Knowing how to make the perfect espresso is both an immense blessing and a curse! Now that we’ve mastered the art of pulling shots, we don’t run to the coffee shop every time we have an espresso craving, which saves us lots of money. But we drink a lot more espresso than we used to, which isn’t the best for our health!
But mostly, being able to make a rich, delicious double shot of espresso whenever we want it is incredible! That’s why we decided to share our best tips for making the perfect shot of espresso with you—so you can make amazing espresso too!
Drink responsibly, friends… cause once you taste this amazing homemade espresso, you won’t want to stop guzzling it!
Choosing the Right Espresso Machine
Choosing the right espresso machine is crucial when it comes to making good homemade espresso.
Our two favorite kinds of home espresso makers are the ones from Nespresso that produce shots for you from espresso pods, and semi-automatic machines that allow you to pull the shot yourself.
To use a semi-automatic machine, you’ll have to become a bit of a barista! You’ll have to grind the coffee beans yourself, weigh them and put them into the portafilter, and then pull the shot of espresso.
Pulling a shot only takes thirty seconds, but the whole process of grinding and measuring the beans can be a little time intensive! It’s probably not the best kind of machine to buy if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning.
The machine that Nespresso sells are just like Keurigs. You fill the water tank up, pop an espresso pod into the machine, and turn it on. And just like that, your rich, flavorful cup of piping hot espresso is done!
We’ve been using Nespresso machines for years and we think the quality of the shots is pretty great. We don’t notice much of a difference between the shots that come out of our machine and the ones we get at our local coffee shop.
We may be biased, but we’re big fans of Nespresso machines because of the convenience factor. Why spend fifteen minutes pulling a shot when you can get a comparable one in two minutes or less?
But if you have time on your hands, and want to make your own version of perfect espresso from scratch, here’s how you do it!
How to Pull a Shot of Espresso with a Semi-Automatic Machine
First, you may need to preheat your espresso machine. Some heat up quickly, but others… not so much! Check your machine’s manual before you get started to save yourself a caffeine headache.
The next thing you’ll have to do to pull the perfect shot is grind your coffee beans. You’ll need to grind them up pretty finely, so a good coffee bean grinder is a must— here’s our list of the best coffee grinders to try out. Aim for a grind size that resembles granulated sugar.
Do you have a coffee scale? Good! Because next, you should weigh out the coffee grounds on your scale to make sure you have the right amount. We like to put ours in the portafilter to weigh them because weighing them by themselves is pretty messy!
Just in case you don’t know what a portafilter is, it’s the part of the espresso machine that holds the coffee grounds. It kind of looks like an ice cream scoop because it has a long handle and a rounded basket that holds the coffee.
The weight that you’ll want to aim for is 18 to 21 grams of coffee grounds. Anything in that range will get you a nice double shot of espresso.
After your coffee grounds are all measured and ready to go in the portafilter, you’ll need to make sure that they’re evenly distributed.
Sometimes one side of the portafilter has a massive pile of coffee grounds and the other side doesn’t have enough. This will give you an uneven extraction and ruin the taste of your espresso, so take your fingers and move the coffee grounds around to evenly distribute them.
Now you’re ready to tamp! Grab a tamper like this one and press it down into the coffee grounds firmly. Make sure that the tamper is level so that the grounds get packed down evenly. If the tamper is at an angle, it can create an uneven surface, which leads to an uneven extraction… and nobody wants that!
Now you’re ready to lock the portafilter into your machine, set your cup under it, and pull the shot! If you have a semi-automatic machine, you don’t have to do anything else. Just wait 20 to 30 seconds and your perfect shot of espresso will be ready!
Other Ways to Make Espresso
Espresso machines use huge amounts of pressure to push boiling hot water through coffee grounds. That’s why alternative methods of making espresso, like brewing espresso beans in the French press, don’t actually produce real espresso. They just produce strong coffee that tastes like espresso.
If espresso machines are out of your budget, though, these alternative brewing methods will satisfy your caffeine craving without breaking the bank. The equipment won’t cost you more than $30… the most expensive part will probably be the espresso beans!
Our favorite way to make faux espresso is in the AeroPress. This neat gadget was created by Alan Adler, a Stanford professor who wanted to make a better cup of coffee. It really does make superior coffee—it’s complex, flavorful, and rich!
Making coffee in it is pretty simple. It’s actually a lot like using a French press!
First, heat up a cup of water in a kettle. Then grind your beans until they’re a nice, fine consistency, measure out two tablespoons of grounds, and set them aside.
Next, place a filter in the filter cap of your AeroPress and rinse it with some water. Then pop it back onto the press and place the whole press on top of a sturdy mug.
Take the coffee grounds you measured out and put them in the AeroPress. Tamp down the grounds with a tamp just like you would when making a regular shot of espresso.
Grab your boiling water and measure out a half cup of it. Pour the water into the press, stir it, and then wait thirty seconds to give the coffee a chance to bloom. Now, you’re ready to plunge!
Apply some pressure to the plunger just like you would with a French press. Once you’ve pressed the plunger all the way down, you’re ready to take the AeroPress off and enjoy your espresso!
You can make coffee drinks that are pretty similar to espresso in the French press, too. Most of us coffee lovers have three of these in our kitchens, so this method is completely free besides the espresso beans! Check out this article if you want to learn how to do it.
Don’t Use Instant Espresso Powder
We’re all for alternative espresso-making methods, but instant espresso is one we can’t get behind. It tastes pretty good when it’s mixed in with baked goods, but by itself? Not so much!
Instant espresso is made by taking brewed espresso grounds and dehydrating them. When you get instant espresso home, you have to add hot water to it to reconstitute it into something drinkable.
We may just be picky, but we don’t love the idea of drinking reconstituted coffee! The fresher the coffee beans, the better chance of producing the perfect espresso… and the beans in instant espresso are pretty far from fresh.
No matter what method you’re using to make your perfect espresso, make sure that you purchase high-quality espresso beans and use them when they’re still nice and fresh to get the best flavor!
Which method are you most excited to try? Let us know in the comments section below.
Have fun, we’ll brew ya later! ☕️