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 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:
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.
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.
Now, here are nine simple steps for how to use an espresso machine to make amazing coffee.
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.
Turn on the machine. There’s usually a power switch somewhere along 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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