Tips & Tricks: Behind the Scenes of Espresso

Tips & Tricks: Behind The Scenes of Espresso, Blog, from Clive Coffee

To be an espresso enthusiast is to live a constantly evolving life. We’re part of an intellectually curious, rigorous, and passionate community, and as such, we learn something new about espresso every single day. Still, there are some things that we wish we knew from the get-go that we all practice now, whether at home or in the café. Let's get into it!

A clean bar is a happy bar

Having cleaning supplies ready in a well-organized space will go a long way toward keeping your espresso setup clean and tidy and making your espresso taste great. It can be something as simple as a bucket or a dedicated drawer. Anything works as long as it's readily accessible. 

cleanign a steam wand with a micro fiber towel lifestyle by clive coffee

We’re obsessed with microfiber towels. We use countless of them at home, in showroom demos, and our in-person espresso classes. Some of us even have four clean towels ready at all times—one for keeping our portafilter dry between pulling shots, one for keeping crusty milk off of the steam wand, one to wipe down the counter around the machine, and one to keep the machine spick-and-span. Excessive? Perhaps. Our machines remain immaculate, and yours can be, too. Don't forget a large counter brush to clean any coffee grounds. Bonus points if it doubles as a grinder brush. Lastly, where do you put all of your spent espresso pucks? It's much easier to dispose of them in a knock box, ideally a larger one to dispose of them in a sanitary way. 

Remember, making espresso is a wet process that can often get messy. Please keep your tamper and your tamping area dry. If your tamper is wet, it will remove coffee from the coffee bed, resulting in uneven and bad extractions. Alternatively, if your portafilter is dirty and wet from your last shot, you'll get bitter and off-flavors.

Streamline your workflow 

We talk a lot about how your grinder is essential to getting great-tasting espresso, how to dial in different coffees, and strategies for tasting espresso. We need to mention more how important it is to purge some coffee, at least 10g, between each grind adjustment you make. This ensures that you're only grinding coffee from your newest grind adjustment for each shot you pull. You may waste some coffee, but make better-tasting espresso in the long run. 

  • RDT (Ross Droplet Technique) is a great way to maintain espresso bar cleanliness and a seamless bar workflow, especially when using a single-dosing grinder. Essentially, RDT helps reduce static electricity during grinding, reduce mess, and improve grind consistency. 
  • Have you pulled a lousy shot? Throw it in a cappuccino or a latte. While we will always support a never-ending desire for perfection, sometimes we just need coffee. Is your shot a bit under-extracted, but you don't have much time to tinker? You won't be able to tell in a milk drink! 
  • Utilize the hot water tapIf your machine has a dedicated hot water tap, use it as much as possible. No, not to make Americanos, but to cycle water continuously through the steam boiler. Purging from the hot water tap once every month will help.
  • Pour better latte artThe size and shape of your cup are key. You want a mug that corresponds to the size of your milk beverage. For instance, if you want to make a cappuccino, use a 5.5-6oz mug. Use a mug with a wide mouth and round and sloped bottom like the notNeutral LINO

All about drip trays and soft water 

Water test lifestyle by Clive Coffee

 Cleaning the drip tray is often overlooked when maintaining an espresso machine. It makes sense; all of the coffee water, grounds, and whatever else goes into there. We'd hardly want to look at the slurry, too. Left in there long enough, that slurry will mold and become rancid. So, please mind your drip trays.

Moreover, many folks will dream of connecting a drain line to their drip tray for "easier" draining. We find this more trouble than it's worth and much more challenging to keep clean. If you're not using the machine in a café, consider not draining your drip tray. 

Always use filtered and soft water with your espresso machine. Full stop. This will help ensure that your espresso always tastes delicious and that your espresso machine is protected from premature repairs. Learn more about the importance of water here

What did we miss? What tips and tricks do you use daily that will be useful to home baristas? Sound off in the comments! We can't wait to talk espresso with you. 

If you have any questions, chat with us on our website, call us at (888) 557-5320, email us at, or visit us at our Portland, OR showroom between 10 and 5 Tuesday through Sunday.