How to Make the Perfect Espresso on National Espresso Day

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National Espresso Day is a day to enjoy your espresso coffee.

It is celebrated on 23 November every year in the USA. The date may differ in other countries.

I don’t know how it got started. I’ve seen some posts that suggest National Espresso Day was created by the International Coffee Organization in 2005 or even 2001. I’ve not been able to confirm this story. 

However, you and I know that this sort of thing is usually created to help people sell more coffee!

It is probably one of those marketing gimmicks to create awareness and promote coffee. Just like National Cappuccino Day and National Frappe Day!

I don’t mind how or why it got started. I don’t need to be reminded to drink espresso. I simply like to drink espresso every day of the year – not just one day. 

However, since it is National Espresso Day let’s find out more about espresso and how to make the ‘perfect’ espresso coffee drink.

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Espresso 101

What is espresso coffee?

Espresso coffee is made by forcing hot water through finely-ground coffee beans under pressure.

The word ‘espresso’ is Italian for ‘expressed’. This means the coffee is extracted quickly. The word espresso may also mean ‘made on the spur of the moment’ (stated in the book called Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergast)

I’ve read blogs that say espresso has been called the ‘King of Coffee’. I’m also unsure where this phrase comes from but it seems a bit exaggerated. 

Sure I like espresso more than any other brewing technique but I wouldn’t call it ‘King of Coffee’. 

If you did call espresso ‘King of Coffee’ what would be ‘Queen of Coffee’, ‘Prince of Coffee’, or ‘Princess of Coffee’?

OK, I’m being a bit silly but you get my drift? (This phrase may give you a hint about my generation).

The ‘King of Coffee’ is subjective and is entirely up to you. Your ‘King of Coffee’ could be espresso, drip, pour-over, or however you prefer to make it.

As you know espresso is a coffee percolation brewing method where pressured hot water is forced through finely-ground coffee to extract all the good coffee compounds that are responsible for coffee’s taste, aroma, and flavor.  

But espresso isn’t just any type of coffee. Here are some facts that are important to know about espresso:

  • Espresso tends to have more caffeine per volume than other coffees
  • Espresso is thicker and more concentrated than most other types of coffee drinks
  • Espresso is usually served in a small cup called a demitasse (French for ‘half-cup’) which has a volume of about 90 ml. A single shot (or ‘solo’ in Italian) of espresso is about 30 – 40 ml ml and the ‘extra space’ in the cup helps you to smell and appreciate the aroma volatiles.
  • Espresso has three components: the crema (sweeter top foamy layer), the body, and the heart (the bitter part of the espresso shot that settles to the bottom)
  • Stir your espresso to combine the three layers and balance the flavor of the espresso shot
  • You need to use appropriate equipment to brew a good espresso
  • Espresso coffee is a percolation technique for brewing coffee
  • Espresso uses a pressure of about 9 to 15 bar to extract the coffee from the coffee grounds. However, 9 bar is usually enough pressure.
  • Espresso uses water at a temperature of about 90 °C or 190 °F
  • The four common serving sizes of espresso are espresso (about 40 ml), ristretto (about 20 ml), doppio (about 60 ml), and lungo (about 90 ml).
  • An espresso is ‘poured’ or ‘pulled’ from an espresso machine
  • A barista may use the term ‘length’ to describe the brew ratio which seems silly because length seems to imply time.
  • Many coffees use espresso as their ‘base’ and then add milk, water, or other ingredients

Basic Equipment needed to brew a Good Espresso

The basic gear you need to make a good espresso is…

  • A coffee bean grinder. Preferably a burr grinder to give you the finest grind. The burr grinder may be conical or flat.
  • A balance to weigh your ground coffee and also weigh your output coffee liquid (if you want to measure brew ratio)
  • A source of good quality water
  • A good quality espresso coffee maker that has good temperature and pressure regulation 
  • Different sized portafilters to accommodate different sized espresso pours. The portafilters are usually included with the espresso machine when you buy your espresso machine.

You also need the skill to pour a good espresso. You can learn by yourself through trial and error, physically attend an offline course, or attend an online course such as the Ninja Barista Course.

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Very Brief History of Espresso 

The first commercial espresso machine was invented in 1901 by Italian Luigi Bezzara. 

His machine was a ‘complicated affair with assorted spigots, handles, and gauges, all topped with a resplendent eagle’. It is was something like the machine in the image below

Bezzera espresso machine
Bezzara Espresso Coffee Maker Wikipedia

A guy called Desiderio Pavoni had the foresight to recognise the potential of the machine and bought the patent from Bezzara in 1903. Pavoni started manufacturing one machine a day from a small workshop in Milan.

Of course, since that day espresso has become one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world.

Why Celebrate National Espresso Day?

So, why celebrate National Espresso Day? The answer is simple: Espresso is delicious.

It’s strong, smooth, and satisfying. It has a distinct flavor that can’t be replicated. And if you’re looking for a way to wake up in the morning, espresso is the perfect drink.

But not just that! Espresso also has numerous health benefits. It has been linked to decreasing the risk of Parkinson’s, lowering blood pressure, and is high in antioxidants.

We’re not saying you have to drink espresso all day, but it’s certainly worth a least drinking one espresso to ‘celebrate’ National Espresso Day!

How to Celebrate National Espresso Day

Drink Some Espresso!

This would seem an obvious way to celebrate National Espresso Day.

Either make it yourself at home or take a quick trip to your favorite good coffee place!

You can even toast to the inventors of espresso!

If you would like to celebrate National Espresso Day, there are a number of different options for you to choose from.

Espresso enthusiasts can enjoy a shot of espresso with or without a favorite creamer and sweetener.

Some people may want to try a specialty coffee, like a vanilla-bean latte, which is made with espresso and milk and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon.

You can also enjoy an iced Americano or a Caffe mocha.

In Italy, some people celebrate by drinking their national beverage of espresso, while others might enjoy a cappuccino or caffe corretto, which is made with brandy.

You can also enjoy espresso in an Italian dessert like tiramisu, which is made with espresso, mascarpone cheese, sugar, and cocoa powder. 

One of the most famous types of milk espresso is a cappuccino. It is usually made with espresso and steamed milk that is poured into a cup and topped with foam.

In the United States, the most popular type of espresso is the mocha, which is made from espresso, chocolate sauce, and steamed milk.

Here are some other ideas from other top blogs from around the ‘net…

Celebrate National Espresso Day with deals at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Cafes

Oftentimes cafes will have a promotion on National Espresso Day and may even offer a free espresso.

You need to check out your local Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McCafe, or other popular coffee spots. 

Try a Different Kind of Espresso Blend

“Go beyond that generic cup of Starbucks and locate a third-wave coffee house that will offer small-batch roasted coffee beans where the origin of the beans is traceable to the individual farm.

You will get a distinct flavor that is often specific to the growing region of the coffee bean. The barista should be able to give information on what the flavors of the espresso should be and how they will manifest themselves in the cup.” Source:

Try Cooking with Espresso

“Espresso goes well in more than just a tiny little cup! It can be used in a variety of recipes that are enjoyable at any time of day.

Mocha Mousse. This delicious pudding-like dessert is made from whipping cream, egg whites, sugar, dark chocolate, espresso, and a few other ingredients. Whip together and serve with decadent cream on top.

Espresso Brownies. Just like regular brownies but, of course, better. These include shots of espresso that give the brownies mocha-like flavor.

Chocolate Espresso Bean Cookies. Make regular chocolate chip cookie dough but substitute the chocolate chips with chocolate-covered espresso beans. Yum!” Source:

Buy an Espresso Machine for Home Use

If you haven’t invested in a good espresso machine yet then now is a great time to consider getting one. We’ve mentioned a few above that you may like to consider.

Black Friday falls conveniently around National Espresso Day and there are lots of bargains. 

Just check out some of the best coffee Good Friday Deals today!

We also like the Gevi for its simplicity and flexibility. It can brew espresso from ground coffee and from K-cup pods!

Espresso all around!

“If you work in an office or around other people, consider bringing espresso for everyone. Depending on how many coworkers you have, this could be prohibitive, but it’s a great way to get people interested in small offices. The best part is this works equally well for espresso lovers and non-espresso drinkers. Free espresso could be the gateway to the world of espresso for someone that wouldn’t spend money to try it themselves but will gladly accept a gift.” Source:

Donate espresso to local workers.

“Police, firefighters, hospital workers, and EMTs are all hard workers who often work on little to no sleep and would definitely appreciate some extra espresso. If you have a favorite coffee shop that makes killer espresso, consider stopping by your local police station or hospital and handing out some free espresso. You’ll be simultaneously spreading the word about National Espresso Day, giving your favorite coffee shop some publicity, and helping to make the day a little easier for hard-working people.” Source:

How to make the perfect espresso

OK, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect espresso’ because personal taste is subjective. Yes, you have professional coffee tasters who make a career judging ‘good’ from ‘less good’ coffee. However, their taste may not match your taste. You may find perfectly acceptable and even ‘good’ tasting coffee that a professional taster would not rate highly. Not unlike tasting wines!

Does it matter? Not really. You choose to make coffee to suit your own taste and this is what I mean by the ‘perfect’ espresso.

Nevertheless, there are seven important ‘links to the chain’ of making espresso to suit your taste and these are…

  1. Good quality coffee beans
  2. Coffee grind
  3. Coffee dose
  4. Brew ratio
  5. Tamping
  6. Temperature
  7. Extraction time

Good Quality Coffee Beans

Obviously, you need to start with good-quality roasted coffee beans.

Hopefully, good quality will also be your favorite flavorsome coffee beans roasted to your taste. The three general categories of roast are light, medium, and dark.

Of course, it is your espresso coffee so you make it to your taste!

You can also roast your own raw (green) coffee beans.

Coffee Grind

You need to grind your coffee beans to a fine consistency with a handheld burr coffee grinder or a coffee grinding machine.

If the coffee grind is too fine then water will have a long contact time with the coffee grounds, over-extract the coffee, and result in a bitter cup of coffee.

If the coffee grind is too coarse then water will flow past the ground coffee, have a short contact time with the coffee grounds, under extract the coffee, and result in a ‘weak’ cup of coffee.

Weigh the ground coffee before loading the portafilter. The more coffee you need the larger the portafilter basket.

Coffee Dose

The coffee dose is the weight of ground coffee you use to fill the portafilter basket. A portafilter is a contraption containing a ‘basket’ containing your coffee and locks into the group head of an espresso machine. If you want to know what these things look like then read the post on the Top 10 Best Selling Home Espresso Coffee Maker Machines

The weight of coffee is part of the equation to determine your brew ratio (next section). Having a lot of coffee, presumably to make a strong coffee, isn’t necessarily the right way to go.

A larger dose will allow you to brew more espresso; a smaller dose will yield less.

When you brew coffee you extract all the good (and potentially bad) flavors, aromas, and components of coffee.

If you increase the dose (weight) of coffee, then it takes more work to extract all the necessary components to make good coffee. For example, you may need to carefully experiment with temperature, pressure, tamping, and brew time to get your ‘perfect’ espresso with a large dose compared to a smaller coffee dose.

In most cases, your dose will be determined by the size of the portafilter basket.

Coffee to Water Brew Ratio

You should use an appropriate coffee to water brew ratio.

In coffee brewing terms, the “brew ratio” refers to the percentage of ground coffee beans to water added during extraction. It’s used to measure the extraction quality to get the best out of the bean. A brew ratio of 1:2 means that 1 gram of ground coffee would produce 2 grams of extracted coffee liquid.

The following brew ratios are often suggested…

Espresso 1:2 brew ratio

Ristretto 1:1 brew ratio

Lungo 1:3 or 1:4

A common brew ratio for an espresso is to use 18 grams of ground coffee in a double basket to give 36 grams of espresso liquid.


Using about 30 pounds of force is usually recommended to tamp the coffee into the portafilter. However, If tamping is firm and consistent, the subsequent extraction should be good.

After tamping, insert the filled portafilter into the espresso machine’s group head and start the extraction with hot pressurized water.


The temperature of the water is one of the main factors in determining the extraction of your ground coffee.

Hot water will extract more components from ground coffee compared with cold water.

You can alter the temperature if your espresso machine comes with that utility. Three temperature ranges can be used to extract coffee based on the roast of the coffee you use for espresso.

  • Dark roast extraction temperatures 85 to 95 C
  • Medium roast extraction temperatures 88 to 92 C
  • Light roast extraction temperatures 90 to 95 C


There are roughly three stages in coffee extraction and you may be able to see these as your start the pour. All of these stages occur during one pour. 

The first stage is a pre-infusion (the time between pressing the extraction button and seeing the coffee start to pour). The pre-infusion takes about 3-5 seconds. The coffee will have a caramel color because it is essentially an emulsion of oil droplets.

The second stage is the main pour and is composed of suspended solids. It will be brown/black and have a ‘mouse tail’ shape during the pour. 

The final stage is a layer of gas bubbles or foam that forms the crema.

It is important to time the pour according to the desired brew ratio. Generally, extraction takes about 20 to 30 seconds. 

How Does James Hoffmann Make Espresso Coffee?

James Hoffmann is an English barista, YouTuber, entrepreneur, coffee consultant, and author. James won the World Barista Championship in 2007 and has grown his career in coffee ever since. (Wikipedia).

We can’t all be professional connoisseurs like James Hoffmann, but we can take some tips from him on how to make a good espresso…

How I Make Espresso: Tools and Techniques


Espresso can be served alone or in combination with many other ingredients. Consequently, there are many different variations of espresso drinks around the world.

Espresso has become an important part of society. It started in Italy but has grown to become one of the most popular coffee drinks in the world. 

Espresso even has its own ‘National Day’. Who cares if this National Day was invented to promote or sell coffee? As long as I can drink espresso any day – I’m happy!

National Espresso Day Jigsaw Puzzle

Try our jigsaw puzzle!

How to Play

  • Click and drag the pieces around with your mouse to complete the picture
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  • Check the time you took to complete your puzzle


Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World


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