Espresso. That mystifying alchemy the barista does at your local café. It’s a skill for sure, but with these handy tips and a little practice you’ll be pulling a shot with the best of them. This guide covers espresso, as in the shot of coffee brewed out of an espresso machine. It’s the base of any espresso drink, i.e. flat white, cappuccino, or piccolo. We’ll cover milk frothing in another guide.



1. Run an empty basket through the machine to heat up and clean the portafilter.

2. Wipe the portafilter with a clean dry cloth (dirty machine = dirty tasting coffee!).

3. Fill it to the brim with coffee and level off with your finger.

4. Tamp the grind bed firmly and evenly, using enough pressure to compact the ground coffee.

5. Insert the portafilter into the group-head and make sure it’s locked in place.

6. Start your timer and pull the espresso shot. For a balanced coffee try to get a 30mL shot in 30 secs.

7. Once you’ve finished pulling your shot, remove the portafilter from the group-head and knock out the spent grinds into a knock-box or bin.


Pro Tips

1. One full basket makes two shots of coffee. Most portafilters have a double spout so put a cup under each spout for a single shot in each or one cup under both spouts for a double shot.

2. The amount of coffee you’ll use depends on the portafilter basket size of your machine. Check the machine instructions for the details, but generally it’ll be somewhere between 14g and 18g.

3. If water starts coming out around the portafilter, it’s probably not locked. Best to just clean it all up and start again as the coffee will be full of grinds (not good!).

4. Knowing the time of your extraction will help you dial in on flavours. If your shot is fast, it will likely taste watery and thin; if your shot is long it will likely taste syrupy and thick with high bitters. Generally speaking, a 30mL shot in 30 secs makes for a balanced coffee.

5. If you find your coffee is pouring too fast, either make your grind size finer or add more coffee to the basket.

6. If you find your coffee is pouring too slow, either make your grind size coarser or reduce the coffee in the basket.

7. Used coffee grounds are great for home composting, so divert some waste and chuck them in your home compost or worm bin.