How to Pull the Perfect Espresso at Home

February 21, 2023 5 min read

Comment faire un espresso parfait à la maison? - Café Barista

In this article

  1. What are the different types of roast?

  2. Why use an espresso blend?

  3. What are the different types of portafilter?

  4. Single, double, short, long; what do they mean?

  5. How do I calibrate my grind and grinder?

  6. How hard should I press on my tamper?

Wondering how to pull the perfect espresso in the comfort of your own home? You are in luck; our team of baristas has put together a guide just for you.

Don’t feel like reading? No worries! Audrey will also be explaining everything in our first espresso masterclass!

What are the Different Types of Roast?

Beans are the foundation of every coffee. In this section, we will show you how to pick the right roast for you and your equipment!

les torréfactions de café: grains verts, grains torréfiés bruns ou pâles ou blonds, grains torréfiés mi-noir et grains de torréfaction noire


Green Beans

These beans have not been roasted yet. I’ll often say that coffee beans are like popcorn kernels. They start off very hard and small, but they expand as they cook due to the moisture leaving them. The water evaporates out of the bean, and it’s that evaporation that gives your bean its classic colour.

Light Roast

Light roasts (also sometimes called blonde roasts) tend to be more acidic, with notes of fruit, berries, citrus, or even peanuts. Third-wave coffees are generally brewed with light roasts, because the method creates flavour profiles that really show off the beans’ origins. Since the beans haven’t been roasted as much, the flavours tend to come from the coffee fruit rather than the roasting process.

Reminder: when you see that a coffee has certain flavours (like citrus), it doesn’t usually mean that flavour has been added, unless it’s clearly specified in the description (like with our Matera coffees). Instead, those tasting notes just describe the flavours that come from the coffee fruit. Roasters carefully develop their roasting processes and choose beans from very specific origins to bring out a world of flavour without needing to add anything else.

Medium Roast

Here at Barista, medium roasts are our favourite. They’re created using the traditional Italian method of roasting coffee beans over a lower heat for a longer amount of time. They strike a good balance: they deliver the rich flavours of a darker roast, but they’re safe for all machines and grinders. What does that mean? With a medium roast, the grains are roasted long enough to bring out the sugars, but not the oils. This creates coffees with flavours like dark chocolate or hazelnut, along with floral notes. Medium roasts are great for pulling espresso because they have a balanced flavour that appeals to all coffee lovers. They are also ideal for creating a beautiful texture and crema in espresso.

Dark Roast

This roast creates the oiliest beans. In fact, the beans are heated long enough that the oil begins to escape. While many people enjoy the full-bodied flavours of a good dark roast, the oil in the beans can clog your machine if you’re not careful about thorough cleaning. As a result, we don’t usually recommend dark roasts for automatic espresso machines, because the oils cause the machines to need more upkeep. In terms of flavours, dark roasts often feature notes like smoke and caramel.

Why Use an Espresso Blend?

Different growing regions create very different flavour profiles. That can be a good thing, but not always. With single-origin beans, you are amplifying the distinct flavours of the region. Pulling an espresso already brings out the beans’ flavours and characteristics, and using beans from a single origin will only reinforce that.

Meanwhile, blends play on the strengths and weaknesses of the different beans. That is more likely to create a heavenly and well-rounded espresso with delicious flavours, a smooth texture, and a stunning crema.

What Are the Different Types of Portafilter?

With home systems, the diameter of the portafilter can vary widely. Measurements are always based on the diameter of the portafilter in a manual system. Standard portafilters are typically 58 mm for professional and semi-professional systems like those made by Rocket and Stone.

les différents porte-filtres: porte-filtre simple, porte-filtre double et porte-filtre sans-fond


With commercial (or standard) machines, it’s more common to have one portafilter for each group head. Single portafilters will have one spout, while doubles will have two. You might also see ‘bottomless’ portafilters, which will also be on a separate group head because they don’t have spouts at all! Instead, as the name suggests, they are completely open at the bottom.

Your machine might also have a 54 mm portafilter; it’s another common size for home machines.

Machines for home use will often have a single group head, but two different-sized portafilters for pulling single or short espressos.

Single, Double, Short, Long: What Do They All Mean?

Essentially, the terms ‘single’ and ‘double’ describe how much ground coffee you need, while ‘short’ and ‘long’ describe how much coffee ends up in your cup. The latter can change quite a bit, especially if you add hot water before pulling the espresso. You can pull the coffee right into the cup to make a long espresso, but you risk over-extracting and creating an unpleasant taste. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference: when you’re making a long espresso, you can either add extra water to the cup before brewing or let your espresso brew for longer. Here’s a handy guide to the amount of grounds and water you need to pull single, double, short, and long espressos with a home machine.

Short

Long

Single

7–9 g, 30 ml

7–9 g, 60 ml

Double

18–20 g, 60 ml

18–20 g, 120 ml

Triple

20–26 g, 90 ml

20–26 g, 180 ml

 

 

How Do I Calibrate my Grind and Grinder?

  1. Use a short double espresso to calibrate.

  2. Start by trying a pretty fine grind for an espresso.

  3. From there, use a scale and try to run the grinder just long enough to grind 18 to 20 grams of espresso. And that’s it!


Good to Know

  • For a finer grind, you want to reduce the space between the burrs by turning your knob to a lower number.

  • For a coarser grind, you want to do the opposite: increase the space by turning to a higher number.

  • Make sure you leave at least some space between your burrs. Moving them too close together can wear them down!

Diagnosing your Grind

If your Espresso is Under-extracted, it:

  • might not have enough coffee and/or might be using too coarse of a grind;

  • will brew very quickly;

  • will turn very pale, almost white, in under 15 seconds while brewing.

une sous-extraction d'un espresso


 

If your Espresso is Over-extracted, it:

  • might have too much coffee or too fine of a grind;

  • will trickle out rather than flowing smoothly;

  • will be very dark, with almost no coffee coming out of the spout.

la sur-extraction d'un espresso



The Perfect Espresso:

  • uses the grind and amount of coffee described in the table above;

  • brews in 20 to 30 seconds;

  • will be fairly light brown and produce a good amount of liquid in your cup.

un espresso extrait à la perfection


How Hard Should I Press on my Tamper?

It’s simple! You should be pressing hard enough that the grounds are fully compacted in the portafilter. You should not be able to press it any more. You do not necessarily need to put your full weight on the tamper, but you do need to press fairly hard.

Since you need a tamper for your espresso machine, why not treat yourself to the best one on the market!




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