How do I make a great Espresso at home?

There is no one single recipe that will guarantee a great tasty espresso as there are so many variables that could affect the outcome: beans, machine pressure before and during extraction, basket size, water, tamping, dose and grind size, to name some of the key factors.

An Espresso Recipe & major variables to note

Dose Keep between 16-20g to pull a double shot, but best to keep the same dose and then adjust the other variables. 18g dose for a 18g basket is a good start
Grind Size "Fine" but we strongly recommend you get a burr grinder that can easily get your coffee ground to very fine grind size. This is because a tiny adjustment could make a huge difference to the extraction rate.  
Water Temperature This varies with every Espresso machine but the main point is make sure your machine is fully heated prior to pulling your shot. 
Extraction time

Generally between 25s-35s

Flow rate

Flow rate is how fast the extracted coffee is coming off the spouts.  It's a difficult concept to explain with words, but the question is: "does it flow smoothly and is it rich brown in colour?" The coffee should not drip out from the spouts as if it's a leaky tap nor should it pour out uncontrollably. The key words are "smooth flow" "rich brown"

Brew ratio


Brew ratio is the ratio of the extracted brew weight divided by the dry ground coffee. A good range is between 1.6 and 2.  For example, if you use 18g dose, then the extracted brew weight should be 29-36g
 Tamping The main thing to say about tamping is to keep the tamper perpendicular to the filled basket. Apply firm but not excessive downward pressure.  Hint: If your elbow hurts, then you're tamping too hard.  You know you're tamped evenly if the espresso comes off both of the spouts at the same time. If not, then we call that "channelling". 
Smell Once extracted, place the espresso close to your nose. Do you notice any sharp notes? 'Sharpness to the nose' is a good indicator that your coffee is possible too acidic or too bitter. 
Taste The ultimate test for a great espresso comes down to taste. Does it taste balanced with all the flavour notes that the coffee promises? 

Some tips for adjusting your recipe

Many people enjoy experimenting with the flavour of their coffee by adjusting various elements of the recipe. It's important to only change one element at a time so that you know what specific fine tuning you've done to get to the right balance for you. 

  1. If the espresso tastes sharply acidic, then it is likely to be under extracted. Try to make the grind size finer or increase the extraction time
  2. If the espresso tastes bitter and it's not part of the flavour notes in the roasted coffee, then it is likely to be over extracted.  Try to coarsen the grind size or shorten the extraction time.
  3. If your coffee lack sweetness but you've tasted a deliciously sweet shot before, check the roast date. Is your coffee still fresh?

Making a great espresso is quite a complex art.  We've some of the UK's best baristas to help you make a great espresso at home.  Simply contact us on and say "help me please!" or if you live near one of our cafes, then come in and talk to any of our senior baristas.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!