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Espresso Extraction Process



This is a basic description of how espresso is properly made using a traditional espresso machine that uses high pressure pump to force water through a portafilter for proper extraction. Note that one cannot come close to achieving genuine espresso using a $50 machine that relies on steam pressure to force water through the coffee grinds. Those machines, or "steam toys" as they're sometimes referred to, simply cannot produce enough pressure for proper forced-infusion to take place. The espresso equipment must be capable of producing "nine bars" (about 125-145 psi) of pressure.

Preheat the cup (or shot glass) by filling it with hot water from the steam wand of your espresso machine. This minimizes heat loss from the espresso, which can result in a sour, bitter shot.


  2. Remove the portafilter from the group head and wipe it clean with a dry towel.    
  3. Turn on the machine and run clean hot water through the group head to remove any spent grounds clinging to the group head and to stabilize the temperature (heat) of the group head.    
  4. Fill the espresso basket with freshly ground coffee from the grinder.    
  5. Level the grounds with the flat edge of a utensil, like the back edge of a butter knife.    
  6. Tamp the grounds firmly; applying 30 pounds of pressure and wipe clean the rim of the portafilter basket (this is where the portafilter will form a seal against the group head). You can practice tamping on a bathroom scale to get a feel for how much pressure to apply.    
  7. Fix the basket handle to the group head of the espresso machine.    
  8. Start the pump of the espresso machine.    
  9. Observe the flow of the espresso. A single shot of espresso is 1 to 1.5 ounces of coffee brewed within 25-30 seconds. The flow should appear to look like a "mouse tail" wiggling slightly back and forth.    
  10. Serve or use the espresso immediately. The most delicate flavors will evaporate out of the coffee in a very short period of time, thus degrading the taste of the shot.    
  11. After brewing and drinking or serving the shot, remove the portafilter from the machine and discard the spent grounds.    
  12. Rinse and wipe the portafilter basket clean and return to the group head. It is very important to keep the portafilter attached to the espresso machine when not in use so it stays hot!    
  13. A double shot portafilter of espresso should be 14 grams of fresh ground coffee brewed with 9-10 bars of pressure, with a water temperature (at the infusion point) of 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (depending on the coffee used)producing 1-1.5 ounces of liquid in 25-30 seconds. If you have a single portafilter, through it away. Almost none of those on the market are shaped right to make good espresso with.    
  14. Follow this ritual for every shot of espresso brewed. Cleanliness cannot be overemphasized. Even a small amount of spent grounds stuck hiding on the bottom of the group head from a previous shot will effect the quality of the currently brewed shot.    

Brewing consistently good shots takes practice and the best equipment (namely espresso machine and grinder) your budget will allow.


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