Espresso Machine 101: How to Use an Espresso Machine?

It’s always difficult to take the first step, but if you do, then nothing is impossible. Likewise, if you’re new to using an espresso machine and aren’t sure how to prepare coffee, this article is for you. Continue reading to learn how to use an espresso machine at home and in a commercial setting.

Before diving into the step-by-step guide for an espresso machine, let’s go through some basic terms for espresso machines.

Basics terms of espresso:

  • Doppio: Doppio means “double shot.” If you need higher-power espresso coffee, you can enjoy doubling-shot espresso, known by the name “Doppio coffee.” It holds 60 ml of coffee, equivalent to a double shot of espresso.
  • Coffee Tamper: You can manage coffee extraction through coffee tampers. It compresses the coffee ground for perfect extraction in the basket. 
  • Portafilter: It contains all the ground beans in its and then settles them for coffee extraction
  • Basket: The filter basket is attached to a portafilter where all ground coffee settles for extractions. It holds the ground coffee and holes in it for the water to pass through the coffee bed.
  • Channelling: If your coffee comes from only a few spots and water is not eventually distributed to ground coffee beds, this process is known as channelling. It affects the quality and taste of espresso coffee.
  • Crema: It’s a reddish brown foam on the top of the espresso coffee due to high-pressurized extraction from a portafilter basket.
  • Group Head: Group head is a part of the espresso machine which boils the water for coffee.
  • Extraction: In this process, you will get full-flavoured coffee from roasted espresso coffee beans by using accurate pressure, temperature, and water and ground coffee ratios.
  • Knock box: Knock box is your coffee trash box in which you can through coffee trash after extraction.
  • Flushing: It means cleaning the coffee machine steam wand for maintaining the perfect temperature for the espresso coffee and brewing.
  • Pressure Gauge: Pressure gauge helps to maintain pressure for coffee beans grinding, extracting, and brewing espresso. It constitutes two needles. One needle works for the pressure pump while the other maintains boiling pressure.
  • Steam Wand: The steam wand helps you to make your favourite espresso coffee, like cappuccino, through steaming and frothing milk.
  • Drip Tray: It is a part of the espresso machine in which all the extra water collected falls in the brewing process.
  • Filter Baskets: It is part of the portafilter and helps in filtering. It’s available for both single and double-shot portafilters.
  • Steam Valve: It is a knob that maintains the temperature of the steam wand for frothing and brewing.

How to use an espresso machine for a perfect shot?

Although, when you see the coffee-making process at a commercial machine, you think it’s difficult. But these are only your assumptions.

Here are a few simple steps that will make you a master at pulling shots with espresso machines.

1. Setup espresso machine:

Before starting any work, warm up and make yourself fresh and energetic. Similarly, for the perfect espresso shot, the espresso maker also needs some warming up. So, first of all, set up your machine before making a coffee drink.

Assemble the machine parts: If you buy a new espresso machine, set it according to the user guide and prepare it for its first use.

Switch on the machine: Now plug in the machine and provide it with power to begin working.

After that, fill the espresso machine’s water tank. Ensure that you have filled the tank with clean water that prevents the espresso machine from rusting.

Heat the machine: This gives the machine time to boil water and create the ideal environment for grinding coffee. The espresso machine gets ready in 10 to 20 minutes.

Note: “Ensure that your coffee machine is properly heated and the water tank gets filled before grinding.”

2. Measure and grind the coffee beans

Now that your machine is ready to make coffee, proceed to the coffee grounding step.

Dosing: You can measure the coffee beans before grinding or put them directly into the grinder.

It’s better to weigh the beans before putting them into the grinder.

Now that your machine is ready to make coffee, proceed to the coffee grounding step.

Dosing: You can measure the coffee beans before grinding or put them directly into the grinder.

It’s better to weigh the beans before putting them into the grinder. This dosage will keep your beans from going to waste. You can select anyone based on the type and colour of your beans.

  • Single Dose: 7-10 g
  • Double shot basket: 16-18g
  • Tripple shot basket: 20-22g

Grinder Setting: Now set the machine for the grinding. Most machines have a built-in grinder. For great coffee, different settings are available for various types of seeds.

But if you don’t know the actual value, you can use the middle grinding setting for an espresso machine. The best grinding level, for example, in the Breville Barista Pro is 8. You can also use pre-ground coffee.

For Delonghi La Specialista Maestro, the following setting is helpful:

  • Light Roast: 3
  • Medium Roast: 4
  • Medium dark roast: 4
  • Dark espresso roast: 5

Now put the measured beans in the grinder and grind them according to the beans’ nature.

Note: “For perfect coffee, an accurate coffee dose and perfect grinding are necessary. Gound the beans according to the type of beans and grind size you use for extracting coffee.”

3. Load the Portafilter

After settling the ground coffee, the process moves on to portafilter filling. In the beginning, check to see that your portafilter is dry and clean.

Portafilter fillings depend upon the nature of the espresso machine. If you have already ground the coffee, fill the portafilter with it. If it’s not already grounded and your espresso machine has the option to select one, two, or three-shot coffee, select the corresponding portafilter and click on one, two, or three shots.

Make sure that your grounded coffee is eventually distributed in the portafilter. You can level the coffee in the portafilter with the tamping.

Note: “Inaccurate dosing and improper portafilter filling can ruin the taste and texture of your coffee.”

4. Tamp the grounds:

Tamping is another key step for the perfect cup of coffee.

If your coffee is not properly tamped, channelling occurs in the portafilter. Now tamp the coffee grounds with a tamper and compress the coffee grounds.

Make sure that there will be an even distribution among all the coffee layers. Put your arms at 90 degrees when you are tamping the ground coffee.

Note: Improper tamping can lead to channelling. Put your arms at 90 degrees while tamping, and stop tamping when all the espresso grounds are level and the tamper is not rotating.

5. Insert the Portafilter in the espresso maker:

Now insert the portafilter into the group head of the machine.

Carefully enter the portafilter into the machine. If the portafilter strikes the machine and the espresso grounds bed moves, there will be channelling, and water does not eventually spread.

Now you can note the time and put your warm cup on the drip tray.

Note: Improper portafilter installation may result in channelling.

6. Pull your 1st shot:

Now your machine is ready for your first shot. Make sure your machine is adjusted to the appropriate temperature and pressure before drawing shots. The right pressure for espresso normally lies between 9 bar to 15 bar.

Now you can pull your first espresso shot by pulling the lever of the machine or pressing the buttons for extraction. Wait for 20 to 30 seconds for home espresso brewing, and your coffee is ready. If there is crema on your coffee, this ensures that you make the perfect coffee shot.

7. Dial in your espresso shot

Dialling in an espresso machine means it’s set for grinding, brewing, and frothing. Through this, you can select the grinding size, time for brewing espresso, and perfect frothing for your cups.

The first step is to select quality beans for your coffee grounds, and the next is the grinding method. Then you have to choose the grinding setting according to the type of coffee beans and espresso machines. All these things have an impact on coffee’s taste and colour.

For the perfect coffee shot, you must choose the accurate dose — 18 g for a double shot, and set the right time, which is 20–30 seconds. If your home espresso machine has the 18 grinder setting, the 9–10 setting is good for grinding coffee. Similarly, adjust the right water temperature and pressure before taking your first shot.

Note: Ensure that your coffee starts brewing at the right time, which is 9 – 10 seconds. Otherwise, your coffee shot is over-extracted for more than 12 seconds and under if coffee brews in 6-7 sec.

8. Steam the Milk

If you love cappuccino or milk frother in your brew coffee then the steam wand helps to give coffee shops like froth milk. Steaming milk in a coffee machine is a simple process with the steam wand. And for frothing milk steaming also need a steam wand.

Firstly turn on the steam wand and put an empty shot to get it ready. Now put its needle in the cup of cold milk and steamed milk till the right milk temperature. You can not get the perfect latte art if your milk froth is not in the right form.

Note: 135-150 degrees is the right temperature for steaming milk.

How does the espresso machine work?

From the origin of the first espresso machine in 1990 to date, there have been lots of developments in the machine’s structure, nature, and functions. But how does this coffee machine different from the espresso machine?

Espresso is not a special type of bean, but it’s the name of the method through which you can make a special type of coffee.

Espresso machines use the five steps to deliver perfect coffee.

Water Source:

Whether your coffee machine is an automatic espresso machine or a semi-automatic espresso machine you must have some water source in it. You can use water from a piped source for commercial machines and home espresso machines reservoirs are best.


The pump is used to provide the required pressure for espresso to the water. Most espresso machines have an electric pump. It can range from 9 bars to 15 bars.


Boiler work on water for the right consistency of coffee and perfect temperature. Now dual boiler also comes to the market, which makes coffee making faster than before.

Steam wand:

If you like milk in coffee or frothing, the steam wand gives you the right consistency for milk steaming.

Group head:

Freshly ground coffee and hot water mix in the group head and give you a perfect barista-like coffee.

How to clean and maintain an espresso machine?

Cleaning is another important point for long-lasting coffee machines. Ensure that you clean the grinder, steam boiler, and trash tray after every shot. If the espresso machine is not in a good position, descale it for cleaning.

Most espresso machines now have automatic cleaning options. If there are no such options, you can clean it manually after descaling the entire machine.

FAQs – How to use the espresso machine

Here are some espresso FAQs, you might be interested in;

What is the first thing you do in an espresso machine?

Power on the espresso machine and put cold water in the water tank to prepare a perfect espresso shot.

How much coffee do you put in an espresso machine?

The amount of coffee depends on the number of coffee cups required. For a single shot, the total amount lies between 7 to 10 g, while for a double shot 18 g will be perfect.

What is the 10 second rule for espresso?

There is a fixed time for coffee extraction. If your machine takes less time, it does create the required flavours. If it is over-extracted, it’s bitter. So accurate time for coffee extraction is 20 to 30 seconds.

What happens if you don’t tamp the espresso?

The coffee grounds do not spread eventually in the portafilter basket. In the results, water finds a loops hole and does not pass through the whole coffee prank, and channelling occurs.

How long will 2 shots of espresso last?

The effects of 2 shots of espresso will end in approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Can you use regular coffee for espresso?

You can use regular coffee for espresso but for good quality coffee and the perfect cup, it’s better to use quality beans.


Espresso is the ideal combination of hot water and finely ground coffee at a precise pressure and temperature. With a finer grind and a good brewing process, you can enjoy barista coffee with your first espresso drink.

Note the brew time and ensure there is no difference in the values. Excess grounds and more time ruin the great espresso-making experience.

Mian Mohsin (MohsinZox)

About Author:

I'm Mian Mohsin the founder of the DeesCoffee. Here, I share step-by-step guides and explore different coffee products from my personal experience. Learn more...