Your Guide to Perfect Home Espresso
Finally, your all-in-one guide to mastering that perfect shot of espresso at home. We lay it all out there in this easy, six-minute step-by-step walkthrough with tips, tricks, and even our signature espresso recipe. What's the difference between dose and yield? What size dose should you be using based on your basket? Grab a pen and notebook and stop head-scratching every time your espresso turns out different. You'll thank us later.
An espresso recipe consists of three things: dose, yield, and time. Using a scale and measuring these elements in a recipe will help you replicate a great shot and quickly troubleshoot when issues arise.
Our dose is how much ground coffee we are putting into our basket. Choose your dose based on the basket in your portafilter. For single baskets, use a dose between 7-10g of ground coffee, 16-18g for double baskets, and 20-22g for a triple. Always grind into a clean and dry basket.
To ensure your dose is accurate, tare the scale with the portafilter on top, grind into the basket, and then place your portafilter back on the scale.
Once your dose is set, you’ll choose your yield - this is going to be the total weight, in grams, of your shot of espresso. We always recommend weighing coffee in grams, not measuring by volume. The volume of a shot changes based on the coffee used and when it was roasted. Fresh coffee will have lots of crema and weigh less than a shot using older beans.
You’ll often see dose and yield written as a ratio - this specific formula measures ground coffee input to liquid espresso output. Ratios for espresso typically range from 1:1 to 1:3 with a general rule of using smaller ratios for darker roasts and larger ratios for lighter roasts. Clive’s signature recipe is 1:1.5. That’s what we’ll be following today: 20g of ground coffee to 30g of liquid espresso.
Time is what ties everything together - the total number of seconds a shot takes. Aim for your shot to pull between 25 and 30 seconds. To make this happen, look to your grinder. We’ll manipulate the grind size to change how long it takes for water to flow through the coffee bed. Think of coarse coffee like stones and fine coffee like sand. The water will make its way through the rocks much quicker. Changing your grind will allow you to fine-tune the time of your shot. You’ll most likely need to change your grind daily too. As coffee ages, your shots will pull faster, encouraging you to grind finer.
To pull an even shot, you need a level coffee bed. Once you grind your dose into your portafilter, gently tap the sides of the portafilter a few times to distribute the coffee until it appears flat. Keep this to a minimum as you don’t want to cause a crack in the coffee bed. Once it looks level, it’s time to tamp.
Hold your tamper between your index finger and thumb, almost like grabbing a doorknob. Stand perpendicular to the portafilter and place your tamper into the basket. Your arm should be at about a 90-degree angle. Lightly lean into the tamp, applying slow and gentle pressure. The amount of pressure is not as important as repeatability and consistency.
Pulling a Shot
Now that our coffee bed is leveled and tamped, we are ready to pull a shot! No matter which machine you use, make sure that it is warmed up and ready to go. Flush some water through the group head to guarantee that it is hot and clean. Insert your portafilter into the group and tighten it into place until it feels snug and tight, but don’t overtighten. Place Your scale and cup on the drip tray then start your shot and timer. Once you reach your yield, stop the shot and note the time. Remember, we are looking for our 1:1.5 ratio to pull in 30 seconds.
If your shot takes well over 30 seconds, you’ll need to coarsen your grind. If your shot time is under 25 seconds, you need to adjust your grind finer.
Try tasting every shot you pull - even the ones that aren’t perfect. You might discover another recipe that’s more pleasant to you! That’s the beauty of espresso at home. You’re the barista and the consumer.
Not so bad, right? Perfecting the art of espresso at home takes time, patience, and lots of practice. If you don’t get it right the first time - no harm done, just keep trying.
For a deeper dive into espresso theory and training, check out Intro to Espresso, available through Coffee School.