Contrary to popular belief, there’s many different ways to be an espresso fan — you don’t have to invest in a luxury manual machine and master the art of dialing in the perfect shot. You can try out an automatic or capsule espresso machine, Nespresso machine, or you can even make espresso-like coffee with stovetop makers and other methods. But whichever kind of home barista you’re looking to become, you’ll need to learn the basics of espresso and how to operate the machine of your choice.
Over at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab, we’ve learned a thing or two about brewing espresso and making the perfect coffee drinks through decades of testing espresso machines, coffee grinders, milk frothers, and more. Here’s how to get started on your at-home espresso journey.
How do you make espresso at home?
To make true Italian espresso at home that rivals what you’d get in a coffee shop, you need an espresso machine. These range from manual machines (where you tamp and brew everything yourself) to automatic and capsule machines (where you press a button and the machine does the rest). While coffee experts generally prefer manual machines for the level of control they grant them over their espresso, we found in testing that automatic, super-automatic and capsule machines like the Nespresso VertuoPlus and Breville Barista Pro are the easiest to use for beginners and give consistent results.
If you’re not working with capsules or a machine with a built-in grinder, here’s what you’ll need:
- A good coffee grinder to get a fine espresso grind. We like the Breville Smart Grinder Pro for espresso because the finest setting produces fine, even results that don’t clump together. Make sure to use quality, dark roast coffee.
- A milk frother, if you want to make a latte or other specialty drink with milk.
- A kitchen scale. You’ll want to consider having one on hand to weigh your grounds if you’re serious about learning to dial in the perfect shot of espresso.
How to make espresso with an espresso machine
- 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…