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How to Improve Your Brew: Espresso


Boasting high caffeine content and quick brewing times, espresso shots have become a growing trend amongst many home baristas. However, if you skimp out on quality equipment and approach the process unprepared, you’re going to leave with a sour taste in your mouth. 

But with the right tools and a brew guide to follow, the path becomes much more straightforward and enjoyable. Below is our trusted espresso brew guide, put together for you to use as a resource and reference when experimenting with this brew method. Chances are your first brew won’t be perfect. Grind, weight and time are all key factors when getting your espresso shots dialed, and you’ll most likely have to adjust one or more of these before you get the taste precisely the way you like.  

Ryan Dungey with his RD Coffee espresso setup

Supplies Needed

Step 1: Balance scale

To begin, remove the portafilter from your espresso machine’s group head. Wipe it clean and then place the portafilter on a scale and tare the weight (return it to zero).

Note: There are a wide variety of espresso machines available, some more hands-on than others. If you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend opting for a semi-automatic machine like the Breville Barista Express Espresso Machine before moving up to a more advanced one.

Step 2: Prep the machine

Thoroughly pour hot water through the group head to prep the espresso machine before starting the brew.

Step 3: Grind your coffee beans

This next step is critical. The perfect espresso shot starts with quality coffee beans, the appropriate amount of coffee and the right consistency. Our recommendation is to go with a premium coffee like our HOLESHOT Espresso blend, but you can’t go wrong with any of our roasts as they’re all great options for espresso. Before you measure out your beans you’ll want to determine whether you’re going to make a single shot or a double shot. For a single shot, grind up about 7-9 grams (1.5 tablespoons) of coffee and simply double that for a double shot (about 14-18 grams or 2.5 tablespoons). Next, grind the coffee to the consistency of powdered sugar, then place directly into the machine’s portafilter.  

Step 4: Distribute and tamp the coffee

With your index finger, distribute the coffee grounds evenly across the portafilter. Next, place the portafilter on a flat surface and position your tamper level on top of the grounds. Use your hand to begin to apply pressure downwards gently. Keep applying pressure until it feels like the coffee grounds are pushing back. Double-check that the coffee bed is flat, then place the tamper back on and give it a gentle spin to “polish” the grounds for an even extraction.

Ryan Dungey tamping an espresso shot

Step 5: Pull your shot

Position the portafilter back in the group head, engage the group head and start the timer. Place a mug under the portafilter and watch the espresso slowly begin to drip into an even stream. The entire brewing process should take approximately 20-30 seconds. Be sure to stop the shot by the 30-second mark as the drip will begin to thicken and turn yellow.

Step 6: Enjoy!

Now comes the fun part. It’s time to enjoy your fresh espresso shot. Some like to stir their shot after it has been pulled; some sip it immediately to experience the many delicious flavors. Ultimately, how you enjoy your espresso is up to you. Cheers!

RD Coffee HOLESHOT Espresso shot