Coffee is a science and better espresso requires knowing that science.
You are using hot water to extract goodness locked inside roasted beans. I’m not going to discuss the roasting process just yet. The Italian experts talk about 4 “M”s.
- Mano dell’operatore (hand of the operator)
- Macinadosatore (grinder-doser)
- Miscela (coffee blend)
- Macchina espresso (espresso machine).
I’m going to take #3 for granted, because ultimately, everyone’s taste is different, and you will likely experiment with all kinds of coffee. #4 can sort of be combined with #1. That means this can be distilled down to 3 tips to instantly pull a better espresso shot (or make better coffee of all kinds):
- Use whole beans that are roasted fresh (within 2 weeks ideally).
- Grind your beans fresh right before you use them. Buy your beans whole and store them that way. Grind only as much as you need for each batch. As this is arguably the most important step, it can also be the most expensive. See our discussion on grinders.
- Practice, practice, practice. Extracting a better espresso (or any coffee for that matter) is a skill. Take the time to learn the science behind what is happening it and you’ll be pulling better espresso in no time. And you will quickly realize how overrated (and over priced) Starbucks really is.