Written by Sofia Moore
Last Updated

You may be wondering how baristas make consistently flavored coffee, especially espresso-based drinks. Maybe you bought your own espresso machine, wanting to replicate the taste of gourmet coffee served in cafés and coffee shops.

You may also be stumped at how to function your espresso machine. Naturally, with all its sophisticated glory, it can be quite intimidating, brewing your own espresso in the comfort of your own home.

Fortunately, even with the sophistication of espressos, making the perfect cup with an espresso machine need not be difficult. Here are the basics to using an espresso machine to make an excellent cup of espresso. And before we start, also remember that espresso machines don’t have to cost a fortune. Check out our reviews of espresso machines under $200.

Ready? Let’s go…

Clean the machine

Cleaning the espresso machine involves washing the reservoir, the filters, and other things that could affect the flavor. You wouldn’t want anything that tastes off in your espresso, right? Even with a new espresso machine, cleaning is imperative. There might be some dust particles or perhaps some rubbery smell that could ruin your cup of espresso.

Cleaning is a chore, yes, and it does take up quite some time to do, but it’s always an essential process whenever you want the perfect shot of espresso with an espresso machine.

Fill the reservoir

If you’re ready to use your machine, the next step is to of course fill the reservoir. Make sure you fill it with the freshest water possible. Water quality might as well affect the taste of your espresso, considering it’s mostly made out of water. Filtered water is good to use, although most machines nowadays have filters built in, so you won’t need to worry about water quality in such regard.

Most machines have lines that indicate up to where you need to fill, so you won’t need to worry about how much water you’d need to put. Regardless, try to gauge for yourself based on how strong you want your espresso to be—just don’t overdo it, since too much or too little water can damage the machine.

Turn the machine on

The next step, of course, is to turn on the machine. This will allow the machine to prepare itself for making a cup or a shot of espresso. Think of it as calibrating itself. You’ll have to wait a few moments for it to do so. Wait for the lights to indicate that it’s ready for use before you even turn on the machine. Be sure to read the manual of your espresso machine so that you’d know how the indicators work, if whether or not the machine is ready for use.

Have a little bit of patience. Surely, it will all work out in the end and you’ll have that perfect espresso that you made yourself, even though you haven’t actually started brewing it yet. If you need help with turning on the machine and making sure it’s working properly, call an expert or ask someone to help you out.

Place the shot basket into the filler

Espresso machines have a portable filler where you can insert what is known as a shot basket. Shot baskets are essentially what you fill with grounds in the filler. Shot baskets come in many types, whether for single shot or double shot. This is important, considering you’d need to determine how many shots of espresso you’d need.

This means that if you’re using a double shot basket for a single shot espresso, then your beverage may not turn out to be as good as you want it. Measure carefully and determine what you want for your espresso, just so it’d turn out well. You wouldn’t want it too strong or too weak, but maybe that’s just your preference.

Put coffee in the filler

Fillers are meant to be filled after all, and at this point, you should fill the filler with a good amount of coffee grounds. A lot of machines include grinders, but if you’re grinding your own beans, then you should make sure you grind them finely. For the most part, espresso grounds have that powdery consistency compared to grounds you usually use to brew coffee.

For that perfect flavor, make sure you use your coffee grounds over a few days to prevent that stale, unremarkable taste. You could go for grocery store brands, but how would you be able to make the best espresso shot out there if you’d settle?

Level out the grounds with a tamper

Your espresso machine will most likely come with a tamper, which allows you to stuff and level the grounds further. Use it and take the grounds as far down and as compact as you can. Compressing the grounds allow for a smoother and more even taste when it finally comes to making your espresso.

Place the filter into the head

Finally, we’re on our way to making the machine do the work for you. Lock the filter in place underneath the spout of the machine. Ensure that it stays firmly in place since you wouldn’t want the parts to move. Then, you can start.

Be sure to place the cup under the faucet before you even begin to get your machine working. Another thing is that you need to see to it that your cup is big enough for the amount of espresso you’re making.

Press the button for the shot

Here is where you finally make your beverage. Once everything is in order, just press the shot button, and the machine will brew your espresso.

Once you have your espresso, you can finally savor its rich flavor and aroma. Try mixing up methods and grounds and you might just be able to brew a more savory cup, or you could use your espresso shots for a massive variety of espresso-based drinks.

You may also want to look into moka pots, which is essentially a portable espresso maker that you can simply put on top of your stove, allowing it to make steaming hot and earthy espresso that’ll give you that jolt for the entire day.

Regardless of how you do it, enjoy your drink!

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