How to make espresso at home
To brew espresso at home you will first need an espresso machine, this could be a pod machine like the Nespresso and verismo or a standard espresso machine like the Breville barista express or the DeLonghi Dedica.
Which machine you get all depends on your requirements. If you just want to be able to make a coffee at home then a pod machine might be an option but if you have a favorite coffee shop and your aim is to try and recreate the taste at home you will be better getting a standard espresso machine. This will allow you to buy the same coffee and then practice with the settings, techniques, tips below to try and get your coffee to taste the same.
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What to avoid when brewing an espresso at home
First, let’s start with some of the things that you should not do that often have more of an impact on the taste than getting the brewing technique perfect.
Don’t overheat the milk
For a beginner or any level really this could be one of the most important factors when making a white coffee. It doesn’t matter if you start with the freshest coffee, grind the amount and size correctly, use the perfect amount of pressure to press it in the portafilter, if you overheat the milk, all you will taste is the spoilt milk flavor. It’s actually a good idea to make your first coffees on the cooler side to ensure this does not happen. You can then gauge the taste of the coffee better and try and get it hotter as you have more practice. It is undeniable if the milk is too hot, you can just smell it.
Don’t use different coffee beans
If you are trying to replicate your favorite coffee shop then use the same coffee beans that they do otherwise you won’t know if it’s your technique or the beans themselves for any difference in taste.
Don’t use a different cup type/size
The cup you drink out of will affect the taste and your overall experience. So if you are trying to replicate your favorite cafe brew then make sure you use the same cup. If you get your coffee in a takeaway disposable cup then keep a few and make yours at home in these. A better way would be to choose your favorite reusable coffee cup, then get your take away coffee in this and make your coffee at home in this.
Steps to make the perfect Espresso
- Step 1 – Preheat
- Step 2 – Prepare / Grind the coffee
- Step 3 – Grind quantity
- Step 4 – Tamping the coffee
- Step 5 – Brew the coffee
The first step is to let the coffee machine heat up and brew an empty shot. i.e. insert the portafilter empty and activate the single or double shot functionality. This will pass hot water through everything involved in the brewing process and into the cup (remember to put the cup there;).
To get the best results you should start with freshly roasted beans and grind them as you need them but if you don’t have a grinder most coffee shops will grind it to the optimum size for you. This is ok when you are first starting out as a pre-ground freshly roasted good quality coffee is still a good option until you decide you want to get your own grinder. I would even say get some cheaper coffee first as you get used to the process then move onto better quality and see if you notice the difference. Also, see here for details about the ideal grind size required
The next step is to add the correct quantity of coffee grinds into the portafilter, the standard I use is about 19g to 20g for a double shot but you may not have any scales and you might have a machine that has a dose setting so try that on the middle setting and work from there.
At this point, you will probably spill coffee all over the place but you now need to get all the coffee grounds into the portafilter and press it down with the tamper. You basically need to press the coffee down so it’s all compacted and leaves a smooth surface.
Now its time to insert the portafilter into the machine and press the double shot brew button, or single-shot depending on which filter and amount of coffee you are using. This is when you find out if you got everything right, you are aiming for 20 to 30 seconds brew time, any more or less you will need to alter various aspects including grind size or temper pressure. But we will get into that next. For now, place the cup under the portafilter and press the brew button.
How to brew a latte, flat white or other milk-based espresso drink at home
To brew a latte of other milk-based espresso drinks at home you need to use the steps above to brew the espresso and then add hot milk. I usually heat the milk first then pour the shot then add the milk:
- Follow all the steps above: ….but don’t press the brew button
- Heat the milk: Again I can’t emphasize enough how key this stage is and not to heat the milk too much, also ensure the milk is as fresh as possible.
- Press the brew button: Finish the above espresso process and press the brew button on your machine, remembering to first place your cup underneath.
- Add the milk: Now pour the hot milk onto the espresso coffee shot. If you are using an 8oz cup, simply fill it to the top with milk
More experienced tips for brewing espresso at home
Use filtered water – Poor water can affect the taste and can even damage your machine. Another advantage of some of the better espresso machines like the barista express is that it comes with a built-in water filter.
Use scales – Once you are producing a good coffee you can start fine-tuning the brewing process by weighing out your coffee.