Want to get down with your fave espresso drink, but dreading that trip to the coffeeshop?
In this post I’ll show you how to make espresso at home just like a barista!
Have you ever walked out of a cafe and thought to yourself, “I can do that”?
Do you want to save yourself a 10-minute walk to the local coffee purveyor?
Can you make espresso at home? Is it possible?
Owning a $1000 espresso machine isn’t the only way to achieve the perfect espresso on your own. A little dash of creativity and some barista-proven tricks and tips will get you close to your favorite cafe espresso in the comfort of your own home.
I’m going to break this down into some simple concepts because, in all honesty, this is not rocket science.
To make espresso at home, you need three things: the coffee, some water (filtered if possible), and brewing equipment of your choice: an espresso machine, a Moka pot, or an Aeropress.
Remember when I said a dash of creativity is required to make espresso at home? I am going to teach you all that you need to know.
Once we take a closer look at the concepts and technique, you’ll see that the perfect shot is achievable by all!
Let’s take a look at each piece of this home espresso puzzle below.
How to make espresso with regular coffee
Here are a few questions professional baristas get at least five times a day:
Can you make espresso with regular coffee?
Which of these beans is an espresso roast?
What is the difference between espresso with regular coffee and espresso coffee?
Ready for this? There is no difference.
All espresso is made with regular coffee. The only thing that matters when learning how to make espresso with regular coffee is the grind.
Espresso grind is super fine because the extraction process is fast.
To get all the delicious goodness from the regular coffee, you need to grind it fine enough so that it can release its sweetness in a fast amount of time.
If you don’t have a grinder, I suggest having a barista grind it for you at their shop. Always prioritize a good and appropriate grinder and grind size over grinding it fresh at home with a food processor.
Seriously. Do not do that.
Here is a little organic chemistry for you: in the extraction process, solubles shake from the cellular walls of the coffee bean and into your cup.
Acids and caffeine solubles extract faster than carbohydrates, lipids, and fats.
Under-extracted coffee is usually salty and sour. Over-extracted coffee is bitter.
You can change your grind size to fix it or the brew time.
How to make espresso at home with a machine
So you have an espresso machine at home. Good for you! Let’s help you get the most out of it.
If you have an espresso machine at home, you probably have a grinder, too.
No grinder? Make sure you get that coffee finely ground.
Using roasted coffee that is ground for a pour-over or french press will shoot out so fast, it may hit the wall behind you.
That is because the grind size for those two devices is coarser.
Here is a good recipe to start with:
18-20 grams of coffee (roughly 2.5 tablespoons) into your portafilter (that wand-like handle with a metal filter basket) and double the weight out, or roughly a 2oz shot of espresso.
If you don’t have a scale, fill your basket up to capacity (but don’t overfill it as it can kill your espresso machine) and use a shot glass for your espresso to measure to the 2 oz mark.
When you tamp your shot (the act of pressing down the ground espresso coffee with the tamper), think of stamping a box with ink that is about to run dry.
You want enough pressure to compact the grounds but not too much pressure. This can make the coffee too solid and cause channeling, where the pressurized water creates cracks in the ground coffee and mess with your extraction.
If it tastes sour, your grind may need to be finer. If it tastes bitter, try coarsening your grind!
The coarser the grind, the less you can extract from the ground coffee. The finer the grind, the more you can extract.
See? There is a lot of science involved in making espresso at home.
How to make the best espresso at home
If you stick to a tried and true espresso recipe, making sure you get all of your specifications in the numbers I am about to outline for you, you will make the best espresso at home. Guaranteed.
Let’s take a look at that recipe I outline for you previously. This is a tried and true gold standard recipe in professional cafe settings;
The dose of coffee: 18 grams of coffee into your portafilter basket
Weight of espresso (what comes out of the machine): 36-40 grams of beverage
Time: 25-32 seconds
That’s it. Not too hard, huh? The golden ratio in the industry is a 1:2 to 1:2.25 ratio. When in doubt, multiply the amount of ground coffee you are adding to your portafilter by 2 or 2.25 and that’s how much your espresso shot should weigh.
Taste is paramount, of course. If your shot is running super quick and tasting sour, fine up the grind (making the coffee particles smaller). If it’s too slow and tastes bitter, coarsen your grind (making the coffee particles bigger).
A key factor in how to make good espresso at home
Here are some visual cues and tangible tips for assessing a good espresso even before you take a sip.
When you look at an espresso, you will notice a blond layer on top.
This is called the crema, which in layman’s terms is an airy liquid layer that contains oils, coffee solubles, and tastes pleasantly bitter and delightfully creamy if done right.
Think of it as aromatic bitters you would find in a fine cocktail; a good crema acts similarly.
Crema is a product of accurate extraction.
Espresso shots that take forever to brew kill any semblance of crema in the cup.
Shots pulled that extract too quickly because of a coarse grind or wrong ratio have a bit TOO much crema.
We want something in the middle. Keep an eye on how fast or slow your shot is pulling will keep you on track to a perfect at-home crema-topped espresso.
If you’ve reached this point, congratulations!
You now know that achieving the perfect espresso at home is a LOT easier than some professionals or coffee snobs make it out to be.
Truth be told, you probably have the tools and wherewithal to produce barista-quality espresso at home with your regular coffee, an espresso machine, or even a French Press.
Save some bucks while simultaneously building your skills and confidence by pulling a perfect shot in the comfort of your home.
Tip yourself while you’re at it. Good luck!