Noobs

So you’re new to at-home and/or manual espresso, huh?

Some do it for the money savings, others do it for the love of the hobby. Some do it so they can have their coffee exactly the way they want it every time. Whatever your reason is, welcome!

Why a manual machine?

Manual machines allow people to make very high quality espresso at a fraction of the price of good automatic machines (there are lots of bad automatic machines that are inexpensive). In fact, manual machines can often produce espresso superior to what is made on automatics.

When compared to powered machines, manual machines can also offer improved simplicity, durability and reliability.

Okay, I’m sold. How do I get started?

There are certain things you need to make your own espresso:

  • Espresso Machine (for the sake of this write-up, we’ll only discuss manual machines).
  • A grinder capable of producing an espresso grind.
  • Various tools like a tamper. If you wanna get serious, you’ll need a scale, and maybe a Weiss Distribution Tool.
  • Hot water. The Leverhead requires a gooseneck kettle.
  • The best beans money can buy… or at least some decent ones 😉

Okay, forget the prep-work. How do I make a shot?

Here’s a good starting technique:

  • Select 18 grams of beans.
  • Grind, distribute, level and tamp them so that…

…with the portafilter locked in, the duration of the shot lasts for about 30 seconds when shooting at about 9 bar of pressure, and yielding about 36 grams of beverage (your espresso shot). I personally prefer 8 bar for most of my shots on this machine, but 9 bar is sort of the historic gold standard.

Okay, back to prep work…why did I need to do all that stuff?

The goal of a proper grind, level and tamp is to ensure the water flows through the coffee puck (the “cake” of coffee) at an even rate, and to avoid channeling.

Channeling is when water flows through less dense portions of the puck at a higher rate. The less channels, the more even the extraction. The more even the extraction, the better the flavor.

What about temperature? I just use boiling water?

Darker roasts tend to do better at a little lower temperatures, around 180 to 190 F. This is achieved on the Leverhead by simply filling the tube with boiling water.

Lighter roasts tend to do better at a little higher temperatures, around 190 to 200 F. This is achieved on the Leverhead by pouring hot water through the tube into a catch cup for a few seconds, then filling the tube with boiling water.

Earlier you mentioned the shot should last for about 30 seconds. What’s all that about?

Shorter shot duration usually means more acidic flavor, longer shots will taste more bitter. If you find out how to get the perfect balance in between those two (the “God Shot”) every single time, be sure to let us all know!

What do I do next?

That’s a good starting point, and enough to chew on for now. Get that stuff right, and then start experimenting with different grinds, times, pressures, etc.

Disclaimer:

Some people are going to say everything I’ve said about espresso basics is wrong. Get used to people disagreeing on the best way to go about it, and welcome to the espresso game!

Wanna know more? Watch this video.