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6 Barista Tips for Making Perfect Espresso at Home

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Making great espresso is both an art and a science. You need the right coffee, the right equipment and the right technique to get that rich, flavorful espresso you love.

But here’s the good news: You don’t have to be an experienced barista to make the perfect shot of espresso.

Here are six tips to make the best espresso right in your own home kitchen.

1. Start with Good Coffee Beans

If you want to brew barista-quality espresso, you need to invest in quality coffee. You can have the best equipment in the world, but if your beans are low-quality, your espresso will taste mediocre at best.

Here’s what to look for when choosing your beans:

  • Look for freshly roasted beans.
  • Aim for a variety that’s a little less acidic.
  • Medium roasts offer the right balance of bitterness and acidity.

If you can, connect with a local roaster and ask for their recommendations for espresso. Buy whole beans, and store them in a cool, dry, dark place.

2. Invest in Good Equipment

To brew a great shot of espresso, you need good quality coffee, good quality equipment and a great grinder. We already touched on the coffee bit, but what about your equipment?

  • Flat burr grinders work best for espresso. They’re quick and produce a uniform grind size, which is important for the extraction process.
  • Look for an espresso machine that gives you stable pressure, water volume and temperature. Make sure the machine is user-friendly and something you feel confident using.

Clean your equipment after every use, and follow maintenance recommendations. Your machine can only brew great quality espresso if it’s running optimally.

3. Make Sure Your Portafilter is Clean

Before each use, take the time to carefully clean your portafilter. Moisture and leftover grounds can make your espresso taste bitter or over-extracted.

To clean your portafilter, use a damp paper towel to wipe everything down.

4. Grind Just Before You Brew

Earlier, we talked about the importance of buying whole beans, and here’s why:

  • Buying whole beans means that you can grind just before brewing.

Coffee starts to lose its flavor the second it’s ground. The fresher the grind, the fresher and richer the taste.

Grind size is also important. If it’s too fine, the grounds become like wet sand, which drags out the brew time and increases the risk of over-extraction.

Experiment with different grind sizes. Ideally, you want to extract your coffee in 20-30 seconds.

5. Use a Scale to Measure Your Coffee and Water

No matter what coffee to water ratio you choose, it’s best to use a scale to measure everything out. Experienced baristas weigh not only the ground coffee, but also the extracted shot. This ensures that they produce the same great-tasting coffee every time.

6. Tamp, Tamp and Tamp Some More

Finding the perfect grind size is important, but it’s also important to make sure that your grounds are evenly distributed and tightly packed for even extractions.

Once your filter is filled with your grounds, take the time to make sure they’re evenly distributed. If you want to get geeky, you can buy distribution tools for espresso.

Next, it’s time to tamp, tamp and tamp some more. The goal is to remove air pockets and to make sure your coffee puck is level. Tamp for as long and hard as it takes to make sure your puck is compressed.

Before you start brewing, make sure that your puck is leveled horizontally. This will prevent channeling that can lead to over-extraction (a.k.a. overly bitter espresso).

Final Word

One final thing – make sure that you’re using good quality water. Using hard water can damage your equipment and alter the taste of your coffee.

Water that’s treated with chlorine can dull the flavor of your coffee.

Use filtered or bottled water with a neutral pH for best results.

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