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Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Espresso Coffee

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Espresso is often mistaken for being a unique bean or a different kind of roast. But in reality, it’s just a coffee which has its own method of preparation.

What is Espresso?

In simple terms, Espresso is a type of coffee where coffee beans are brewed by passing hot water under high pressure. So, whenever hot water passes through finely-ground coffee it’s flavors are extracted into a beverage that we like to call an espresso.

What does an Espresso coffee taste like?

For those wondering how an espresso tastes like, espresso coffee has an intensity to its flavor which is roast like and a thick body. A perfectly made cup of espresso coffee will lack too much bitterness and have a fine layer of cream on top of it. It will taste bitter initially and then hit you with pleasing flavors.

How your Espresso shouldn't taste

If your espresso tastes sour then it can point towards two things – one it is over-extracted or it was prepared way earlier than you were served. It should also not be too watery, this would mean that the coffee beans were under-extracted. 

Below are tips to make that perfect cup of Espresso Coffee

Choosing the right coffee bean

The quality of your bean is very important for how your final cup would taste like. Choosing poor quality beans will lead to poor extraction of flavors, which will directly affect the taste of your coffee. Selecting fresh beans is also important especially beans that have been opened not more than one or two weeks before. These will generally have the best flavors.

Grind size and the grinder

Just like beans, grind size and the grinder you use is very important for making a good cup of coffee. Espresso coffee requires finely ground coffee beans. For this, you want a grinder that has consistency and grinds the beans in a uniform size. A burr grinder gives the best results as they are superior in comparison to blade grinders and have consistency and their grinds are uniform overall.

Many people buy a high-quality brewing machine but go for the cheaper or blade grinders. This will not help them in making a good cup of coffee. Poor quality grinders will lead to poor quality coffee in the end.


The main purpose of tamping is so the coffee is uniformly distributed and allows the brewing water to flow evenly. Compressing the grounds is important as it allows the air gaps between them to be removed or reduced to minimal. This prevents the water from finding these air gaps and flowing too quickly. 


Another thing to look out for is if there is low density in a few areas then the water will flow through them making those coffees over-extracted while the remaining will be under-extracted. Flat tampers will help with creating a flatbed of coffee. It is also important to not apply too much pressure while tamping.

Brewing Machines

Every espresso brewing machine has a common feature i.e., passing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans with high pressure. You can divide brewing machines into two main categories namely, manual espresso machines and automatic espresso machines.

Manual Espresso Machines

As the name suggests you will have to manually go through each step with these espresso machines. Some machines even lack power so you may require to use other heat sources for the water. Using a manual machine can be quite difficult and challenging for those who lack the knowledge of it.

The process to make coffee is not too complicated using manual machines, but you will require deep brewing knowledge to operate the machine successfully. People who like experimenting with their coffees especially prefer manual machines.

The advantage of using manual espresso machines is that they allow you to have complete control over all the variables of your coffee making process. These are also helpful in remote places that lack a constant power supply.

Automatic Espresso Machines

Automatic machines are basically one-touch machines. You select your preference once and then it’s all about pressing a button every time. These are also known as superautomatic machines they dose, grind, brew and clean themselves automatically without any manual interference required. 

Automatic espresso machines are better for those who are always in a hurry or don’t have the patience to operate a manual machine. One disadvantage with the automatic machines is that you won’t be able to get the taste of coffee that you would get with the manual machines. Although the taste won’t be too bad in comparison to the manual ones they make up for it with their quick and easy to make features.

Brewing Temperature

The water temperature at the time of brewing is important as it decides how many elements are extracted from the coffee. The most favorable temperature for extraction is 195-205 degree Fahrenheit.

Setting the brewing temperature too high will lead to over-extraction while setting it too low will lead to under-extraction. You can adjust the temperature based on the taste you want for your coffee. For full body and sweetness, the brewing temperature should be high whereas lower temperature for less body and sweetness. Brewing at high temperatures will also lead to bitterness and a strong cup of coffee. That’s why the brewing temperature is an important variable in the coffee-making process.

Brewing Ratios

In general 1:2 ratio is used i.e., 1 gm of coffee beans for 2 gms of water. Many use different ratios too, it’s all about finding the right balance. But you should start with the 1:2 ratio and tweak according to your liking.

Final Thoughts

An espresso drink is intense and rich. It is complex to understand and one can only master it by experimenting. The perfect cup of coffee is all about what you like to drink. So go forward and make that perfect espresso drink you had been waiting for.

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