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To start, you'll need an espresso machine,* espresso grinder, tamper, gram scale, vessel to pull your espresso shot into, and coffee. *Home espresso machines can vary greatly in quality and the ability to perfect your espresso shot can vary greatly from machine to machine.
Use a dry, clean cloth to wipe your portafilter free of any oils or coffee grounds. (Ideally, however, your portafilter is already nice and clean because you are cleaning it thoroughly after you pull each shot.)
Dose. The amount of coffee you use will be determined by your portafilter's basket size. We recommend purchasing a 20 gram VST basket for your portafilter. When dosing with a 20 gram basket, weigh out 20 grams of coffee. (With an 18 gram basket, dose at 18 grams etc).
Grind your coffee. The grind for espresso is very fickle and must be dialed in each day. Pro-tip: a high quality espresso grinder will make a big difference. Dialing in: Start coarse and keep grinding finer until you hit bitterness-then back up a bit to find your sweet spot. Always flush your grinder after changing your grind!
After dosing, give the side of the portafilter three gentle taps to even out the bed of coffee. Then give it three gentle down taps on the counter to eliminate any mounds or gaps.
Tamp. Position the portafilter parallel to the countertop. Hold the tamper in your dominant hand like you would a doorknob. Create a steeple with your thumb and forefinger on the edges of the portafilter basket. Create a 90-degree angle with your elbow and forearm (this may feel a little awkward at first). Position your feet the same width apart as your shoulders. Evenly lower the tamper and press firmly to maximum compaction/density until your tamper stops moving. Keep it level and strive for as even of tamp as possible.
Pull your espresso shot. Set your scale and vessel underneath the grouphead. Gently insert your portafilter and ensure it is seated tightly in the grouphead. Start your timer at the same time you start your shot. Yield: We recommend a 1 to 2 ratio (i.e. if 20 grams in, shoot for 40 grams out). If you like a thicker, punchier shot then change that ratio to 1 to 1.75/1.5 (if 20 grams in, 35/30 out.) Temp: Ideally your espresso machine is set to 200 F.
Time is a secondary guideline for pulling shots (as coffee ages, the timeframe of your shot my change.) As a general rule of thumb-we look for a start time of 7-10 secs and a brew time of 25-35 seconds. But, depending on coffee and coffee age the time can vary. Provided all your other variables are set, time can indicate a few things. If coffee is starting too fast, coffee may be ground to coarse. If coffee is starting too slow, coffee may be ground to fine. If coffee tastes bitter, your grind may be too fine. If coffee is weak or watery, coffee may be too coarse.
Once finished pulling your espresso shot, remove the portafilter from the grouphead, knock the puck out of the portafilter basket into a knockbox or trash. Rinse your portafilter and wipe clean of any debris. Then...enjoy!