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How to Make Coffee-Quality Espresso at Home

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How to Make Coffee-Quality Espresso at Home

Every coffee brewing method has little tricks, secrets, pitfalls, and different ways to end up with a cup of something you’re not very happy with. Espresso has more of that than most, I’d say. Many things can affect the quality of the shots you take from your espresso machine and it can be difficult to know what is causing the problem.

So, I’m here to explain the basics of how to make espresso at home. Whether you have your first espresso machine on your counter or are an old pro looking for a quick refresher course, we’ve got you covered.

Be sure to check out our other coffee equipment guides, including the best espresso machines, the best cold brew coffee makers, the best latte and cappuccino machines, and the best coffee grinders. Oh, and our How to Make Coffee at Home guide covers the basics.

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1. Acquire beans

There is no such thing as espresso beans. Sometimes coffee makers have a bean blend designed for use in espresso machines, but the beans are the same as any coffee bean. I like a medium roast for espresso. Medium roasts tend to have enough rich chocolate flavors on their own that they won’t be lost if you add a little steamed milk to them. Blonde roasts are also good if you prefer a lighter body and more floral notes, but they are a little more hit and miss if you use them in any blended espresso drink.

Dark roasts can be good, but every once in a while you find a dark roast that turns into a burnt-tasting char sludge when you run it through an espresso machine. So to stay consistent, I recommend looking for a medium roast.

Where do you get the beans? If you go the local route, look for a roasting date printed on the bag; Ideally, the beans should be no more than a month old after the roasting date. Alternatively, you can join a coffee subscription service and have freshly roasted beans delivered right to your door. I’ve tried dozens and compiled my favorite services here.

2. Beans, meet the grinder

The espresso grind should come from a burr grinder. Believe me, I’ve tried for years to get blade grinders to the powdery consistency you need for espresso, and they can’t do it. If you don’t have a burr grinder, purchase the beans from a local coffee shop that can grind them for you. Be sure to ask for a ground espresso. They will know exactly what consistency to use. Or you can get a grinder for yourself; I have several recommendations in my Best Coffee Grinders guide.

If you have a burr grinder, great! It’s always a matter of trial and error when grinding new beans to make espresso. Some beans work very well when they are very fine, others need to be a little coarser. You may have to experiment to find the right spot for each bag of beans, but for espresso, I always start at the last third or fourth of the grinder’s fineness setting. If your machine uses a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best coffee grind, you’ll want to start at a 7. Your sweet spot will most likely be between 7 and 8. Your beans shouldn’t be as fine as flour, but closest in size to salt or sugar granules.

As for the quantity, this is also variable, but I always start with 15 or 16 grams. You can weigh the coffee when it is whole, before putting it through the grinder, or weigh it later, when it is in the portafilter (but before tamping it). If you don’t have a scale, I recommend this one. one from amazon, which has been very useful to me for years and years. Is uncoolbut it is precise and versatile.

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