Take a moment to warm your espresso cup. Coffee is always sensitive to abrupt changes in temperature. Espresso is especially sensitive because it’s such a small, concentrated beverage. Sometimes espresso machines have a hot water spout on the machine.
You’ll need to remove the portafilter. It is important to wipe the portafilter in order to both clean and dry the basket.
Grind and Dose
The coffee should be ground with a quality burr (rather than blade) grinder. Blade grinders chop the coffee rather than grinding it, resulting in uneven particle size and unpredictable particle size. This results in uneven extraction, which causes coffee that has increased bitterness and which is not true to the true flavor profile of the coffee. In addition, the lack of consistency in particle size results in inconsistent and unpredictable results from shot to shot. The coffee should be ground fine directly into the portafilter basket as evenly as possible. Be sure to turn the grinder off before the portafilter basket is completely full in order to ensure no coffee is left in the grinder. Freshly ground coffee will give you the best results.
Settle the Coffee
You’ll need to tap the portafilter once or twice on the counter or on the grinder forks to settle the coffee. There should be a small amount of coffee above the top edge of the basket after you settle it.
Level the Coffee
You’re ready to level the coffee. Keeping your finger straight, gently glide it across the surface of the coffee of the portafilter from side to side to create an even surface. Try not to put any pressure on the coffee.
Tamp the Coffee
You will want to be sure that your tamper is the right size for your home espresso machine. You may want to practice on a bathroom scale to discover what 30-40 pounds of pressure feels like. Grasp the tamper in your hand and press down on the coffee in the portafilter with 30-40 pounds of pressure. Be sure to keep it flat and even to allow the coffee to extract evenly through the portafilter.
You will need to purge the grouphead before you replace the portafilter. (Wait 3 seconds for water to come out. If it’s hissing and bubbling out of the screen, it is too hot. Wait a little bit longer for it to calm down.)
You can now insert the portafilter in the grouphead. Start the grouphead and the timer at the same time. You will need to have cups handy to quickly put them under the spouts.
Watch the Espresso
Watch the espresso as it extracts. It should drip and steadily increase in speed, but not gush out. The whole extraction – start to finish – should take about 23-28 seconds. The ‘end’ of extraction is when there is 1.5 oz of espresso. The espresso should come out in 2 streams looking like a mouse tail.
Taste and Adjust
Take the time to taste the espresso and then adjust your grind for the next shot. It’s almost never right the first time, so have patience. Is it too fast? (20 seconds) You will need to adjust the grind finer for your next shot. Is it too slow? (30 seconds) You will need to adjust the grind coarser for your next shot.