Brewed Coffee Guide

How to Use an Espresso Machine

March 14, 2022 | Kurt Parker

How to Use an Espresso Machine

In the last decade or so, there has been a remarkable increase in the consumption of espresso in the United States. In some places, you can’t walk some blocks without seeing a café or espresso carts. In parking lots, there are drive-through espr­esso stores.

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People are also purchasing espresso machines for their houses. These machines are smaller than those seen in cafés, but they operate on the same principles. This article will explain how these home espresso machines function. But first, let’s define espresso.

What exactly is Espresso?

espresso cup and espresso brewing process

When you order an espresso at a cafe or espresso bar, you will be given a shot-sized glass. This will contain a small amount of very strong coffee. There are many other sorts of espresso beverages including cappuccino,. Others are cafe latte, and cafe mocha. All them include one or more shots of espresso.

One serving of espresso is best made by letting about 44.3 ml of water that’s hot run through ground coffee that’s well packed. When the process is smooth, you could get a dark color and somewhat viscous liquid.

There are several elements to consider while preparing a shot of espresso. To name a few, the water’s warmth or heat, the pressure, the fineness of the ground coffee, and how firmly the coffee is packed. All of these variables are controlled by the professional espresso maker, or barista, in order to produce a great shot of espresso. Let’s begin with one of the most important variables: coffee.


The Bean

Espresso coffee is a combination of many sorts of coffee beans from various nations. The beans are ground finely, considerably finer than for drip coffee machines. The texture is similar to powdered sugar.

The slower the espresso comes out, the finer the coffee is ground. In general, it should take around 25 seconds for the water to run through the coffee for the greatest shot of espresso. The grind is sometimes modified to manage the brewing time.

Let’s look at what happens to coffee in an espresso machine.


A Basic Machine

espresso machine coffee makers

Begin in the enticing world of homemade espresso with this handy guide. This includes advice on what tools to buy. It also includes how to set a spending plan, and where you may go further than the beginning kit.

As you see the barista grind coffee into a basket and delicately tamp it down. While he/she steams milk to the perfect temperature, and pour a detailed rosetta into your cup. A question crosses your mind: How can I duplicate what she just did back at home?

Home espresso is one of the most fascinating topics for coffee connoisseurs. It’s maybe the most identifiable white whale we have.  With nearly endless space to refine the craft, fine-tune the outcomes in the cup. However, a large part of the allure stems from the fact that home espresso equipment can rapidly become expensive. And it takes more care and maintenance than other brewing techniques. So it is just not as accessible to many coffee enthusiasts as, say, a simple french press.

The parts of the espresso machine consist of the following, copper tubing. It also has boilers made of stainless steel. There are hardware and firmware too, that are intelligent. Everything has been profiled, coded, and constructed. An espresso machine’s inside is a real jungle of metal, wiring, and steam. You might be shocked to find that, underneath the lights and whistles, most espresso machines do the same thing. Pump hot water through finely ground coffee.

So, how does an espresso machine function? And what is the simplest, most pleasant method to learn how they work without getting bogged down in the mechanical jargon? We’ll show you how espresso machines function by tracing water from the source to the coffee in this guide.


The Water And The Pump

pump of espresso machine

Every espresso, regardless of equipment, begins with the water supply. Water is obtained from either a small reservoir or a piped mains hookup. Reservoirs are adequate for modest amounts. But a high-volume professional machine needs a dependable piped source.

A decent espresso requires pure water with no excessive (or insufficient) mineral content. The majority of machines feature built-in filters. However, water provided at standard home pressure simply does not have enough power. So they cant pass through a condensed coffee puck in such a way that an espresso is produced. Then we now use the pump.

An electric pump is used to produce pressure in most current espresso machines. The pressure required for one espresso is around 9 bars.  In instance, most automobile tires are suggested to have a PSI of 30 to 35.

Espresso machine pumps are classified into two categories. A complicated rotary pump is  used in commercial espresso machines. This is to provide continuous pressure. A revolving electrically driven mechanical disc is used in this type of pump. A vibration pump is common. It uses an electromagnetic coil to push and pull a piston in domestic machinery. Vibration pumps only generate pressure when the shot is pulled.


The Boiler

home espresso brewing

Once the water has been transported forward by the pump, it is time to increase the temperature. Consistency is vital here, as it is with water supply and pressure.

As you might expect, the boiler in an espresso machine is in charge of boiling the water in the system. A twin boiler system is used in professional machinery. This implies they have two boilers: one for brewing and one for usage with the steam wand.

The use of two boilers solves the problem of having different temperature requirements. Water for brewing should be at 93°C (200°F), and steam should be at 100°C (212°F).

Water temperature has a direct influence on extraction rate. So,  inconsistencies can affect the flavor of the shot.

Many manufacturers have included proportional-integral-derivative (PID) to their espresso machines. These handy gadgets connect to the heating element and handle on-off cycles. So as  to keep boiler temperatures at ideal levels.

Heat levels can fluctuate without this technology. This then will result in unpredictability in your finished espressos.

A steam wand is also included with most espresso machines. This is the thin nozzle that’s metal and it is part and attached to the espresso machine’s side. Steam wands function by directing steam from the hotter of the two boilers into the milk via this thin hose. The pressured steam warms and adds texture to the milk, allowing cappuccinos and lattes to be made.


The Group Head & Portafilter

commercial machines to brew coffee

The final stop before the coffee enters your cup is the group head. This is where the hot, pressurized water comes into touch with the compressed puck of coffee.

There are several varieties of group heads. But they all consist of the same fundamental elements. The portafilter – the metal filter basket that retains the ground coffee – is located here. A portafilter lock, a pressure switch and a passage will enable water to flow. It flows from the boiler to the portafilter. These are all included in group heads.

Some individuals prefer to use a bottomless portafilter. This signifies that the portafilter basket is exposed. It allows a barista to properly and quickly dial in their grinder.

Saturated and semi-saturated group heads are the two main varieties. The boiler is exposed to saturated group heads. Because they are effectively an extension of the boiler. They are also filled with hot water. The saturated group heads rapidly reach the same temperature as the brewing water. As a result, they are temperature stable.

brew espresso drinks

Then the  partition  by the heat exchanger will happen by dividing the boilers. As well as dividing  those that are group heads . This makes them easier to repair than saturated group heads and allows them to be produced at a lower cost. However, they may be slightly less stable in terms of temperature stability.

Both have advantages and cons. And despite the increased expense of maintenance. Most high-end machines have saturated group heads. According to some, they provide better control than semi-saturated group chiefs.

So, what’s the point of all this technology for a cup of coffee? Why not try a simpler option, such as a stovetop pot?

Even if you have assured uniformity throughout the process, there is an outside aspect. This is what elevates a decent espresso to a fantastic espresso.


Setting Up and Using the Machine

The first step in producing espresso is to have your machine ready. Some equipment may be used to conduct tests. These ones ensure that the temperature and pressure are within the optimal range.

Check that the water tank is full and turn on the boiler. When the espresso machine is ready, a light on the machine turns on or off.

Before attaching the portafilter, it’s a good idea to warm the group head by flushing the machine. This clears the way for cold water and avoids under extraction.


Grind the Coffee Beans

The next step is to weigh and crush our coffee beans. The basic rule is that a single shot (1-1.5 ounces) should have 6-8 grams of coffee. It should also have a double shot that should contain 15 grams (2 ounces).

Espresso coffee requires a fine grind size (like fine table salt or sugar). But not an ultra-fine powder, such as Turkish coffee does. The pulverized grains will be around 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) in size. The precise grind size will vary depending on the type of coffee used. It means that it may require some experimenting when using a new machine or a different label of coffee.

If the espresso seems thin and watery, try a finer grinder the following time. Choose a coarser setting if the extraction is too sluggish. Especially when the shot is overly concentrated.

A burr grinder is the only way to create ground coffee for espresso. These machines provide for precise control over the particle size of the coffee. This will lead to a high-quality controlled extraction.


Fill the filter basket with water

Add your coffee to the portafilter, and the type of filter basket you use will decide what happens next. If it’s a pressurized portafilter, use a coarser grind and skip the tamping.

If you’re using a non-pressurized filter basket. (which is more typical), you’ll need a finer grind and a tamper. The correct tamp requires 20-30 pounds of pressure. To ‘polish’ the coffee, press down hard and twist gently as you move away from it.

This should result in a smooth and even puck’ of coffee in the filter basket, ready to be attached to the group head.


Before the Infusion

Small pre-infusion is a process that some baristas swear by, while others don’t. To complete this stage, you’ll need a manual lever. Or a machine with these settings pre-programmed. Although a semi-automatic espresso machine allows you to swiftly switch the pour on and off. You need to wait 10 to 20 seconds before continuing with a conventional espresso shot.

The concept is to immerse the coffee puck in low-pressure water. which uniformly soaks the beans before extraction begins. This prevents water from leaking through tiny parts of the puck. This then results in an evenly extracted espresso.

Extraction of Espresso

If you’re using a manual or semi-automatic equipment, you’ll need to think about the extraction process. You also need to consider the espresso dosage. You may use a dedicated coffee scale to dosage the espresso by weight while keeping the time in mind.

The extraction time for a single or double shot of coffee should be between 20-30 seconds, and this can weigh 1-1.5 ounces for a one  shot and 2 ounces for twice or two shots

A reduced lead period of 15 seconds results in a more concentrated shot known as ristretto.  While an extraction time of more than 30 seconds results in a lungo coffee.


Clear the Space

Don’t forget to clean up once you’ve finished your espresso. Put the coffee grinds in a compostable pail or keep them away for use in future recipes.

Flush out the group head and thoroughly rinse the portafilter. Wipe the machine down with a moist towel to remove any coffee grounds. Then turn it off (unless you want another round!)


Should I add milk?

steaming milk

If you like specialized coffee beverages like a latte or cappuccino, then add milk. The final step in espresso preparation is to add milk. Steamed milk is added to espresso to make these beverages.

To prepare these beverages, you may use a steam wand (found on most espresso machines) or a milk frother jug. Both of these alternatives begin with the addition of cold milk.

All you have to do is switch on the machine and wait while the frothing jug warms and swirls the milk for you.

To steam milk with a wand like a genuine barista, make sure the espresso machine is in steam mode. Once it’s heated, open the valve to drain any remaining water from the steamer into an empty jug or drip tray. When just steam is being discharged, close the valve.

Turn on the steamer and lower the tip of the wand to the surface of the milk. As air is injected, it should create a ‘kissing’ sound. Hold it here for a few seconds, or until the milk reaches a temperature of 20-30°C. This is known as stretching.

Next, drop the wand to just below the level of the milk and tilt the jug so that it is parallel to the surface of the milk . Then tilt the jug to generate a whirlpool-like effect. Just steam the liquid until it is almost too hot to touch.

To eliminate any significant air bubbles, just make sure that the valve is well put in place.

The sequence in which you add milk and froth to your espresso depends on the sort of drink you’re making. You may even try your hand at latte art, which is made simpler if your milk jug has a tiny nozzle.

Don’t forget to flush the steam wand and wash away any surplus milk!

Final Words

pulling shots on brewing espresso

There are several variables to espresso brewing, depending on the sort of machine you have. Plus how you want to drink your coffee. It’s a blend of art and science that allows for some leeway within the guidelines. Espresso-making is a pleasant and satisfying process. whether you appreciate following a defined protocol or prefer changing each variable until you perfect the brew.

This simple question is frequently posed because, regrettably, the answer is not simple. Espresso preparation can range from a simple button push to a sophisticated series of processes. These require the talents and knowledge of a skilled barista.

Nothing beats a powerful and intense shot of espresso or a smooth, creamy latte. So, knowing how to make these delectable concoctions of coffee from the comfort of your own home is more satisfying.

We provide an online resource for all things related to coffee. For all coffee lovers or experienced baristas, we offer useful tips and techniques to help you brew coffee to the next level. It includes reviews of the best coffee makers, and grinders to step-by-step brewing guides and recipes, We have everything you need to make the perfect cup of coffee every time. if you’re looking to upgrade your experience in making delicious coffee, be sure to check out Brewed Coffee Guide!