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Espresso is a highly concentrated coffee drink made by forcing steam and water through finely ground coffee beans. It is typically served in a 2 oz. shot or used as the basis for many different coffee drinks. The best espressos are very sweet, have a large, potent aroma with a thick, dark reddish-brown layer on top known as the crema.

A good espresso will not be overpowered when used in other drinks and is able to be enjoyed straight if so desired. The taste should linger with you for a few minutes after drinking. To achieve the best espresso possible you should follow these tips when making one.

The Perfect Espresso

To make the perfect espresso you should start with a good quality coffee bean. The beans should be ground finely enough to allow for a 25-30 second extraction. They should be tamped with the same pressure consistently. You should not adjust your tamp pressure to make up for a bad grind.

Ensure that your espresso grinder is not heating the coffee during the grind process. Conical burr grinders are better than flat burr grinders for this reason, and they deliver a more consistent grind.

Only grind as much espresso as is needed. Discard any grinds that are not used within 30 seconds to one minute as they will lose their flavor and essential oils quickly.

Make sure that the coffee grounds are distributed evenly in the filter basket before tamping. Tamp with an even amount of pressure.

Your water must be filtered for a proper espresso. Any mineral content will alter the way your espresso tastes. Purchase your espresso machine with a built in water filter.

Water temperature must be maintained at a consistent 92-96°F. Any colder or hotter and your espresso will not be servable. Again, the right espresso machine plays a huge factor in controlling this. It should be able to maintain an even temperature at all times.

Water pressure is necessary for the crema to form. Make sure your espresso machine can deliver between 9 and 10 atm to make a beautiful and tasty crema.

If you milk does not steam correctly you should look into your boiler pressure on your machine. The boiler pressure determines the amount of water that goes into steam. Only a professional should alter your boiler pressure, if yours needs adjusting call someone in to do it for you.

Your espresso should extract in 25-30 seconds. This is all the time that it should take to fill two 1-oz. cups. If it is taking your machine longer you should look into mitigating factors such as your grind.

Keep your espresso machine nice and clean. This one act alone can make or break your espresso. Every part of the machine should be cleaned to avoid a rancid tasting espresso.

Heat the espresso cups and make sure they have a thick double wall to keep the espresso piping hot as it is served.

Practice, practice, practice. The only way to master the art of pulling a great shot of espresso is by practicing. It’s also a great way to enjoy a few espressos while you do. For true espresso purists half the enjoyment in an espresso is in watching a talented barista pull their shot.

Making a great espresso is an art form all its own. Learning to master the art will pay off when your customers or friends are insistent that only you can pull their espresso. Using some proven tips and knowing the steps to pulling the perfect espresso will make you the hero of the local coffee club.

-Sharon V. Chapman

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