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Whether you’ve already bought yourself a fancy espresso machine or you’re still in the market for one, making the perfect espresso isn’t just about equipment. The beans you use, preparation and method are all just as important. 

Learning how to make the perfect espresso is a journey, so be prepared to make tweaks along the way until you’ve perfected your craft. 

Choose the right espresso machine

While it isn’t the only factor, you can’t make good espresso without a decent espresso machine. Unfortunately, cheap machines just won’t cut it, so expect to pay at least $300-$500, though top-of-the-line models can cost thousands of dollars. Your chosen machine should have at least nine bars of pressure. More importantly, it should deliver consistency in pressure, extraction volume and water temperature to give you consistent results every time. 

Start with quality coffee beans

Use high-quality medium or dark roast whole beans. These should be specialty beans roasted in small batches rather than grocery store brands. Single-origin beans, where all the beans in a batch are grown in the same region, are good, but single estate beans, where all beans are grown on the same farm, are even better. 

Grind your beans correctly

You must grind beans to a fine consistency to make espresso. Use a manual or electric burr grinder for the most consistent results. Most will have an espresso setting. 

Clean your portafilter

Make sure your portafilter (the basket you put your ground beans in) is completely clean before you use it. Oils and remnants from previous uses make your espresso tasteless than perfect. 

Learn about ratios

If you’re serious about making espresso, you need to learn a little about the optimum ratio of coffee to water. All experts seem to have opinions on these ratios, but a 1:2 ratio is a good place to start, and you can experiment from there. Using a 1:2 ratio, you’ll need 15 grams of ground coffee for a 30-gram espresso shot. 

Weigh your coffee and water

To perfect those ratios, you’ll need a sensitive digital kitchen scale. Assuming a standard 1:2 ratio, weigh 15 grams of ground coffee into your portafilter. When you’re ready to brew, place your espresso cup on your scales beneath your espresso machine, reset the scales so that they read zero with the cup in place and pull your espresso into the waiting cup. Once the scales read 30 grams, stop the flow of water. 

Evenly distribute and tamp

It’s important to evenly distribute your coffee in the portafilter and tamp it evenly. You don’t need to use a lot of pressure, just enough to compact the coffee. 

Keep an eye on extraction time

An ideal extraction time is around 25 to 30 seconds. If it takes you significantly more or less time to pull a shot of espresso to the desired weight, you might need to adjust the grind size or look at your machine’s settings. 

What you need to make perfect espresso

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine

Great for anyone who wants a quality espresso machine that doesn’t run into the thousands. It’s simple and doesn’t have a wide range of settings, but it makes fantastic espresso.

Sold by Amazon

La Tribu Medium Roast Coffee

La Tribu Medium Roast Coffee

With their medium roast, these single estate beans are ideal for making espresso. They aren’t cheap, but they’ll help you on your way to pouring that perfect shot.

Sold by Amazon

Bodum Bistro Burr Coffee Grinder

Bodum Bistro Burr Coffee Grinder

This quality burr coffee grinder gives even results to improve your espresso. It has a range of grind size settings that come into play when making other styles of coffee.

Sold by Amazon

LuxHaus Calibrated Pressure Tamper

LuxHaus Calibrated Pressure Tamper

If you aren’t confident about tamping, this calibrated tamper helps you deliver the exact amount of pressure every time.

Sold by Amazon

KitchenTour Coffee Scale with Timer

KitchenTour Coffee Scale with Timer

Anyone serious about making quality espresso needs a scale to weigh the ground beans and the brewed coffee. This one is precise enough for the low weights you’ll need.

Sold by Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.