Espresso at Home - How to Get Started

A Must-Have Equipment Guide for Making Great Espresso at Home

We previously did an article on tips on making the perfect espresso, and also our top 3 picks for espresso machines under $1200, but we still get asked a lot about making espresso at home, and in particular, where to even begin. In this latest topic of Gateway, we want to list out all the tools that are necessary to make a good espresso at home. 

1. Grinder

First and foremost, we suggest allocating a large portion of your budget into a good electric espresso grinder. Most people would think that an espresso machine is the key for an exceptional espresso. However, espresso will not get extracted properly without even grinds. To do so, a good grinder is needed to prevent clumps and uneven grinds. Examples for good quality home use grinder includes but not limited to Baratza Sette 270, Eureka Silenzio, Mahlkonig X54, and Mazzer Mini Electronic.

2. Distributor

Distributors ensure that the espresso grind is distributed evenly in the portafilter to avoid channeling. Espresso channeling is a common problem when making espresso, meaning that the water is finding narrow paths instead of extracting the entire coffee puck evenly. Espresso channeling causes under extraction - hence a weak and bitter espresso. Note, the size of the distributor has to match the portafilter size.

3. Tamper

Tamper ensures that the coffee puck is dense in order to avoid channeling. A perfect tamp consists of leveling the ground and correct tamping pressure. Similar to distributor, the size of tamper has to match the portafilter size.

4. Water

Magnesium and calcium are the most important minerals for coffee extraction. Therefore, distilled water and house filtered water (usually through reverse osmosis) are not ideal for coffee because they lack these minerals. We suggest using a mineralized water filter from brands like BWT.

5. Espresso Beans

Getting fresh beans for your espresso is a key factor of an exceptional espresso. Always focus on the roast date instead of the best before date. Espresso beans in general peak between 7-35 days after roasting date depending on the region, processing, and roast level.

6. Espresso Machine

If you get point 1-5 right, you should be able to pull an exceptional espresso in most of the household espresso machines. The focus should not be on the espresso machine if your budget is tight. However, if you do need recommendations, here are ours within a reasonable budget.