6 Essential Tips for Perfect Espresso Coffee

Dialed Java Nov 12, 2023
9 People Read
Espresso shot with coffee beans

Do you love the rich and aromatic taste of a perfectly brewed espresso? Espresso coffee is an art that requires precision and attention to detail. Brewing a smooth and well flavored espresso shot can be a frustrating experience if you don't know what you're doing. Each step of the process is crucial and any small tweak can make an enormous difference in the quality. Different espresso beans and equipment call for different settings in your extraction. Because of this, there is no single solution to brewing espresso. Brew, taste, adjust. Brew, taste, adjust. This is going to take some trial and error but I assure you that it will be worth it. Get yourself started on the right track by also reviewing today's 10 best espresso machines.

Whether you are a coffee enthusiast or a professional barista, mastering the art of espresso brewing can take your coffee experience to a whole new level. In this blog article, we will share six essential tips for perfect espresso coffee. From choosing the right espresso beans to mastering the art of extraction, these tips will help you create a delightful cup of espresso every time.

Portafilter, espresso tamper, and coffee beans

1. Start with Freshly Roasted Espresso Beans

The first step towards brewing the perfect espresso is selecting high-quality, freshly roasted beans. Coffee beans lose their freshness and flavor over time, so it's crucial to use espresso beans that have been recently roasted. Look for beans with a roast date within the past two weeks for optimal flavor. Look for beans specifically for espresso and/or opt for a medium to dark roast. Now this is for traditional espresso. However you are free to explore a wide range of roasting options. Check out our post What is Blonde Espresso? A Beginner's Guide to Lighter Brews for an option that is rising in popularity.

I made this exact mistake when I was first dialing in my shots at home. I followed all the instructions I learned, adjusted everything I could think of and got the worlds biggest caffeine rush from the influx of espresso shots. The factor I was missing was FRESHLY roasted espresso beans. I was using grocery store bought whole beans that were older than I care to admit. Start with freshly roasted espresso beans.

2. Grind Your Espresso Beans Right Before Brewing

To extract the best flavors from your espresso beans, it's essential to buy whole beans and grind them right before brewing. Espresso grounds expose more surface area to extraction, allowing the flavors to be released more efficiently. Invest in a quality burr grinder and adjust the grind size according to your espresso machine's brewing method. Aim for a fine consistency, similar to table salt, for espresso brewing as a starting point. Make small, minor adjustments from there. Espresso grounds that are too fine will lead to over extraction and bitter flavors with a muddy mouth feel. Espresso grounds that are too coarse will lead to under extraction and a watery, sour taste that lacks sweetness and complexity. The standard dose for a double shot is 18-20 grams.

Espresso shot

3. Master the Art of Espresso Coffee Extraction

Extraction is a critical step in espresso brewing that involves extracting the flavors and aromas from the coffee grounds. To achieve the perfect extraction, you need to understand the variables at play, such as water temperature, brew time, and pressure.


Start by ensuring that your water temperature is between 195°F and 205°F (90°C and 96°C) for optimal extraction. Adjust the brew time and pressure according to your espresso machine's specifications to achieve the desired flavors and strength.


Espresso coffee recipes specify a dose and a yield. The dose is how much coffee is in your portafilter usually in grams. The yield is how much of an espresso shot you have created at the end of extraction also usually measured in grams. The goal is to use a specified dose to achieve a specified yield within a certain time frame. A majority of these are going to be between 25-32 seconds. Adjust your grind size to achieve your desired results. Coarse espresso grounds will allow water to flow faster through the puck, faster extraction. Finer espresso grounds will restrict the water flow through the puck, slower extraction. It can be difficult trying to get all of these parameters to fall in line with one another. Keep in mind that you start with a specific dose, that is easy to calculate and control. Now achieving the correct yield is more important than time. So rather you want to aim for your yield and hope it falls within that time frame or at least get it as close as possible.


I have found that the vast majority of machines are automatically set at 15 bars. Some have less like 9 bars and some have more with 19 bars. Some you can adjust yourself. Just know that the lower the pressure, the slower your shot will run and the lower the flow rate will be. Visa versa high pressure equals a faster extraction and more flow rate. When you are starting out, keep your machine preset to the factory pressure settings if it is adjustable and dial in your other variables.

4. Use Filtered Water

Water quality plays a significant role in the taste of your espresso coffee. Using tap water can introduce impurities and affect the overall flavor. Invest in a good water filter or use bottled water to ensure the best results. Filtered water will help maintain the purity of the flavors in your coffee and prevent any unwanted tastes from interfering with your brew.

Espresso shot pouring into a coffee mug from bottom of portafilter

5. Water Flow

Observe the espresso flow. Pay close attention to the espresso flow during the extraction. It should resemble a thin and steady stream, often described as "mouse tail" or "honey-like" consistency. If you observe any sprays that are coming out from around the main stream this indicates potential channeling. Water takes the path of least resistance and channeling occurs when the water flows through the puck unevenly and creates small tunnels through the puck. You want your water to flow as evenly as possible so to avoid channeling, you can make micro adjustments to your espresso grind size and ensure there are no clumps of espresso grounds in the puck. Use a WDT tool to break up the grounds in a uniform pattern prior to tamping. All this can only be done with a bottomless or "naked" portafilter. I highly recommend upgrading to one of these, it will tell you a lot about your extraction.

6. Practice and Experiment

Brewing the perfect espresso coffee takes practice and experimentation. Every espresso bean is unique, and different brewing methods may bring out different flavors and nuances. Take the time to experiment with different parameters such as grind size, water temperature, and extraction time. Keep a record of your experiments and adjust your technique accordingly. With time and practice, you'll be able to develop your own signature espresso brewing style.

Brewing the perfect espresso coffee is a journey that requires patience, attention to detail, and a passion for coffee. By following these six essential tips, you can elevate your espresso brewing skills and create a delightful cup of coffee every time. Remember to start with high-quality espresso beans, grind them right before brewing, master the art of extraction, use filtered water, observing the water flow, and never stop experimenting. With dedication and practice, you'll be able to brew the perfect espresso coffee that will satisfy even the most discerning coffee connoisseurs. So, grab your espresso machine, get brewing, and enjoy the rich flavors and aromas of a perfectly brewed espresso.