Fire Department Coffee
Shot made with an espresso machine at home

How to Use an Espresso Machine at Home

November 18, 2020

It’s official: once you learn how to make espresso, you’re equipped to face any challenge that your workday throws at you thanks to its strong kick! 

Here’s how to use an espresso machine correctly to make the most of it without it resulting in disappointing flavors.

How to make espresso with an espresso machine

1. Get your espresso machine ready

Your espresso machine must be on, warmed up, and with plenty of water in its reservoir. We recommend avoiding both distilled and rough tap water, opting for filtered instead.

2. Use some fine coffee grounds

Add around 20 g of fine Fire Dept. Coffee grounds (or just enough to fill your portafilter) and tamp them to guarantee an even extraction. 

You can either use the tamper attached to your espresso machine, if it’s got one, or take your espresso to the next level by purchasing a separate barista-style tamper. 

3. Brew your espresso

Espresso made using an espresso machine at home

Place the portafilter into the machine, add your funkiest espresso cup underneath, and press the magical brew button. 

Most machines will stop automatically but, if yours doesn’t or it requires you to pre-select the brew time, aim for 20-30 seconds.

4. Correct it if needed

If your espresso shot doesn’t immediately taste just like the one you tried in a café in Rome, don’t be discouraged. 

A bit of trial and error is absolutely normal when learning how to use an espresso machine and dialing in the shot (just a fancy word for ‘tweaking different variables and keeping track of what works best for you’).

After checking that the pressure of your espresso machine is actually the recommended 9 bars, tweak one variable at a time depending on how your espresso tastes.

- How to fix over-extracted espresso

If your espresso tastes bitter and astringent, you can try:

  • Slightly coarser grind
  • Fewer grounds
  • Lower water temperature (still within the recommended 195-205°F range)
  • Shorter brew time
- How to fix under-extracted espresso

Does it taste sour and weak? Do the opposite!

  • Finer grind
  • More grounds
  • Higher water temperature
  • Longer brew time

Once your coffee tastes impeccable, write down or remember your sweet spot so that you can replicate it every time.

5. Maintain your machine to guarantee perfect espresso shots

An espresso machine being cleaned and descaled

  • Discard the coffee puck and rinse your portafilter after every shot;
  • Wipe the steam wand if you’ve used it;
  • Every week or so, we also recommend deep-cleaning it: place the blank screen into the portafilter, add some espresso cleaner, insert it into the machine, run the water for around 10 seconds, pause it for 5, and repeat the process three times;
  • If your espresso machine hasn’t got a valve system, you’ll just need to remove its dispersion screen and scrub the group head using a damp rag with a bit of espresso cleaner;
  • Either way, soak your portafilter, screen and wand into a water-and-cleaner solution for 10 minutes or so, too;
  • Every three months, descale it following the instructions on your machine.

How to make espresso with regular coffee

Here’s the thing: while there’s a popular misconception that you need a different type of blend, espresso is made with regular coffee! It just needs to be finer than the grounds used for other coffee brewing methods

That’s why we recommend choosing one of our blends specifically crafted with espresso in mind.

Fire Dept. Coffee espresso grounds and beans

Don’t forget that learning how to use an espresso machine can mean enjoying lattes and cappuccinos, too! If you have a steaming wand, froth up some milk and add it to your espresso shot. 

If you haven’t got one, try one of our methods to froth up milk at home.

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