How to make the perfect barista style coffee

Ever tried to recreate the brew you usually choose in your favourite coffee shop and missed the mark? Maybe it’s time to go back to basics.

Whether you love a latte or want the perfect Americano, it all starts with great espresso. So, to get barista style coffee, you need to work on getting the perfect shot. Here’s how:

Take note of what you do, every time you brew

While there are some basic instructions you should follow, there are variables that can affect your finished shot, from the kind of coffee you’re working with to the make of espresso maker you have, so while you’re experimenting, write down what you’ve changed each time so you can work out what factors are affecting your espresso.

Then, when you’ve got it just how you like it, you can repeat it over and over again.

Get the right grind

An espresso needs an extraction time of 20 to 30 seconds to get the best out of your coffee, and that means using fine grounds to slow the flow of water. Medium or coarse grounds will allow the water to flow through too quickly and your espresso won’t have the punchy flavour you need.

If you have a burr grinder that isn’t pre-set, experiment with fine grind levels to see what works best for your machine (don’t forget to take note of where you set the dial once you’re happy).

Different beans will benefit from slightly different grinds, so that’s something you’ll need to experiment with too.

Use the right amount of coffee

Normally a double portafilter basket fits 18 to 25g of ground. You might have to experiment with exact measures depending on your machine, but you should always make sure you fill the portafilter up to the top edge before tamping. Once tamped, the portafilter should slot into the machine without scraping the surface of the coffee.

Perfect your tamp

To create the perfect extraction you need to make sure your grounds are level before you tamp, and to apply plenty of pressure when you do it. If your grounds aren’t level, the water won’t push through evenly, creating a hole in your coffee puck and leaving you with some over and some under-extracted coffee which can be bitter and sour.

So, hold your portafilter at eye level once you’ve filled it to make sure the coffee’s evenly distributed. When you’re happy it is, tamp it in one confident move, applying a good amount of pressure. If you’re really committed to the experiment, use a scale to measure how much pressure you’re exerting when you tamp, and vary this between brews to see if it makes a difference to the finished cup. Too precise? Just make sure you press hard and with confidence!

Finally, make sure there are no loose grounds around the edges as these can make their way into your cup.

Pull it straight away

Once your machine’s up to temperature, the head you slot the portafilter in is likely to be hot, and if you leave it too long before you start your brew, the surface of the coffee can get burned. So as soon as you slot the portafilter in, pull the lever and start your extraction, turning your machine off after the optimum extraction time.


Perfected your ideal espresso? Read our blog on different kinds of coffee to find out how to create everything on your local coffee shop’s menu.


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