Espresso – History <insert image>

The espresso, which means ‘fast’ in Italian, is the first form of brewing coffee in a short period of 30 seconds. Prior to this, coffee brewing took up 4 – 5 minutes. In the beautiful city of Turin, Italy, 1884, an Italian innovator named Angelo Moriondo invented a device to try and brew a cup of coffee in a short amount of time. This could be called the ‘proto-espresso machine’, because it was too bulky and took too long to brew. He registered a patent, but this machine did not gather much steam.

Seventeen years later, in 1901, a Milanese inventor named Luigi Bezzera had built a superior coffee machine which was able to brew a concentrated cup of coffee. This was the first time a machine ever made the beverage which we now know and love, the espresso. The machine had a boiler and four divisions which forced steam and boiling water through the ground coffee. It gained popularity and during the urbanization period, it became a hit with the new coffee bar scene and became an icon. Cafes loved the new sound of hissing steam and the beauty of the machine that was brewing it. However, since boiling water was still used in the machine, the coffee tasted bitter and had a burnt flavour to it.

Jump forward to 1927, and the water temperature had been reduced to just below boiling to obtain the best tasting coffee. This was also the year that the espresso found itself into the United States, however, it didn’t appeal much to the crowd here because it was simply too bitter and tasted burnt. It all changed in 1938, when M. Cremonesi refined the coffee machine by developing a piston pump for espresso machine groups that forced the pressurised hot water through the coffee in the filter. This removed the burnt aftertaste that was prevalent in earlier models. This addition also led to the famous ‘crema’ layer on top of the espressos as well as the creamier cup of coffee that we have today.

What is Espresso? <insert image>

An espresso is a highly concentrated, highly caffeinated creamy brew of coffee that’s made by forcing a jet of hot water (93C or 200F) through a puck of 7 grams or 25 oz well tamped coffee grounds. Usually served in a demitasse which holds approximately 30 ml or 1 fl oz of espresso with a brown foamy layer on top called crema. It is the most intense experience a coffee aficionado can have. Full of rich, creamy, aromatic and thick textures, along with the crema layer on top. It is a work of art and science, mingling together in perfect harmony within the dark depths of the espresso.

Espresso sounds easy to make, in theory, but it’s most of the difficult process to put in practice AND get a good result out. Mastering takes a lot of patience, skill and screwing up a number of times. You can have the best beans, the best grinder, machine, portafilter and tamper, but without the proper technique and know how, the espresso isn’t going to taste as good as it should.

That’s why we’re here to show to how to do it right and the science behind the techniques!

How to:


  1. Espresso machine
  2. Grinder
  3. Scale
  4. Portafilter
  5. Tamper
  6. Filtered water
  7. Demitasse cups
  8. Fresh coffee
  9. Timer

Pro tip: Always preheat your machine, cups and portafilter by running a ‘blank shot’ through the machine without using coffee. Usually preheating takes 15 – 30 minutes.


  1. Grind <insert image> Make sure you grind your fresh roasted coffee beans right before brewing, to ensure the best flavour and aroma to be extracted from your beans. The ideal grind texture takes a few tries to get it right. You don’t want to grind it too fine, which will lead to an over extracted bitter espresso, nor do you want it too coarse which will be under extracted and acidic. You want to find the sweet spot in between where the ground coffee is of the same consistency as granulated sugar. To ensure a consistent grind each time, it’s wise to invest in a Baratza Virtuoso or a Vario which work brilliantly for espressos and other methods. ( and
  2. Measure your coffee <insert image> Measure the dose of coffee you want. For a single shot of espresso, you want 7 grams of ground coffee, for a double shot, 14 – 18 grams should do the trick and you may tinker with the dosage as you want to customise your own brew. There are also variants of the espresso such as the ristretto which uses half of the water as a normal espresso, and the lungo, which uses twice the water. The ristretto is most concentrated coffee of the three. For the best experience, you want to spend a bit more on better beans. This will make a huge difference in the taste and quality of your espresso. While local fresh roasted beans in a specialty store nearby will get your money’s worth, if you want to buy online, Lavazza Super Crema or Koffee Kult’s Dark Roast is great for espressos and makes for a delicious crema layer which makes it even more smooth. ( and Kult)
  3. Portafilter and Tamping <insert image> You can choose between a bottomless portafilter or spouted portafilter depending on your preference. This article will help you in choosing which one is right for you. When choosing a tamper, it is crucial to ensure the dimensions of the tamper should fit snugly into the diameter of the portafilter to ensure proper pressure when tamping. Why should you tamp properly? Tamping compresses the coffee grounds into a dense puck. If the grind is ideal and your tamping technique and pressure is on point, there would be a homogenous puck of densely packed coffee grounds with no cracks or spaces in between and the hot water will pass through the coffee puck evenly. If there are any spaces, the hot pressurised water will flow more through those parts as there is less resistance in the faults compared to the rest of the puck. This leads to an uneven extraction and white crema formation. Pro Tip: Always clean your portafilter basket and wipe it between shots. You can use hot water for this purpose, but this Espresso machine cleaner will work perfect as well saving a lot of hassle. ( For tamping –
  • Place the portafilter on a flat, level surface.
  • Pour the measured ground coffee into the portafilter and even it out with your finger. Make sure to brush off any grounds on the rim of the portafilter.
  • Take the tamper and grip it as if you are driving it into the filter. Do not grip it in a way that the handle pokes into your palm, this will lead to wrist pain eventually.
  • Most people say 30lbs of pressure for 30 seconds should do the trick but it’s a hassle figuring out how much pressure is exactly 30lbs. So, just keep pressing the tamp vertically down into the portafilter with as much force as you can till the tamper stops descending. This ensures a decent puck of espresso grounds. You can try a novel way of tamping called nutation but that requires a bit more finesse and practice to get the consistency just right. The results are debatable amongst the coffee purists so feel free to experiment and see what works for you!
  • Gently spin off the tamper when ending the process to reveal a smooth ground surface. Now you can set the portafilter into your espresso machine and start your shot while keeping a preheated ceramic demitasse ready. Pro Tip: Do not bump the portafilter after tamping, as this will shake up the grounds leading to unevenness in the puck. This would open up paths of least resistance for the pressurised hot water to flow through and make for a poor cup of espresso.
  1. Dripping Start your espresso shot in the machine. It should start with a slow drip and proceed to become an even, gentle stream. Approximately 30 seconds afterwards, the shot will start to thicken and ‘blond’ i.e. turn yellow. This is a sign that the extraction process is complete and you should stop your shot as soon as blonding starts. Your espresso shot is ready for immediate consumption. You may stir it after it’s been pulled to mix the different layers of the coffee, or sip directly and enjoy a different experience. Pro tip: The ideal brewing time is 20 – 30 seconds depending on your beans and machine. A single shot has approximately 30ml or 1 fl oz of liquid and a standard double shot would have twice that amount. If your shot comes out quicker than expected, your tamping hasn’t been done properly and isn’t dense enough for proper extraction. If it takes too long, the coffee beans were probably ground for too long and is too fine. The colour of your crema layer is an indicator of the quality of your espresso shot. Under-extracted shots will have a pale, thin layer and the liquid will be lighter in colour. This shot won’t have a smooth taste. Meanwhile, over-extracted espresso will have a dark and patchy crema, and the brew will be very bitter. Brewing the perfect cup of espresso is a bit of work, and it might take a few tries to get the basics right. With our guide, you should be able to brew an ideal espresso shot customised to your taste in your home or at the cafe. There are tons of espresso machines to choose from – from manual to semi and fully automatic machines. If you want a budget model perfect for kitchen top, De’Longhi EC155 is a sweet money saver which also includes a milk steamer. For semi automatic machines, Gaggia 14101 or Breville 870XL is a solid purchase and you can brew great single and double shots along with lattes capuccinos, etc. (’Longhi EC155