How To Make The Perfect Espresso Shot

By : Jane
February 15, 2021

Learning to brew a nice coffee is not as easy as you thought, especially brewing the espresso. It requires some careful consideration in deciding and following all the steps including the temperature, the grind size, the dose, tamp, etc. which have somehow made people quit due to the difficulty during the learning process. With all the steps, neither one you can skip, otherwise, you will get a different taste.

However, brewing the best espresso can be easy and difficult depends on how often you practice the skills and how you follow the step. With this article, you will be able to get to know the key points contributing to brewing the perfect espresso with ease because we have been spending time doing the research and summarizing the key information for you already. 

1. Clean The Portafilter

1. Clean The Portafilter

So basically, no matter what kind of drink or beverage you are brewing for, the first and foremost step that you need to do is to clean your equipment. You need to make sure that there are no other things or the old grounds leftover there. If you just skip this step and dose your coffee directly, it will definitely affect the taste and the quality of your espresso. It may taste bitter since the coffee ground is not fresh at all.

2. Grind The Coffee Bean

2. Grind The Coffee Bean

Another thing that you need to take into consideration in order to have an ideal espresso is the quality of the coffee grind, whether it is fresh or not. That’s why people demand to grind the coffee right before the brew. In addition, we cannot grind the coffee bean to just whatever size or texture you want. The texture of the grind plays an essential role in determining quality, the taste, and the aroma of the coffee, and the brewing duration. 

Normally, it may take around 30 seconds to pull the perfect shot of the espresso, however, if the coffee grind happens to be very fine, it will be wet just like the sand while requiring a longer time for the water to pass through the coffee as well as longer brewing duration. Consequently, the shot will be over-extracted and make the espresso become bitter and burnt. If the grind is too coarse, there will be an under-extracted shot, the espresso will become watery, and sour interim of taste and the caffeine in that espresso itself will be far less and weak than normal.

3. Dose

3. Dose

Basically, dosing refers to the act of transferring the ground from the grinder to the basket while the word “dose” refers to the amount of coffee that we put in the portafilter. And the amount of the dose is determined by the basket size. In order to have a perfect shot, no matter what kind of coffee, the amount of the coffee that we put in is very important which requires noticeable action and consideration. It is suggested that we should put the coffee between 14 to 18 grams if you use the double basket. The amount of coffee may differ if you use a different basket. If you use a triple basket, you may have a dose of 20 grams. 

However, if you put only a small portion of the coffee in a big basket, then your espresso will not taste that good as you expected. By having a big basket with a little coffee, the water will not run evenly through the coffee puck because there is more space remaining between the dose and the basket.

4. Distribute Your Grounds In The Portafilter

4. Distribute Your Grounds In The Portafilter

After dosing the ground into the portafilter’s basket, what you need to do is to make sure that the coffee grounds are evenly distributed to the basket instead of having some part of the portafilter have more coffee ground and being tight together. If your grounds in the portafilter result in the mountain or the pyramid shape, then you need to balance the ground before tamping otherwise the quality of the coffee will not be nice at all. Thus, you need to level the ground with your finger firmly two to three times to wipe away the excessed ground and the grounds that are left on the rim of the basket.  On the other hand, you may also use a distribution tool to ensure the consistency issue of the espresso together with the extractions if you don’t want to use your finger. 

You may wonder why we need to balance or level the coffee in that portafilter. So the reason is that we don’t want to have any channeling issues with our coffee. Moreover, by leveling the coffee, it ensures that the water won’t flow out faster or slower than the other area while preventing the extraction issue. 

5. Tamping Technique

Another step that you should not miss in order to have an ideal espresso shot is the tamping process. A good tamping technique is a great thing that the barista wishes to have because it plays a crucial role in determining the shot. With a good tamping technique, it offers full flavor and proper brewing duration. However, some people may say tamping the coffee is quite easy because you just need to put it in with the tool and grip the tamper handle as tight as you could and that’s it. Yet, it is not that easy, there are some key steps that you need to follow.

5. Tamping Technique

Initially, you shall put your portafilter on a stable surface. Then, one of your hands shall firmly hold the tamper and another hand for the handle. After that, you may put the pressure of 30-40 lbs and tamp as hard as possible. In the next stage, you shall release the pressure while still doing the tamping.

How hard should we tamp? 

Regarding these questions, some people claim that you have to tamp the ground hard while some state that you need to put much pressure and push it, and the other people say you just need to push it gently. Actually, how hard you try on the tamp does not really affect the quality of the espresso, what you need to do instead is to be consistent.

6. Rinse The Ground Head

6. Rinse The Ground Head
Barista man cleaning espresso machine after working day

After tamping, you cannot put the portafilter directly to the group head if you want to have a perfect shot of your espresso. You need to rinse the head first to make sure that there is no old coffee left there and mix with the new coffee affecting the shot. Thus, you should not forget to perform this step. In addition to this, rinsing the head will offer you more extract compared to the others. Another reason that you have to do so is that it helps to remove the bacteria remaining on the head because the water that we use to brew the coffee is not at 100 degrees censure, so it cannot kill the bacteria if you do not clean the head in advance.

So how to clean the head?

The cleaning process is very easy. However, it also depends on the type of machine you have because some machines hold the group heads by the screw while some others do not. In the case that the screw holds the group head then you may take the below steps into consideration. 

  • First, you need to remove the shower screen in order to clean and remove the dirt from the shower screen. 
  • Second, you need to clean the shower screen as well as the group head with the cloth.
  • After cleaning the head, you may re-attach the shower screen back to its place. 

Note: you should insert the portafilter into the group head right immediately after the rinsing, otherwise the coffee will become bitter.  

7. Water Brewing Ratio And Water Quality

7. Water Brewing Ratio And Water Quality

Another key point that you need to be careful of is the brewing ratio. You need to decide on what amount of water should be used in order to get a desirable outcome. Actually, it also depends on the amount of coffee you want, how strong you want the coffee is. Normally, the amount of water is used in relation to the dose of the coffee.  If you use more water compared to the coffee, it will dilute your coffee and make it weaker and vice versa. Meanwhile, it’s recommended to have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio which means in a 20g dose of the coffee, the water will be 40g. With such a ratio, the espresso itself is not that strong and is drinkable to almost everyone.  You may wonder what if you put the ratio of 1:1.5, what happens to the taste? Hmmm, with this kind of ratio, the espresso will be too strong and overpowering which makes the flavor or the taste of the coffee become less obvious. 

On the other hand, you also need to make sure that the water that you use to brew the coffee has of good quality. If you use poor quality water, the machine, as well as the taste of the espresso, will be affected no matter how careful you are in the previous steps. If you use the water from right from the tap which has been treated with chlorine, your espresso will become dull compared to the others. Therefore, it is suggested to use the water that has a PH of 7 which is neutral and has 100-150 mg per liter of mineral. 

8. Temperature And Brewing Duration

8. Temperature And Brewing Duration

Brewing temperature does play a crucial role in determining the shot of the espresso. Some people may claim that as long as you put the similar temperature, you will have a great taste of the coffee. However, if you have a mindset like that then you are completely wrong. Only a small difference of degree Celsius, you will get a different taste and the aroma already. Normally, it is recommended to brew the coffee with a temperature between 92 to 95 degree Celsius. 

On the other hand, the brewing duration is also what you should take into account. It is said that it is better to brew the espresso in between 20 to 30 seconds. While 25 seconds can be considered as the best duration for a sweet spot.  Therefore, you need to carefully look at the timer.  The shot will start with something that is very dark at the first and turn to be a brown foam. You may need to remove the cup once the foam becomes white. 

How to drink the espresso correctly?

You may say just directly drink the coffee; there is no other thing that we need to practice. That’s totally wrong. It is suggested to drink a little water first before you drink the espresso. By doing so, it enables you to identify the exact taste of your espresso. However, espresso is a kind of string coffee in which will make you become dehydrated and you need water for hydration. In addition, strong coffee like express is hard on the stomach. Thus, drinking the water will dilute that effect from the stomach. 


It’s never too late to learn for a better improvement no matter what kind of lesson you are learning. No matter how difficult the thing is, you can successfully reach what you want unless you give attention to every little point. And the 8 points listed above are the most important criteria that you should think of if you really want to brew yourself a nice espresso shot. During the process, it’s possible to fail at the first time, but as you try and experience it, you will know exactly the right amount for the dose, the ratio or yield as well as the tamping technique. Lastly, we wish you good luck in making the espresso shot and we would like to appreciate your time in reading our content. 


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