How to Use an Espresso Machine?

Espresso is basically an Italian method of brewing coffee using high-pressure water and ground coffee beans to make highly concentrated coffee shots.

Everyone can brew shots of Espresso using an Espresso machine but not everyone can be perfect at it as brewing perfect shots is an art.

Don’t worry! In this step-by-step guide, I will teach you top-level Barista skills to master that art.

So whether you want strong and intense espresso shots or you want to add water or milk to make other types of coffee such as Americano, Latte, Cappuccino, etc, You will find all in this article.

So, let’s get to know your machine first. Because knowing your Espresso machine is the first step to brewing a perfect shot of Espresso.

Read a guide on different types of Espresso machines

Parts of an Espresso machine

Parts of Espresso machine

I) Portafilter

Portafilters are metal baskets that are filled with ground coffee

This portafilter is locked inside the group head. When we use the machine, liquid espresso comes out of two spouts of the portafilter.

Here’s a detailed guide on types of Espresso portafilters

iI) Group Head

The group head is part of the espresso machines that distribute hot water to the portafilter. Essentially it connects the water from the Espresso machine to the coffee grounds in the filter basket.

Domestic Espresso machines usually have only one group head, while commercial machines have several.

iII) Steam Wand

Most modern espresso or coffee machines come with a steam wand that hangs off to one side. It forces steam into the milk.

This introduces air into the milk, which makes the foam in milk-based espresso drinks like cappuccino.

IV) Tamper

This is not a physical part of the Espresso machine but is definitely the most important thing you need to brew a perfect shot of Espresso.

A tamper is used to flatten the bed of coffee grounds in the filter basket by applying some force.

v) Brew Buttons

These are the buttons that let us choose the amount of espresso we want to brew. Most Espresso machines have buttons for single and double shots of Espresso and also for manual shots.

VI) Hot water Outlet

This is the outlet for hot water for preparing other drinks like Americano or Long black. Not all Espresso machines have this function.

VII) Drip Tray

This is a removable tray on which we can place a cup. 

VIII) Grinder

In this hopper, we pour whole beans of coffee, and the grinder grinds them usually to fine settings.

Not all espresso machines have a built-in grinder. However, it’s a very useful additional feature.

Read a guide on How to Dial in Espresso machine

How to Use an Espresso Machine? A step-by-step guide

Using Espresso machines is not as easy as using a drip coffee machine. So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use an Espresso machine for pulling perfect shots.


1)Pre-heat the Espresso Machine

Pre-heating the Espresso Machine for 10 to 15 minutes is recommended but it’s not necessary.

If you are a perfectionist then you must do it. You can pull a blank shot without filling the portafilter basket with coffee grounds. It will preheat your machine quickly.

2) Set Temperature and Pressure

Not all Espresso machines give you the option to set the temperature and pressure manually. If your machine doesn’t have this option then you can safely skip to the next step.

If your machine has this setting then you must know that the best temperature for brewing Espresso is between 195 to 205 degrees (that is slightly lower than the boiling point of water). And the recommended pressure for Espresso is 9 bars.

3)Grinding Coffee Beans

For making a perfect Espresso it’s best to grind beans immediately before pulling the shot. Because Ground Coffee beans deteriorate more readily than the Coffee beans themselves.

There is a simple rule for coffee afficiandos: Grind within 15 days of roasting and brew within 15 minutes of grinding.

Some Espresso Machines come with a built-in grinder, so you can easily grind your beans in it before preparing Espresso, or you can also buy a separate one.

You can also use pre-ground Coffee beans if you don’t have the time or equipment for grinding. But then you have to slightly compromise on the taste.

Beans must be ground in fine settings so that the exposed area of ground Coffee particles becomes larger and water can extract more flavors and oils into your drink.

Here’s a detailed guide on Coffee grind size with a chart

4)Weigh the Ground Coffee


If you are a beginner, you must weigh the ground Coffee particles before putting them into the machine. 17-20 grams of Ground Coffee is recommended for a double shot of Espresso.

After weighing put the particles in the portafilter of the machine and level the top of the particles with the help of a spoon or your fingers.

5) Tamp the coffee grounds

And pouring the coffee grounds into the portafilter apply some force with the help of a tamper will fill up the empty air spaces. The top of the particles should be flat and even.

Tamping is the most important part of pulling a perfect shot and you have to do it properly.

Because without proper tamping, water will leak through the spaces where there are fewer coffee grounds, leaving the rest of the coffee grounds completely or partially unextracted. As a result, you will get an inconsistent shot of Espresso, which will taste bitter or watery.

Espresso tamping
Tamp espresso properly

5)Pull the Shot

Now run the machine, the ideal time to get your Espresso Shot is between 25 to 30 seconds. If you get your shot in that range, then you will have a perfect dark-browned color espresso with a caramel-colored sweet layer over it called Crema.


If your machine is taking longer than that, your shot will taste bitter and have a very thick layer of crema. This usually happens when you use too fine coffee grounds. So adjust the grind size to slightly coarser settings next time you brew.

If your machine is taking less time than that, your shots will have a sour or watery taste. This usually happens because of two main reasons

  1. You haven’t tamped the grounds properly in the portafilter.
  2. You are using too coarse ground settings.

So, tamp properly and adjust the grind size next time you brew and you will get the perfect shot

Now you will have to make a choice, you want to serve yourself pure Espresso as Italians do. Or you want to add milk to it to make Latte or Cappuccino. If you want to have Latte or Cappuccino then you have to follow the next step otherwise enjoy your Espresso drink.

6)Steam the milk


The final step is to steam the milk, to prepare milk-based espresso drinks Cappuccinos, or Latte.

Espresso Machines usually come with a steam wand, if your machine doesn’t have one then you can buy a milk frother separately.

Now you pour the milk into the stainless-steel jug and put the steam wand into it.

At first, put the wand just below the surface of the milk to make the froth, and turn on the steamer until the froth reaches your desired level.

Then drag the steamer wand to the bottom of the jug and turn on the steamer until it reaches your desired temperature.

Now you can add that milk into Espresso shots according to your taste.

Read reviews of inexpensive Espresso Machines

what kind of coffee you should use for Espresso.

The first step in making good Espresso Coffee is selecting the right type of Coffee Beans. It is not necessary that Coffee beans that are used for making Espresso should be marketed under the name of Espresso beans.

Usually, medium-dark or dark roast coffee beans are used for brewing Espresso. Try both dark and medium roasts and select the one which suits you the best. Avoid using light roasts as they are not best for Espresso.

Many people think that Espresso and Coffee are two different things and some other beans are used for making espresso.

But contrary to common belief Espresso beans are just a type of coffee bean with some distinct features. These features are:

  • Espresso beans are roasted for longer times. Roasting for longer periods removes the oiliness and acidity from the beans and the beans become darker and which is perfect for Espresso.
  • Espresso beans are ground to more fine particles than normal coffee beans. This has to be done because high-pressure water is used for brewing Espresso. So the particles should be small enough that the water extracts through every particle easily.

Check out the list of Best Espresso Beans

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you will find everything in this article from What Espresso is to How to make a delicious Espresso. With time and practice, you will become more consistent in making a perfect Espresso.


Is it hard to use an espresso machine?

Compared to drip coffee machines it is definitely harder to use an Espresso machine.
You need some skills and practice to brew a perfect shot of Espresso.

Are Manual Espresso Machines Better?

Manual Espresso machines are considered to be better than fully automatic Espresso machines as the user can easily change the variable according to its taste.
But surely you have to be an expert on the machine in case of a manual machine for pulling a perfect shot of Espresso.

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Johny Morrisson is a passionate coffee enthusiast and an avid blogger dedicated to exploring the world of coffee.

Whether it's repairing or troubleshooting coffee equipment, reviewing cutting-edge brewing machines, or delving into the latest coffee trends, Johny's writing captivates readers and invites them on a flavorful journey.

When he's not writing, Johny enjoys traveling, seeking inspiration from different cultures and coffee traditions worldwide.