How to Make Thick Espresso: The Comprehensive Guide

By Evelina •  Updated: 11/03/21 •  8 min read

The Best Answer:

Brewing a thick and creamy espresso is an art that can be achieved with top-quality coffee beans, the right grind size, and the perfect brew ratio. Thankfully for you, it can be quickly done at home as well.

When you’re craving a delicious cup of coffee, sometimes there’s nothing better than espresso. However, not all espressos are created equally; some will give you a sour, bitter taste, while others can be too watery and thin for your liking. Luckily, there is a way to make sure that it tastes exactly how you want it to every time you brew up an espresso.

Making thick espresso is not as easy as it may sound at first. However, there are a few tips and tricks that you should know before taking on the challenge of making your best shot yet!

What is A Thick Espresso?

There are many different ways to make espresso, but today I will focus on the method that yields the thickest, creamiest shot. First, I will give you some advice on extracting the perfect original espresso, just like the Italians dreamt it!

Such a thick espresso has specific characteristics:

Getting all these characteristics right in one espresso cup is not as easy as you might think. The flavor and texture of your coffee depend on many factors that have to come together to offer the perfect balance.

These factors are:

Let’s pull these factors apart one by one to understand how they affect the final result and what you can do to get it right every time.

The Quality of The Coffee Beans

To make a good cup of coffee, the most important part is using high-quality coffee beans. I mean, you can’t expect to create a unique homemade tomato sauce with unripe tomatoes.

Many factors come together when making a good cup of Joe, including roast level, freshness, and grind method. While all good aspects in making good coffee, the most important is using good beans.

Good quality coffee beans will make a good cup of coffee because they are well roasted and fresh. If you use bad-quality seeds, you run the risk of not getting the result you want. To recognize freshly roasted beans, look for the roast date on the packaging.

A traditional favorite for espresso drinks is using Brazilian coffee beans, but that’s also a matter of personal preference.

The Grind Size

The grind size for espresso should be fine but not too powdery to ensure the best taste possible. You must have an idea of how much water pressure your machine applies when grinding so that you can determine what size to use. You want enough resistance from the beans to get a good espresso.

Espresso is made up of water that’s undergone pressure, and this brings out the oils inside the beans, which have a strong taste, almost like syrup. The right grind size for espresso is somewhere between powdery and chunky wet sand consistency.

If it’s extremely coarse or overly fine, you are going to have trouble with espresso extraction. The espresso will not have a nice crema layer or may even be so fine that it’s more like brewed coffee than espresso.

If you have problems achieving the right grind size for espresso, try experimenting to find out what works best for your grinder and machine.

The Brew Ratio

To make a great cup of espresso, you need a recipe, otherwise called the brew ratio. Many baristas weigh the espresso grounds before they pull the shot to make sure they are using just the right amount of coffee and avoid their shot being too watery.

This way, they can weigh how much water went through for every gram of coffee used to calculate their brewing ratio. Of course, the weight of an espresso shot will vary depending on many factors such as temperature, pressure, and grind size. Generally speaking, you want your ratio between 35 and 40 grams of coffee for every 100 grams of water.

Tamping And Distribution

After weighing the ground coffee you need for your shot, it’s time to distribute the grounds evenly inside the portafilter and then tamp. By distributing evenly and tamping them, you are compacting the coffee bed, which improves extraction.

That’s why all baristas are using distributors and tampers. Tamping ensures the right amount of pressure is applied, which allows for even extraction. In addition, the tamper should be flat with no grooves or dimples to ensure an even compacted coffee bed.

Tamping with too much pressure will result in poorly extracted espresso and bitter notes. Not compacting enough will produce an underdeveloped or weak shot of espresso, resulting in sour and watery notes.

The Espresso Machine

Now you must be thinking about what you could do to affect your espresso machine’s performance. A few things! First off, get it nice and hot. Depending on your model, the time it needs might vary, but it needs to be on for a few minutes to reach a pleasant hot temperature.

Also, cleaning and maintenance are essential. Make sure to clean the group head and portafilter after every use because you don’t want any used grounds ending up in your new espresso shot! Keeping it clean will also have a significant impact on its lifespan.

Over-extraction vs Under-extraction: The Enemies of Espresso

One of the common problems in coffee is over-extraction or under extraction. Too much water would over-extract, resulting in a bitter taste, while too little water will result in an under-extracted cup with sour and thin flavors that do not resemble what you had ordered.

The key to getting your perfect cup of coffee is to find your sweet spot in the ratio of coffee and water. A quick way to remember the difference between the two is this:

Over-extraction: when there is too much water used during the extraction

Under-extraction: when there is not enough water used during the extraction

And that’s where the brew ratio comes in! Keep it in your mind as the recipe for your espresso, just like you need a recipe for that tomato sauce we were talking about.

As you can see, brewing the perfect and thick cup of espresso is not exactly easy-peasy. There are a few things to keep in mind! However, after some initial experimenting, you’ll know exactly what to do, and you’ll be making fantastic espresso consistently!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make creamy espresso?

How do you make thick, creamy espresso? The process begins with good extraction. A proper grind is essential for this as well. This ensures no fine particles in your final product, which could lead to an over-extracted cup instead of a properly extracted one. And don’t forget to purchase good quality beans as I mentioned above.

How can I make my espresso thicker without a machine?

Use an automatic espresso maker to create an espresso that is the perfect thickness and taste for your morning cup of Joe. The auto pump system will give you complete control over how much water goes through the grounds, allowing you to create an espresso that is perfect for all of your coffee needs.

Why is my espresso frothy?

That’s because of the rich and delicious crema that lies on top of your espresso shot. A frothy, creamy, and thick espresso is a great sign that you have made it correctly.

Why is my espresso not creamy?

This has two reasons, either over or under-extraction.

A more likely cause of under-extracted espresso is that your shot is running too slowly or using a grind size that is not fine enough for your machine. Under-extraction will give an acidic and thin-bodied taste to espresso – quite unpleasant! As always, experiment by adjusting the dose and grind size to find the right balance for your palate.

Most likely, you are over extracting if you have a creamy espresso with a sourish taste and low crema. This is because there wasn’t enough time between grinding and tamping or the tamp was too hard – both of which pack coffee more tightly in the basket.

If over-extraction occurs, it might be a good idea to shorten your brew time slightly than lengthen it as the latter can lead to over-heating the puck and poor flavor delivery.

Last Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, thank you! We hope that our guide has been helpful in some way. The next time you’re making espresso at home, feel free to give any of these methods a try and let us know how it goes. Happy brewing!

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Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.