A bag of Potblack coffee in front of an espresso machine.

8 Tips For Making The Perfect Coffee At Home

Brewing the perfect coffee in your own home is more of a science than an art.

Whether your home espresso machine was $600 or $6000, there are ways to make each and every cup of coffee as good as it can be. Read on for tips on extracting the perfect espresso shot at home.

1. Buy great beans.

Great coffee starts with great beans. It’s important to shop for espresso beans in particular because they’re roasted darker to ensure a stronger, more powerful taste comes through during your extraction. This is especially important if you drink your coffee with milk. This is because you need an espresso blend’s strength to cut through the milk, so it tastes like you’re drinking coffee and not just warm froth.

For our house espresso blend, shop Wanderer. Free shipping Australia-wide on orders over $60. Sign up for 20% off your first order.

It’s also important to grind fresh on demand as the fresher your beans are, the fresher your coffee will be too. For a less than perfect espresso, buying ground espressos is fine.

2. Make sure your portafilter is clean.

The next step for a perfect espresso brew is to make sure your portafilter is clean. That means dry as a bone and free from any leftover grinds from your last brew. Run it under water, remove your basket, rinse that too, and use a good, clean hand towel or tea towel to dry and remove any residue. Leftover grinds from your last coffee will burn in the extraction process and may cause a bitter flavour.

Too much water in your portafilter may also cause your coffee to extract too quickly, causing it to taste weak and watery. As water moves through espresso, it finds the path of least resistance. Having a wet portafilter allows water to find this path more quickly. It’s important that water moves through the espresso slowly enough to absorb flavour from the coffee, but not so slowly that it burns. (More on this later).

3. Grind the correct dose.

If your portafilter basket came with your machine, the machine will know how to appropriately measure out the right dose. If you’ve got a separate grinder, set your grind to what’s appropriate for your basket size.

For Wanderer, we recommend dosing 8 to 10g of espresso for a single shot and 20g for a double shot of coffee. Whatever you use, though, remember we’re erring on the side of science so you can replicate the same perfect coffee shot every time. Make sure you know what you’ve ground.

4. Evenly distribute your grinds in your portafilter.

Your grinder will have ground your coffee into a little mound that needs to be evenly distributed around the basket before you tamp. Tamping the mound down can spread the grinds unevenly throughout the basket which causes channelling during the extraction.

Simply tap the portafilter with your hand and move it about as required while tapping to distribute your grinds evenly. This is an easy step to skip but it’s an important one for ensuring quality every time.

5. Tamp well.

Tamping is what removes air from your basket and fills those gaps evenly and firmly with coffee grounds so that the extraction process is even. Make sure to tamp on an even surface so your grinds are level. Common advice is to tamp with 20kg of pressure. This is hard to measure exactly, though you can get tampers heavy enough to promise to do this for you, so ensure that you tamp with enough pressure to completely square your grinds off.

With a correct tamp, there shouldn’t be any more room to further compress your coffee.

6. Insert your portafilter to your group head and brew straight away.

If you don’t brew straight away, the latent heat in the group head can burn the top of your grinds and ruin the extraction off the bat. This will give you bitter flavours and, despite what some chain coffee shops might have you believe, the perfect espresso is not bitter at all.

If you were competing in the World Barista Championships and you didn’t brew straight away, you’d lose a point.

7. Pay attention to your brew time.

For the perfect espresso at home, don’t brew too long or too short. Most modern home machines will help you measure out exactly how long your extraction should be based on the size of your basket, your coffee volume, and whether you’re pouring a single or double shot of espresso. You should still pay attention.

The speed at which your coffee extracts is important because what makes espresso espresso is the right pressure at the right temperature through the right amount of coffee. Extraction that’s too fast or too slow means your pressure’s not right.

Espresso that’s extracting too fast means you’re diluting your coffee, making it weaker, while espresso that’s extracting too slow means you’re over-extracting your coffee, making it too strong and possibly burning it. An extraction time of around 25 to 30 seconds is perfect.

8. Enjoy.

The most important part of making the perfect coffee at home is enjoying it.

If you’ve followed this guide top to bottom, you’ve brewed the perfect espresso shot so all that remains is adding your preferred milk (or just filtered water). Then, to complete the perfection, sit down with a chair by yourself and savour the first of many flawless coffees.

Unwind with a Potblack short story if you’re in the mood.

If you need new coffee beans with which to make the perfect coffee, shop Wanderer.

Back to blog
1 of 3