Among the many forms of coffee, there’s a tiny but mighty option that has captured the hearts of caffeine enthusiasts—espresso. Often described as “a shot,” espresso is a concentrated coffee beverage that is brewed by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. This method results in a small, intense shot of coffee with a rich, concentrated flavor. Espresso can be enjoyed on its own or used in many other coffee beverages, such as cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, and more. Its versatility and creamy, flavorful taste make it a fan favorite among coffee lovers.

Espresso vs. Regular Coffee

Espresso and regular coffee differ in terms of brewing methods, flavor profiles, serving sizes, and the equipment required for preparation.  

Brewing Methods: Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. It is a quick extraction that results in a small amount of coffee, usually one ounce. Regular coffee is typically brewed by steeping coarsely-ground coffee beans in hot water, allowing the flavors to infuse slowly.  

Flavor and Strength: Espresso tends to be stronger in taste, with a rich flavor and a layer of crema on top. The flavor and strength of regular coffee varies depending on factors like the coffee-to-water ratio. It tends to have a delicious flavor profile that is less concentrated than espresso. 

Serving Size: While regular coffee is typically consumed in larger quantities, eight ounces or larger, espresso is served in small, concentrated shots.  

Preparation: Brewing espresso requires specialized equipment, such as an espresso machine and grinder, to generate the required pressure for correct extraction. Regular coffee can be brewed using a variety of methods, including drip coffee makers, pour-over, French press, and more, making it more accessible to everyday coffee enjoyers. 

How to Make Espresso

Making espresso is a precise process that requires attention to detail but is still completely doable for at-home baristas. The first step is to gather the necessary equipment.

  • Espresso machine
  • Bean grinder (if using whole bean coffee)
  • Tamper
  • Food scale
  • Clean, filtered water
  • Espresso cups or small glasses

You’ll also need fresh, high-quality coffee beans, preferable medium to dark roast. Alternatively, you can use pre-ground coffee, but make sure you purchased finely ground coffee.

Once you have your chosen coffee and the tools listed above, you’re ready to make espresso at home.

  • Turn on your espresso machine and allow it to preheat to the appropriate brewing temperature.
  • Weigh out the coffee beans needed for your desired coffee-to-water ratio. A standard espresso shot is typically 1 ounce, while a double shot is approximately 2 ounces.18-20 grams of coffee.
  • Grind the coffee beans to a fine consistency – this is crucial to a well-pulled shot. Skip this step if using pre-ground coffee.
  • Add the pre-measured coffee grounds to the portafilter (the handle of the espresso machine). Distribute evenly and level them.
  • Use a tamper to press down on the coffee grounds, evenly and firmly. Apply consistent pressure to create a level puck, without using excessive force.
  • Insert the portafilter into the espresso machine’s group head.
  • Place an espresso cup under the portafilter and start the extraction process. The machine will force water through the compacted coffee grounds.  
  • Once the shot is complete, serve the espresso immediately. Your espresso is best consumed fresh.

It’s important to note that making espresso at home requires a bit of practice. The grind size, amount of coffee used, and tamping pressure all play a significant role in the quality of the shot and can take a bit of experimentation and getting used to.  

Tips for Making Delicious Espresso

  • Start with high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans. 
  • Use a fine grind, similar to table salt. 
  • Tamp the coffee grounds evenly and with consistent pressure to create a level puck. 
  • Regularly clean your espresso machine’s portafilter and group head to remove any coffee reside that could cause flavor contamination. 
  • Experiment and adjust your grind size, dose, and other variables to perfect your shot. 
  • Use clean, filtered water. 
  • Serve and consume your espresso immediately.

Whether sipped as a quick pick-me-up, savored as an after-dinner beverage, or used to make a latte, espresso is a staple in the world of coffee culture. Remember to take your time experimenting with techniques to get the best pull and enjoy!