I’m often asked if one can get a café-style espresso from an inexpensive coffee machine purchased from a general appliance retailer. Probably not. In fact, it might be easier to win a Formula One race in a Lada.
Why not? You need the tools to make excellent espresso consistently.
Proper equipment reduces the chance of a host of things that can go wrong, some that are out of your control. The others require the guidance of a skilled, patient barista and hours of practice to adjust and correct the shot to produce an espresso worth consuming. So do your research, talk to people in the game, find out what technical features are fundamental. Then, take the plunge and spend the money you need to get the right espresso machine and grinder for the job.
Know though that making a delicious espresso consistently takes more than a well-engineered machine. It requires the operator (barista) to pay attention to detail and have a passion for espresso. You can spend a lifetime trying to pour the perfect shot. We should know because we have. But you keep trying because when you take the time, pay attention to the detail of the shot and put passion into the production effort you will be blessed with an espresso that has balance, body, sweetness, and complexity in sublime harmony.
Remove your portafilter from the espresso machine. Place it on your scale and tare the weight.
Purge your grouphead thoroughly with hot water.
For a double shot, grind between 18–21 grams of coffee into your basket. The proper grind is crucial to a balanced, delicious shot of espresso. It might be necessary to adjust its fineness a bit. In general, the grind ought to be quite fine.
Using your tamper (or finger), distribute the coffee evenly across the portafilter.
Place your portafilter on a clean, flat surface and position your tamper level on top of the grounds and apply pressure downward. You don’t need to tamp incredibly hard—just enough to seal the coffee in evenly. Give the tamper a gentle spin. This will smooth the grounds for an even extraction.
Position the portafilter in the grouphead and start your shot. We recommend pulling it into a pre-heated ceramic mug.
The shot should start with a slow drip, then develop into a gentle, even stream. Near the 30 second mark, the extraction will end, causing the shot to thicken and start “blonding,” or turning yellow. Stop the shot just as this process begins.
Some people like to stir a shot after it’s been pulled; some like to sip immediately in order to experience its many layers of flavor. This is up to you. If you you would like to serve it with milk, follow our guide here.