How to make an Italian espresso | Important steps for the perfect cup

Made by forcing nearly boiling water through finely-ground coffee beans at high pressure, an Italian espresso embodies the Italian passion for quality. Understanding the steps required to make a perfect Italian espresso coffee is vital for enjoying an authentic Italian coffee experience.

Here, we take you through how to make the perfect Italian espresso, and how to enjoy Italian espresso.

In Italy, coffee, especially Italian espresso, is more than a morning ritual; it's an integral part of the social fabric. Coffee breaks are quick, frequent, and are often taken standing up at the bar.

Italian espresso serves as the foundation for a variety of coffee drinks, such as the frothy cappuccino or the creamy latte. Each variation offers a unique way to enjoy the rich and complex flavours, and learning how to make your own Italian espresso can allow you to enjoy the beloved drink in your own home.

Find out more about the history of Italian espresso here.

Buongiorno Caffe – Morning Coffee with Carluccio’s

Buongiorno Caffe gift hamper set.

Our Morning Coffee set brings you both our Milano & Napoli coffee beans, along with a classic 3 cup Bialetti Moka pot. Buongiorno!

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How is Italian espresso made? | Important steps for a perfect cup

Making a perfect Italian espresso begins with the selection of high-quality coffee beans. Carluccio’s authentic coffee beans are all roasted in Italy, allowing you to enjoy the perfect Italian coffee experience at home.

The beans should then be ground finely, which is essential for creating the right resistance as water passes through. This ensures you are extracting maximum flavour.

Using an espresso machine

Preparation is key, and ensuring your espresso machine is clean and preheated is vital. You'll need to measure 7-9 grams of your finely ground coffee, distributing it evenly in the filter holder. Tamping is a delicate process that requires about 44 pounds of force to create a perfectly horizontal puck, vital for that rich crema and full extraction of the bean's taste.

The brewing process is where the magic happens. Start with preheating your portafilter and cup to maintain the espresso's temperature. The extraction process should take 25-30 seconds at a water temperature of 190-200°F (88-93°C), under high pressure between 9-12 bars. This high-pressure brewing not only extracts the rich oils and flavours from the coffee grounds but also produces the signature layer of crema on top of the espresso.

Alternatives such as the Moka pot can offer a similar, though not identical, coffee experience. While these methods may not replicate the exact high-pressure extraction of an espresso machine, they produce a strong and flavourful coffee that's reminiscent of traditional Italian espresso.

Read our guide What is Italian espresso? To find out more about Italian espresso.

Using a Moka pot

The coffee grind for a Moka pot should be slightly coarser than what you'd use for an espresso machine but finer than for a drip coffee maker. Freshly grinding your beans just before brewing will help to enhance the flavour.

Fill the bottom chamber with water

Fill the lower chamber with hot water up to the safety valve. Using hot water speeds up brewing and prevents the coffee from overheating, which can affect its taste.

Add coffee to the filter basket

Fill the filter basket with your ground coffee. It should be full but not pressed down or compacted, as this can affect how water percolates through the coffee, which can lead to over or under-extraction.

Assemble the moka pot

Place the filter basket inside the bottom chamber. Next, screw on the top chamber tightly to ensure no steam escapes during brewing.

Put the Moka pot on a stove over low to medium heat

The heat should be enough to gently force the water through the coffee but not so high that it scorches the coffee or causes the pot to overflow.

Listen for the gurgling sound

Stay close by as the coffee brews. You'll hear a distinctive gurgling sound as the coffee begins to fill the upper chamber. Once the sound changes and becomes more intense, indicating that most water has been forced through, remove the Moka pot from the heat. Enjoy your fresh, quality Italian espresso!

Pouring Espresso Into Cups

How to achieve the perfect crema for your coffee

Using fresh coffee beans that have been roasted within the past two weeks for optimal gas content is necessary if you are aiming to achieve the perfect crema. Other key aspects to consider include the water temperature, the coffee grind, and the pressure. If you are using an espresso machine, it should apply approximately 9 bars of pressure to effectively force water through the coffee grounds, a vital factor in crafting a rich and appealing crema. Using low to medium heat in a Moka pot can also prevent your coffee from burning, which may destroy the oils that contribute to the crema.

Read our guide to the history of Italian espresso here.

Rules to remember when making an Italian espresso

No matter how you choose to brew your espresso coffee, there are some rules that are important to remember:

  • Keep coffee beans and ground coffee in an airtight container.

  • Keep your coffee stored in a dark, cool place.

  • Heat your cups with warm water before pouring coffee.

  • Drink freshly brewed coffee immediately; never reheat. This allows you to capture its full spectrum of flavours and aromas.

Read our guide How to drink Italian espresso for more expert tips.

Enjoy coffee the Italian way with Carluccio’s

Choosing Carluccio's coffee offers a unique opportunity to indulge in the Italian coffee experience from the comfort of your own home. Carluccio's, with its commitment to authenticity and quality, sources only the finest beans, embracing the rich traditions of Italian coffee culture. Each blend is meticulously crafted to capture the essence of Italian espresso. The roasters of Carluccio’s blends roast each type of bean separately in the traditional “drum” roasters, which spin the beans constantly while surrounding them with hot air. A longer roasting time at lower temperatures avoids any burnt taste and recreates the results of the constant, careful stirring given to the pan-roasted coffee beans.

Whether you're starting your day with an intense espresso or a smooth latte, Carluccio's brings the authentic Italian café experience to your table, making every coffee moment a special occasion.

Shop our full range of coffee and hot drinks to enjoy coffee the Italian way.

Our coffee beans are roasted in Italy, bringing the authentic Italian bar experience to your table. Choose between our sweet and refined Milano blend, our rich and lively Napoli blend, or our intense, creamy and full-bodied Roma blend.

Enjoy a dark, exotic roast with Carluccio’s espresso di Napoli

Our Napoli espresso coffee has been blended and roasted in the traditional style of the master roasters of Naples, which is the darkest roast in all Italy using Arabica beans with a little kick of Robusta. This blend is rich, lively and well-rounded, presenting dark cocoa, smoky flavours and blackberry notes.

Our Napoli espresso beans can also be ground finely for use in an espresso machine. When ground coarse for use in a cafetiere, it can present flavours of cinnamon and cherry.

Napoli espresso coffee

Shop our Napoli espresso coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much caffeine is in an Italian doppio espresso?

A double espresso, or a doppio espresso, generally contains about 126 mg of caffeine, though this can vary based on the coffee blend and extraction method.

Can I make an Italian espresso without a machine?

Alternatives like a Moka pot can produce a similarly strong and flavourful coffee. Moka pots are an authentic and extremely popular way to enjoy Italian espresso – you will find a Moka pot in almost every Italian kitchen!

Is it appropriate to add milk or sugar to an espresso in Italy?

While Italians usually enjoy their espresso pure, especially after meals – the option of sugar is down to your personal preference.

Related Articles

How to drink Italian espresso

What is Italian espresso coffee?

The history of Italian espresso