The Perfect Espresso / Cappuccino

The essentials are:

  • The grind
  • Extracting the coffee
  • Frothing the milk
  • The maintenance/cleaning of the espresso machine.

The Perfect Espresso / Cappuccino: The Grind

The correct grind is crucial. What you are looking for here is to avoid under or over extracting the coffee. The grind is so important because the size of the particles controls the length of time the hot water is in contact with the coffee. The grind is the only thing you should adjust. Ie always tamp with the same pressure and always fill the basket with the same amount of coffee.

Attach the filled handle to the group head on the espresso machine and switch on the pump. Time the extraction. It should take 20-25 seconds. If it takes a shorter time then grind finer, if longer then coarser. It should first appear as a few drops then turn into a steady stream as thick as a rats tail. The crema on the surface of the shot should be a golden brown colour and should heal readily.

Adjusting the grinder

It is necessary to rotate the mill collar in order to increase or decrease the size of the coffee grounds. Some grinders rotate left while other rotate right so you need to look for some indication as to which way to turn the collar. Look for a + or – sign. Turning towards + will coarsen the grind (allowing the liquid to flow more quickly) while towards the – will fine it up. If these symbols are absent, look for an arrow with a point at one end and a fat tail at the other. Turning toward the point fines up the grind. Beware, you might find two arrows pointing in opposite directions. One is likely to have a – or the word Fin (fine) at the sharp end and the other a + or the word Grob (course) at the sharp end. You rotate the mill collar in the direction of the appropriate arrow to achieve what you want. Many grinders have a mill-collar locking device in the form of push down button. This button needs to be depressed before the collar will move. Ensure the button returns fully to its locked position before starting the grinder.

Make only small adjustments – rotate the collar one “notch” at a time.

Adjusting the grinder from scratch

Periodically it will be necessary to completely remove the whole bean hopper and mill say for cleaning or removal of a foreign object thereby upsetting your setting. Simply make sure the threads are perfectly clean and wind the mill collar down till it touches the lower grinding surface. Now wind it back a quarter turn and grind a little coffee until it is the size of table salt grinds (or sand). Adjust as previously described.


KUSH: Barista Tips - how to use the tamperChoose a tamper with a flat bottom and one that fits the basket closely. Overfill the basket scrape the top off level and tamp with 14kg of pressure. Want to check if you have the pressure right?
Tamp on some bathroom scales. Press down on the coffee, rotate and then tap the side of the group with the tamper to dislodge any loose grounds and re-tamp this time with a twist to polish the top of the grounds. Check to see if the top of the grounds is level and smooth. If not start again. Wipe the rim before inserting in the machine to ensure a tight seal.