What Is A Perfect Shot Espresso? With Tips To Make One

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By Hale

A perfect shot espresso is an actual work of art. Hence, as a coffee enthusiast, you shouldn’t miss this shot for any reason.

Making a cup of espresso is straightforward. However, you need to work on every single step of the process to pull it off.

This article will help you explore important elements that make up a perfect shot of espresso. Then, you can learn how to prepare one for yourself. So, let’s dive in!

What Is A Perfect Shot Espresso?

You can tell if you have the perfect espresso shot by checking its appearance, aroma, and taste.


First, look at the color. It should be rich brown with a red tint. Besides, there is a creamy, thick foam. The foam should also be reddish-brown with tiny bubbles.


There are two criteria to examine the taste of coffee:

  • Bitterness: Your espresso shot has a pleasant bitterness. However, those who don’t often drink coffee may find it too intense.
  • Acidity: You will notice a lively acidity in your espresso. This acidity level will contribute to the drink’s flavor and complexity.


When your espresso shot drips, a powerful coffee aroma will fill your room. More specifically, espresso will smell like regular coffee but at a more intense degree.

Besides, while many brewing methods get rid of the coffee aroma during extraction, you won’t experience the same thing. Hence, you can get the most out of your espresso’s aroma, making smelling the ritual for enjoying espresso.

How Long To Pull A Shot Of Espresso?

The aim here is to bring out the perfect tastes and characteristics of the espresso without under- or over-extraction.

So, with that thought in mind, the ideal time to pull your shot of espresso is from 20 to 30 seconds. You will force hot water through ground coffee under high pressure during this time.

If you pull your shot too quickly, the espresso will be sour and weak due to under-extraction. On the other hand, if you pull it too slowly, the over-extraction will cause a bitter taste.

After all, the exact time to pull your espresso depends on multiple factors, such as:

  • Type of coffee beans
  • Roast level
  • Grind size
  • Water temperature
  • Amount of pressure

Once you are more familiar with pulling espresso, you can use those variables to prepare a perfect cup of coffee.

How To Pull A Shot Of Espresso?

You can pull espresso in only 30 seconds. However, up to six steps exist for a perfect outcome.

Step 1: Estimate the dose of the coffee

Dosing is about moving your coffee from the grinder into the portafilter basket at the right size. However, many people argue about it because each location has its own rule.

According to U.S. culture, you must fill the portafilter basket with ground coffee until it becomes slightly mounded.

Step 2: Settle the grounds

After dosing the coffee, you can settle your coffee grounds. Everyone does this differently, but you need to maintain consistency in your ground-leveling style for the best quality and least lost shots.

In most cases, people tap the portafilter firmly against a hard object or surface. You can try this, but do not chip your countertop.

Also, please remember that you are trying to settle the coffee grounds into the portafilter. Thus, it must be firm.

Step 3: Clear the grounds

You may not correctly dose your coffee. In this case, clear it by leveling the ground off with your pinkie finger.

Do not use downward pressure for this step. Instead, gently run your pinkie finger over the portafilter to wipe away the excess coffee grounds.

Step 4: Tamp the grounds

Now, you need to tamp the ground. Many baristas consider tamping an art form, but beginners often underestimate it.

In fact, the tamping process encourages the pressured water to correctly pass through the coffee when you try to pull the shot. As a result, good tamping will be necessary for measuring the brewing time and achieving full flavor.

So how to tamp the coffee grounds correctly? The instructions are as follows:

  • Place your portafilter on a flat surface.
  • Use one of your hands to firmly hold the tamper and the other to hold the handle of the portafilter.
  • Slightly set the tamper on the coffee grounds so it can stay parallel to the surface.
  • Tamp the coffee grounds now.
  • Press the tamper downward using a pressure of about 30 pounds. At this step, you may need to use a scale to measure how much pressure you apply.
  • Release your pressure to tamp it again.

After that, most people choose one of these two options to finish tamping:

  • Twist before releasing your pressure the second time
  • Tap on one side of your portafilter after releasing your pressure

Although these methods give flair to the tradition of pulling espresso shots, experts do not often suggest them. It’s because they have more harm than benefits. For example, the grounds will be unsettling even if they look good.

Instead, you should follow the rule of 30 seconds we mentioned in the previous section. It’s about settling, clearing, and tamping the coffee grounds in under 30 seconds.

You’ll need to practice before you can do this fast. Yet, the reward is excellent, fully flavored espresso.

Step 5: Lock the portafilter

Attach the portafilter to its group head. You can do this by slipping the flanges of the portafilter upward into the head and locking it.

The design of the group head can be different from model to model. For instance, some models need you to lock your portafilter to the right, while others must go to the left.

No matter which side you go for, you need to insert the two flanges and then rotate your portafilter firmly into its locked position.

Temperature stabilization is essential for making espresso. In this regard, some espresso machines ask you to warm them up. You can do it by running hot water through their group heads.

The warmup session will help you practice the pulling process. You can also adjust the grind size and prepare for the shot.

Even so, before using hot water to warm up the group head, firmly lock your portafilter into its position.

Step 6: Pull the shot

You can pull your shot when the group head sits in a demitasse cup. When you activate the water pressure, the espresso maker will pump pressured water into the coffee grounds. Your machine may have a switch, button, or level to control the water pressure.

Pulling your shot is not enough for a perfect shot of espresso. On the other hand, you need to observe it to tell how you can do it better next time.

For instance, adjust the grind size if your coffee is too dark. In this scenario, it should be larger. Meanwhile, if the drink is too blonde, make your grind finer.

The most frequent element to address these problems is grind size. Nevertheless, changing water temperature and improper tamping methods are two other possible solutions.

Now your first shot is done. You can perform other shots of espresso by following these steps:

  • Unlock the portafilter to remove it.
  • Flip it over to let the basket face down over the knock box.
  • Knock your portafilter against the bar across the knock box to release the puck.
  • Clean the basket and portafilter using a cloth.
  • Attach the portafilter again to the group head. This step is for pre-warming it to work.

Finally, check this video to learn more tips and get a visual explanation of every step. Do not forget to practice, and you can achieve a perfect outcome soon.


So that’s what you get, a perfect shot of espresso is a masterpiece. Each element in the preparation process will help you achieve a rich and flavorful coffee.

You can make one cup of perfect espresso on your own by following the guides we have shared. Also, pay attention to every step for an ideal outcome.

Next time, when you drink espresso, pause for a while to appreciate the artwork. That’s how coffee enthusiasts drink their favorite beverage.

Thank you for reading!

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