Mastering the Portafilter

At our Coffee Academy, perfecting the art of coffee extraction, particularly with portafilter machines, is our specialty. As enthusiasts of traditional Italian coffee delicacies, like Caffè Crema and Espresso, we know that the key to a café-bar-worthy sip lies in the pressure—around 9 bar to be precise—of a lever machine—yielding the distinct crema characteristic of Espresso and Caffè Crema.

Preparations: Patience is Key

Making coffee on a lever machine is an unhurried ritual, an integral part of the coffee enjoyment process for serious coffee lovers. The compelling result—a taste reminiscent of Bella Italia—is well worth the wait. A lever needs to be switched on a few minutes prior to use, allowing enough time to heat the water for the coffee. Attach the empty portafilter and run hot water through it once to pre-warm it for the brewing process—an essential step in our method.

Determining Coffee Quantity: How much to use?

Quantifying the precise amount of ground coffee for a “single shot” or a single Espresso, requires approximately 8g of coffee grounds. Aspirants intending to prepare two Espressos in a single brew cycle should use around 16g. If you prefer your Espresso or Caffè Crema exceptionally strong, feel free to prepare your 'single shot' with 16g of coffee grounds.

Quick facts

• One lightly-heaped teaspoon of coffee powder equals 3–4g
• One lightly-heaped tablespoon of coffee powder equals 7–9g

Our suggestion is to vary the quantity of coffee several times to discover your preferred dosage.

The Ideal Grind: The finer, the better

A lever machine exerts high pressure to force water through the coffee powder in the portafilter. To compensate for the brief contact time, the coffee needs be finely ground in order to achieve a larger surface area. If you grind your own coffee, set the coffee grinder to the smallest grind setting. Coffee ground too coarsely will cause the water to run through quickly, resulting in a weak Espresso. Conversely, coffee ground too fine or tamped too hard, will cause the water to run through slowly, leading to a bitter taste in your Espresso.

The Extraction

After filling the portafilter with coffee powder, distribute it evenly by smoothing it with your finger or by lightly tapping the portafilter onto a work surface. Once the surface of the powder is smooth, apply firm yet balanced pressure using a tamper to compress the coffee powder. Next, put the portafilter in place to initiate the brewing process.

The Espresso stream should lighten in color ("blonde") after approximately 28 to 32 seconds of extraction. At this point, end the extraction process as all the flavors have been successfully extracted from the coffee powder. Continuing to draw water through the coffee could render the Espresso watery and dilute its taste.


Here are other brewing methods you might be interested in:

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