Taking the time to properly pack an espresso shot is an important (and super simple) part of making a good espresso drink. I was lucky enough to have Joe Speicher and Mark Wickens from the online coffee culture publication Ground to Grounds stop by and show me the ropes.
What you'll need:
- an espresso machine
- a porta-filter
- an espresso tamper
- coffee grinder
- freshly roasted espresso beans*
*Learn how to choose coffee beans here.
Step 1: Filling the Basket
Refer to your grinder's manual for its espresso grind setting. You may find that you need to adjust this up or down as you get more familiar with what you look for in a good shot and the type of beans you're using, as the size of the grounds affects the quality of the shot.
As you fill (or dose) the basket of the porta-filter (the metal insert with the holes in it that gets filled with grounds), try to evenly distribute the grounds inside.
Fill it until a small mountain peak has formed.
If you don't have a grinder that allows you to fill the basket this way, try to approximate this by adding small spoonfuls until you've created the same mountain peak formation.
Step 2: Leveling Off
Using your index finger, pull the coffee 'mountain' gently to one side, without pushing down, until their is no more mountain and the grounds are mostly level with the top of the basket. Gently drag the same finger back over the grounds in the other direction.
You're goal is to create an even distribution of the grounds, so that there are not any pockets or holes around the edge of the basket.