How to make espresso with an espresso machine

How to Make Drip Coffee – the Perfectionist Guide
A perfect cup of coffee is the result of a series of personal choices, techniques, and perfect measurements of quantities and time. Yes, there is the technical side of making coffee, where grind size, brewing time, and water temperature need to be perfect, but there is also the personal touch to it. This personal preference can affect the roast type, the bean origins, and the type of filter used. I’ll show you in a bit how all these can affect your coffee, and don’t be afraid to try them, coffee taste is subjective.

The Water
Water is essential for drip coffee, and with poor water quality, you’ll get an average cup.

Tap water is not bad, but it has a bit too many minerals which are going to show in your coffee. Distilled water is not good, because it has no minerals and will render your cup too flat.

Filtering your water before brewing is a great choice; make sure you pick a filter that doesn’t completely strip your water of minerals, but it removes chlorine and other compounds that impart strong taste or odors. Another great choice is bottled water; the best is spring water because it has a good balance of minerals.

The Grind
Although it is not as critical as with other brewing methods, the grind size is still very important, so don’t overlook it. The grind size is clearly marked on any decent burr grinder, and you can play with it within certain margins.

I am not downplaying the importance of a consistent grind. I am merely stating that this consistency is not as critical as with French press, or espresso.
If you grind finer, you will prolong the steeping time, because water will pass slower through the compact coffee. Too coarse and the water will pass too fast, resulting in under-extraction. There is a lot of talking on the Internet about how over-extraction will result in bitter coffee. And the discussions mention brew time as the important factor in over-extraction.
This is not entirely true; a longer extraction time at the correct temperature will make the coffee stronger, but not bitter.

Think about Turkish coffee, if there was such a thing as over-extraction Turkish coffee would be the most over-extracted brew and it would be extremely bitter which is not the case. Turkish coffee is a bit over-extracted by the North American standards, however not to the point were we extract tannins and other undesirable compounds. It is just a very strong coffee. In the same way, dialing in you grind will get you a stronger or a milder cup.

A grind too fine will allow more soluble solids to pass through the filter, especially if you are using non-paper filters. This will make coffee less clear, which will disappoint many drip coffee lovers. (It will get it closer to espresso and Turkish coffee.) If you like stronger coffee, this is perfect for you.

Grind and measure your beans. Using dark roast coffee beans and a quality grinder, grind enough beans to make one or two espresso shots. An average single espresso shot will require between 6 and 8 grams of coffee grounds, although this can be adjusted up or down. For a double shot, about 15 grams. Your grounds should be powdery and fine, so go ahead and use the finest setting on your grinder. If you want to be sure you measured correctly, you can weigh your grounds on a kitchen scale — just make sure to tare out the portafilter first.
Distribute and tamp down your shot. Once you have an amount of grounds in your portafilter that you’re happy with, distribute the grounds evenly with a finger, place the portafilter on the countertop or other flat surface, and then use the tamper to tamp down on the grounds. You’ll then have a compact disk of espresso in the portafilter.
Pull your shot. Before you start, run the machine briefly without a portafilter in place to clear the ground head. Then, lock the portafilter into the machine, position your demitasse glass or other vessel underneath, and start your shot. The espresso should be ready after 25 to 30 seconds, but it will take practice with your specific machine and lots of taste tests to achieve shots to your liking. (Some machines require you to time it manually, while others offer different settings.) The final product shouldn’t be too light or dark in color, shouldn’t taste too acidic or too bitter, and should have a fine layer of caramel-colored crema on top.
Prepare milk if using and enjoy your espresso. If you’re trying to make a latte or other drink with milk, you’ll then need to steam your milk (we’ve included step-by-step milk steaming instructions in our latte how-to). If not, enjoy your espresso as is! Make sure to clean and dry the portafilter, as well as purge and wipe down the milk frothing wand, when you’re done.
So really, there is no over-extraction with the correct water temperature. However, if the water is too hot, coffee is scalded, and the bitter tones are extracted from coffee. Longer brewing time will intensify over-extraction problems. To be more exact: the more time you use the wrong water temperature the more bitterness you will get.
On the other hand, under-extraction is going to result in a flat coffee, with little caffeine, no aromas, and no body. Coarse grinds need more time in the water to be fully saturated, but water passes easier through coarse grinds. So grinding too coarse will result in a weak, tasteless coffee.
As a conclusion, lower brewing temperature is better, but the brewing time might need to be adjusted.


Drink your coffee immediately.
Coffee should be served right after it was brewed. Leaving coffee on the burner will make the aromas and flavors evaporate and you will end up with a burned tasting cup. The best coffee is fresh coffee.
Only use good quality fresh beans. If your coffee beans are older than a month, they lost all the flavor, and coffee will be insipid. Best places to buy coffee are the small roasters, these roast small batches, and there are lower chances to get old beans from them. Make sure you store coffee properly; check my post about how to store coffee beans, light and oxygen are the worst enemies of awesome coffee. Quality coffee is usually 100% Arabica, make sure you can find marked this on the label. Don’t go for the big brands, they have a marketing army to convince everybody about their perfect beans. In reality, they take shortcuts in order to maximize profit.

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