Magic Box @ The Reef

How to Make Espresso: The Basics

17 September 2019

The experts at La Marzocco tell us how.

First off, every coffee is different. That’s part of the joy of making espresso. Dialing in a new coffee and pulling a shot is a constant pursuit. So, when you put a new coffee into your hopper, it’s a good idea to have a target brew ratio in mind—that is, how much ground coffee you’ll put in the portafilter to how much liquid espresso you’ll brew into the cup. Brew ratios balance three important variables: ground coffee (ins), liquid espresso (outs), and brew time. A good starting place for a new coffee is a 1:2 ratio in 25-30 seconds. From there, you can adjust as needed.

What you’ll need:

Whole Bean Coffee
Tamper/Distribution Tool
Espresso Machine (temperature between 195° – 205°)


How to Make Espresso: The Basics


1. Remove the portafilter from the machine and wipe out the filter basket so that it is clean and dry. Make sure there is no moisture or old coffee inside of the portafilter basket. We like to have a dedicated towel used only for wiping out the portafilter basket at our workstation.

2. Set the portafilter on the scale and tare it to zero. Using a scale allows you to be consistent, no matter what coffee you’re using. Different coffees have different densities, and can look different in the basket—take the guesswork out by investing in a scale.

3. Dose the appropriate amount of coffee for the basket you’re using. We tend to start with 18g of coffee in a 17g basket and adjust from there. The dose will depend on what basket size is being used. If you’re using a 17g basket, dose between 16-19g of coffee. For a 21 g basket, 19-21g should work just fine.

4. Distribute the coffee in your portafilter. There are a variety of different methods to do this. To start, keep it simple and use your finger. Keep it flat on top of the basket and slide it in a N-S-E-W motion. You can also use a distribution tool to distribute the grounds evenly throughout the basket.

5. Tamp the coffee. Tamp as even and level as possible, applying between 20-30lbs. of pressure. Ultimately, the most important thing here is to be consistent. One trick we use? Once you feel the coffee “push back,” you’ve tamped hard enough. No need to overdo it. 

6. Flush the group to rinse any old coffee grounds or oils off. On some home espresso machines, this step is necessary to actually get the group up to temperature. If you’re using a La Marzocco, it’s not necessary for temperature—the saturated & integrated groups are already temperature stable. 

7. Insert the portafilter into the group head. Line the ears up with the grouphead and pull snug to create a seal with the gasket. If you don’t pull tight enough, you’ll end up with water & espresso leaking out of the group. 

8. Place your cup(s) onto a scale underneath the portafilter and tare to zero. Like weighing your dose, using a scale to weigh your espresso output can help you be consistent. We like to keep track of three major variables while brewing: dose (how much ground coffee), yield (how much liquid espresso in the cup), and time (how long it takes to brew). By keeping tack of these three variables, we can develop a preferred brew ratio and replicate it—it’s also extremely helpful in keeping your grinder dialed in.

9. Start the brewing process. If you don’t have a timer on your machine, start one once you start the brewing process. Watch for visual cues. Does your espresso drop suddenly and flow fast? Does it drip out and slowly increase in flow? What color is it? What time do you see the first drops? These are all good things to pay attention to, but they don’t necessarily mean a shot will taste good or bad. We use visual cues a lot for coffees we use frequently and have already dialed in.

10. Stop the brewing process when you’ve reached your desired output.
This will change depending on your preferred brew ratio—but a good place to start is to target 28-36 grams of espresso in 25-30 seconds. 

Serve & Enjoy!


Want to add some milk? Click here to find out how to make the perfect milk-based coffee at home. be sure to check out the la marzocco home espresso bar at lacf. get your tickets here!

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