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How to Make the Perfect Espresso

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“The magic of espresso is that it’s only made with 50 beans.”

Andrea Illy

You should understand from the beginning that is no such thing like the perfect espresso recipe. As someone told me once: The perfect espresso is the one you like.

Keeping that in mind, I would like to guide you through the basics of pulling the perfect shot for you, such as the ratio you need to use, the best water, the temperature, how to grind your coffee and what the yield is.

Where to start?

To make an espresso is no rocket science, but requires some skills and knowledge to get it right. We will start with a basic recipe, but after you master the art of making espresso, you can start playing with all the variables.

For the moment we will use 18g of coffee and a ratio of 1:2 so, we aim to extract 36ml of espresso in 27-28 seconds.

In a future article will talk about the problems you can encounter while you brew your fantastic espresso and how you can overcome them.

Brew Espresso Step by Step

At this point, until you find the best grinder settings, you need to play a bit.

  1. Ground your coffee at the finest setting on your grinder.
  2. Place the coffee in your portafilter and tamp it evenly.
  3. Before you pull the espresso, weigh and tara your mugs.
  4. Now start the extraction and the timer. When you get to 27 seconds, stop the extraction.
  5. Scale the cups again to see how much yield you have. If you have less than 36ml, you need to increase the grounding setting so the coffee will be coarser. If you have more then than 36ml decrease the settings to get fine grounds.
  6. Play with coffee until you find the perfect settings for you.

What do you need to start preparing the espresso?

Let’s put aside the tools for a moment and focus on the preparation phase. Before we begin grinding and extracting the coffee, let’s check if you have the following.

Water

First, check your water! Is very important to have a good quality of water otherwise, your espresso will never taste as good as you want and also your equipment will suffer in time. To avoid this problem, you should use a BWT or Brita water filter. Also, you can check the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s water standards for more details.

Coffee

Now, if you have good water, we can focus on coffee. I will always suggest you to use a freshly roasted coffee instead of one bought from the supermarket. This way you will experience a full range of flavors. The coffee roasting industry has developed a lot in the past few years, and you can find very easy a coffee roaster near you who can provide all the coffee you need.

Temperature

Another critical aspect you should take care of is the water temperature when you brew espresso. A high temperature can burn your coffee giving a bitter taste, and a low heat temperature won’t extract propper all the substances form coffee, and you will have a sour taste. The temperature needs to be set in a range of 90 and 92 degrees Celsius or 194 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure you adjust your settings on your espresso machine before you make the espresso shot.

Coffee Dose

How much coffee to use for an espresso shot? As you figured out until now, there is nothing constant in coffee making. Here we speak about a range of 18 to 21 grams of grounded coffee in your portafilter. How do you determine the perfect amount? By tasting and tasting. Feel free to adjust the dose until you find your “sweet spot.”

I always recommend buying just fresh roasted coffee beans, not pre-grinded because you will lose a lot of flavors. For a maximum of results, the coffee needs to be ground as close to the moment when you brew it. To make an espresso will require a fine grind size comparing with most of the brewing methods.

Timer

Timing is everything now. Your shot needs to be extracted in about 25 to 35 seconds. This time will variate based on the grinding settings you have. A fine grinding will give you a long time for extraction while a coarser setting will shorten your time.

Espresso Ratio

When we talk about the ratio, we mean the output of espresso in comparison with the input of coffee. Usually, you will find ratio like 1:1, 1:2 or 1:3.

What does that mean? If you input, for example, 18 grams of coffee in your portafilter than a ratio of 1:2 will give you an espresso output of 36 grams. The 1:1 ratio is used mainly for a ristretto.

The 1:2 ratio is not the perfect ratio. Is no such thing as “standard brew ratio.” It depends very much on your taste and the coffee you use. You may find the “sweet spot” at a ratio of 1:2,25 or 1:2,5. Yes, you can go higher or lower according to your taste.

When you are searching for the best taste, you should focus on the body of your espresso, the acidity, sweetness, and bitterness. A good shot will be the one who will combine all these variables the best.

Tools You Need

Coffee Grinder

Now that you have prepared everything for making your delicious espresso let’s check what equipment you need for brewing your magic beverage.
First, you will need a coffee grinder. You can choose manual grinders like Hario Skerton or an electric one like Mahlkoenig Vario Home Coffee grinder.

We highly recommend buying an electric one so you can enjoy the same quality of grounding every single time. We will talk more about the best grinder to have in the following articles.

Tamper

After you ground your coffee, you need to evenly distribute it in your portafilter where it needs to be pressed to make a compact puck so the water will extract nice an even all the substances from the coffee. A tamper will help you in this process. When you chose yours, be sure you check first de diameter of your portafilter and make sure you take a tamper that will fit.

Espresso Machine

And obvious, the espresso machine. On the market, you have a big range of espresso machine and coffee makers. Let ‘s not confuse them. An espresso machine will make espresso while a coffee maker will make all kind of coffee beverages but they won’t do espresso.

Because is a vast subject and we want to talk just about espresso will tell you more about the espresso machine in the following posts, and for now, I will recommend to you to look after Lelit PL41TEM, Oscar 2 Nuova Simonelli or Rancilio Silvia. These are not the best but are doing a decent job for a mid-range espresso machine.

The scale and the timer will be your best friends here. Is not mentioned in the tools section, but you need a scale to be sure you get the right amount every single time. We prefer this Hario scale because it has one decimal function for better measurement and a timer function incorporated.

As you saw, if you have a good quality of water, freshly roasted coffee, a good grinder and a handy espresso machine you can brew a delicious coffee at every moment. From now on, the only thing you need to master is your ability to understand the taste of your espresso. But no worry, I will help you with that soon.

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2 Comments

  1. Thiѕ is ɑ great tip particuⅼarly to thⲟse fresh to the blоgosphere.
    Simple but ᴠery precise info… Apprecіate your sharing
    this one. A must read article!

  2. Joe Goldberg Reply

    Brita water on takes out the chlorine flavor out of the water. Doesn’t soften or in other words rids the water of minerals that can damage your Espresso machine in the future.

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