How To Use An Espresso Machine – Pulling Shots, Steaming Milk, and More!

man making a coffee espresso using an espresso machine - how to use an Espresso machine
The steps to making a good cup of espresso are pretty straightforward

If you’ve ever watched a barista make your espresso shot and wondered how to use an espresso machine, you’re not alone. It might seem like magic, but the steps to making a good cup of espresso are pretty straightforward and something anyone can learn to do with practice.

Home Espresso Machines

Home espresso machines are a little different than those you see in coffee shops, but they work the same way. You can make an espresso shot with a stovetop espresso maker, a Moka pot, a French press, or whatever coffee machine works for you.

If you want an espresso machine for your kitchen, here are some great options to choose from:

Bargain Buy: Sowtech Espresso Machine

This home espresso machine has a single-switch knob and accurate temperature control that makes brewing the perfect cappuccino simple. It can make up to four cups of espresso at once and the compact design barely takes up any room on your counter.

Splurge: DelonghiDedica 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine

If you want to make authentic espresso at home like a pro, this machine from Delonghi is one of the best options out there. You can use it to make one shot or two and it’s compatible with espresso pods.

This espresso maker also has a manual frother and accommodates taller cups so you can make larger drinks when needed.

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De'Longhi EC680M Espresso, Stainless Steel, Metallic
  • EVERY CUP TO YOUR LIKING: 15-bar professional pressure assures quality results every time, and adjustable controls allow you to make modifications for your personal taste preferences.
  • EASY TO CLEAN: Removable water tank and drip tray make for easy cleanup, and the parts are dishwasher safe.
  • BREW LIKE A PRO: Whatever your preference – single or double espresso, cappuccino or latte – the machine brews authentic barista-quality beverages just like you enjoy at your favorite coffeehouse.
  • YOUR FOAM, YOUR WAY: A manual frother mixes steam and milk to create a rich, creamy froth for evenly textured drinks – just the way you like them.
  • EASY TO USE: The machine does most of the work for you. The Automatic Flow Stop feature dispenses just the right amount of espresso while maintaining the ideal brewing temperature.

Now, here are nine simple steps for how to use an espresso machine to make amazing coffee.

1. Fill The Reservoir with Water

This step depends a lot on the type of espresso machine you’re using. Those in coffee shops are often connected directly to the plumbing so you don’t have to do anything special for this step.

That said, the commercial espresso machine you’ll have in your home is likely not as sophisticated.

Use cold tap water or filtered water. Depending on the espresso machine you have, you will either remove the water reservoir and take it to the sink or fill a container with water and pour it into the reservoir.

If applicable, replace the lid when the reservoir is full.

2. Preheat the Machine

Turn on the machine. There’s usually a power switch somewhere along with the backsplash.

Allow the machine to heat up for about 15 minutes. This is necessary to not only heat the water but also to give the machine time to build up the pressure needed to force the water through the grounds.

Note that the amount of time needed for the espresso machine to heat up depends on the size of the machine. Some may take as long as 45 minutes. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to see what’s appropriate for your machine.

3. Prepare the Portafilter.

The portable filter or portafilter is the small handled cup that holds the coffee grounds. To get ready to make espresso, insert a filter basket into the basin, then attach the portafilter to the bottom, turning it clockwise to lock it in place.

Filters baskets come in a lot of different sizes, so take a look at the specs of your machine to make sure you get the right size.

4. Give it a Rinse

After the portafilter is locked in place, set the machine to a single shot and let it flow through the empty group head and portafilter to rinse out any debris or old coffee. When it’s finished, rotate the handle to the left and remove the portafilter.

Use a clean towel to dry it, then lock it back in place.

5. Prepare the Beans

Grinding your own beans delivers a little more flavor, but you can buy them already ground. Whichever route you choose, make sure you’re using fine grounds.

They should be so fine that they almost look like powder or grains of salt. Now, remove the portafilter from the group head and add the grounds.

It’s okay if they overflow a little bit.

6. Tamp the Grounds

Using your finger, make sure the grounds are level. The espresso machine needs a compressed puck of grounds to brew properly. To tamp them, place the portafilter on the counter so it’s supported and won’t be able to move or shift around.

Next, place the tamper on top of the grounds, holding it perpendicular to the counter and keeping your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Apply enough pressure to level and pack the grounds.

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