How To Make An Excellent Espresso Shot

 Last Updated August 30, 2020

Ask any barista what the most important part of a coffee is they'll tell you it's the espresso shot. If you don't get your shot right the rest of your drink will taste terrible. But making great espresso is not as hard as people think. In this guide you will learn how to make an espresso shot that tastes amazing with easy to follow steps. 

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espresso shot

How To Make Espresso

Espresso is made by using an espresso machine to pass 15 bars of pressurized hot water through about 18 grams of coffee within 25-30 seconds for a double shot basket.

Timing is key.

If the shot is too long, the shot becomes acidic and bitter. If it’s too short, it becomes watery and run down.

We want the shot to look like honey, that is, we want the shot to pour out of espresso machines at a steady flow with a bit of resistance, as seen in the video below:

The end result of a well made shot will bring out the subtle traits and earthy undertones of a coffee blend. The espresso will not bitter or acidic rather perfectly balanced in flavor. A good espresso shot is also the foundation of milk based drinks and making latte art.

Below you will find my step-by-step guide on making espresso at home and and work. If you have any questions please fee free to get in touch. 

1. Clean Out The Group Head and Machine

A clean machine and group head is as important as the shot itself. Every time before a new shot is made you must make sure that the group head is clean and there is no left over coffee from the previous shot.

The best way to do this is to first purge the coffee machine (run the water without the group head in it) and then clean out the group head with a dry towel/cloth.

2. Grind Your Coffee

Once the coffee machine is clean we grind the coffee into the group head.

This step will vary with the equipment you have. Some cafes have automatic coffee grinders, others have a dose based ones. However, what is most important is to have freshly ground coffee that is no more than 5 weeks old from the roast date.

You are looking to grind about 18 grams of coffee for a double shot basket to a fine consistency within the group head.

3. Tamp Your Coffee And Start The Extraction

Level the ground coffee in the group head with either a flat finger/leveller or give the group head a couple of gentle taps on your table top/bench to distribute the grind evenly.

Next rest your group head parallel to your bench. Grab your tamp and place it gently on top of the ground coffee in your group. Apply about 15kgs (30 pounds) of pressure directly down on the coffee.

On your way up, twist the tamp 90 degrees to create a flat surface. Remember this is a simple motion; there is no need for extra clicks, knocks or coffee making rituals — just a simple push and twist.

Next insert your tamped coffee immediately into the coffee machine for extracting to prevent the coffee from being burnt.

4. Time Your Coffee Shot

You want your shot to pour out of your espresso machine between 25-30 seconds. This amount of time ensures the best tasting espresso.

A word of caution though, the coffee extraction time will change multiple times throughout the day due to factors such as humidity, the fineness of the coffee grind, and the barista making the coffee.

So make sure to check all the previous variables every hour to ensure consistently well made espresso.

5. Taste Your Espresso!

The final step is one of the most neglected when making espresso — tasting your coffee!

Baristas are like chefs; very specialized chefs. And what do chefs do before serving their meals? They taste their food!

Baristas should do the same.

There’s no better final quality control than a final taste test.

And there we have it. Follow the above steps and you’ll be slinging excellent espresso throughout the day in no time.

But as always, practice makes perfect so make sure to test out the above guide in action. Also make sure to check out our milk steaming guide to match your espresso with great milk!


About The Author 

Ivan Bez

Ivan is the founder of Latte Art Guide and a barista with 7+ years of experience. He loves coffee and aims to help people improve their coffee making skills.


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