The Ultimate Guide to Espresso – Everything You Need to Know

Packing a little power to its punch even if you haven’t tried espresso you have certainly heard the name and a lot of legends about its power. Espresso does pack a powerful punch because it is one of the strongest coffees made anywhere in the world.

To learn all about espresso just continue to read our article. It explores the subject using a fine tooth comb and takes you on an adventure that gives you all you need to know about this style of coffee.

What Actually is Espresso?

It is hard to create a good definition of espresso because that effort is very subjective. This strong cup of coffee tastes different to different people and they may add their own special ingredients to spice it up to meet their personal preferences.

To put it in blunt terms, a single shot of espresso is about 7 to 9 grams of coffee grounds having up to 195°F water pushed through it at extremely high pressure for about 20 to 30 seconds all to create about a 2 to 3 ounce cup of strong coffee.

Each ounce of espresso has about 63 mg caffeine content, which means each double shot of espresso has approx 126 mg caffeine. However, this should vary among the type of bean, the amount of coffee ground used and other factors.

To boil that definition down, espresso is extremely strong coffee that packs a caffeine punch that would wake a sleeping rhino from a coma.

There are some things you should know about espresso...

One is that it is not a coffee bean. The espresso coffee used comes from normal coffee beans. Nor is it a roasting style. In fact, no roasting is used in the process of creating espresso. Finally, espresso is a brewing method. It is one of the myriad of ways to get a great tasting cup of coffee.

A Cup of Espresso

How to Determine If Espresso is for You

Now that you know what espresso is, the next step is to determine if drinking this style of coffee is right for you. To do that you have to ask yourself some important questions:

  • Do you like to learn new skills?
  • Do you want to broaden your coffee options at home?
  • Do you have the time to learn and the money to buy an espresso machine?
  • Do you enjoy impressing your friends and family with your new skills?
  • Last but not least, are you an 'advanced' coffee drinker? Because espresso is stronger than regular coffee, make sure your body has the ability to keep these jitters at bay.

Of course, not everyone should make espresso and there is nothing wrong with that attitude. For those people who like just a good cup of coffee in the morning, then espresso is probably not for you.

Or, you may just want the brewing method to be simple, easy and fast. Your busy schedule may prevent you from mastering how to make espresso and you prefer not to brag about your new skills.

These attitudes are not negative signs but very good clues to determine if you want to be an espresso drinker or not. You are not going to be seen as a second class person if you do not want to make espresso.

The Health Benefits of Drinking Espresso

Health Benefits of Espresso

By now everyone knows that coffee, whether pre-ground or fresh ground, has vital health benefits. The good news here is that espresso is not excluded from that healthy living club.

When you opt to use the espresso brewing method you are not losing any of the nutrients coffee brings to your body. Here is a list of 5 health benefits you get when you drink espresso:

  • Your memory gets better - two shots of espresso has been known to help your long term memory. But be wary, drinking more in a day will not up that improvement
  • You stay more alert - caffeine has that effect on people and caffeine is not absent from espresso. It may have more than a regular cup of coffee. When you drink espresso do not think it is a miracle cure for tiredness or short attention spans
  • It is diet drink - believe it or not, espresso only contains about 3 calories an ounce. Plus liquid is known to help you eat less if you drink first then eat a meal.
  • Espresso is heart healthy - drinking as little as one cup a day, you should have a better defense against strokes. If you smoke you might want to drink more than a cup to receive the same benefit.
  • It fights diabetes - two cups of espresso a day should lower your chance of getting diabetes. But espresso is just one tool in the diabetes fight.

The Espresso Making Process

What to Look for in an Espresso Machine

If you are game and really excited about making espresso every morning or as a treat you need a good espresso machine to help you. A bad machine may discourage you and turn you off of learning how to make espresso.

Here is what to look for when shopping for an espresso machine

There is more than one type of machine

Ease of cleaning

The price

The number of drinks it makes

The construction of the machine

The machine’s size

The features

How to Make Espresso (Step-By-Step Guide)

#1. The Tools You Will Need

The first step in making good espresso is having the right tools gathered together at the same time and in one spot. Do this first so you do not stop the process to look for a missing item. Here are the tools you will need:

  • Espresso machine - find the best one available if you do not already have it
  • Grinder - pre-ground is okay but if you want great tasting espresso, grind your own just before you begin the brewing process
  • Filter - like your machine, you want the best filter possible. Getting grounds in your coffee is not a good thing
  • Tamper - this must fit very tightly inside your machine
  • Scale - you will need to measure the amounts of grounds and water before placing them in the machine
  • Pot - or cup will do. Just make it large enough to catch all the coffee before you pour. You do not want to clean up a mess after you are done

#2. The Brewing Process


Step 1

Fill the water tank in your machine or hook up the built-in water line. This depends on the style of your machine


Step 2

Once that is done, you turn on your machine and wait. It may take a while before the water is hot enough so bring a book with you to fill in the time or do another chore while you wait


Step 3 - Do a bean test run

Grind coffee beans for espresso

Grind only a few beans first to make sure the grinder is set to the ground quality you want. The finer ground you get the better your espresso should be


Step 4

Once you are satisfied with the grind quality, grind the rest of your beans into your filter stopping at the amount the filter is made to hold. Make sure the coffee is settled and distributed evenly throughout the filter


Step 5

tamping coffee when making espresso

Now you need to use your tamper and pack the coffee ground evenly but not loosely


Step 6

put the filter into espresso machine

Put the filter into your machine and lock it in place. It is important that you do not hit the filter doing this step. Impacts should damage your tamped coffee ruining the brewing process


Step 7

Start the pump, then stop it before you put too much water through the filter. The water in the filter will drip through filling your pot or cup


Step 8

Enjoy your cup of espresso

Enjoy your cup of espresso after stirring in your favorite ingredients

How to Make Espresso Without an Espresso Machine

There are 3 good methods to use where you can make a great tasting espresso beverage without having to turn to an espresso machine to make it.

aeropress espresso making method

The First Method: the Aeropress

Step #1 - get your Aeropress ready and place 2 filters inside

Step #2 - place 2 tablespoons of coffee in the filters

Step #3 - add 3 1/2 ounces of boiling water and press

brewing espresso by using moka pot

The Second Method: the Moka Pot

Step #1 - place 3 1/2 ounces of water in the bottom of the pot

Step #2 - then place 2 tablespoons of ground coffee in the filter

Step #3 - place on your stove’s burner and let the heat do the rest

making espresso using french press

The Third Method: the French Press

Step #1 - grind about 2 tablespoons of coffee or a bit more

Step #2 - heat 1 cup of water to just under 212°F and add the coffee to the filter

Step #3 - put a tiny amount of hot water on the grounds and wait for 30 seconds. Then add the rest of the water. Let steep for about 4 minutes

Step #4 - Press the plunger down using even pressure twice then pour

Tips for Making Good Espresso

Not everyone is a champion espresso maker their first few times out. That is why learning some tricks of the trade are very important. These tips should help your espresso making efforts and get you to be a pro in no time:

  • Use fresh, pure, clean water as your cup of espresso is only as good as the quality of water you use. Make it the best water possible
  • To get the fine grind needed to brew espresso it is best to use a burr grinder and not a blade model
  • To make sure the espresso is strong enough use about 18 to 21 grams of ground coffee. You should actually experiment here to make sure your espresso meets your taste preferences. You have some flexibility here
  • When tamping you do not need to use a lot of power to get the firm yet even result you need. It is sort of like packing brown sugar to get more room in the storage jar.
  • Standard brewing temperature is between 195 to 205°F. But again, you have a little flexibility here
  • If your water flows to slowly, then you will need a coarser ground the next time
  • If your water flows to quickly, you will need a finer ground
  • If your coffee tastes bitter, then there is a problem with your extraction. Lower the amount of water going through the ground coffee
  • If your espresso tastes sour then you under extracted and need to add more water
  • If your espresso is too watery then your tamping left some grooves or channels for your water to flow quickly through the grounds. Check your tamping to see if the grounds are even and firmly packed
  • If your espresso stream is uneven, check your tamping, distribution and evenness of your grounds.

Crema in Your Espresso is not a Wasted Ingredient

Crema actually plays an important role in how your espresso looks and tastes but not everyone agrees with that conclusion. The following information is designed to help you come to your own conclusions about Crema an if it is worth including in your espresso shots.

What is that foam?

The good news is that the foam is not harmful to you nor does it usually taste bad. Crema has color, usually a rust brown, it has a good aroma to most people’s noses, and it has a good taste, again for most people.

The foam, or Crema, forms when the air bubbles come in contact with the oils of the coffee grounds you used to make your espresso.

It is a sign...

When you see Crema on top of your cup of espresso, you are getting the sign that says the person who made your cup is not a novice but a very experienced and talented barista.

But that is not all it is a sign of. When you see that foam on top, you know you are getting a cup of espresso that top quality coffee grounds. In other words, you are not getting a poor cup of espresso.

What is crema in espresso
Can you make a perfect Crema?

It is possible to do but the idea of perfection is subjective and depends on the opinion of the barista making the espresso. To give you a standard to shoot for, the cream cannot be too thick, too thin and must hang around for about 2 minutes.

Here are a few tips on how to judge the quality of your Crema:

  • If you have more than 1/10 a cup of Crema, you are losing espresso
  • Crema is affected by your extraction and ground quality. Both must be perfect for perfect Crema results
  • When Crema disappears quickly, your coffee ground roast was too light and your extraction process was way too quick
  • For a perfect cream, you need to extract at a speed that takes between 15 to 30 seconds but this is not an exact time frame
  • Always warm your machine up first and clean it so the taste of your Crema and espresso is not influenced by previous espresso making attempts
  • You get more Crema if you use freshly roasted coffee beans
  • The color of the bean determines how much Crema you will get. The darker the color, the less amount of Crema in your cup
  • To get perfect Crema you want those coffee beans that have been processed naturally
  • Automatic controls do not produce a lot of Crema

Correcting Common Mistakes When Making Espresso

When people are new to making espresso they tend to make little errors that ruin their attempts. Making mistakes is a part of life and the only time it is wrong, is when you do not learn from them and correct what you are doing

Here are some common mistakes that you can avoid when trying to make a perfect cup of espresso:

1. Too many chefs spoil the broth

2. Picking the wrong coffee

3. Eyeballing is not a precise measurement

4. Your tamping technique needs improvement

5. The water is wrong

6. Dirty machines ruin your espresso

7. Using the wrong quality of milk

8. Ignoring the recipe

Some Common Crema Mistakes

It happens even in this small step. Novice Crema makers make some common mistakes that influence the taste of their espresso. Here are a few and their solutions:

  • Using old coffee - If it is old, don’t use it. Always go for the freshest possible ground coffee.
  • Short warm-up time - You will know this is taking place because the portafilter is cold and that lack of heat throws off the extraction. Make sure your warm up time heats the portafilter correctly
  • Grind and extraction issues - If your grind is too coarse then you will not be able to create a good Crema. Then if your extraction was not very strong, you will also have some issues with your Crema. Make sure you grind properly and have the coffee nice and fine. Then adjust your extraction process and strengthen it up.
  • A lack of tamping - Until you perfect this technique you may have a lot of Crema problems. This is the usual suspect when your Crema doesn’t turn out right. Check your tamping method before searching for other causes.
  • A lack of coffee - You may want to be economical and preserve your coffee supply so as not to increase your expenses. That is noble but not always a good idea when making espresso. This is a treat so splurge a little and use enough coffee every time. That way your Crema should turn out just right

How to Enjoy Your Cup of Espresso

When ordering your espresso remember these terms: solo means a single shot and doppio means a double shot of espresso.

There are a variety of ways in which you can enjoy your cup of espresso. They may all be equal so here is just one way to get the most out of your cup of freshly made espresso


Step 1 - Pick the right cup 

A ceramic style mug that is uncolored is always the perfect choice when it comes to drinking espresso.


Step 2 - Warm your cup up

Believe me. This should make the espresso better


Step 3 - Drink some sparkling water 

The sparkling water helps bring out the hidden flavors of the coffee beans used in making your espresso. The sparkling water also cleans your palate so you can taste the espresso only


Step 4 - Stir in your Crema

It blends the two flavors and depending on your point of view either helps the espresso flavor or hinders it.


Step 5 - Drink away but do it slowly

Enjoy your espresso. Don't forget one important thing: espresso is meant to be savored not downed like a shot of whisky

Our Recommended Espresso Recipes


Caffè Americano

  1. 1
    Have your mug ready
  2. 2
    Pour about 3 ounces of espresso into a different cup
  3. 3
    Pour 3 ounces of hot water in your drinking cup
  4. 4
    Pour the espresso into the hot water
  5. 5
    Stir and drink


latte espresso recipe


  1. 1
    Pour 3 ounces of espresso into a cup
  2. 2
    Add an ounce of your favorite flavored syrup
  3. 3
    Add 1-3 shots of steamed milk
  4. 4
    Enjoy your Latte


caffe macchiato espresso recipe


  1. 1
    Pour in 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
  2. 2
    Add in your espresso and vanilla extract
  3. 3
    Add in steamed milk
  4. 4
    Top with whipped cream
  5. 5
    Finally, add cinnamon


cappuccino espresso recipe


  1. 1
    Froth your cold milk with steam and a frothing wand
  2. 2
    Pour over your cup of espresso
  3. 3
    Enjoy your Cappuccino


irish coffee espresso recipe

Irish coffee

  1. 1
    Pull 2 shots of espresso
  2. 2
    Add some sugar as your preference
  3. 3
    Add some hot water (leaving enough room for other ingredients)
  4. 4
    Pour some whisky and stir
  5. 5
    Top with whip cream
  6. 6


thai iced coffee recipe espresso

Thai Coffee

  1. 1
    Pour into a cup 2 shots of espresso
  2. 2
    Add sweetened milk and ground cardamom
  3. 3
    Add some brown sugar as your preference and stir
  4. 4
    Finally, add some half and half milk
  5. 5

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