During the pandemic I became even more entertained by making espresso. I'd like to share some discoveries by providing a guide for other aspiring baristas:

The zeroth step is to make sure the reservoir in your machine has (filtered) water and the grinder has beans.

  1. Preheat. Turn on the machine and allow for at least 15 minutes to heat up. It is normal for the “ready light” to turn on and off during this time. Keep the portafilter attached to warm it up as well. At the end of preheating, just run water through the portafilter to rinse out previous grinds and to release the heat build up.
  2. Dialing in. First, grind the beans and add them to the portafilter. The grind should be fairly fine and feel like a soft powder (e.g flour). A double shot is typically 17-18 grams. Next, press and level the grinds by either a tamper or distributer. The puck should be perfectly level and equally distributed. Finally, attach the portafilter back to the machine. If it does not fit, that means there is too much grind.
See "Dialing in tips" for more suggestions
  3. Extraction. Turn on the brew switch. For a double shot, the extraction length should be 20-25 seconds and result in 30-40 grams of coffee (this is a 2-1 ratio of coffee out - grind in). Also the goal is about a 1/3 layer of crema, which does not disappear after swirling or setting down the espresso for a few minutes. The crema is the most flavorful part!

Dialing in tips. This is by far the hardest step, since the “perfect shot” has different requirements for every combination of beans, grinder, and machine.

My setup: Gaggia classic pro machine, Baratza encore grinder, coffee distributor. 18 grams in, 35 grams out. My favorite beans are from local Chicago coffee shops, e.g Cafe Umbria or Metropolis. Picture

General tips:

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