What’s the deal?

Well, how much fun do you want to have? We are not talking about bean to cup automatic machines here – there’s only a couple of buttons and knobs on these things, so there isn’t much you can play around with – read the manual and practice by adjusting your grind until you get a great taste whilst also achieving good body and a natural sweetness alongside the intensity.  The following is for ‘traditional’ machines with filter handles and uses the ‘double basket’ for a double espresso or two singles.

What you’ll need

You’ll need a good quality espresso machine and portafilter (Gaggia, Sunbeam, Brevlle, DeLonghi, Saeco / Phillips are a few good brands), coffee, a grinder, a measuring spoon or scales, tamp (or a substitute flat surface like the bottom of a small glass cup) and appropriate cups.

1. Grinding is one of the MOST important aspects of preparing great espresso. Coffee must be ground fresh for the best results and the machine must be clean and fully warmed up. Grind using a good quality Burr grinder for even particle size and extraction.

2. Remove the filter handle from the machine head and fill the basket with grounds – slightly heaped. Tap the portafilter lightly on the table to settle the grounds and with a finger resting on the rim of the portafilter gently wipe left to right over the grounds to level them and remove excess.

3. Use a tamp tool to compress the grounds in the basket. Apply the tool flat and press with your weight to use about 15-20Kg pressure and ensure that the grounds are solidly packed. If you invert the portafilter the grounds should stay put!

4. Before loading the portafilter back into the machine, flush hot water from the head for 2-3 seconds or longer if your machine produces steam and water in a hissing sound – let the flow settle to remove over temperature water then load the portafilter. Use this water to preheat your cups.

5. Load the portafilter and dry the cups, place under the spouts and activate the brew.

6. Watch the extraction – it should take a moment or two after pressing the button for the flow to start. Flow should be slow and steady – not a drip-drip, and a full shot should take between 18 and 25 seconds to pur ajust one fluid ounce (about 28ml). The flow should look like honey from a spoon. stop the extractin when you get the required volume or just as you start to see a blonding in the crema.

7. If the flow was too fast (espresso feels thin and sharp) grind finer, or coarser if the time was too long or the shot tasted bitter or harsh. You can also experiment with the fill and tamp pressure – all of these aspects will affect the flavour of the coffee significantly.