How do you calibrate espresso?

espresso machine calibration

 espresso calibration time

Oh, espresso! The delicious and complex drink invented by the Italians may seem short, but it awakens even the hardest palate when you drink it.


 barista drinking espresso

First of all, espresso is prepared with hot water and high pressure.

1.-Type of ground.

You can see more details in our  making coffee guide.

The type of grinding used is essential since coffee acts as a barrier to the passage of water in your portafilter; the finer the coffee, the less the water will be able to flow, and the thicker the coffee, the water will pass through quickly and will not extract all the flavors you expect.

To make the perfect espresso, use fine ground coffee.

Let's put it this way; if your espresso is coming out like water in your faucet, you are doing it wrong!❌

Grind size DOES affect coffee flavor. The finer the coffee, the more bitter the extraction, and the coarser the grind, the more acidic it will be.

grind types

 Also, how do you get crema on espresso?

Use freshly roasted beans and try with some different fine grinds to find the perfect one for your machine type.

➡️The older the beans get, the less crema you will find on the top of your espresso shot.

2.-Pressure when using the tamper.

If you used the correct grind for your type of machine but pressed too hard, the espresso would never go down. The average pressure applied is 15-20 kg with your arm, and you can calculate it with practice.

The proper flow for the espresso to fall is like “mouse tail” that’s right, as funny as it sounds, that’s the term in the barista world.

When you look at your espresso, the crema should be hazelnut with reddish undertones. The consistency should be thick when swirled.

 barista tamping espresso

3.- Amount of coffee in the portafilter, aka “dose.”

The amount of coffee you need depends on the machine model and the portafilter size. However, a simple portafilter holds 9 to 12 grams of coffee per shot and will extract approximately an ounce of espresso.

⚠️Never extract a shot for more than 30 seconds; instead, make sure that your machine extracts an espresso from 18 to 30 seconds to avoid obtaining very acidic (under-extraction) or very bitter (over-extraction) flavors.

 espresso extraction tips

4.- The machine.

There are home and professional espresso machines, and besides water, they only need suitable temperature and pressure. 

The home machines usually come with a plastic tank that you have to refill from time to time. 

It is essential that the tank is never empty to avoid air bubbles from entering the machine and breaking it down.

Now about the pressure, could you ensure that the manometer moves to the number of bars your machine manual indicates (usually 9 bars) when you make an extraction?

The machines for professional use can be connected directly to the water tap and use a special filter to prevent minerals from damaging your device, connect to a jug, or even come with a water tank that you must fill when needed.

Regardless of the machine, you must ensure that the temperature is at the correct setting by checking the LED indicator (which varies according to model and brand) or that the machine pressure moves correctly, as indicated in the manual.

 latte made with espresso

These tips will improve your espresso: flavor, body, cream, and color.

Remember, it’s all trial and error, always taste the results and adjust one variable at a time.

In Europe and the U.S., espresso is a popular drink, but not so much in Latin America—where the most popular coffee-based drinks are drip coffee and those with milk and sugar.

We know from experience (after owning a specialty coffee shop for five years) that Latino customers rarely order an espresso shot.

Nonetheless, espresso coffee is fantastic, and with the proper care, anyone can make one. 

5.- What could go wrong? (Troubleshooting).

You followed all the steps and still have a result that you don't love or know can be better? Here you have four common scenarios:

If you extracted more than 1 oz in less than 18 seconds

  • The grind size is too coarse and/or
  • the dose is too low

If you have extracted less than 1 oz in 18 seconds, it could be because:

  • the grind is too fine and/or 
  • you are using too much coffee

If your coffee is too acidic and sour, it could be because:

  • The water in the machine is too cold
  • the beans are too lightly roasted
  • the grind is too coarse
  • the dose is too low

If espresso is too bitter, it could be because:

  • the water is too hot
  • the machine is dirty
  • the beans are roasted too dark
  • the grinder burrs are too dull
  • the grind is too fine
  • the dose is too high


Do you think you're up to improving your calibration technique? 

 Good luck! Enjoy Killer espressos!☠️