An espresso machine is the all-important tool required to get the best from your brew. From mochas to macchiatos, a rich, glorious shot of espresso forms the basis of many of our favourite drinks, so you’ll want to learn how to make the perfect shot. In our step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to prepare a great espresso every time.
An espresso machine is a piece of equipment used to brew coffee. The first commercial espresso machines were built in Italy in the early twentieth century, but this feat of engineering now finds its way into kitchens all over the globe, to help coffee-lovers like yourselves produce barista-quality drinks at home.
It works by pushing a small amount of hot, near-boiling water through compacted ground coffee at high pressure. This produces a highly concentrated shot of coffee with a smooth layer of crema.
Espresso machines can typically be used to prepare one or two shots of espresso at a time, using a tool known as a portafilter. To top off your brew, they also tend to come equipped with a steaming wand for frothing milk, used for drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.
The espresso machine is a versatile brewing method, and you can use any kind of finely ground coffee. Freshly ground coffee will yield the best results, so if your machine has a grinder, grind the amount you need just prior to brewing. If your machine doesn’t have a grinder, you can use pre-ground coffee, permitting that it’s a fine grind. If you’re not sure what coffee to use, try out our handy coffee quiz and be matched to your new favourite brew.
If you’re using a single-shot portafilter basket, you should use about 12g of coffee. If you’re making a double shot, you’ll need 24g to fill a larger dual-spout basket. The exact quantity will vary depending on the manufacturer of your machine.
Espresso machines typically require coffee grinded to a powder-like consistency, a bit like sand. Your grind size is an important variable to perfect, and you may need a couple of tries before getting it right. If the machine pulls your shot too quickly, you may get an under-extracted, sour-tasting espresso, which suggests you need to swap to a finer grind or increase the extraction time. On the other hand, if it pulls the shot too slowly, it may produce an over-extracted and bitter cup. In this case, you’ll want to switch to a coarser grind size or decrease the extraction time.
You can create practically any coffee drink with an espresso machine, including many of the crowd-pleasing favourites that we enjoy on a daily basis. Why not try one of the following?
There’s an art to preparing your espresso, but you’ll also want to extend this time and dedication to preparing your machine. An unclean rig can produce espresso that pulls incorrectly, tastes off, or a wand that steams inconsistently — so it’s vital to keep your machine in tip-top condition. While each machine will vary, we recommend rinsing your portafilter and purging your steam wand after each use, and deep cleaning the group head, portafilter and dispersion screen once a week.
Used coffee grounds can be disposed of in your food waste bin, general waste, or compost. We recommend the latter — spent grounds are a great ingredient to add to your garden compost as they help to break down organic waste and boost the quality of your soil.