Thrift stores such as Goodwill have stocks of new or once used espresso machines. There are ways to make good espresso, and using cheap equipment doesn't always make good espresso.

A coffee snob who likes to brew good coffeeor  good espresso will let nothing stand in his way to make a perfect cup. To a coffee geek, espresso is an art form. For someone who wants a decent cup of espresso, it takes good water, coffee beans,  grinder, espresso machine and reasonable care.

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Espresso is one to two ounces of coffee made with espresso beans. The perfect cup will have crema, or foam floating on the top. The extraction pressure is responsible for crema quality. Several factors control espresso taste such as water temperature and pressure.

De'Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
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(price as of Nov 8, 2016)
Roasted Coffee Beans
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Coffee Bean Direct Italian Roast Espresso, Whole Bean Coffee, 5-Pound Bag
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(price as of Nov 8, 2016)

Espresso Grinder

Espresso requires fine, evenly ground quality coffee. If the grinder doesn’t produce this, the espresso suffers and not meet a coffee geek’s standard. If coffee grounds aren't of equal size, it allows water and easy path through the grounds resulting in weak espresso. A good grinder is a must for the best espresso.

Breville BCG800XL Smart Grinder
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(price as of Nov 8, 2016)

Extraction and Grind

The espresso machine should extract the coffee at a water temperature of 197 to 204 degrees Fahrenheit (92 to 96 Celsius) at 130 pounds per square inch. Extraction, the amount of time it takes for the water to go through the grounds to make espresso, should be between 25 and 30 seconds. If it goes through quicker, and the brew is weak, the coffee may be ground too course. If it takes longer and is too strong, the grind may be too fine.

TampingDeLonghi EC155 portafilter.Credit: Amazon

Tamping the grounds is an important part of the process. Too light allows water to take the easiest path and not extract properly. Tamping too hard will pack the grounds too tight with the same result. The tamper should be made to fit the portafilter (espresso basket) and not be too small. Professionals recommend two tampings. The first tamping should be 30 pounds and the second 15 pounds. Do this with a slight twist. Professionals practice using a scale to get theGaggia espresso machine.(123029)Credit: Amazon feel of 30 and 15 pounds.


Crema is for more than show. It indicates the quality of the drink. It affects the drink by influencing the aroma and the effect on the drinker’s taste buds. It should be thick, golden reddish brown, and thick enough to adhere to the side of the cup when drinking the espresso.

Putting The Elements Together To Make Espresso

The word espresso has its origin in express. The espresso maker should work quickly. When getting ready to make espresso, the machine should be up to temperature. Grind the beans immediately before use. Overfill the portafilter with the grounds. Wipe the excess off so that the coffee is level with the top of the portafilter. Tamp and put the portafilter back on the machine. Put a demitasse cup (small espresso cup) under the spout to receive espresso.

Adjusting the Brew

There are variations one can make to alter the taste of the coffee to suit the drinker. Tamping is not in this group.  Experiment with coffee blends. Quality coffee roasted for espresso is best. Different blends have a great influence on taste. Adjust the grinding fineness. Slightly coarser or finer makes a difference. Increase or decrease the amount of coffee. Monitor to see that the temperature is good. As always, good quality fresh beans and fresh water is a necessity.

Making espresso as well as that bought in a coffee shop is possible. By taking care and being willing to adjust the different espresso elements allows the home brewer to make exceptional espresso.