How to Make the Perfect Espresso

Making the perfect espresso is one of the key skills of a great barista. Since the first Gaggia lever machines were introduced 70 years ago, the espresso has become one of the most popular drinks around.

Of course, the perfect espresso is also the main ingredient of a range of other drinks from the latte to the cortado. So, getting an espresso right is critical to a range of great quality coffees.

Keep reading for our simple guide to making the perfect espresso.

Preparation is everything

If you want to make a great coffee, preparation is everything.

Make sure you have freshly roasted coffee. As long as you keep your beans dry, cool, and away from light they should last for around 8 days.

Coffee should also be treated like food, meaning that a clean preparation environment is important. Make sure that everything that comes into contact with the coffee is clean.

Try and use a high-quality grinder with large, sharp burrs. This will help to ensure even and consistent coffee grinds that will let you extract maximum flavour.

4 steps to the perfect espresso

  1. Get rid of any leftover coffee grounds from the filter basket, and refill with fresh grounds. The dose of coffee should fit within your basket. Make sure you are consistent with your dose otherwise the coffee you produce will vary dramatically.
  2. Tap the handle on a hard surface to even out the coffee. Tamp once lightly to position the coffee grounds. This creates space between the group head and the coffee. Then tamp a second time to compact the grounds within the filter basket to evenly pack the coffee to its maximum density.
  3. Wipe the edges of the filter basket. This helps to ensure that stray grounds don’t block your espresso machine.
  4. Before you place the handle in position, rinse water through the machine to flush away any old coffee grounds. Insert the handle and set the espresso to brew immediately. Make sure to begin brewing immediately, otherwise the heat might cause the surface of the coffee to burn. Your machine may either stop automatically or you should stop it at 25 seconds.

Once you have finished this stage, you’re ready to serve your espresso. Serve the coffee immediately in a hot cup. You can heat up the cup by rinsing with hot water.

If your customer wants a latte, cappuccino or other coffee, now’s the time to steam the milk.

Making the perfect steamed milk

Always start with cold milk, and use the correct-sized jug for the amount of milk that you are steaming.

Over time, you’ll learn just how much milk to pour for the size of drink that you’re making. Don’t forget that steaming milk can be up to double the original volume!

Start to introduce the hot air. If you hold the steam tip just under the surface of the milk you’ll ‘stretch’ the milk while it is expanding. Then, insert the steam wand entirely into the jug, creating a fast, swirling circulation. Hit the jug on the counter to remove any bubbles, and swirl the steamed milk to prevent separation.

Following these steps will create fine, textured, foamed milk – perfect for a range of popular drinks.

Cleaning your espresso machine

Making an espresso doesn’t end when your drink is served. You then need to make sure that you clean your espresso machine, ready for your next customer.

Remove the filter and knock the coffee out into the waste box. Then you should clean, rinse and dry your handle ready for the next shot. Rinse and brush the group head, making sure you remove any oil or particles that could spoil the next shot.

Put the filter back into the group head ready for your next coffee.

From time to time you should properly clean your espresso machine. Soak filters and baskets separately, and rinse with hot water. Scrub the inside of the group head, and wash drain trays. Your machine may also have a built-in cleaning programme, so make sure you use that regularly.

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