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What is an espresso, and how do I make one?

What is an espresso, and how do I make one?

If you love your morning coffee, but don't really know what you're ordering, we've got you covered.

An espresso is a type of coffee that is brewed in a specific way. An espresso or short black coffee (it's the same thing) is one of the best ways to get a true representation of how a particular coffee tastes. An espresso shot is also the basis of most milk based coffee drinks, such as a flat white or cappucino.

It is a different category of brewing method to filter coffee or drip coffee methods, such as pourover, french press, and batch brew.

shot of espresso shot in coffee cup

It involves using finely ground coffee beans which are compacted, and then brewed using an espresso machine, which runs 9 bars of high pressure hot water through the ground coffee for around 30 seconds. This brewing method results in a concentrated coffee which can be drunk on its own, and is bold enough to maintain its flavour when paired with milk, when making a flat white or other milk based coffee.

If you're looking to make an espresso or one of the many espresso-based drinks, you're in the right place. There are a few key ingredients to a great shot of coffee, and we've got a step by step guide on how to produce one.

THE BEANS

First up, when you're making an espresso coffee, you want to make sure you're using espresso beans. This is important because coffee beans can be roasted in a variety of ways. Lighter roasts are not compatible with the espresso brewing process, and are more suited to filter coffee methods. Espresso beans are usually roasted with a medium to dark roast, which allows the rich and full-bodied flavours to come out. This also results in that viscous crema; a key factor that makes a great espresso coffee.
It's important to note however, that some roasts can be too dark - like anything, if you burn it, it won't taste very good!

If you're making an espresso to be drunk with milk, we recommend either our Shadow Boxer or Haymaker coffee blends. If you prefer a black coffee, we recommend Street Fighter, or one of our rotating single origins for espresso.

THE GRIND

When making an espresso, the grind size, is incredibly important. It's vital to use finely ground coffee, to create a good espresso. If you use a coarser grind, the shot time runs too fast, meaning there is less contact time between the ground coffee and the hot water. This can result in a weak and watery coffee, which is unpleasant to drink!

ground coffee beans on a set of scales near an espresso machine

One of the best tips we have, which is the main difference between a good espresso and a great espresso shot, is to invest in a coffee grinder, and grind your coffee beans fresh every time you make a coffee. This is because coffee beans begin to go stale as soon as you grind them, due to the increased surface area and exposure to oxygen. So grinding them immediately before you make your espresso, can help to minimise this effect.

The other benefit to having your own coffee grinder is the control you have over the grind size. If your coffee is running a bit too fast - for example, a 24 second shot, instead of a 30 second shot, you can make the grind finer, and the shot will run slower and result in that silky espresso that you're after.

THE ESPRESSO MACHINE

And lastly, the espresso machine that you use, makes a huge difference. Naturally commercial coffee machines that you find at coffee shops, are far better in this regard. The high pressure hot water that they offer, results in that perfect espresso extraction that all coffee lovers know and love. Unfortunately home espresso machines can never quite match up to the quality of a $20,000 piece of brewing equipment, however there are a number of home espresso machines that do a great job at making an espresso. The machine that we use and recommend, is the Breville Bambino. We think it makes a great coffee for its price point, and also helps you create perfectly steamed milk (even if you haven't made coffee before!)

Flat whites in coffee shop

ESPRESSO RECIPE

A great espresso shot will follow an espresso recipe. This is essentially a ratio, which pairs the dose (how many grams of finely ground coffee you put into your coffee machine), and yield (which is how many grams of brewed coffee you get out of your coffee machine). Generally this is a 1:2 ratio of dose:yield. We post all our espresso recipes for each coffee we sell, on our product pages.