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Tips for the home barista – espresso preparation with the portafilter espresso machine
We often get inquiries about espresso preparation, tips and tricks for a specific preparation – mostly about the portafilter coffee machine. In this blog post, we want to give you what we consider to be the most important tips for preparing the perfect espresso on the portafilter coffee machine!
Let’s go with…
Sounds banal, but unfortunately hygiene very often leads to a bad result in the cup. If you consider that this not only improves the cup quality, but also extends the service life of the machine, investing in regular cleaning of the equipment is worthwhile. The following points are important for hygiene:
- Clean the strainer before dosing the coffee in (with a dry rag to prevent channeling, see our animation in step 1 of the instructions)
- Clean the portafilter, especially under the filter! To do this, unclamp the sieve and occasionally place it in the dishwasher together with the portafilter (attention, check whether the components are dishwasher-safe!)
- Clean the shower on the portafilter machine with coffee grease remover.
- Clean the coffee grinder occasionally with grinder cleaner, coffee residues also settle here and leave a rancid taste over time.
Tamping is one of the most important, mostly manual, steps in espresso preparation. Special attention and practice is required here so that you can master this step over time. It is best to ensure that you:
- first distribute the ground coffee evenly in the sieve
- tamping straight, otherwise more water will go through the coffee cake where the flatter spot in the strainer is.
- choose the tamper size from the tamper so that the sieve is filled to the brim! For example, we use a 58.4mm tamper and can use it to tamp the entire powder in the sieve.
Quality of the coffee grinder
At the beginning of the espresso preparation, a separate coffee grinder is often not used, probably for reasons of cost or space. Here, however, it is worth giving the grinder the necessary space, as this is almost the most important thing when preparing espresso! It is better to invest in a good grinder at the beginning of your new coffee hobby than in an expensive portafilter machine. Of course it doesn’t have to be the legendary Mahlkönig EK43, but of course it shouldn’t be missing in a contribution to the topic of mills. Also make sure that:
- is always freshly ground. Coffee loses its aroma very quickly and for espresso it is worth buying your own grinder and only grinding it just before brewing
- If the grinder is already getting older, it is worth replacing the grinding discs. you notice that when the grist gets warm when it is ejected into the portafilter. Here the beans are no longer cut, but only crushed due to the blunt grinding discs. a change to new, sharp grinding discs will bring a lot in terms of taste.
- Depending on the coffee grinder, it has a corresponding dead space.
dead space you ask? This means that coffee powder that has already been ground is left behind in the grinder. If, say, after the two-day weekend, a new portion of coffee powder is ground, it not only contains new powder, but also the old powder from the dead space. For this reason it is worth emptying the dead space first after a long period of standstill, or even better: make sure there is a small dead space when buying!
Unfortunately, even the best grinder is of little use if it is not used correctly. Therefore, a good tip on the subject of grinding degree:
- adjust the degree of grinding so that we get a balanced extraction (trust your palate 😀)
- a good starting value is 25-30 seconds.
- If the time is less than 25 seconds: Set the grinder finer
- If the time is longer than 30 seconds: set the grinder to a coarser setting
- Here you will find tips for setting up your grinder: brew guide recipe
When it comes to coffee quality, the most important thing is the right freshness and, of course, personal taste. Note about the beans:
- only put as much coffee into your bean container as you can drink in one day. This will ensure that the beans don’t lose their flavor. It is best to leave the remaining beans in the sealed packaging.
- After roasting, the coffee is still too fresh to drink. It still contains a lot of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which outgasses in the first few days, causing the packaging to swell and thus protecting and preserving the coffee from oxygen. This is an important process in coffee storage, the CO2 has to get out of the coffee bean and takes a few days to do so. What we want to prevent is that we drink the coffee too early and that the CO2 ends up in the cup, which can be recognized by a sour, slightly fizzy espresso.
- Our recommendation for the age is therefore:
- Age of the beans: approx. 2-3 weeks from the roast dat
- max. approx. 4 months
By brewing ratio we mean the factor between the coffee powder used and the amount of water in the cup. This number largely defines the strength of our mug. We usually use a double espresso as a standard recipe, which uses 18g powder and 50g water. This results in a not-so-strong espresso and a good entry-level recipe if I’m not familiar with the coffee. Here are two more examples of specific coffees:
- Italian espresso:
- 17g powder, 45g water, 25s
- Light/Medium Roasted Specialty Espresso:
- 19g powder, 55g water, 30s
The temperature can be adjusted on some machines, but by no means on all common household models. From our point of view this is not a big problem, we just want to make sure that the temperature is as constant as possible. We achieve this with the following tricks:
- heat up long enough for the machine to be really hot for the first espresso
- Leave the portafilter clamped in from the start so that it is also completely heated
- Rinse the machine briefly when starting. This not only cleans the shower, but also protects (depending on the design) from overheating and enables us to have an extraction that is as constant as possible.
- If we have an adjustable machine, we are happy to set it to 92-94°C.
- We then set the rest according to taste with dosage, cup volume and degree of grinding.