8 Tips to Make a Better Espresso

Ever been shown a recipe for espresso, followed the weights and times exactly and still wondered why your espresso wasn’t tasting as good as it could be? This blog will solve that.

The Ultimate Step by Step Guide to Making Espresso

Ever been shown a recipe for espresso, followed the weights and times exactly and still wondered why your espresso wasn’t tasting as good as it could be?

In this blog, we go beyond the process of dialling in, or throwing you a recipe and we give you our top 8 tips to making great espresso.

You will see the term "extraction" mentioned throughout this blog. Put simply, extraction means dissolving all the good bits of coffee into water to get the best out of the particular coffee you're brewing. "Over extracting" a coffee generally means you've ended up with more of the dissolved solids in the water than was ideal for the particular coffee you are brewing, leading to bitter or burnt characteristics. "Under extracted" coffee means not enough solids have been dissolved leading to a sour or unbalanced flavour.

Once you've got your espresso recipe sorted, make sure you follow all of the tips below for delicious espresso!

Read on! 



Tip 1. Keep your group handle and basket at the right temperature.

Your group handle is made of solid stainless steel and if it’s cold when you run your espresso shot, that metal will act as a heat sink and change the temperature of the extraction. Keep your group handle HOT by leaving it in the group head when you’re not using it. For home users, if you haven’t made a coffee for a while or it’s the first shot of the day, run straight hot water for 10 seconds to pre heat the group handle.

Rule of thumb: your group handle should either be in the head or in your hand to keep water away from your dry coffee grinds and the temperature ready to brew.



Tip 2. Flush your group head every time you make a coffee.

Coffee grinds will inevitably get stuck on the shower screen after you’ve made a coffee. Those grinds are already extracted (think burnt flavours). By flushing the group head, you ensure those over extracted grinds don’t end up in your next cup and tainting the flavour.

Rule of thumb: every time you remove the group handle, hit the flush button.


Tip 3. Keep your basket clean and dry.

This is the equivalent of cleaning your baking tin in between two cakes. It’s essential! Old, already extracted grinds will ruin your next espresso. Get that baby spick and span.

Also, any water in contact with your coffee puck will begin to extract your coffee. This will lead to some part of your puck over extracting when you make your espresso.

Rule of thumb: Use a dry, clean tea towel or cloth to wipe your coffee basket in between each and every coffee. Yes, every single one!

Tip 4. Evenly distribute your puck.

Creating an even bed of coffee before you tamp is crucial to ensuring an even extraction. If most of your coffee is on one side of the basket, when you tamp the puck will still look flat, however, one side will be tightly compacted and one side will be loosely compacted with less coffee. Water follows the path of least resistance so your water will run through a channel leaving some coffee in contact with lots of water and over extracting while some coffee will be barely getting wet and under extracting. The result is a muddled, yucky cup of coffee.

Rule of thumb: use a puck distribution tool or gently (key word) tap the side of your group head to evenly distribute the coffee before you tamp.

Tip 5. Tamp evenly and consistently.

There was once the idea that you had to tamp hard to get great espresso. We now know that's not quite true. It’s not necessarily about how hard you tamp, it’s about tamping the same way every time. Consistency is key for any recipe.

How tightly compacted your coffee puck is a key variable as it will restrict the flow of water. If you can keep your tamp the same every time, along with the other variables in your recipe, then the number one variable you need to change is the grind size.

Having an uneven, sloping puck will cause those nasty channels we talked about in the last paragraph.

The best way to tamp is to have your elbow at a 45 degree angle, and bend one knee to push down. It saves your wrist and using your body weight instead of your muscles leads to a more even tamp.

Rule of thumb: tamp evenly (sorry we said that already)

Tip 6. Don’t knock your puck!

After you’ve spent so much time carefully preparing your coffee puck, you don’t want to bang it around after you’ve tamped. Accidentally knocking your handle into the group head while you’re trying to insert it is a common mistake. Any disturbance of the puck can cause a crack in the puck and lead to "channeling". Channeling is when water follows the path of lease resistance, moving it's way through the crack causing over extraction where the coffee is in contact with water and under extraction where little water flows. 

Importantly, sometimes you can’t even see the channeling so although you might be checking your puck after you've run your espresso shot you may still not be able to identify the crack. The only way to know whether your shot is pouring correctly or if it’s channeled is to watch the first part of your espresso pouring (the drop)…

Rule of thumb: once your puck is tamped, treat it gently. Absolutely no tamping, knocking and tamping again

Tip 7. Watch the first drop of your espresso.

Espresso should look like honey off the back of a spoon with a thin, dark tail and both sides of the spouts should drop at the same time. If your espresso comes out quickly, light coloured or pours from one side first then you know you’ve got a channel. What most baristas don’t know is that the time your espresso takes to pour can be within the desired range but the extraction can still be unbalanced. The only way to know is to watch that drop!

Rule of thumb: Watch that drop 😉

Tip 8. Hit your shot button as soon as your handle is in the head.

Your shower screen and group head are hot. Heat will cause extraction before you want it to. You don’t want your puck touching your hot shower screen or it will begin to extract (burn). Depending on your machine and settings, most espresso will begin to pour after 6-8 seconds. You’ve got time to find your cup so press the button straight away!

Rule of Thumb: As soon as you put the handle in the head, hit the espresso button.



There are 8 tips for making better espresso shots. We hope you've gotten value from this and begin making better espresso shots. If you want more tips for brewing better coffee at home, check out this post. 

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