How to Make an Espresso Shot That Tastes Great on Your Tounge

Do you enjoy coffee?

What about espresso?

Drinking a cup of espresso can be the best thing about your day. If you love it, then you need to know how to make an espresso shot.

The skill is also important if you have a coffee shop business or you are a barista. In fact, the skill of pulling an espresso shot is not as simple as it sounds.

It requires dedication, consistency, and attention to details. Otherwise, the customers will only visit your shop once!

When it comes to discussing great espresso shot, there are at least 3 important things, namely, characteristics of great espresso shot, the necessary equipment, and the steps.

However, there are no standard rules for making espresso shot. They all depend upon your personal preferences or those of your customers. 

How to Make an Espresso Shot: Characteristics of Quality Espresso

Without any knowledge on the characteristics of a perfect espresso shot, you will never be able to make it. Actually, every individual has personal preferences on espresso.

Some people enjoy Italian-style espresso, which tends to be darker, while others prefer espresso with added milk. The personal taste is actually not the barista‚Äôs domain.

What matters is the quality.

Therefore, before seeing the detailed steps on how to make an espresso shot, make sure to understand what affects the quality of espresso. Generally, they are acidity, sweetness, and bitterness:


1. Acidity

This is often referred to as brightness. It affects the espresso very much, as it provides a crisp and tart sensation. You may notice it like the taste of citrus fruits, berry, stone fruits, or apple or melon. 

2. Sweetness

This softens the harsh qualities in an espresso. Sweetness offers a mild and pleasant flavor. Think of the taste of sugar, caramel, or honey. Actually, the level of preferred sweetness differs widely from individuals. 

3. Bitterness

The bitter flavor is naturally contradictory to sweetness. In case of espresso, bitterness needs to work in harmony with acidity and sweetness. The right amount of bitter taste adds depth to espresso.


Those three qualities need to work in harmony.

They are not necessarily equal, but they have their own role.

They are neither competing nor masking each other. Instead, they work together to produce perfect espresso. Of course, it may take a lot of trial and error before arriving at a balanced taste.

In addition, quality and taste of the espresso may be determined by the quality of a coffee bean as well as the brew. For instance:

  • The time it takes since the coffee roasting should not be more than 2 weeks. Otherwise, the taste will change
  • Make sure to use only freshly ground coffee (under two hours)
  • Use only clean equipment. Make sure to check all the details, including the smaller parts.

How to Make an Espresso Shot : Detailed Steps

Ready to experiment with espresso recipe? 

Before doing the steps on how to make an espresso short, make sure to prepare the following equipment:

  1. Espresso machine
  2. Grinder 
  3. Cup
  4. Scale
  5. Tamper
  6. Portafilter and basket
  7. Timer
  8. Main ingredients: fresh quality coffee
  9. Additional ingredient: filtered water

Now that you have prepared the ingredients and equipment,  you can follow the following steps on how to make an espresso shot that provide sensational taste:

Preparation Step

espresso machine

This involves any necessary steps you need to do before brewing the coffee. You also need to check the details related to the equipment you will use during the process. Here they are:

1. Preheat the machine and the cup

Rinse the cup with hot water to make sure before heating it. Then, run water through the portafilter and cup but do not use espresso. The time it takes to heat the machine varies with espresso machine, but the preheating process usually takes 15-30 minutes.

2. Make sure that the portafilter handle is clean and dry

The coffee residue can affect the taste of espresso. Meanwhile, a wet basket can make the coffee moist. This is particularly important to note if you use the machine repeatedly. Residues of the previous shots negatively affect the extraction. This may lead to inconsistent taste.

3. Do the extraction

Make sure to pay attention to the grind size and the dose. A good starting time for extraction is usually 25 seconds. Remember not to over or under-extract. Over-extracted coffee will taste bitter. This is usually the result of too fine grind texture. On other hand, under-extracted coffee will taste sour. This is usually the result of too coarse grind texture. Imagine the texture of granulated sugar. It is commonly the recommended grind texture for espresso. However, make sure to test your grinder and machine first.

4. Dose the coffee 

This step refers to the amount of ground coffee you need put into the portafilter to make an espresso shot. The amount of dry coffee grounds varies based on the size of espresso basket. In general, every single dose takes 8-10 grams of dry coffee. For a double shot, the dose ranges from 14 to 18 grams. Again, they depend much upon the type of espresso machine and your personal preference. This step is easier if you have a calibrated on-demand grinder. If not, you can use a scale.

5. Tamp

This ensures uniformity of the extraction. Tamping steps ensures equal and consistent water as well as removing the air pockets. The following are the steps:

  • Distribute the ground coffee by tapping the portafilter handle. Alternatively, you can use a distribution tool.
  • Hold your elbow at 90 degrees
  • Rest the portafilter on a level surface of the ground coffee
  • Press the portafilter to make sure the ground coffee has a smooth and even look

After tamping the ground coffee, make sure to get rid any excess coffee off the portafilter. Inspect all the elements like the top, spouts, and ears of the portafilter. This prevents your customers from finding coarse ground coffee in the espresso.

Brewing Step

brewing espresso with machine
Photo by Crew on Unsplash

After cleaning the portafilter, insert the handle into the machine. Then, brew the espresso immediately.

Any delay can make the coffee surface burned, as the cup beneath is pre-heated. A critical step on how to make an espresso shot is using a timer. Make sure to watch the process carefully. 

How do you know if you have reached ideal dose, grind, and tamp? The following steps may help:

  • The first part of the brew looks darker before turning to a golden foamy mixture. This usually happens in a single stream.
  • The ideal volume of water for each shot is 1 oz.
  • Stop and check the timer after reaching a double shot (2 oz)
  • An ideal brewing time ranges from 20 to 30 seconds. If it takes too long or too short, make sure to adjust the grind, dose, and tamp until you reach an ideal one. If you find the shots uneven, you need to check the tamping step. Surface of the coffee ground may be uneven. 

Serving Steps

Once the espresso machine stops, remove the cup immediately. All people have different preferences in drinking espresso. If you love a golden creamy texture, you can mix the espresso with cream before serving it. Some people love it with added milk for latte or cappuccino taste.

Furthermore, make sure to use bell cups, instead of paper cups. This can affect the taste of your espresso. For a single shot, a small bell cup is enough.

After serving the espresso, clean the portafilter handle and head immediately. Never skip this step, as unclean portafilter will affect the quality of the next espresso shot. Rinse and brush the parts carefully to remove any oil residues or particles. Well all parts are well dried; the machine is ready for the next shot.

The Bottom Line

Those are general guidelines on how to make an espresso shot.

In practice, they depend much upon personal taste and preferences. So, keep trying until you arrive at an ideal combination.

Do not hesitate to experiment with the combination, as there are no hard-and-fast rules for making an espresso shot.

As the coffee is different and personal tastes are widely varied, experience and experiments will tell you much. You may find that certain type of coffee bean needs shorter brewing time while others need longer. If you want to get the consistent taste, try to use only well selected coffee bean from a single source. Otherwise, you will need to experiment repeatedly.

Remember that taste is the key.

Most people love sweet and creamy, instead of bitter, espresso. When drinking your espresso, your tongue will tell whether you have reached a perfect combination or not. You find that the steps are slightly different. That is not a problem as long as you get a taste that feels great on your tongue or that of your customers.

Finally, using a machine is only one of the ways to make espresso. You can also do it without using a machine. Do not miss the steps on the next post.

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