How to make the perfect espresso at home
You got a new shiny espresso machine at home, bought delicious freshly roasted specialty coffee and still don’t quite manage to extract the perfect espresso.
Pulling the perfect espresso requires loads of practice, patience and precision. So here are some handy step by steps instructions to get you there.
Should you have already mastered the basics of espresso extraction, head over to our blog on 'Mastering the art of coffee extraction - or chasing strength and flavour in your brew' to get working on TDS and extraction levels.
Your home barista set up
- Espresso machine
- Automatic coffee grinder. Unfortunately, a hand grinder does not do justice to extracting a consistent perfect espresso.
- 20g VST filter basket
- Two spout group handle
- Tamper nicely fitting your filter basket
- Tamper mat
- Barista scale weighing one digit after the decimal point
- Delicious freshly roasted coffee
Espresso terminology for humans
- Dose: The amount of dry coffee ground which goes into the filter basket. Note double baskets range from 14g to 22g capacity. Hence the dose varies with filter basket size. Measured in grams. Weigh on a scale.
- Yield: The amount of liquid coffee extracted. Measured in grams. Weigh on a scale.
- Extraction ratio: Ratio between ‘dose’ and ‘yield’
- Time: The total extraction time, measured in seconds.
A good starting point to extract two delicious espresso is the following barista recipe. You can always modify it to your taste.
Extraction ratio: 21.5g : 43g = 1 : 2, for every gram of dry coffee you want to extract 2 grams of espresso
Time: 28 – 32 seconds
Espresso brewing instructions
Step #1 – Grinding
Grind your freshly roasted coffee to a fine grind. Your grind setting together with your dose and tamping action will determine how fast or slow your coffee will flow through the filter basket.
Step #2 – Dosing
We recommend using a double spout portafilter with a 20g VST filter basket inserted. The 20g VST basket easily holds 21.5g of ground coffee.
Weigh the empty portafilter on a scale: Tare the scale first, place the portafilter on the scale and then tare again.
Fill the filter basket with 21.5g of coffee, distributing the coffee evenly without pressing it down.
Step #3 - Tamping
Tamp the coffee firm and level on a tamping mat to avoid slipping and preserving your work bench. Ensure the tamper fits your portafilter size to avoid channelling of water. Water will find the lowest path of resistance. Try not to knock or bang the portafilter once you have tamped it to avoid the dry coffee pack loosening and creating channels for the water to run through faster.
Over time try to develop an even tamping style. This will help you with consistency when preparing your espresso.
Step #4 - Espresso extraction
Weigh two espresso cups on a scale: Tare the scale first, place the cups on the scale and then tare again.
Place each cup under one spout.
Insert your portafilter into the group head. Once you have inserted the portafilter into the group head you don’t want to delay any extraction as you run the risk of burning the coffee grounds.
Start the timer when you start the extraction. You will notice it takes a few seconds for the espresso to flow. This is the water saturating the dry coffee pack first.
After 28 and 32 seconds stop the extraction.
Now place your cups on the scale and weigh your yield – the extracted espresso. This is crunch time. Your reading will tell you how close you have hit the recipe and determines what to do next.
Pssst: Some handy troubleshooting tips
Our recipe asked for a 1:2 extraction ratio. For a yield of 21.5g, we wanted to extract 43g (or 43ml) over two espressos.
If you extracted more than 43g within 28 to 32 seconds, simply alter your grind setting and work towards a finer grind.
If you extracted less than 43g over 28 to 32 seconds, simply alter your grind setting and work towards a coarser grind.
If you extracted close to 43g, you have extracted a great espresso with a nice balance between sweetness, acidity and some bitterness. Enjoy and repeat!
Keep practicing and your taste buds will love you for it.