How To Make Espresso From Regular Coffee
So you want to know how to make an espresso from regular coffee? Great! There’s an art to espresso making, but don’t worry, you’re about to learn it. Before we get into it, what exactly is an espresso?
The name espresso is Italian in origin. It first appeared around 1900 and, loosely translated, meant a cup of coffee brewed expressly (just) for you. What makes a true espresso?
Is it the bean?
No. People have been lead to believe that the type of bean determines whether a brew is espresso or not. This isn’t true. Any type of bean can be used to make good espresso. You can absolutely make great espresso from “regular” coffee beans, though “espresso” beans are usually stronger.
Is it the blend?
No. There are “espresso” blends but they don’t make it espresso. The pursuit of the perfect espresso blend has led to this common misunderstanding. Some roasters even say that good espresso can only be made with the right type of blends.
Is it the roast?
No. Some think that espresso must be an extremely dark roast; however the espresso roast varies from region to region. In California, you will see a dark or “French” roast. On the east coast, a light roast is common. And in Northern Italy, a medium roast is normally chosen. The fact is, any roast can be used to make good espresso. It is simply a matter of taste. If you like stronger, more bitter coffee, use a darker roast. If you like lighter coffee, use a lighter roast.
Are all espresso machines really espresso machines?
No. There are machines out there billed as “espresso machines” that aren’t genuine espresso machines. These machines are usually ”moka” style machines that use steam pressure to force water through the ground beans. While this method is considered traditional in Italy, the device doesn’t qualify as an “espresso machine.”
Steam pressure can only produce up to 1.5 BAR or 50 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure. A real espresso machine must produce at least 9 BAR or 135 PSI to force the water through the finely ground and packed ground beans.
So, what is espresso?
Espresso coffee is a small (1 to 2 oz.) shot of pressure-brewed coffee, using about 1-2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee. When done correctly, the brewing takes about 25 to 30 seconds and it will feature a layer of rich, dark golden cream on the surface, called “crema.” This crema is the hallmark of a quality espresso. Making a great espresso is truly an art as well as a science.
How do you make a great espresso?
Before you continue, make sure you understand the basics of espresso. If you don’t know what a tamper or porta-filter is, read this article on espresso basics first!
Now, the different phases of making a killer espresso are roasting the beans, blending them, grinding them, tamping them and then brewing the espresso.
The first thing you’ll need is a good espresso machine. There are many types and prices, so we recommend you look at our guide to help you choose the machine that will best fit your needs.
The next thing you’ll need is an espresso coffee grinder. Once again, there are different makes and models so you should check out some different coffee grinders.
Lastly, you’ll need outstanding beans. There are a million options out there, but click here to look at the beans we recommend.
If you already have a machine, grinder and beans, let’s get to it!
Let’s identify is whether your machine is steam driven or pump driven. If you aren’t sure, consider this: if you have to pour water in the top and screw the lid down, your machine is probably steam driven. If you simply pour water into a large tank, press a button and the machine starts making all kinds of strange noises, your machine is probably pump driven.
Coffee ground for steam-driven machines will need to be finer than for the pump-driven machine because steam-driven machines don’t produce the pressure that pump-driven machines do in order to push the water through the grounds.
The heat and humidity level of where your beans are stored even affects the taste of the espresso, but that’s something covered in more detail in our eBook on espresso making.
The Ratio of Coffee to Water
You should be using approximately one tablespoon of grounds to every ounce of water. This is an important ratio as putting too little or too much water can lead to over- or under-pulling your shot. As you know, there are 8 ounces in a cup of water. The standard shot of espresso is 1-2 oz, which means that a single shot would require only 1-2 tablespoons of grounds.
1. Pre-heat the glass the beverage will be served in and place under porta-filter.
2. Begin grinding beans by turning on grinder.
3. Immediately remove porta-filter, knock out old grounds into a tamp box, and wipe basket dry with a cloth.
4. As coffee is still grinding dose enough coffee to fill the basket and stop the grinder.
5. Level the grounds in the basket by pulling them forward and then pushing them to the opposite side until the whole basket is evenly filled.
6. Take the tamper and press down with 5 pounds of pressure. Gently knock the porta-filter with the back of the tamper and press down with 30 pounds of pressure. Polish the surface by turning 720° while pressing with about 20 pounds of pressure.
7. Let 2 ounces of water flow through group head.
8. Place porta-filter in group head and turn on pump.
9. When espresso begins to flow, start timing.
10. If you want a sweeter espresso, stop the flow at about 17 seconds. If you want a more bitter coffee, let it flow longer, but never longer than 25 seconds. Other “signs to stop” are when about 1.5 ounces has been brewed, or after it begins to turn slightly lighter in color.
Here’s a short video clip of how the process goes!
Well, I hope that gets you started with making great espresso.