How to get started with Espresso?

Overview

Read below to learn how to kick start your day with an espresso and what items you will need to do so.

Breville Bambino with bottomless portafilter and scale

What is Espresso?

Espresso is an Italian-originated coffee brewing method that includes putting a small amount of water through a concentrated “puck” of ground coffee to get a concentrated extract of coffee. The result is a drink that packs a punch and is used in espresso-based drinks like lattes.

Used espresso pucks

What Espresso items should I buy to get Started?

Although it can be a bit intimidating to jump into espresso, it has benefits if you are somebody who enjoys coffee and needs a daily caffeinated beverage. Undoubtedly, some individuals will claim some of these items fall into a different category, which is ok! Good espresso is about using methods and tools that work for you and make your espresso taste good—checkout out our necessary and optional list of espresso tools and stuff.

Espresso in espresso cup on white plate with a stirring spoon

Espresso machine

The first thing anyone will need is an espresso machine itself. There are a lot of different kinds of espresso machines to choose from. One tip is to establish a budget before going shopping because some of the prices for home machines range from $500 to $5K. If you are still on the fence about if you should purchase an espresso machine, we have another piece that might help push you toward a purchase. Click here.

Breville Barista espresso machine and grinder

Coffee Bean Grinder

First off, this is one of the most crucial parts of getting great espresso. A common misconception is that you should not spend as much money on a coffee bean grinder as on a machine. Still, I would say that you can get fantastic espresso using a cheaper espresso machine and a more expensive grinder.

There are a lot of espresso machines that include built-in espresso bean grinders. Those can be an excellent option for some people. I like having a separate machine and grinder because if one of them has any issues or breaks down, I can replace it as needed instead of a combined espresso machine and grinder.

Another advantage of having them separated is that I can shop for and choose a grinder that works for me and deliver the grind I want. How consistently and fine espresso beans are ground is critical to getting dialed in and making a good espresso daily.

There are some things to consider when it comes to the grinder itself, such as if an electric or manual grinder is the right fit for you. If you are anything like me, my morning rush does not leave enough time in it for a manual grind. That said, I understand that the extra effort can sometimes be more rewarding, with espresso and about anything.

Baratza Sette 270 espresso bean grinder

Espresso Scale

A scale can be a small kitchen scale that can also be used for cooking and weighing out herbs and such. I have been using a small and cheap scale for $10 that fits my espresso machine. This kind of scale for us espresso enthusiasts is used for weighing how many grams of espresso beans we will use. The espresso scale helps get dialed in because it can be a guideline for getting the correct amount of espresso extracted.

Below is how I use the scale to measure my espresso input. I have a 20g unpressurized basket. I would weigh 20g of my favorite espresso beans out and then add the 20g of espresso grind to my basket.

For my espresso output, I place it under my mug. Depending on the kind of roast I am working with will make sure I stop extracting at a ratio. My general rule is to usually stick to about 1:1.5 for dark roasts and 1:2 for mediums. Meaning for 20g of beans, I stop pulling once I get 30g of espresso (dark roasts).

Small american weigh scale used for espresso

Bottomless Portafilter

A bottomless portafilter is not necessary only because it looks cool. It is also very functional! Pulling just one shot of espresso through, one can tell a lot of information about what is right and wrong with the shot. In turn, allowing somebody to make quick and easy adjustments the next time they use it makes getting dialed in that much easier.

Bottomless portafilter pulling a shot of espresso

Coffee Mugs and Espresso Glasses

Espresso might not taste right being drank from a sippy cup, but maybe I am wrong. I recommend getting some coffee mugs that fit into your setup. I love to use clear coffee mugs for my morning lattes. Some morning people will reach for funny coffee mugs, but getting your favorite cup is what it is all about. I also like getting big latte mugs because sometimes I want a latte served in a cereal bowl-sized mug.

Something to consider here is having different mugs or cups for certain drinks you are serving. Drinking straight espresso is way more satisfying from a small shot-sized espresso cup.

Stack of white espresso cups

Espresso Beans

The key is to avoid pre-ground espresso beans in the grocery store, as they are typically not ground fine enough for a non-pressurized basket. I have found that finding a local roastery or a small roastery that will ship beans to you will provide the highest quality beans and result in the highest quality espresso. Excellent and fresh coffee is how to get great espresso.

S&W Craft Roasting fresh coffee beans from Indiana

Espresso Machine Cleaning Tablets and Descaling Solution

With everyday coffee drinking, regular espresso machine maintenance is necessary. Cleaning tablets are needed for the brewing part of the machine to remove leftover coffee bean residue. Using cleaning tablets should be done about once a month.

Descaling solution is used to remove “hard” water. Said another way, this is for removing any mineral buildup within the machine itself. This can also be done about once a month but is dependent on the water you are using.

With both of these items being ongoing, I highly recommend staying away from branding cleaning products like Breville cleaning tablets because they are overpriced for what they are. The same cleaning products are provided for a fraction of the price as some of the ones shown below.

DEZCAL descaler and CAFIZA cleaning tablets for espresso machine

What Espresso Items are not Necessary?

Below are some things that may are recommended but not wholly necessary depending on each espresso enthusiast.

Milk for Espresso-Based Drinks

I love lattes. I cannot make lattes without milk, and I love using whole milk as I have found it to produce great foam for my drink. Others prefer to use lower-fat kinds of milk, oat milk, lactose-free milk, almond milk, or whatever type of milk is their favorite.

Glass of milk on a table

WDT Tool

A WDT tool is for distribution. I do not use a WDT tool and do not think they are vital as I have not had any issues not using one. Some individuals swear these have solved all of their channeling problems from clumps in espresso grinds. To use one, stir the grinds while they are in your basket to break up

Espresso Portafilter Funnel

A portafilter funnel for espresso might be something you need if you are messier or find that getting the espresso grinds into the basket leaves espresso grinds elsewhere. It is precisely what it sounds like, as it is designed to funnel espresso grinds into the basket.

Silicon Kitchen Mat

If you are somebody who forgets to empty the drip tray, spills often, or makes any other messes on their kitchen counter, getting a kitchen mat could be a lifesaver. It prevents stains or messes from getting onto the counter and can be easily rinsed or thrown into the dishwasher. A kitchen mat can also assist with getting some color schemes for your coffee corner to match your kitchen.

Conclusion

Many are surprised that you may need more than an espresso machine and grinder. This list of essential espresso items ensures you have a starting point for tasty espresso! Let us know if there is a new espresso gadget you love to use when making espresso or if there is something that needs to be included in the list.

Norbert Koput

Norbert Koput

I created Espresso Bear to share what I have learned about espresso to help others get that morning feeling that keeps us grounded and comforted.

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