Espresso making can be a little tricky to get it perfectly done. But with a couple of know how & tips, anyone can make the perfect espresso at home every single brew. Here's the ultimate espresso brewing guide that every home espresso brewer must know. Let's go!
Not all beans created equally
About Espresso Beans
First, let's start with the beans!
The term Espresso is used by Italian, it’s to get their coffee fast & express! Espresso is made within 30 seconds and customers can get their coffee in under a minute after ordering☝️
As espresso is brewed in such a short time, you’ll have to use coffee beans that are soluble enough to achieve good extraction. ie. a more developed medium to darker roast coffee bean is preferred for espresso 😯
Medium to darker roast beans for espresso
Espresso roast is generally darker roast profile than filter roast so that it’s soluble enough to be extracted within 30 seconds. Whereas filter roast can be a much lighter roast to preserve more delicate aromatics like floral qualities 💐
If you brew espresso at home, always brew with espresso medium to darker roast beans! Filter roast beans especially light roast beans will result in light watery bodied espresso with high sharp sourness due to under-extraction, as it’s not soluble enough to be able fully extracted in under 30 seconds.
For sure, you can brew espresso roast coffee on any filter brewer too! Just make sure you grind a little coarser and use a higher dosage with a lower brewing temperature of 93c. This will give a smooth velvety bodied cuppa that makes a great morning cuppa ☕️
Espresso Blend pairs perfectly well with milk
If you enjoy latte & cappuccino, we highly recommend Espresso Blends that are specially created to pair well with milk. Bold full-bodied espresso that makes it easy to punch through the milk 👊
If you enjoy straight espresso or americano black coffee (like us 🙌🏼), we recommend getting Single Origin Espresso Roast Beans to enjoy the unique characteristics & flavours from each origin.
Lastly, always get fresh beans for espresso! Make sure the roast date is stated on the packaging & brew it on the 10th day after roasting, that’s when the beans are degassed, well-rested and taste at their best. Be sure to finish all the beans within 1-2 weeks after opening the pack!
PS: if you have many coffee drinkers at home, getting a 1kg pack coffee beans save a lot in the long run 💰
We highly recommend getting 4-5 small jars to separate and pack all the beans immediately when you open the 1kg pack. This limits the oxygen contact and prolongs the deliciousness for a longer time up to 7-8 weeks past the roast date. You can also reuse them indefinitely, it saves the environment too!
Not all grinders created equally too
About Coffee Grinders
There are thousands of models of coffee grinders in the market, but which is suitable for espresso? 🤔
A hand grinder is certainly a big no, it's super difficult to grind fine, plus your hands will suffer too. Not to mention if you screw up the brew 😫
Filter coffee grinders like Fuji Royale, Kalita or EK43 (stock burr) are using flat burr that aims to reduce the fines in ground coffee. It simply couldn’t grind fine enough for espresso.
As a result, the flow rate will look like a waterfall and espresso tastes watery, extremely sour & lack aromatics as a result of under extraction 🤢
The best is to use a dedicated conical burr grinder that is specially designed for espresso brewing!
Flat burr on left & conical burr on right
Conical burr grinder like Fiorenzato, Mazzer etc makes it very easy to make the micro-adjustments on grind size, it’s able to grind fine enough to slow down the flow rate for optimal extraction!
There you’ll get to make espresso that has a very good mouthfeel & it pairs incredibly well with milk! No more watery lattes, say yes to creamy & velvety latte 😋
There are also flat burr espresso grinders too like Anfim and Mythos, but the prices are on the high side and it’s built for cafe operation.
For home use, the best coffee grinder has to be versatile that’s able to grind fine for espresso to coarse for French Press!
Eureka grinders are specially designed for home use! You can make micro-adjustments on the grind setting, yet you can grind super coarse for cold brew or French Press! Not to mentions it’s a very quiet grinder too 🤫
A good espresso machine is a good investment
About Espresso Machines
Please don’t buy an espresso machine if you don’t have a grinder. No point brewing no crema watery espresso with stale ground coffee 😬
Here are a couple of tips to look out for in the espresso machine that best suit your home!
1. First thing first, how many coffee drinkers do you have at home?
If only 1 person, manual espresso makers like Flair will be perfect to make 1-2 cups of espresso every day. Perfect for espresso black coffee lovers & budget-friendly, plus you can bring it anywhere you go! 😍
The downside is of course the amount of prep work for espresso, so not suitable if you have 2 or more coffee drinkers at home 👨👩👧👦 the prep work for making many espressos every day will put you off as days go by…
If you have a family with 3 above coffee drinkers, a proper espresso machine is the best investment for your family to save lots of money in the long run, 💰imagine saving RM10 for every cup of latte you make at home 🤑
Save money by brewing your own coffee at home
2. Get an espresso machine that is reliable & durable that will last for many many years. In other words, DO NOT get a cheap espresso machine that looks like a toy rather than a machine!
You can do research on espresso machine reviews easily via Google or YouTube, there are thousands of videos on any espresso machine in the world!
The entry level espresso machine we recommend is the Breville about RM2-3k with built-in grinder & value for money machine that will last for many years.
3. DO NOT buy second-hand espresso machines.
We have personally seen way too many dirty filthy machines as a result of lack of cleaning & maintenance. You definitely don’t want to drink dirt left by the previous owner since don’t know how many years 🤮
No scale no consistency
Must-Have Tools for Espresso ⚖️
No 1 must-have tool for espresso is definitely the weighing scale!
Espresso brewing is done in a relatively short brewing time of around 25-35 seconds. As such, it’s very sensitive to any changes in variables, especially the dosage, ie the amount of ground coffee used.
One of the very important practices for espresso brewing is to always keep the dosage the same at all times 😮 then adjust the grind size accordingly to get the right extraction!
Hence, using the weighing scale is essential to make sure every single puck has the same amount of ground coffee to ensure consistency in every brew!
This is tremendously important for cafes to make consistent coffee at all times. Of course, it’s important for home too so that you don’t waste any coffee beans 😉
Get the right tamper that fits your espresso basket
Next is the tamper! The most important thing to note is to get the right tamper for the right basket.
This will keep the espresso extraction as even as possible. Flat base tamper is the best!
Lastly, if you use a single-dose grinder, you’ll need to get a small water spray to spray on the beans before grinding.
This will keep the static very low and lesser ground coffee retained in the grinder. A wonderful & super cheap tool to keep wastage to minimal 🥰
Is automatic machines a good idea?
4. Fully automatic machines or semi-auto? Honestly, we have never tasted good coffee made out of automatic machines. Probably a calibration issue, or probably lack of cleaning maintenance inside the machine that makes the coffee tastes dirty…….
5. Last & most importantly, ALWAYS ALWAYS keep your espresso machine clean at all times. The shower screen & back flush must clean daily if you brew a couple of espressos every day.
Also, descale your boiler once a year to your espresso clean & delicious at all times! A clean machine makes clean coffee 😋
An espresso machine is the best investment for coffee lovers. If you make 3-5 lattes for your family on daily basis, you’ll save RM30-50 every day. It only takes a couple of months to make up the savings!
How to Calibrate Espresso
There are 2 important variables to take note in espresso brewing, brew ratio & grind size ☕️
If your espresso taste kinda watery, probably the brew ratio isn’t right (tho could be other reasons, but will get to that later)
About Brew Ratio
Brew ratio is the multiple of dosage. If your dose is 20g coffee and output espresso is 40g, that’s a multiple of 2.
To start, we strongly recommend to brew with ONLY ONE fixed dosage at all time!
The easy way is to follow the espresso basket size! If it’s an 20g basket, stick to 20g. There you just focus on adjusting other variables 😉
Getting brew ratio right is the most important aspect in espresso
So, what’s the perfect brew ratio? It depends on the roast level of coffee! The general rule, the darker the roast, the shorter the espresso.
For darker roastcoffee, go for 1:1 or 1:1.2 for most espresso blend (to pair with milk). Go for 1:1.5 or 1:2 for medium light espresso roast single origins coffees, go for 1:2 or more.
Darker roast coffees are easily burnt with a longer pull espresso. Whereas lighter espresso roast coffees have more delicate flavours, a longer pull will result to a much sweeter and balanced cup.
A top tip, check with roaster for the ideal brew ratio!
Roasters usually calibrate and roast espresso coffees to suit a specific ratio. Also, you keep the guessing work to minimal 😃
Next, it's about Grind Size 🤩
Nice looking flow rate = the right grind size
About Grind Size
Once you fixed the dosage by basket size and brew ratio (by roast level), the next thing you’ll need to adjust is the grind size!
Different coffee requires different grind size. It’s impossible to have 1 grind setting for all coffee, unless you are in luck 😆 Here are few indicators to know whether you are on the right grind size!
First is Flow Rate. The starting flow should be two thin strip on double spout and slowly gets faster.
If the espresso is flowing like waterfall at beginning, you’ll need to grind finer and slow down the flow. Imagine water pass through a glass of rocks is faster than a glass of sand.
The ideal flow rate of an espresso
Second is Time. Your espresso should start flowing about 5-10 seconds you press the button and hit the target brew ratio anywhere between 20-40 seconds, depending on coffee.
Brew time outside the range is very likely under or over extract. Also if you brew in small dosage 15g below, the extraction time should be shorter than 18g dosage.
Lastly of course, Taste it! A good espresso is well balanced, start with delicate acidity and slowly turn to long lasting sweet aftertaste.
The perfect espresso is sweet, velvety mouthfeel with long pleasant aftertaste
Ever wonder why your espresso always taste sour? Most likely the grind size isn’t fine enough 😮
If espresso taste sour all the way (under-extract), grind finer. Bitter and dry long aftertaste (over-extract), grind coarser.
The bottom line, if the aftertaste is unpleasant, pretty sure the grind size is at the wrong one.
Grind finer if taste sour, grind coarser if espresso tastes bitter
A top tip! Sometimes you’ll notice that the grind size is the pretty much right there, ie nice flow rate plus time is within the range, but somehow it’s just a little sour or bitter.
A quick fix is to pull 1-2g longer (if sour) or shorter (if bitter). Pretty sure you’ll get a good one on the next shot!
Also, don’t get too OCD with brew time. You may notice that everything remain the same but brew time somehow differ a couple secs. There are other reasons like humidity, tamping etc will affect the brew time.
Time is a good indicator to ensure consistency in every cup, especially for cafes. But for us home brewers, as long as the taste is good, you are on the right track!
Lighter roast coffees tend to have faster flow rate than darker roast coffees. Very often that you’ll end up with longer pull espresso that’s kinda watery. Hence we strongly recommend medium espresso roast coffees for that, not a fan of watery espresso 🥴
What is even extraction 🤔
You have probably noticed that we mentioned even extraction many times in many coffee tips, but what is even extraction?
Like cooking meat, it’s easier to cook a flatly thin sliced meat than a whole thick cut. Thinly sliced meat cooked more evenly & way faster than thickly sliced meat 🥩
The same goes for coffee! The more even the coffee extraction, the higher the flavours, the sweeter the coffee 😍
There are 2 ways to achieve even coffee extraction
No. 1 is to use a good quality burr coffee grinder that produces even grind particles of coffee grounds. The better the quality of the coffee grinder, the higher evenness of coffee ground particles will be!
No. 2 is the coffee brewing technique.
For filter brew, stirring with a spoon to ensure all coffee grounds are in contact with hot water at the same time will greatly improve the evenness of extraction.
For espresso, good puck prep is essential to create an even bed of coffee grounds for extraction.
The use of espresso tools like WDT (or Comb) to break all coffee clumps will give an even coffee puck in the espresso basket.
For sure, you must tamp it evenly so that all the coffee grounds are extracted at the same time!
An uneven puck prep will cause channelling like espresso spraying out. As a result, you’ll get an unevenly extracted espresso that tastes watery, horribly sour & bitter at the same time 🤢
An even puck prep is where all the espresso flows out from all basket holes at the same time & creates a centred espresso flow that looks absolutely gorgeous 😍
When you got a lovely espresso flow, you’ll know that your espresso is gonna taste super creamy, velvety & incredibly sweet! 😋
Make sure you brew your coffee evenly, and you’ll get to enjoy sweeeeeeet coffee every single time.
How to make calibration adjustments as coffee beans age 🧐
If you have been brewing lots of espressos (especially if you purchase a 1kg pack), you’ll notice the espresso flow rate & crema change gradually as the coffee ages 🤨 yes you are right on that!
This is because of 2 main reasons, degassing & oxidation of coffee beans 😯
During coffee roasting, carbon dioxide undergoes formation within the coffee beans & CO2 begin to degas immediately after roasting and continues for 5-10 days. It’s highly recommended to finish a bag of beans within 1 month after roasting to fully enjoy the beautiful aromatics of coffee 🥰
Like a cut apple that turns brown, oxidation starts the moment you open the bag and oxygen is in contact with the beans. Although nothing is noticeable to the naked eye, the oxidation will affect the beans' aromatics dramatically 😩
This is why your coffee does not as good after 2-3 weeks after opening, even if it's within the 1 month after the roast date. The continuous contact of oxygen speeds up the oxidation of beans & kills off all the aromatics ☠️
The longer the age of the beans, the lesser the CO2 is within the beans, the lesser the aromatics are kept due to oxidation, and the thinner the espresso crema, the easier it is to over-extract the beans 😯
Crema reduces as beans ages
If you use the same brewing recipe as you first open the bag for all brew, you’ll notice your espresso tastes getting bitter day by day. That’s because beans have ‘lesser’ particles to extract & very easily over-extract the bitter particles in beans.
To tackle that, you’ll need to extract ‘less’ to avoid over-extraction! Ie, grind the beans coarser, up the dose to 1g more, and pull a shorter espresso 😮
Let’s say your starting recipe is 18g ground coffee extract to 36g espresso, you can start to use 19g, 1 step coarser grind, and brew to 32g espresso. This makes a much smoother espresso & bitterness is dramatically reduced 😍
We usually start this adjustment 1 week after opening a bag, of course, it has to be within 1 month after roasting!
A good practice is to write down the brewing recipe & opened date on the beans pack, and keep the hit or miss to minimal especially if you brew different beans all the time.
Espresso brewing tips ☕️
1. Preheat your espresso machine for at least 20 mins to ensure your machine is piping hot ♨️
This ensures sufficient heat to fully extract the espresso in a short brewing time of under 30 seconds.
2. Wipe your espresso basket dry & clean before putting ground coffee in. This ensures all coffee grounds are evenly extracted at the same time!
Also, don’t forget to ensure the portafilter is preheated to super hot before brewing!
3. Always follow the recommended brewing recipe given by roasters, no more hit or miss in every espresso brew!
Ps: Our Bean Shipper app makes it super easy to find the brewing recipe 😉
4. Proper puck prep makes perfectly even extracted espresso! This may not be very noticeable for milk coffee, but it makes a whole lot of difference if you enjoy an espresso shot or black coffee ☕️
Don’t forget to wipe off the coffee grounds on basket rim to ensure proper seal on with group head.
5. Always purge the ‘angry water’ before you lock in the portafilter. This keeps the espresso more consistent in every brew 😋
Freeze your iced latte & espresso cups ❄️
Do you enjoy an ice-cold latte or iced black in the hot afternoon? If yes, you have to try freezing your iced coffee cups in the freezer!
An iced cold cup not only keeps the milk cold in the cup, but it also slows down the ice melting when the hot espresso hits the milk 🧊
This slows the dilution of the iced latte and keeps the deliciousness for a longer time 😍
Freezing cups also work brilliantly for espresso cups! 😮
An ice-cold espresso cup drastically brings down the temperature of piping hot freshly brewed espresso. This instantly stops the oxidation of volatile aromatics that happens immediately after brewing.
As a result, you’ll get a less bitterness, super creamy espresso with a way higher sweetness 🥰
If you wish to freeze your cups or beans, please make sure that your freezer is meat-free for hygiene reasons 😉
Writing down the espresso brewing recipe ✍️
If you brew lots of different coffees like us, you probably forgot the brewing recipe to get the right extraction every time 😅
A great practice is to write down the optimal brewing recipe on the coffee packaging!
We usually write down the dose, grind size (we use a single-dose grinder), espresso output & brew time.
Writing all the brewing recipe down not only keep consistency high at all time, but you’ll also reduce wastage from making bad brew too 😉
How to enjoy an espresso 😋
To all the espresso lovers, this coffee tip is for you!
The magic of espresso is definitely the lovely crema that we all love. It’s the fundamental part of an espresso 😍
During the roasting process, carbon dioxide forms within the beans and begins to release after roasting. Crema is the CO2 that release during the espresso extraction that uses high pressure of 9 bar.
High pressure is essential for crema formation, hence you can only produce crema via espresso brewing. Manual brew like pour-over or even Moka pot is unable to produce crema due to insufficient pressure during the brewing process 😮
The darker the roast, the higher the amount of crema. This is because more CO2 is formed due to the longer roasting process for dark roast coffee. Fresher beans will have more crema too, as most CO2 is still trapped within the fresh beans.
The taste of crema is bitter, harsh & kinda unpleasant. Imagine tasting CO2….. 🥴
If you drink the espresso right away after brewing, you’ll probably only siping most of the crema and very little of the liquid espresso. This gives a false perception of how the coffee taste, and of course, not an enjoyable experience 😵💫
To fix that, just use a spoon to stir & mix all crema & espresso will do 🥄 by using a spoon, the crema will break & lessen as seen from the video!
Swirling espresso cup does not break & mix all the crema & espresso if your cup is small. As you can see, the crema remains thick after swirling.
Alternatively, you can also use a bigger cup to make swirling the espresso easier! The idea is to swirl rigorously to make sure all the crema mixes well with espresso.
Lastly, don't forget to use a freezing ice-cold espresso cup to immediately chill down the espresso. This makes the espresso tastes less bitter, and greater sweetness, mouthfeel & flavours 😋
The perfect beans for each type of espresso beverage 😋
For pairing with milk, we always recommend espresso blends that are specially designed for milk beverages like flat white, latte & cappuccino 🥛
Espresso blends usually have beans with thicker mouthfeels like Brazil, Indonesia, and Colombia beans that can punch through the milk and give a lovely body & aromatics to a latte!
You can also use espresso blends to pair with chocolate for mocha for a super chocolaty coffee too!
Espresso blend for latte will never go wrong
For straight espresso shot or long black americano, we love to enjoy single-origin espresso beans to taste the unique characteristics of the coffee ☕️
If you prefer stronger coffee, go for darker roast espresso beans for a thick full-bodied espresso. If you like fruity juicy jammy espresso like us, go for African single-origin espresso beans!
Also, we highly recommend making sparkling ice black with fruity African beans. It’s the perfect cure for a hot afternoon 🥵
How to make a super ice-cold coffee 😋
The weather these days is getting hotter than ever 🥵 An iced cold coffee is definitely the cure to this blazing hot afternoon.
Here’s a top tip to make a super freezing ice cold espresso coffee
1. Use a thick cup and place it in the freezer to freeze the cup ice cold.
2. Use cold water (prep earlier in the fridge) and pour it into the ice-cold cup.
3. Pull the shot straight into the cold water
4. Finally add a couple of ice & enjoy!
This way the ice will melt way slower than usual and avoid dilution to your iced coffee 😍
Wash Shower Screen every day 😯
A clean machine makes clean-tasting espresso. Ensuring your espresso machine is clean at all times not only makes your delicious espresso every day but also keeps your machine out of trouble 🙌🏼
The shower screen is the area where all the ground gets cumulated. If left unwashed, you’ll be drinking the ground coffee you made yesterday (or don’t know when 🤮).
We highly recommend removing the shower screen and washing it after every time you switch off the machine.
If you notice the shower screen gets cloaked up by coffee oils and fines, use the espresso clean to soak it with hot water and leave it overnight. The shower screen will look brand new after that 😍
For home brewers, depending on how many coffees you brew, a once-a-month cleaning with espresso clean is a must. For cafes, please clean them every day 🙏🏼
Once cleaned up, you’ll notice your espresso tastes transparent and absolutely delightful 🤗
That's all for everything about espresso! Happy brewing & cheers to delicious golden espresso ☕️