by | Jan 20, 2021

Training 101 – Espresso

Espresso is the base of every coffee beverage. It’s rich in inconsistency, has an intense aroma and a classic taste. Caroline Ncube, Senior Account Manager in Johannesburg, shares some of her secrets for pulling the perfect espresso.

The characteristics of a good espresso

A good espresso should have the following:

  1. A pleasant aromatic smell
  2. Good body – how heavy the espresso tastes on top of the tongue
  3. A delicious flavour – the overall feeling in the mouth which includes spicy, citrus, chocolate and fruity flavours
  4. Acidity – the brightness or liveliness of the coffee on the palette


This is the most important part of coffee. It’s everything the water takes from the coffee. The water dissolves a lot of coffee flavours. These dissolved flavours make up just about everything you taste when you drink a cup of coffee.

Under-extraction: Occurs when you haven’t taken enough flavour out of the coffee grinds. This is because the espresso was brewed for a shorter time. The espresso therefore lacks body and sweetness.

Over extraction: Occurs when you take too much of the soluble flavours out of the coffee and is therefore a result of brewing too long.


Before you get started, make sure your machine is set to 95 degrees Celsius. This is the correct brewing temperature for the perfect espresso.

You will start by dosing your coffee into your porta filter. Your range of dose is dictated by the size of basket you are using. Whether it is an 8 gram single basket, a 16 gram double, the dose you use should fit within the range the basket was built for. You can train yourself to be consistent by eyeballing your dose or you can use a scale and measure within a tenth of a gram.

Important steps:

  • Clean and dry the porta filter basket.
  • Switch on the grinder and dose immediately until you have the right amount of coffee in the porta filter.
  • Evenly distribute the coffee and make sure that you level out excess.
  • For a single shot, level out with a straight inward bend and for a double shot look to achieve a straight level.

Next you will compact the coffee grounds in the Portafilter, this is known as tamping. It serves two purposes: one is to create headspace between the group head and the coffee; and the other is to evenly pack the coffee grounds to their maximum density.

Keep your eyes open for our next blog on preparing espresso and the steps to follow to pull the perfect shot. Until then, stay safe and happy drinking, coffee lovers!

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