How to Pull an Excellent Espresso
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How to Pull an Excellent Espresso

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How to Pull an Excellent Espresso

The quintessential expression of coffee is espresso.

-Ernesto Illy

A few words about espresso...

Espresso was invented in Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century as a way to brew a fresh, delicious cup of coffee fast. It is made by sending pressurized hot water through the coffee grounds to extract the sugars and oils from the coffee. Because of the speed and high pressure of this method, a full, rich coffee is created, without many of the bitter notes that come out in coffee brewed at low pressures. With this in mind, you should strive to make every espresso beverage with careful precision and attention to freshness.

Now, lets get into it! Keep reading to learn how to pull an excellent shot of espresso.

Step 1: Remove the portafilter

  • Remove the portafilter from the machine. Knock out the spent puck.
  • Lock the empty portafilter back into the machine.
  • Run water to rinse for a few seconds.
  • Remove the portafilter and use a dry towel to thoroughly wipe the inside of the portafilter until it is clean and dry.

Step 2: Grind

  • Grind every shot fresh.
  • Because coffee flavor begins to rapidly deteriorate as soon as it is ground, no grounds should be left in the hopper.
  • Grind only what you need to dose one shot, then immediately turn off the grinder.

Step 3: Fill the portafilter

  • Fill portafilter so that the coffee makes a cone shape about half an inch above the lip of the portafilter. This should be almost exactly 20 grams (hint: use a scale!)
  • Use the side of your index finger to carefully, but quickly, distribute the grounds in a circular motion. You should be packing the ground coffee evenly, with no overdosed or underdosed patches.
  • Level the dose by running the side of your index finger across the top. (very little coffee should wind up in the garbage if you dose and level correctly.)

Step 4: Tamp

  • Lay tamper onto coffee evenly with very light pressure, but keeping your finger tips level with the top edge of the tamp's vertical edge.
  • Press tamper evenly and with enough pressure so that your fingertips make contact with the top rim of the portafilter basket.
  • Twist tamp so that it polishes the surface of the pressed coffee, and finish by wiping the grounds off the portafilter.

Step 5: Prepping the group head

  • Purge the group head for one or two seconds.
  • Wipe dry with a clean rag to prevent premature infusion.

Step 6: Pull the shot

  • Put the portafilter into the group head, make sure it fits snug. No need to overtighten. If it leaks, your gasket may need replacement.
  • You'll want to pull the shot directly into the mug you're serving the coffee in. Position it so that the espresso will fall roughly in its center.
  • Press the double shot button and wait between 18 and 26 seconds from the time the espresso begins to pour to finish. (It may not begin pouring for 3-5 seconds, meaning total shot time should be between 21-31 seconds)
  • Watch carefully to see that it has a thick consistency, reddish brown color in a thin, slightly wavering stream.
  • When the espresso begins to thin and turn from orange/yellow to white, stop the machine immediately.
  • The final product should have a thick crema of reddish-brown swirling color and be almost syrupy in body, with slight black flecking, small bubbles, and a warm, nutty sweet-tangy aroma.

Step 7: Check your work!

  • If you are uncertain whether you followed the steps correctly, take out the portafilter and examine the waste. The top of the coffee should be hard and with a single, round dent in the middle (if your group head screen has a screw) and no pits anywhere.
  • Knock out the grounds, it should come out in a round, hard puck with a single knock.
  • Keep working to refind your technique until you find a perfect rhythm that generates consistent results and stick with it. Consistency is key!

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