendation is the AeroPress – however, of course, coffee is a very personal thing.

How do you make your espresso? Let me know and, please, purists, direct all bilious feedback to my editor, for I will frankly be off sipping my cheat’s espresso with ice and vodka and laughing to myself.


Making Espresso Drinks

While there&aposs definitely an art to preparing the perfect espresso drink, the process doesn&apost have to be a foreign concept.

Starting From the Grounds, Up

There are two main types of espresso machines, and they each require a different grind, so first you&aposll want to determine if yours is steam-driven or pump-driven. (Check with the manufacturer or store where you purchased it.) When you buy beans, specify your machine-type and the barista should know how coarse or fine to grind the beans.

If you want to use a home-grinder, read this article for tips on getting the correct grind:

Got Aerated Milk?

Steaming the milk is the first step in preparing an espresso drink, and the trick to getting creamy, velvety quality is aerating as you steam:

  • Fill your milk pitcher no more than half-full (milk will expand when steamed).
  • Submerge the steam wand into milk, then turn the steam wand on.
  • Begin to aerate by lowering the pitcher a bit while guiding the steam wand so the tip is just kissing the surface of the milk.
  • Find that sweet spot where a layer of foam is beginning to form, creating a sprinkler-like sound, but the wand isn&apost blowing big bubbles in the milk.
  • Once you have a layer of foam, submerge the steam wand again. Continue steaming to between 145-165 degrees F.
  • If while steaming, the sound begins to get high pitched, repeat the aeration process, lowering the milk pitcher, until the sound mellows to a soft hum.

When you&aposre done, wipe the steam wand with a wet towel (folded over), then blast the steam wand for a second or two into the towel to blow out any milk that&aposs been caught inside.

Anatomy of an Espresso Shot

Producing quality espresso will be much easier if you become familiar with the three components of a shot. Yes, there will be a little memorization required, but not in the scary biology way.

  • The crema is the top thin layer and sweetest part of an espresso shot. A good crema should be a light golden-brown color.
  • The body makes up the middle and "umph" of the shot and should be a caramel-brown color.
  • The heart is the very bottom of an espresso shot and is the bitter balance to the crema&aposs sweetness. It should be a deep, rich brown color.

For a great example of what shots should look like pouring, empty a can or bottle of Guinness® beer into a pint glass. Notice how it seems to be pouring in rich, creamy layers--dark to light--from the bottom of the pint up. This is exactly how an espresso shot should appear. Just don&apost expect them to taste the same.

Pulling Shots

"Pulling" actually refers to the first espresso machines that had levers to pull down in order for shots to pour. Pulling shots doesn&apost entail quite the workout it once did, but you&aposll still have to put a little muscle into it. Here&aposs what you need to know to pull shots at home:

  • Watering the grounds: for the best results, use filtered water in your espresso machine.
  • Portion control: scoop 4T of grounds into your portafilter to pull two one-ounce shots.
  • Tamp it like you mean it: "tamping" is just a fancy way of saying "packing the coffee grounds down." Use a medium forced tamp to start, then adjust if needed. If your first shots pour too fast: tamp harder too slow: tamp lighter.
  • Timing is everything: in addition to how a shot looks, the amount of time it takes for shots to pour is also a good indication of quality. Two one-ounce shot glasses should take roughly between 12 to 18 seconds to fill.

Now that you understand the basic elements in making an espresso drink, it&aposs time for a coffee break. Ready? Pull!


Espresso Gelato

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Those critical of weak coffee ice cream will appreciate this gelato flavored with bits of finely ground espresso beans and a dose of espresso powder. It will have you wired in no time. For a caffeinated double-chocolate dessert, try it in our Espresso Mud Pie recipe.

Game plan: The unfrozen gelato base can be made up to 2 days in advance, but it needs 3 to 4 hours to harden in the freezer after it’s been processed.


2. Starbucks Lemon Loaf

This soft and moist lemon cake has a sweet and zesty lemon glaze. Just by saying that alone made my mouth water!

This cake is all about consistency. It&rsquos dense but not heavy, and it&rsquos moist and tender.

The lemon and sour cream add a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the cake.

Together, the ingredients create the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

It&rsquos a breeze to bake, to boot. It&rsquos so easy, you can whip up the batter in just one bowl.


Defining the Drinks

Espresso


Let’s start with the foundation. Espresso is not a particular roast, nor a specific kind of grown coffee. Espresso is simply an intensely concentrated coffee drink, produced by forcing hot water through very finely ground coffee. You can use any kind of roasted coffee to make an espresso.

For more tips on espresso preparation, take a look at our resources on How Coffee Extraction Works.

Clive-Recommended Espresso Recipe for Milk Drinks

  • 18-20 grams of ground coffee to yield 30 grams or 1.5 ounces of liquid espresso in 25-30 seconds. We will call this a “double shot”.
  • Grind coffee into your portafilter 18 grams for a double basket, common in spouted portafilters or 20 grams for a triple basket, common in bottomless portafilters
  • Distribute the coffee by giving a few firm taps to the side of the portafilter, then two firm taps against a counter
  • Carefully tamp the coffee, making sure to apply even pressure on the coffee. The tamp should leave a level, evenly compressed puck of ground coffee.
  • Place a small scale on the drip tray. Put your cup on the scale and hit tare. Insert the portafilter into the machine and activate the pump. Turn off the pump once you hit 30 grams of liquid espresso.
  • If the liquid espresso hits 30 grams before 25 seconds, adjust your grind finer. If it hits 30 grams after 30 seconds, adjust your grind coarser.

Americano


Love the flavor of your espresso but wish you had more of it to enjoy? It’s time for you to meet the Americano. An americano is an espresso that has different amounts of hot water added to it.

The drink is commonly attributed to American soldiers living in Italy during World War II. Supposedly, U.S. troops would visit Italian cafes and order coffee. The soldiers didn’t know that when you order a coffee in Italy, you get a 21-gram espresso and not a mug of joe. To accommodate the troops and emulate their cups of filter coffee, Italian baristas got in the habit of adding hot water to espresso.

But isn’t that just a watery coffee? Kind of. Think of it like this: an espresso is very, very concentrated so its flavors are packed tightly together. If you add a little water, you give each flavor a little more space, which makes it easier for you to experience them individually. The more water you add, the more spaced out those flavors become eventually they’ll be so far apart you won’t be able to taste them at all. The trick is to balance the amount of water and espresso–we recommend starting with less water (4 ounces) and adding more until you get the flavor and feel you want.

Americano Recipe | 1:4 Espresso to Water Ratio

  • One double shot of espresso | 4 ounces or 120 milliliters of hot water
  • Add the hot water to the espresso. If you prefer a more diluted americano add more water to taste.

Macchiato


Before we get into the drink, a quick Italian lesson. The word macchiato means marked. When it comes to coffee, there are two ways a drink can be “marked”.

One way is to “mark” an espresso with a small amount of steamed milk, a cafe macchiato (translation: marked coffee). This small beverage (2-3 ounces total) is a classic Italian drink if you were to walk up to a Venetian coffee bar and order a macchiato, this is exactly what you’d receive. The small amount of milk can add a little sweetness and help soften some of the more intense coffee.

Espresso Macchiato Recipe | 1:1 Espresso to Milk Ratio

  • One double shot of espresso | 1 ounce or 30 milliliters of steamed milk with plenty of foam
  • Pull a double shot of espresso. Steam approximately 3 ounces of milk. For a foamier, classic macchiato, try to introduce air until the pitcher stops feeling cold,

100°F. Stop steaming once the pitcher feels hot to touch,

The other way is to mark a cup of steam milk with an espresso, a latte macchiato (translation: marked milk). This drink has been popularized in the U.S. by large chains and often features additional flavors. As the ingredients are not integrated from the beginning, latte macchiatos tend to have dramatic changes in flavor: from foamy milk to the intense flavors of the espresso to the final sips of warm milk.

Latte Macchiato | 1:6 Espresso to Milk Ratio
One double shot of espresso | 8 ounces or 240 milliliters of steamed milk with plenty of foam
Pull a double shot of espresso. Steam approximately 6-8 ounces of milk. To create a larger “head” of milk foam, try to introduce air until the pitcher stops feeling cold,

100°F. Stop steaming once the pitcher feels too hot to hold,

140-150°F. Pour the steamed milk into an empty glass, leaving 1-2 ounces of room. Pour a fresh double shot of espresso into the center of the milk.

Cappuccino


The cappuccino. Creamy, meringue-like milk carefully integrated with complex and rich espresso. For many, it is a perfect litmus for the skill of a barista.

Originally named because of their resemblance to the bald heads of capuchin monks, the definition of the drink has changed significantly over time. Traditionally, an Italian cappuccino was a 5-6 ounce beverage composed of equal parts espresso, milk and milk foam. When the drink migrated to the United States, American patrons loved it so much they wanted more cafe owners were happy to oblige and the cappuccino began to grow larger and milkier. Over time, the drink came to mean a very foamy milk and espresso drink of varying size.

Then “third wave” cafes offered a new take on the cappuccino. High-end roasteries and cafes wanted to emulate Italian tradition while providing a modern twist. To do it, they returned to only serving smaller 5-6 ounces cappuccinos. But instead of topping the drink with a few dollops of airy foam, they wanted to serve a milk drink rich with dense, microfoam. While some say this definition is more like a latte or flat white, many say the rich texture and flavor of the milk is fair superior to overly airy “traditional” style cappuccinos.

Regardless of the style, the cappuccino is one of the more difficult drinks to master. It requires a fair amount of practice to perfect making lots of dense, creamy microfoam, so we recommend lots a patience. For extra tips on milk steaming, take a look at our milk steaming guide here.

Traditional Cappuccino | 1:1:1 Espresso to Milk to Foam Ratio

    One double shot of espresso |

Latte


Ask for a latte in Italy and you’ll likely get a tall glass of milk (latte means milk in Italian). To get a cup of steamed milk and espresso, you’d have to ask for a caffe latte. Lucky for us time-strapped Americans, most cafes forgo the caffe and only refer to it as a latte.

What is a latte? It is an espresso and steamed (or cold) milk drink of varying size. It’s different from cappuccinos because it has less foam and much more milk. In most cafes, you’ll see a latte served in 10, 12, 16 and sometimes even 20-ounce cups.

10 Ounce Latte | 1:4 Espresso to Milk Ratio

  • 30 grams of liquid espresso | 8 ounces of steamed milk with a thinner layer of foam
  • Pull a double shot of espresso into a 10-ounce cup. Steam approximately 7-8 ounces of milk. For a more milky latte, try to introduce less air into the milk (think 3-4 seconds of chirping/paper tearing sounds). Stop steaming once the pitcher feels too hot to hold,

Cortado

A favorite among baristas and coffee nerds, the cortado is all about the delicate balance of fine espresso “cut” with a small amount of milk. The drink is a loose adaptation of a classic Spanish coffee where very strong brewed coffee is mixed with warmed milk. Generally speaking, a cortado is 1-2 ounces of espresso with just over 2 ounces of lightly textured (meaning less foam), lower temperature, steamed milk.

The cortado is also often referred to as a Gibraltar. Why? Gibraltar is the brand name of the glassware in which the drink is served. While some will assert the two drinks are very much distinct, the casual drinker would be hard pressed to identify how. After all both are small, cooler, lightly textured milk and espresso beverages.

For more information on the history of the cortado, check out this fantastic article from Oliver Strand and the New York Times: A Cortado Is Not a Minivan

Cortado | 1:2 Espresso to Milk Ratio

  • One double shot of espresso | 2-3 ounces of milk with a very thin layer of foam
  • Pull a double shot of espresso into a 4-4.5 ounce cup. Steam approximately 5-6 ounces of milk. Our favorite cortados have significantly less foam-try to only introduce a small amount of air into your milk (2-3 seconds of chirping/paper tearing sound).
  • Stop steaming once the pitcher feels hot to touch,

Flat Whites


The Australian import. To understand this drink, you have to know a little about Australian coffee culture. Much of the Aussie cafe culture is the direct result of Italian immigrants. As such, an Australian cappuccino looks very traditional with lots of foam sitting on a carefully mixed bed of milk and espresso. But as coffee culture evolved, customers and baristas wanted to taste more of the espresso through less foam and milk. Instead of a small drink having a nice dome of foam, they wanted it to have a flat surface–hence, the flat white.

In essence, it is a cappuccino sized latte, roughly 5-6 ounces. Practically speaking, there isn’t a huge difference between a flat white and a cortado. Some will argue that a flat white should be served hotter and with a little more foam than a cortado. Really, both are trying to do the same thing: balance the flavor of milk and espresso by using less milk than a standard latte.

Flat White | 1:2 Espresso to Milk Ratio

  • One double shot of espresso | 3-4 ounces of milk with a thin layer of foam
  • Pull a double shot of espresso into a 5-6 ounce cup. Steam approximately 5-6 ounces of milk. The best flat whites have a careful balance of dense foam and steam milk–try to introduce a small amount of air (4-5 seconds of chirping/paper tearing sounds).
  • Stop steaming once the pitcher feels hot to touch,


Further reading

The Best Gear for Making Pour-Over Coffee

by Justin Vassallo, Thais Wilson-Soler, and Daniel Varghese

We tasted over 150 cups of coffee to find the best pour-over setup, from an easy-to-use dripper to a reliable coffee grinder and scale.

The Best Cold-Brew Coffee Maker

by Nick Guy, Kevin Purdy, Daniel Varghese, and Anna Perling

The OXO Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker is the best we’ve found after years of testing. It makes smooth, balanced, delicious cold brew.

The Best Drip Coffee Maker

by Marguerite Preston, Alex Arpaia, and Liz Clayton

We’ve been testing coffee makers since 2015, and we think the OXO Brew 9 Cup Coffee Maker offers the best combination of convenient features and delicious coffee.

The Best Types of Coffee Makers

We think the best drip coffee maker is the OXO Brew 9 Cup Coffee Maker. We also have picks for a budget option, an espresso machine, a grinder, and more.


How to Make Espresso Powder

This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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This article has been viewed 26,851 times.

Espresso powder is most often used by bakers to enhance the flavor of brownies, cookies, and chocolate cakes. You can buy it from specialty stores, but you can also make a batch of your own espresso powder at home. All you need is espresso beans, a baking sheet, and a coffee grinder. Use your espresso powder to amp up baked goods, make a delicious steak rub, and even whip together a delicious hot beverage.


Want to develop your recipe further?

Temperature

Temperature means the temperature of the brew water.

Temperature shouldn’t be first on your list but it is definitely something to consider if your espressos don’t seem to hit the sweet spot. Higher temperature makes extraction easier so then you will extract faster. Increasing temperature might be wise with lighter roasts if you feel like you are not able to extract enough in 30 seconds. It’s because espresso brews start to channel almost always in the end of the brew and if you haven’t extracted enough before the channelling happens it will lead to under-extraction. Increasing temperature will extract more in the start of the brew and this way increase overall extraction.

Pressure profiling

Brewing espresso requires pressure. Pressure profiling means that the pressure used to brew the espresso is different during different stages of the brew.

To pressure profile, you will need a specific espresso machine such as Synesso, Modbar or Slayer. Pressure increases extraction so for lighter roasts it might be wise to use lower pressure in the start of the brew so that you will extract less acidity. Lower pressure in the start will also decrease channelling which will lead to higher extraction.

Even extraction – avoid channelling

Even extraction means that the brew water runs through the coffee puck evenly and no segment of the puck gives more flavour than the others. Even extraction should always the aim for a barista.

You can read more about the steps to make perfect espresso from my previous blog. Using proper routines will help avoiding channelling and will always lead to a better tasting espresso. Try to be like a machine when making espresso!


9 Steps How to Make the Perfect Espresso

Making great espresso is difficult. It requires at least delicious coffee beans, excellent brewing recipe, good and clean espresso machine and grinder. Also you need to know the best practices on how to actually pull an espresso. Here are my tips about the practices and my routine how I make espresso.

I have been studying espresso for years. First as a barista and coffee lover then later even more profoundly as a barista trainer and a roaster. I feel that after tens of thousands espresso shots made and consumed I have great insight for the topic. With this blog post I want to share some of the things I have discovered. So here are best tips from me, enjoy! If you prefer watching a video on how to make espresso, see this!

1. Clean your portafilter

Before dosing the coffee to your portafilter, make sure that the portafilter is clean and tidy. Both moisture and leftover grounds might (and most likely will) make your future espresso taste over-extracted = astringent and bitter.

2. Dose correctly

This should be pretty easy. With on-demand grinders you just need to push a button with your portafilter or hand and the grinder will dose your pre-set dose. If you want to be a really professional and geeky barista, check your dose on a scale before distributing and tamping. This way you can be quite sure that your extraction will be correct because your dose won’t be too much or little.

3. Distribute your grounds in the portafilter

Most likely your grinder will dose the grounds to the portafilter’s basket to a mountain or a pyramid shape. This means that you have uneven distribution of the grounds so some parts of the basket will have more coffee and some parts less if you don’t distribute them before tamping. Bad distribution of the grounds might lead to channelling.

You can also use distribution tools if you want to get geeky. Distribution tools are really great way to enhance the consistency of your espressos and their extractions.

4. Tamp evenly and consistently

I had my first barista training in 2012 when I was taught that I should tamp with 20 kilos of pressure. After “a few” tamps and several years, I still don’t know how much is 20 kilos of pressure. So let’s kill that popular myth.

So let’s tamp in a more modern way. The aim of tamping is to remove any air pockets in the coffee puck and do this so that the puck is completely leveled. Tamp so long and “hard” that you feel that the puck is compressed (in other words it doesn’t go down anymore). Pay attention that the puck is horizontally leveled so that you avoid channelling and over, under or uneven extraction.

5. Rinse your group head

Before inserting the portafilter to the group head, you might want to rinse the group head to remove any old coffee from it. Easy way to keep your espresso machine clean. Rinsing will also make sure that your group head is properly heated and this way you might be able to extract more your coffee.

6. Insert the portafilter and start brewing immediately

After rinsing, insert the portafilter to the group head and start brewing IMMEDIATELY! If you don’t start brewing immediately, the heat from the group head might “burn” the surface of your coffee which leads to bitter notes in the cup.
Fun fact: in World Barista Championships you will lose a point if you don’t start the brewing immediately

7. Be aware of the yield & brew time

Now you are brewing your espresso. If you are using a volumetric machine, be aware of you brew time. In the case of too short extraction time (under-extraction) or too long extraction time (over-extraction) you might want to make a new espresso and/or check your grind size and dose. If you are using a manual espresso machine, be aware of your yield e.g. if your espresso is running a bit too fast, you are just diluting (making it milder) your espresso and possibly also over-extracting at the same time.

8. Serve with a smile

If you followed these steps and you’re using a good brewing recipe, most likely you will have a tasty espresso in the cup. It is important to remember that we baristas are in the hospitality business so be sure to serve your customers well. Tell them a little about the coffee you’re using and what kind of flavours should they be expecting from the espresso. And most important of all SMILE. With a tasty espresso served with smile you can make someone’s day.

9. Discard the puck, clean the basket and rinse the group head.

After serving keep the places neat and tidy. Clean the basket from any old coffee and moisture, rinse the group head and insert the portafilter back to the group head. It is much easier, faster and nicer to make the next espresso when places are in order.

To become a great barista one has to have a combination of mechanical skill set and service attitude. You must know how to handle your equipment and coffee as a compound but also to be a great service person for your customers.


What is espresso?

Espresso is a coffee-brewing method that refers to finely ground coffee that’s brewed under pressure. The coffee gets ground into a portafilter basket and is pressed down, or tamped, into a flat &apospuck.&apos An espresso machine then uses pressure to force water at a stable, near-boiling temperature through the coffee grounds, often referred to as &apospulling.&apos

The result = a shot of espresso. There are two layers to your shot: the crema (the light brown froth on top) and liquid (the dark brown concentrated coffee on bottom). Here you have the aromatic, rich, full-flavored coffee base to all your favorite barista beverages, from cappuccinos and lattes to flat whites, Americanos, and more.

If all this coffee talk is making your mouth water, you’re not alone. Espresso is an art form. To figure out the best-ever way to brew it, we went straight to the source: Doug Parkinson, the category manager for De’Longhi, one of the world’s top espresso machine manufacturers. He breaks down everything you need to know about being a home barista.

Know your parts

Portafilter: This is the basket that holds the espresso grounds. When locked into the machine, anywhere from nine to 17 bars of pressure will be applied to the coffee to make sure the espresso is extracted correctly.

Tamper: The tamper is what you use to press the grounds into the puck shape required inside the portafilter.

The Knock Box: This is a receptacle for any used coffee grounds. (FYI, coffee grounds have a variety of uses past the coffee cup, such as in compost, fertilizer, and even face scrubs.)

Use freshly ground coffee beans

𠇊 great tasting, authentic espresso always starts with beans you’ve ground immediately before brewing,” says Parkinson. Producing a coffee beverage straight from the bean means the coffee is as fresh as possible every time, prepared with the blend you like. “The grind texture is an important aspect of shot quality: too fine a grind will cause a slow, over-extracted shot that can taste bitter and burnt. Too coarse a grind will result in an under-extracted shot that is weak, watery and tastes sour," he adds.

If you’re unsure about your abilities to get a consistent, even espresso grind from your beans, look for an espresso machine that does the grind measuring and timing for you. This will ensure the proper dosage and grind size.

When it comes to choosing your beans, espressos are traditionally made with darker roasted coffee. We recommend trying out a few different styles and origins before deciding which is your favorite. And as an FYI, buying a bag of beans that say they’re meant for making espresso isn’t necessary.

Weigh out each shot

Make sure that you’re measuring (or dosing) each shot out correctly and consistently every time. The best way to do this is by using a kitchen scale. For a double shot, grind between 18 to 21 grams of coffee into your brewer basket.

Nail the technique for tamping

“Tamping is one of the hardest and most inconsistent motions in the brewing process,” says Parkinson. Tamping at the right pressure and consistently is fundamental to obtaining perfect results in cup. Be sure to level your dose first, then place the portafilter on a flat surface, and apply pressure downward—just enough to seal the coffee in evenly. Give the tamper a gentle spin to smooth over the grounds for a perfectly even extraction.

Find a machine that will brew at the optimal espresso temperature

Much about perfecting the art of espresso has to do with having the right equipment. For the ideal brewing consistency of the coffee dose water temperature is fundamental. De’Longhi’s La Specialista, for instance, has internal technology to ensure a stable water temperature throughout the whole coffee brewing process for the ideal extraction. It also has a built-in grinder, tamper, and hands-free frother that lets you make creamy concoctions like cappuccinos or microfoams (hi, latte art!).


1. If you want a barista-quality drink, you need an espresso machine (or an AeroPress)

“To make the kinds of drinks a barista might make you, you need two things: something resembling espresso and something resembling steamed milk,” explains Kasperowicz. For that first part, you can use an AeroPress. It’s lightweight, sturdy, and small enough to travel with (our test kitchen director Chris Morocco has been known to stash one in his luggage) and only costs $30—unlike the hundreds, or even cool thousands, a top-of-the-line espresso machine will set you back.

Like an espresso machine, an AeroPress uses pressure (rather than gravity) to force water through the coffee grounds, which “makes it much easier than a pour-over or French Press to brew a really high-strength coffee, which in the end is largely what espresso is,” Kasperowicz says. But, unlike a fancy espresso machine, the AeroPress simply gets that pressure via a hand-operated plunger.

To use it, all you do is line the press with a paper filter, add finely ground beans and hot water, and press into a coffee cup.