Created for Coffee Lovers.

How to Make Espresso at Home: Coffee Lover's Secret Weapon

Dave Carter

February 9, 2021

If you love coffee, you have probably tasted espresso, and you know how delicious it is. Espresso is one of the most common Italian drinks served in coffee shops, including Starbucks. But did you know that you can make espresso at home? Imagine the smell of freshly ground coffee beans filling up your kitchen. The aroma drifting from your new espresso machine and the taste of a fragrant, crema-rich espresso shot. Isn't this what all coffee lovers strive for? In a world where instant gratification is the norm and the quick fix, we discover that nothing beats being able to savor a well-made cup of espresso. You can enjoy an excellent cup of coffee anytime you like, just like the pros, but rather than visiting several cafes and paying a handsome amount, you can have it at your home or office. So, if you are a coffee lover and your urge for rich espresso is tugging at your heartstrings, read on to find out how to make espresso at home!

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How to Make Espresso at Home - Five Easy Steps

How to Make Espresso without Machine Guide

Espresso is a truly unique coffee beverage, but there is more to espresso than just its caffeine content! The rich, intense flavor can be savored almost like wine, with different notes and accents enhancing different varieties of beans. And in fact, the beans themselves are incredibly important. Keep in mind that the best espresso is made from fresh beans that have been ground moments before brewing. You will know if you have done it right when you see a distinctive foam sitting atop your espresso. This is called "crema," It should be thick and smooth, without bubbles. However, did you know that you could recreate this flavor with the simplicity of making a cup of coffee at home? This is possible with the right espresso maker. You can make a great-tasting cup of espresso at home that rivals anything found at the barista's counter! While you can make espresso using a stovetop Moka pot, a home espresso machine is the best way to brew this coffeehouse favorite. Let us now go through the steps of how to make espresso at home.

What You’ll need:

  • Espresso maker
  • Coffee grinder
  • Coffee beans or coffee grounds
  • Scale

Step 1: Grind and measure the beans

The first step in making espresso is to grindall the beans using a coffee grinder. The best grind size to use depends on the type of espresso machine you have. You'll want a finer grind if you have a manual machine, whereas an automatic or semi-automatic machine will require a coarser grind. A general rule of thumb is the finer the grind, the slower it allows the water to pass through and vice versa. Use a scale to measure the amount you need.

Step 2: Put the beans in a portafilter

The next step is to place the ground coffee in your portafilter. Most machines come with a tamper, but you can purchase one separately. Use this to press down on the coffee and distribute it evenly in the portafilter basket. Some coffee experts recommend using a twisting motion when tamping down, but others suggest pushing straight through, resulting in more even pressure distribution.

Step 3:  Insert portafilter into machine

Place the portafilter inside the machine. Make sure that it is locked in place properly so that it doesn't pop out during brewing. For machines with a warming tray on top, you can leave your cup(s) on the tray while brewing to preheat them (but make sure they are heatproof).

Step 4: Start the Espresso maker

Place your shot glass under the spout and hit "brew" or "start." Once the machine activates, watch through the glass as the brew pours in, moving from light beige to dark brown as it develops its crema - the important foam layer on top.

Step 5: Enjoy!

With the right tools and a little practice, you can make barista-level espresso at home!

Is Homemade Espresso Better than Starbucks?

Whether homemade coffee or espresso is better than coffee bought at Starbucks has been a long-standing debate in the coffee world. Many people say that homemade espresso is always best, but others say that it's no longer worth the effort after a certain point. Well, the answer is not as simple as one might think. The first thing to consider when answering this question is taste. We all have different tastes. While some people like the taste of Starbucks, others don't. It is impossible to know what you will like until you try it yourself. Also, as mentioned before, many people believe that homemade coffee or espresso tastes better than Starbucks. This is due to its freshness and higher quality beans. However, those who enjoy Starbucks may want to save money by buying it in bulk at their local grocery store or even on Amazon. 

We believe that homemade espresso is better than Starbucks for these four main reasons. 

  • First, the cost of making espresso at home is much lower than what you spend on buying it daily or weekly at your local coffee shop.
  • Second, you control the brewing process and easily adjust it to your taste. Also, you can do this each time with the same results.
  • Third, you can experiment with different beans and roasts until you find the perfect blend for your taste.
  • Fourth, if you like to drink a lot of coffee, making it at home will be a better way to save you time since you don't have to go out constantly to buy one cup after another.
Conical Burr Grinder
Conical Burr Grinders
An Electric kettle with temperature control
Electric Kettle with Temperature Control
A scale with timer
Scale With a Timer

How to Identify and Make the Perfect Espresso Shot

For many coffee lovers, nothing beats a shot of espresso. It is the basis of most coffee drinks and a beverage on its own. The rich, velvety crema that tops a fresh shot is enticing in appearance and flavor. The perfect espresso shot is dark brown with a thick, golden crema. The aroma should be strong and intense, with a complex balance of sweet and bitter notes. There are ways to identify the quality of espresso shots, and we will look at some of the features that make up a perfect espresso shot.

  • Size
    A single shot should have 25 –35 ml (1–1.5 oz), while a double shot should have 50–70 ml (2–3 oz). If a double shot has less than 50 ml, it is under-extracted, and if it has more than 70 ml, it is over-extracted.
  • Crema
    The espresso shot is judged based on its taste and aroma, both derived from this crema. If the crema is too light or dark, the coffee was not extracted properly from the coffee grounds. Crema shows how fresh the coffee beans were ground, how fresh they are, and whether any other substance was added.
  • Body
    A perfect espresso shot will have a body that clings to the sides of the cup when stirred or rotated. It should be vicious yet light, almost syrupy but not quite. It's called "stewed" if it is too thick or slow to move.
  • Texture
    This is the feel of the shot on your tongue. A good espresso has a full texture, but not so much that it feels heavy in your mouth.
  • Flavor
    The taste of your espresso shot should be bittersweet, with a prominent flavor of dark chocolate or roasted nuts. If your shot tastes sour or bad, toss it out and try again!

Tips on How to Make the Perfect Espresso Shot

Making espresso at home can be a hassle, but it doesn't have to be. Follow these tips to get a perfect espresso shot every time.

  • Use filtered water, not distilled. Using distilled water will strip your machine of the minerals it needs to function properly over the long term. If you have a filtration system, use the filtered water in your espresso machine.
  • Clean your portafilter and basket after each use. It's amazing how much gunk builds up in there!
  • Always use fresh, quality beans and grind them before brewing. Coffee is susceptible to moisture and oxidation, so if you buy more than you can consume in a week or two, store it in an airtight container in the freezer. Beans ground weeks ago will not make good espresso.
  • Tamp firmly but not too hard. For best results, you want about 30 lbs of pressure.
  • Preheat everything for at least 30 seconds before pulling the shot including the portafilter and basket. This ensures proper temperature during brewing, making for better crema and flavor in your espresso shot.

Alternative Ways to Make Espresso at Home

Sure, there are plenty of ways to make coffee. But if you're a coffee aficionado and are looking for a barista-level brew, espresso is always the way to go. The problem? Espresso machines can be expensive! Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make espresso at home without spending a fortune on an expensive machine. If you want to enjoy espresso at home but don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on an expensive new machine, check out these cheap and easy alternatives.

Stovetop Espresso Maker

These handy little devices cost around $30 and require just water and ground beans. They work by using simple physics. As the water heats up in the bottom chamber, pressure forces it up through the grounds and into your cup. Just remember that they take longer than electric machines, so they're not precisely morning-friendly even when at hand!

Moka Pot

Bialetti Express Moka Pot

Moka pots are the older cousins of stovetop espresso makers and a great option. They are also known as "macchinetta" (little machines) or "caffettiera", a piston-driven coffeemaker. They cost about $25 and work using similar physics to the stovetop espresso maker. The main difference is that Moka pots produce a more robust flavor since the steam passes through the grounds. A Moka pot's design resembles a small pressure cooker with three chambers. Ground coffee goes in the top chamber, and hot water goes in the bottom chamber. As you heat it on a stovetop, pressure builds and forces the water upward through the middle chamber into the top chamber with the ground coffee, where it infuses with flavor before being poured into your cup.

The French Press Coffee

A French Press

You probably have a French press in your kitchen already, and it makes for a great way to make espresso at home without any extra equipment. Just grind up some coffee beans finer than you normally would, boil some water, and pour them both into the French press together. Let it sit for four minutes and then plunge as normal. The coffee will taste a bit different than it would in an espresso machine because there won't be as much pressure used to extract the flavors from your grounds, but it is still a great way to make something similar to espresso with just the stuff in your cupboard.

The Aeropress

The Aeropress Method

The Aeropress is another excellent alternative way to make espresso at home because it can be used to make both regular-sized cups of coffee and espresso shots. The Aeropress uses compression to extract the flavor from the grounds, which gives you a smooth tasting beverage every time! It's very easy and quick as well, taking only about two minutes per cup of coffee at most if you are not using pre-ground beans (which will take longer due to grinding). To use this machine, you will need to have:

  • Paper filters (or reusable metal ones)
  • Hot water 
  • Ground beans
  • An AeroPress plunger

Melitta Pour-Over

Making espresso with a pour-over cone is relatively easy. The Melitta pour-over is the easiest method, and you can use any ground coffee to make espresso-like coffee with it. The best part about using this method is that it only takes about five minutes to brew a cup of coffee, so it's great for those who want their morning cup of joe quickly. If you plan to make more than one cup of coffee, consider getting a larger capacity to pour over the filter with a carafe attached to it like the Chemex.

10 Best Espresso Machines

The Best Espresso Machines that You Can Buy Online.
Extensively Reviewed by a Coffee-Enthusiastic.

Conclusion

Espresso can be a finicky thing, depending on the type of machine you have and how you have set it up. But if you are a coffee connoisseur, follow this guide on how to make espresso at home. Always keep good beans on hand, and whether you choose to pick up an espresso machine or a stovetop espresso maker, you will likely be able to achieve a rich, flavorful cup of espresso drink every day!

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