The 7 Basic Steps to Great Home Espresso

It has many guises…espresso, cappuccino, café latte, macchiato, ristretto, doppio, flat white – that bitter sweet pleasure which is a way of life for so many of us. Sure, the active ingredient caffeine is found in other beverages, such as tea and soft drinks, but there’s only one true pure form: coffee.

But there is an art to making an espresso and all its variations. Even that simple long black demands respect for the espresso machine, and attention to the packing of the ground coffee beans. Without that ‘rat’s tail’ spiralling into the demitasse, your coffee is going to be sub-standard.

Seven steps to the perfect home espresso

Step 1 – Select your favourite coffee blend. You can either use pre-ground coffee or grind your own just before you make your espresso. If you are using pre-ground, make sure it is freshly opened and espresso blend [not filter]. If you prefer, as we do, to grind your own, make sure it is finely ground.

Ensure your espresso equipment is clean and hot, this includes the filter holder and filter basket, where your coffee grounds go. Preheat your cups – espresso cups should be approx 60ml capacity, cappuccino cups about 200ml capacity.


Step 2 – Place coffee grounds into the filter basket using a spoon or preferably a coffee scoop. You must place the right amount of coffee in the basket in order to get a good, strong espresso – one scoop in the smaller (one cup) basket; two scoops in the bigger basket (two cup) one.




Step 3 – Level the coffee in the basket and tamp (compress) the grounds. This will slow the flow of the water through the coffee, so that it can pick up all the flavour (oils & aromas) from the grounds. Check your machine instruction guide as to how hard or soft you should tamp.

Step 4
– Ensure the rim of the filter holder is clean before inserting it into the machine. Activate the water to flush  out any grounds from the inside of the machine.



Step 5 – Insert the filter holder into the machine. Immediately place warm cups underneath and start the flow of water through the coffee. The extracted coffee should pour in a fine stream (the proverbial ‘rat’s tail’).






Step 6 – The result should be 30ml of espresso (in around 25 seconds) with a 2mm golden, hazelnut-coloured crema on top. (The crema is an important indicator of the quality of your espresso.) and…Taste!

Note: If you get little crema, make sure your coffee is fresh for a start. Try again making sure you have the right amount of coffee, the right tamping pressure and that your machine has been properly warmed up. You may need to experiment with different grinds (particle sizes) – remember you typically need a very fine grind for espresso coffee. As a general rule with domestic espresso machines, make your espresso before preparing the milk.



Step 7 – Steaming your milk. Place fresh, cold milk in a small stainless steel jug (fill between a third and one half of the jug). Activate the steam button so that your espresso machine increases in temperature to produce steam. Once the ‘Ready’ light on your machine goes on, turn the steam on and off to expel any water.

Place the tip of the spout just (about half a centimetre) under the surface of the milk and positioned near the centre of the jug. Turn on the steam wand to full power. You should see and hear air being drawn into the milk, creating a whirlpool effect, making it foamy. When the milk reaches 65°C turn off the steam and wipe the steam wand clean.


Pour the steamed milk to produce the drink of your choice and enjoy!

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One Response to “The 7 Basic Steps to Great Home Espresso”

  1. Seven Steps to the Perfect Home Espresso » Christa Johnston Says:

    [...] The 7 Basic Steps Seven steps to the perfect home espresso. Step 1 – Select your favourite coffee blend. You can either use pre-ground coffee or grind your own just before you make your espresso. [...]

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