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How to Make Espresso with Regular Coffee

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Take a trip down the coffee aisle in the supermarket, and you will see that some coffee packages are marked as “espresso” while others are not. If you’re just starting out with this Italian staple, it is only natural to wonder – could you make espresso with coffee that is not labeled as its perfect match?

The short answer? Absolutely! But for the longer version and a deeper understanding of the answer, keep on reading.

How Do You Make a Great Espresso?

Espresso making is almost an art. And just like any other art, this coffee-making process is perfected with time. Or by pulling tons of espresso shots, to be more precise. But that doesn’t mean that an inexperienced barista wannabe cannot get it right.

That recognizable creamy mouthful and delicious richness can only be achieved if you consider a few key factors. But before all, the things you need to pull the ultimate shot are dedication, consistency, and freshness.

And that comes before all the basics. Before we jump to learning the essential espresso-making steps, you need to have three things:

  • Fresh coffee
  • Sharp mind
  • Consistent routine

Espresso Basics, Explained

If we need to define espresso on the spot, we would undoubtedly say an ounce of rich coffee delight. But to pull the perfect espresso shot, you need to know these basics:

  • The perfect extraction time is 25 seconds
  • The ideal amount of grams is between 8 to 10 grams of coffee
  • The perfectly pulled shot is between 25 and 35 ml.

Now that you know these, here is how you can do it:

  1. The cup that you will be filling with coffee should be warm, not cold. Rinse with hot water before extracting.
  2. Your portafilter and basket need to be clean and dry before adding your coffee grounds. Leftover coffee gunk may impair the taste.
  3. Grind and dose your coffee directly into the portafilter. If this is not an option for you, make sure to scale it before adding. Like with baking, eyeballing is not recommended.
  4. When the grind is inside, make sure to tap the portafilter on the counter or the temp mat, so your grounds can be evenly distributed.
  5. Tamp by applying pressure with your hand. This is important as you need to get rid of any possible air bubbles inside.
  6. Once tamped, you need to polish the surface and make sure to get rid of those grounds that have not been pressed. You can do this by simply spinning the tamper over to get a smooth surface.
  7. Make sure there is no dry coffee in your portafilter, as those tiny grounds can flow into the cup. And we surely don’t want that, now, do we?
  8. Before attaching the portafilter, rinse the group head. This is important as you need to get rid of coffee residue that is inside.
  9. Once attached, you are ready to pull. Place the cup underneath, and start brewing right away. If your machine isn’t automatic, you’d want to stop at the 25-second mark because that is when the pulled coffee reaches its peak.
  10. Serve as desired and clean the group hand and handle thoroughly. Reattach the portafilter so you can keep it piping hot, ready for the next shot. And if you’re anything like us, there will be at least one refill.

And those are the basics that can help you pull a great shot.

What's the Difference Between Espresso and Regular Coffee?

And finally, here is the answer you’ve been looking for all along – there isn’t. Espresso and coffee are not different terms. They do not have a different meaning, and they certainly do not represent a different type of coffee bean. They both come from the same plant and may even share the same roast. And more often than not, they actually come from the same bag of coffee.

The only thing that we use to separate espresso from regular coffee is how finely the coffee has been ground and prepared.

The Grind

You see, for authentic espresso, the coffee has to be ground very finely. If buying already-ground coffee (which we don’t recommend!), it will already be mentioned on the label. If grinding yourself – which you should do to ensure the highest level of freshness – aim for the finest grind possible. You wonder how fine finest actually is? Think dust! If your coffee resembles dust when you blow into it, you’re good to go.

Your best bet is to do this with an automatic grinder, but if you’ve got great stamina, you can try to do it by hand. Although we’re not so sure your arms will appreciate it.

The Pressure

The next thing that you need to make espresso, besides finely ground coffee, is an espresso machine. Whether a fancy automatic maker or a simple Moka pot on your stove, the point is for your maker to use pressure when brewing the coffee. This is crucial, and it is what actually defines espresso.

When you’re pulling espresso, ideally, you want nine bars of pressure, which is the pressure at sea level multiplied by nine. If you cannot wrap your head around this one, just imagine pumping your bike tire. Nine bars of pressure is two times as much as a well-pumped bike tire.

The pressure forces hot water through the coffee grounds and then slowly flows inside the cup. We tamp the coffee well, because we don’t want our brew to come out as a giant mess. We want the drips to be consistent, rich, and creamy.

How Much Coffee Do You Use to Make Espresso?

For a single espresso shot, you need about 8 grams of finely ground coffee, on average, but anywhere between 6 and 10 will give you a decent result. This amount of coffee is per 1 to 1 ½ fluid ounces.

If brewing double shots, you will need 15 grams of coffee per 2 fluid ounces.


And there you go! Now that you know what makes espresso and regular coffee different, you can use the espresso basics you’ve learned and put your barista skills to test. We’re sure you will be pleased with the creamy result. Keep us posted!

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