You may think you have great espresso by the collar when you bought the best espresso machine there is, but that is not entirely true unless you also possess the knowledge and skills for pulling the perfect shot.
It is not difficult to get a good grip on skill by a few practices, while knowledge could be easily obtained by reading some of the tips I have here.
1. Beans and Grind
Always use fresh beans and grind them just before making the shot. That way the beans will not lose flavor before it goes into your coffee. Get a good burr grinder, even though it may be expensive. A good grinder will give you much better espressos than a cheap and low quality grinder.
The size of the grind should be just right for your espresso machine. For each espresso machine, the correct size of the grind may be different, so you might want to test out a couple of sizes until you find the best one for your machine.
A firm tamp is needed to get the flavor out of the beans and make strong espresso, because too loose a tamp will allow the water to pass through the grind too quickly and result in a weak taste.
On the other hand, if you tamp too hard the water might take too long to pass through and result in a burnt and bitter taste. Find the right amount of pressure to put on the tamp with a few practices.
Allow the espresso maker to heat up properly before making your first shot each time. A tip for making sure everything is hot enough to make a good espresso, is to run an empty shot through the machine before putting the grounds. This will warm the cup for the espresso as well.
Usually you stop the machine when the shot glass is full, but what if you use a different size cup? If you stop it too early, the espresso will be strong but lack the lovely crema that comes at the end; but if you stop it too late, it will be weak and comes with a bitter taste.
One shot of espresso is about 1.25 oz, and twice that for double shot. Get that right and you have a great espresso.
Well, those are a few tips for making a great espresso, and do remember to clean the machine thoroughly because a dirty espresso machine can never make a tasty espresso. Happy espresso making!