7 Pro Tips for Making the Perfect Espresso at Home

Since this is a blog on Italian coffee, I think it’s essential for my cherished readers to get the insider know-how that only an experienced industry professional can offer (yeah right)…

Alright, I may have exaggerated my qualifications, but I am a pro at making espresso–I have (give or take) 15 years experience making them not only for family, but also friends, coworkers, and complete strangers! I know a thing or two (or six) about making the perfect espresso, even from the comfort of your own kitchen, with no expensive or impractical equipment.

FYI, some of these may seem logical and just down-right common sense but trust me, mistakes and misconceptions are common, and we are all human after all!

Here are my seven pro tips on making the perfect espresso at home. Keep in mind that each component depends on the use of a Moka and not an expensive espresso machine–perfect and practical!

  1. Pick the right Moka.

This is a two-part pick. Are you in a household where you’re the only one who drinks espresso? How about if you have four people that drink espresso on a regular basis in your household? Here, size does matter. Not all apparatus make the same number of cups of espresso. Unlike regular percolators, you cannot add one cup coffee and water to your Moka to make that one cup, so purchase a moka that makes up to two cups if it’s just you (or plus one). Being Italian means I have approximately 30 different sizes of mokas to choose from (no lie) to prepare any number of cups, regardless of how many guests we have… I am always ready!

The second part to this pick regards the quality of your moka. Always, ALWAYS pick a moka that has the Made in Italy tag on it. When you purchase a product made in Italy, you are supporting responsibly-made products that are manufactured following the best industry-established guidelines by companies that not only have a history in the coffee culture but also a vested interest, and most importantly, a true passion for coffee. I always recommend Bialettia company known for the quality of its products. If you want something fancier and more expensive, then definitely go for Alessi, a design company that makes mokas I’ve been eyeing for a while!

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These are only a few of my coffee apparatus–notice the size differences.

One of Alessi’s moka designs.
2. Quality over quantity beans!

So, like everything in life, the quality of a product will dictate the end result. If it were possible to do, you wouldn’t buy a Honda part to put on an Alfa Romeo, would you? The same concept applies to espresso beans. You can either purchase a cheap brand that might offer a larger quantity of beans for a lower price, or you can opt for the product that is a well-established and known brand that is trusted by industry professionals and a little more costly. Again, I always recommend the made in Italy products. There are many espresso roasts available that are made in (for example) Cuba, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, or other countries, but are they ethically responsible companies that are eco-friendly and/or offer fair wages? Don’t forget that Italy is a very wealthy country, and many of the consumer interests reflect those of North American consumers–like Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives. Many Italian brands are eco-friendly and are produced using sustainable bean production. I typically recommend and use Illy or Lavazza at home. Both are readily available in most supermarkets. My favourite roast to use is the Lavazza Qualita Rossa (read up here).

Another important thing to remember is that espresso beans are very very finely ground for moka usage. You can purchase whole beans and grind them but keep that fact in mind for the perfect percolation!

My top pick of for roast at a modest price!
3. Use cold water

When adding water to the chamber, I like to add water that has a temperature just a bit cooler that room-temperature. Why? I notice that with warmer water, it takes less time for the coffee to percolate and therefore you get a less flavourful, less strong brew. So, use cooler water! 

4. Remember the knob!

Once you have the two most important components figured out–moka and beans–you can now focus on the actual preparation of the coffee. I ask you to keep in mind the knob at the side of your moka’s water chamber. Why? It just looks like a steam valve (which it is) but it also serves a very important purpose: use the top of the knob to measure exactly how much coffee you will make as the finished product. The knob is a measuring tool that only experts–or Italians will know about!

Notice the steam ‘knob’ on the top left of the bottom chamber?
5. Don’t Pack in the Coffee!

Many will argue that packing the coffee into the filter is necessary. I argue that it does not make the best possible coffee. When you pack it in, you alter the flavour of the coffee because you will achieve a much more concentrated flavour. Leaving the coffee loose is key to having a full-flavoured coffee, the way it was intended. The water will not have to filter through a dense layer of coffee grinds to reach the chamber, and you will be thanking me for this trick!

Leave it loose!
6. Listen to the alarm!

Every good moka has an alarm built right into it. When the coffee is percolated, a bubbly whistle will emanate from the moka. This is the sign that your coffee is ready. Be careful not to leave the moka on the heat source much longer afterward, or your coffee will taste burnt. Yikes!

An alarm will sound when your coffee is ready
7. Stir, stir, stir!

Finally, my last pro tip is to remove the moka from the heat source and stir the coffee inside the chamber before pouring. This will incorporate all the flavours, as sometimes the coffee at the bottom is more concentrated, and will ensure that every cup is quality!

Stir while in the Moka to incorporate.
So that’s it! Follow these pro tips and you too can make an incredible coffee like an Italian or pro at home! Enjoy!

Did you already know some of these pro tips? Did you learn anything? Do you have any other tips you feel I may have left out? Let me know, I want to hear!

Ciao for now!


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