August 10, 2016

How to Make Espresso like a Barista


Have you every wondered how to make espresso on the stovetop (totally perfetto)? Espresso is the base of all great coffee creations cappuccino, macchiato, iced cofffee, you name it which is why learning to make the perfect brew at home is an amazing kitchen skill.

My heart and taste buds are absolutely 100% Italian. I grew up in an Italian family and my affair with coffee started quite young. The aroma of espresso brewing in a Moka Pot (stovetop espresso machine) is one of the most comforting smells in the world to me and my brain, which knows the sweet elixir of happiness is forthcoming.

I spent my childhood watching my Nonna brew stovetop espresso every morning. Now this is the only way we make coffee in our home. Here are my tricks on how to make espresso at home you’ll be the perfect at-home espresso barista in no time. Oh, and I always use Lavazza.

How to make espresso

Pick the Right Espresso Machine

We have a small parade of Moka Pots and each type delivers a different level and flavor of brew. For a dependable, mid-priced machine with a strong brew, we recommend this round-base model from Bialetti. We spotted this model while window shopping in Venice and couldn’t get it off our mind so ordered one immediately upon our return to Germany. We are also HUGE fans of the Alessi brand in our home (shown below). These machines are a bit on the pricier side, but the quality is the best in the market. Alessi lasts decades.

espresso moka pot alessi

Mind Your Water

When filling water into the base of your espresso maker (the boiler), don’t fill it up too high. The metal coffee filter (the grouphead) should rest on top of the boiler without water seeping through the tiny holes.

The second water rule of how to make espresso is only use the best water. If you live in an area that has particlarly hard or “funky” water from the tap, your final brew will come out tasting off. Coffee is sensitive. To combat this, simply use filtered water (a basic carbon-filter pitcher will do). This easy swap will make all the difference.

Don’t Push Down The Coffee

While it’s totally fun to do, don’t flatten or push down the coffee beans with a spoon when putting into the coffee basket. Packing extra coffee in the grouphead doesn’t make your coffee taste better. The coffee blend will naturally expand during the pressurized brewing process, so packing in the coffee loosely is critical to a true and rich Italian brew!

Skip High Heat

When I first moved to Germany, my adroable husband was a huge fan of brewing the coffee on the highest possible heat setting. Not the best approach. Not only will it totally ruin your brew but also your Moka Pot. I usually brew a touch above medium heat. It’s a slower process but the saying “good things come to those who wait” definitely applies here, and in this case it’s rich, wonderfully caffeinated things.

Lift the Lid Toward the End of the Brew

I like to lift the lid of the Moka Pot about 50 seconds before it’s finished. This let’s out all the excess steam and gives the final brew a stronger, deeper taste. If you like a weaker coffee, skip this step; the steam buildup will give your brew a milder flavor.

Biscotti or Bust

Learning how to make espresso is great, but learning to enjoy and savor it is equally important. Do as the Italians do: eat something sweet along your cup of espresso. I have a whole jar full of bite-size Italian dolci reserved for enjoying alongside every espresso. Amaretti are a universal favorite, but truly any Italian cookie or pastry will bring the perfect balance of sweet and strong to your espresso experience.

how to make espresso 3

Bonus tip: Have leftover espresso?  Did you know that a splash of espresso is the perfect ingredient for other treats: 

  • Smoothies (I love a shot of espresso in my daily peanut butter & banana smoothie)
  • Batter for Chocolate Cakes, Brownies, Cookies and even Pancakes! Trust me, everything tastes better caffeinated.
  • Tiramisu!

Do you have go-to espresso tricks? Let me know your barista ways in the comment section! I’m always happy to hear from TMJ readers.



  1. Richard Ewen

    April 1st, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Thank you for the tips. When I grind my beans for these espresso machines, what setting should I use? Finest? Medium?

  2. Kortney

    April 4th, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Hi Richard! Great to hear from you and happy to see you here. When it comes to the beans, the finer the better. The finer consistency releases all the flavors/aromas of the bean, giving you a stronger and satisfying brew. But keep in mind, the finer the grind, the more bitter the taste. Experiment with fine and superfine and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect “in-between” to satisfy your taste buds. Have an amazing, caffeinated day!

  3. Rita Brown

    April 5th, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Love your blog and your tips!

  4. Kortney

    April 7th, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Thank you!!! <3

  5. pia

    May 3rd, 2016 at 10:13 am

    thanks for this tips, I will try to make it at medium temperature tomorrow morning!
    Fash ‘n’ fudge
    Fash ‘n’ fudge

  6. Kortney

    May 20th, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Let me know how it went! Love your blog by the way, keep up the incredible inspiration!


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