Making espresso coffee: everything you need to know + video

I maestri della tostatura media
So many recipes, so many variables, so many things to know to make outstanding espresso coffee!

Grind, coffee, equipment, water, dose, temperature, extraction, timing, and more.

You always try, but as good and beautiful as in the bar, it is difficult to get it….

Read this article and find out how to correct all the steps to make incredible espresso at home like at the coffee shop!

Step 1 – Choose the right coffee

The topic to be covered is already very broad in itself, so I will not go too long with explanations of what coffee is, the different harvesting methods, the different botanical species, then the differences between arabica and robusta, the different processing methods, etc.

If you want to explore these talks further, there is a whole column devoted to them:

I emphasize below only what is most important to me:
  • If you want highly aromatic coffees with unique characteristics, choose a single-origin Arabica;
  • If you desire more creamy, bitter, caffeinated coffees, choose a single-origin Robusta;
  • If you like the middle ground, so both creamy and aromatic, opt for a blend. Obviously if it will have a higher percentage of arabica, the final taste will be closer to the first option and vice versa.
All this talk becomes useless if you buy dark-roasted coffee.

Because in this case all coffees, regardless of Arabica, Robusta, or blend, will simply be very bitter and often with burnt notes as well.

So, if you really want to experience all the aromatic nuances that a coffee can give, choose the Medium Roast!

Only in this case do I recommend that you also avoid light roasting, as it amplifies the flavor range but reduces the creaminess and body of the drink. It is therefore excellent for all types of filter extraction, less suitable for espresso, which, on the other hand, really needs the crema in the cup.

Finally, if you are choosing a single-origin Arabica remember to also look at the processing method and altitude:

  • The more a coffee grows in altitude, exceeding about 1300m, the more it will have a fine, broad, fine aromatic range with good acidity. In this case you will be able to detect notes of citrus, vanilla, flowers, fruits, nuts, etc;
  • Conversely, below 1300m altitude, you will find sweeter coffees with a reduced aromatic range, with notes of chocolate, caramel and vanilla;
  • If you like acidity, therefore, choose an Arabica coffee from the highlands and processed by the washed method;
  • If you prefer sweetness instead, opt for an Arabica coffee between 900-1200m processed by the natural method;
  • If you are looking for bitterness, then buy a natural Robusta between 0 and 800m asl.
Now you have all the basic tools to choose the right coffee for you!

Step 2 – Choose the right equipment

It sounds trivial, but you cannot get an excellent result if you start with poor equipment.

Of course, each person must consider his or her own economic capabilities. True, if we want to get good coffee a minimum of effort must be made.

There are home espresso machines from €50.00 to €6,500.00, so we have choices!

My advice:

If you don’t want the grinder built into the machine there are a myriad of very good brands. Here’s just a small sample of the ones I’ve used the most: Gaggia, Pavoni, De Longhi, Rocket, Lelit, Faema, La Marzocco, you name it!

In this case you will then have to buy a separate coffee grinder, either manual or electric. This too can cost from €15.00 up to €3,000.00.

We know that the less we spend, the less we will have a homogeneous and precise grind. Besides the fact that we will probably have the coffee grinder no longer performing after a couple of months….

I had already done an article devoted to coffee grinders:

For bars and businesses, on the other hand, the story changes, because in this case the investment must necessarily be made if one wants to demonstrate to customers great quality of products and services, as well as professionalism and competence!

My advice: turn to professional Coffee Roasters and Distributors who know how to recommend equipment in line with your type of work, flow of people, and venue structure, thinking first about the skills of your suppliers instead of the price per kilo of coffee.

Step 3 – The Grinding

Before starting extraction, we need to grind the coffee.

I will never tire of saying this: this is one of the most delicate parts of the entire preparation.

You may have bought the best coffee in the world and selected the best performing equipment, but if you get the grind wrong, the coffee can never come out right!

As fundamental as it is, it is actually simple to identify:

  • Error 1 – Under-extraction: Is the coffee flowing down the cup as fast as a waterfall? Correct it by making the grind finer;
  • Error 2 – Over-extraction: Is the coffee going down the cup slowly drop by drop? Correct it by making the grind wider!
The coffee should arrive in the cup with a thread called a “rat tail,” so it is continuous and fine, thicker at the top and finer at the base toward the cup.
If the grinding is correct, the cream on the surface will be hazelnut in color, smooth, shiny, firm, persistent over time, and without bubbles!

Watch the video to see what I am talking about:

But can I buy it already ground?

Of course! No one is forbidding you, but if it doesn’t come out perfect afterward, you don’t see a nice little cream on top, it doesn’t have nice body or taste, you already know what the reason is.

In fact, the grind changes daily and sometimes several times a day, based on the temperature and humidity of the room or whether the coffee is fresh or not.

Buying it pre-ground means having an average grind, which may be randomly correct some days while completely wrong on others.

Step 4 – All steps

Now we finally get to the steps for perfect espresso!

The traditional espresso recipe:

Then the grams of ground coffee that you will need to put in the filter.

The general rule is:

  • Blend 100% robusta or otherwise with more robusta: 7/7.5g;
  • Blend with more arabica: 8/8.5g;
  • Blend 100% Arabica or single-origin Arabica: 8.5/9g.

The coffee in the filter should be leveled and pressed with the tamper perfectly vertical, imparting a force of about 15kg.

If you have an area in the filter with more coffee and another with less concentration, the water will only and only pass where it will find less resistance, thus making the extraction wrong!

See the videos below to understand how to do it correctly.


In general, I can say that the taste changes in this way:

  • The lower the temperature, the more the acidity will be enhanced, reducing sweetness and bitterness;
  • Conversely, the hotter the water, the sweeter the coffee will be, with reduced and balanced acidity and bitterness;
  • However, exceeding 95°C increases the risk of burning the mince, bringing an unpleasant bitterness to the cup.

The pressure remains constant throughout the extraction between 8 and 10 bar.

However, there are some machines that allow it to be varied in the following ways:

  • Pre-infusion: the first few seconds should be virtually zero to gently wet the mince cake;
  • Middle part: pressure increases to perform the actual extraction;
  • Tail: If you then want to minimize bitterness you have to “cut the tail,” that is, lower the pressure in the last seconds of extraction.

The extraction should take 25 seconds, ⅔ seconds more or less.

  • If it lasts less, it means that the coffee was ground wide and therefore the grind should be tightened to avoid the under-extraction error;
  • If it lasts longer, on the other hand, the coffee was ground too fine, the grind then needs to be tightened to prevent the drink from being over-extracted.

In a cup you will get about 14/18g of drink.


Espresso is composed of 90% water, so if you use the wrong water, the coffee will not be good.

If you have a tap water filter that removes lime scale and chlorine, that’s fine, alternatively just use bottled water!

Watch the video:

Step 5 – Be creative with contemporary espresso

Now let’s take what was just explained and delete it!

No, I’m not going crazy, just that the rules just given are essential to get started. In fact, these represent the recipe for traditional Italian espresso.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t be broken.

Once you have become a skilled barista, have fun experimenting: change the temperature, the dose, the pressure, and so on, to drink different coffees every day.

Some will be not good at all, some surprising!

Step 6 – Cleaning

I’ll be really brief on this: you can’t get good coffee if you don’t maintain the equipment and especially if you don’t keep it perfectly clean!

Now all you have to do is start experimenting!

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager
Coffee Lover


Martina Mazzoleni

Marketing, E-commerce e Social Media Manager Coffee Lover

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