Nine steps to your perfect espresso

Nine steps to your perfect espresso

To prepare it, you need your favourite freshly roasted coffee beans, a grinder, a tamper and a portafilter machine. 

  1. Choose your coffee beans
  2. Check the filter
  3. Weigh the beans
  4. Grind the beans
  5. Levelling
  6. Tamp the beans
  7. Rinse the portafilter
  8. Brew
  9. Finely adjust the grinding degree 

1. Choosing the right beans:

A high-quality coffee grinder and portafilter machine require the matching first-class coffee. The choice of coffee beans determines different tasting nuances: from chocolatey or nutty to sweet-fruity coffee roastings. These depend on the origin of the beans as well as the roasting method. The beans should be roasted specifically for espresso. At Horizonte, we offer the following beans for dark coffee lovers: "Pedal", "Leal", "Casual" and for medium roast coffee drinkers "Traditional" and "Floral".

It is also important that the coffee beans have the right degree of freshness. More information about the importance of using freshly roasted beans can be found here.

2. Filter and water temperature:

We generally recommend the use of a two-cup filter, as it simply makes the espresso taste better. The geometry of the conical one-cup filter is less suitable for portafilter machines as it prevents an even extraction of all the coffee powder. A standardised two-cup filter is designed for 18g of ground coffee.

The brewing temperature plays an important role in espresso making. With expensive portafilter machines, the brewing temperature can be adjusted. We recommend brewing the espresso at 93.0 degrees. Very light roasts benefit from rising this temperature by 1-2 degrees, while darker roasts achieve best results when the temperature is lowered by 1-2 degrees. Adjusting the temperature to the different degrees of roasting will cause light roasts to re-roast, while darker roasts will extract less bitterness.

3. Weighing the beans:

Weigh the beans with a scale. The weight depends upon the filter. Ideally, a measuring cup is used on a scale with two decimal places for exact weighing results, since the coffee quantity should be precise. Depending on the kind of grinder you use, a scale might already be integrated.

4. Grinding the beans:

Position the preheated portafilter of the machine underneath the grinder. Start with a fine degree of grinding. The ground coffee should be coarser than flour, yet finer than salt. With lighter roasts, the cell structure is less broken up than with darker ones, and the water can flow through the ground coffee more easily. As a general rule: the lighter the roast of the beans, the finer the degree of grinding should be and vice versa – the darker the roast, the coarser the degree of grinding.

5. Levelling:

For the levelling of coffee grounds, place them in the portafilter. Levelling means: holding the portafilter in one hand and tapping it with the other, so that the coffee grounds will be evenly distributed in the portafilter.

6. Correct tamping:

It is important to tamp evenly, in order to ensure consistent water pressure throughout the filter contents. Slanted tamping would lead to coffee grounds being distributed unevenly across the filter basket. Water under pressure will always follow the path of least resistance. If this pressure is unevenly distributed, not all the coffee will be extracted, which could result in channelling.

7. Rinsing the portafilter:

Before clamping the portafilter back into the machine, the water paths need to be cleaned by removing deposits. Open the water lever or button and let the water run until it is clear. You can now clamp the portafilter. Place one or two cups under the portafilter spout.

8. Brewing:

The ideal volume of coffee or extraction depends on the quantity of coffee grounds (grams), degree of grinding, tamper contact pressure, type of beans and individual taste preferences. We generally assume a brewing ratio of 1:2 (other coffee lovers prefer a higher ratio). With 18 grams of coffee in the portafilter, this would yield 36 grams of coffee in the cup. To attain this ratio, position a scale under the coffee cup and stop the water supply shortly before the desired beverage ratio is reached (in our case at 36 grams).

Alternatively, or in combination with this approach, you can also measure the extraction time. The speed at which the water flows through the coffee gives an indication of the degree of grinding and the next steps. A rough guide is an extraction time of 22-35 seconds. (Example: The coffee ran through too quickly, if 36 grams are in the cup within 18 seconds, and too slowly, if 36 grams collect in the cup within 40 seconds.)

9. Fine adjustment of the grinding degree:

Taste the espresso. Should it not be balanced yet, the grinding degree can be adjusted. This can differ depending on the type of coffee and your personal taste.

Was the extraction too slow?

In the case of over-extraction, or a grind that is too fine (at over 35 seconds extraction time), the coffee will taste bitter. If the espresso is being extracted far too slowly, the grinding degree was too fine and the grinder should be adjusted to a coarser degree (which should be done in small steps). Important: grind for a few seconds and dispose of the first portion, as residual coffee-deposits in the grinding mechanism and outlet distort the result. Then grind the desired amount of coffee again and brew an espresso using the same process as described above. The coffee should now run faster.

Was the extraction too fast?

If the grinding degree is too coarse (extraction lasting less than 20 seconds), this is referred to a under-extraction. This will occur when too much acid is dissolved from the coffee. The coffee tastes sour, lacking sweetness, salty and has a quick finish. If the espresso is extracted way too fast, the grinding degree needs to be adjusted to be finer.

Grind 18 grams of coffee again and brew an espresso using the same process as mentioned above. The coffee should now run more slowly.

Harder tamping or more coffee grounds will ensure a longer extraction time. Softer tamping or a smaller amount of coffee grounds result in a shorter extraction time.

More tips for your perfect espresso:

  • Cups on the machine
    the best way to preheat the cups.

  • Cleaning
    Over time, the coffee can taste rancid due to the fats of the residual coffee. Thus, every espresso machine should be cleaned regularly to ensure the perfect coffee enjoyment. For backflushing, pour cleaning powder into the blind filter and start the cleaning program. Rinse well. Do not forget: Remove the mesh from the portafilter and place both in dissolved cleaning powder. They also require a good rinse!

  • Water quality
    Espresso consists of approximately 93% water. Hard water calcifies the espresso machine and the alkalinity of the hard water acts as a buffer for the acidity of the coffee. Soft water is therefore key, which is why we recommend using a water filter. Pro-tip, but not environmentally friendly: Volvic water from France is ideal as brewing water.

  • Grinder
    The quality of the grinder has a significant impact on the espresso.

  • Stir the coffee
    Be sure to stir the cup with a spoon before drinking. This way, the full and homogeneous flavour can be enjoyed from the very first sip.

Back to blog