Beginner’s Guide to Synesso ES.1 Espresso Machine: Pulling Expert Espresso Shots

“Espresso is a miracle of chemistry in the cup.” — Andrea Illy (daughter of Ernesto Illy)

Hi. I’m Jen Stone.

Currently, I’m a licensed Coffee Quality Grader, Coffee Educator, Coffee Podcaster, and Sales Rep for Middleby Coffee, of which Synesso is a part of. But beyond that, I’ve owned cafes, roasted, worked the bar and had a multitude of other coffee roles over the years.
With the goal of sharing the amazing journey of coffee, from sourcing and roasting to brewing and drinking, I work closely with customers and coffee drinkers to improve their coffee skills and ultimately create the most perfect cup imaginable.  Which is why today I’m going to teach you how to start making barista-style espresso shots in three easy steps. 

Jen Stone
Q-Grader, entrepreneaur, coffee education

I recall my first job in a café, and the mystique that surrounded the espresso machine and the concoctions the Barista’s made with such ease.  Yet from picking up my first portafilter, it all felt so clunky and the multiple steps made my head spin. 

In this no-nonsense guide, I’ll cut out all the noise, we’ll go behind the curtain and teach you exactly how to create espresso shots that you will enjoy solo or combined with milk.

Keep in mind that making espresso is essentially math and science.  Having said that, the following tools are required:

  • A great quality grinder for espresso. Not a blade grinder or drip coffee grinder.
  • A scale that measures GRAMS, and is ideally large enough to hold your portafilter (the handle that holds the espresso basket)
  • A tamper

Tip:  A pen and logbook for your adjustments are helpful.

Before we start, let’s establish exactly what an Espresso is.

Ernesto Illy, the Godfather of Espresso defined it circa 1933 and it is largely accepted as standard still today. 

Let’s start with this recipe:

  • 18 grams of espresso
  • 40-60 ml (or grams) of liquid yield
  • In 20-30 seconds. When these three parameters hit, you have some semblance of a very decent espresso. 

Let’s get started!

Step 1.  Preparation

          Now that your tools are together and fresh beans are in your grinder, patiently follow these steps.

  • Place your clean and dry portafilter on the scale and tare (zero out)
  • Grind espresso directly into your portafilter until it’s full and mounds up a bit over the top
  • Weigh the portafilter again. The goal is 18 grams, so adjust as needed
  • Level the coffee with the tamper by pressing down and applying firm and even pressure. You can do this by propping the portafilter on the counter for leverage.  Make sure the tamp is level.  Give the tamper a little twist for polish. 

Tip:  You’ve applied enough pressure if you can turn the tamper over and the coffee doesn’t fall out!

Step 2.  Brew

  • Before inserting the portafilter in the group, purge, or run a bit of water by turning on the group (tapping the paddle to the right on your ES.1). Let the water run for 3 – 4 seconds, to reheat the group and clean off any residual coffee. 
  • Lock in the portafilter evenly, place your vessel(s) under the portafilter and activate the brew cycle (tapping the paddle to the left on the ES.1).

Tip:  Practice locking in the portafilter a few times BEFORE you have espresso in it.  The movement feels awkward at first.

  • Stop the flow of water by tapping to the right, in 20 – 30 seconds when the espresso reaches the 2 oz mark.

Tip:  Place your vessel on the scale and tare, then weigh the espresso after it’s brewed to measure.

Step 3.  Enjoy (and Adjust)

  • Taste your espresso. Actually, taste it twice.  Allow the first sip to prepare your palate for the intensity of flavor and pass no judgment.  Take the second sip and evaluate flavor, along with body, brightness, sweetness and intensity. 
  • If you love the taste, GREAT! If not, adjust as needed — here is where some of the science kicks in. 
    • If it’s a bit sour or watery, make the grind finer. Start one click or notch at a time. (Water runs through finer packed particles more slowly, grabbing more flavor from the espresso as it passes through the coffee bed.)
    • If it is too bold and murky, adjust your grind to be more coarse, again one click or notch at a time. (Water will flow through the ground espresso more quickly, and not over-extract.)
  • IMPORTANT: Purge a dose of coffee between grind adjustments to ensure the new grind is what you are brewing and evaluating.  A bit of coffee can be stuck in the grinder burrs between doses.

You’ve done it!  In three steps you’ve prepared, brewed and enjoyed your own espresso.  Keep at it, don’t stress, and don’t over caffeinate.  It takes time, and your shots will continue to improve as you become more comfortable with the process and your espresso machine.

What are your questions and comments? 

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