Good coffee at home

The content of this blog was going to be mainly about IT and cybersecurity. And yet, we already have the first post that deviates from these core topics. The people (my friends and co-workers) have spoken. “When will you upload a post about coffee?” they say to me often these days. Well here it is.

People who know me know that I am a coffee lover. But not one of those who just drink coffee every day. I am one of those coffee nerds who buy it in very specific stores, grind it with a machine and balancing the coarseness of the grind, weigh it with a scale, extract it with a bottomless portafilter,…

So, a total nerd, but without exceeding. Lately I have seen videos on the Internet of people with thousands of euros machines around the house, with a kind of rear-view mirrors (rear-view mirrors!) to see how the coffee falls without bending their heads (can someone be more loser?), with super fancy cups and using up to 5 stupid gadgets to distribute the coffee homogeneously in the filter.

No. I’m not like that. I can go to a restaurant and tolerate a very (very!) bad coffee. I’m not going to complain or cry because it’s not a quality bean, imported from a specific country, and because it wasn’t extracted using the right pressure. In fact, I think I know more than I put into practice, basically because I don’t want to spend huge amounts of money for each espresso and because there is a difference between being a healthy sybarite and an insufferable sociopath.

I want this post to serve as a guideline to make good coffee at home, specifically a good espresso. How good? Well, just good. Not the best, but enough to make what you used to drink seem like drinking a cigarette shake.

Specialty coffee

The first thing to get into this world is to know what good coffee is.

I’m going to Italy this summer. I hope to taste good coffee!

You’re not going to taste good coffee in Italy, asshole. What you have in Italy is a very widespread coffee culture, but the coffee in Italy generally sucks. Because it’s from Italy? No. Because in any country the coffee generally drunk in bars, restaurants and cafes is a poor quality coffee, meant to be cheap and served massively. In Italy the brand by preference is Lavazza and each country usually has a counterpart brand of shitty coffee. You may like this shitty coffee and you may even pretend to like it, like that 300-euro glass of whiskey you have been offered to presume how expensive and good it is, and yet it feels like drinking a glass of gasoline. If you like it, you like it, and I’m not going to judge you (at least you’re not going to notice it).

Good coffee is called specialty coffee. The surname “specialty” is quite symptomatic because it is to separate it from what you would drink in a normal coffee shop (like those in Italy). Specialty coffee is coffee of very good quality. How is this quality measured? There are meters, such as that of the Specialty Coffee Association, that score on a scale of 100, in which a score above 80 is indicative of specialty coffee.

Let’s be pragmatic. Specialty coffee usually has a journey, which goes from the plantation, through the roaster, until it reaches either the specialty coffee shop or the customer. Yes, I know you’re one of those experts and you’re pissed off because I’m simplifying things. Fuck you. What the novice has to understand is that this journey is done in a very selective way to reach a good bean. The soil, the type of plant, the climate, etc. Impart a certain structure to the green bean. The roaster uses one or another roasting and washing technique, with certain temperatures and times, to achieve a roasted bean that, added to the previous phase of cultivation, will achieve a bean with certain notes (flavor).

As important as the bean is its extraction. To make coffee, basically. There are many methods: with an espresso machine, V60, filter, Aeropress, moka (italian coffee maker), chemex, etc. Each method is different and requires more or less materials, dexterity, precision and so on…. I am going to focus on espresso for several reasons. First, because it is the method I have applied the most myself. Second, because an espresso extracts the flavors to the bean at a level that all other techniques fail to do. Finally, although it may be controversial, a decent espresso at home can be made with equipment that is not too expensive (I dare not say definitively whether it is expensive or cheap, because each person has his or her own budget and particular circumstances).

Now. You don’t want to (nor should you) get into this world by going all out. For this reason, in the following section I am going to mention very briefly a couple of techniques so that you can begin to taste good coffee and then decide if you want to start spending money.

Anyway, before making good coffee at home, I recommend that you look for a specialty coffee shop in your city or wherever. Make sure that on the door or by the coffee shop it says “specialty coffee”, that it has modern furniture, a minimalist appearance, shelves with pots to make coffee and bags of coffee, jazz and all those things that you usually see in a place like this.

"Sivak & Partners specialty coffee at Odessa, Ukraine"

Taste coffee there and you’ll notice a big difference from the tar pit you called “coffee”. And if you don’t notice it, go to the doctor to have your tongue checked. What you’re going to notice is a certain discomfort in your pocket, in the wallet area, because it’s usually a more expensive coffee.

Good coffee on a budget

In my humble opinion, the two best and easiest ways to start making and tasting good coffee at home are the moka and the V60.

The first thing you need to do is to buy good beans. To do this you have to look for a specialty coffee shop (usually online) and buy the one that best suits your taste and price. In the section on how to make espresso I detail (but not much more) this topic. Buy it already ground for moka (or italian coffee maker) or for V60 (or filter), options that almost all stores offer.

Next, you need water that is not tap water. Use bottled water, with a neutral taste (almost any bottled mineral water), because depending on its composition, the water generates different reactions when it comes in contact with the coffee, apart from passing on the “taste” of the water itself (for example, lime).

Finally, you need the material for the moka or the V60.


The moka or italian coffee maker is simple and is divided into 3 parts.

"Moka pot"

I am not going to explain its concept, because there is a lot of information on the Internet. What I am going to explain are the steps to do it right:

  1. Pour water into the water tank (or reservoir) of the moka, covering up to the safety valve.
  2. Put that water to heat, while you do the next step (the “while” is not necessary, but it saves you time).
  3. Put coffee in the moka basket, without pressing it and making sure it is aligned with the edges. My tip is to make a mountain and then use something straight (like the back of a knife) and run it across the surface to dump the leftover coffee into the bag or container, so as not to waste it.
  4. When the water in the tank is very hot, but not boiling, remove the tank from the heat (with a cloth or gloves so as not to burn yourself) and assemble the whole moka as usual.
  5. Put it back on the fire with the lid open and wait for the coffee to start to rise and come out. When it starts to rise, you can lower the heat to the minimum.
  6. Before it starts to splash (you will know this with experience), close the lid and remove it from the heat. If it is very hot and splashing a lot, you put it under the faucet (cold water), aiming the jet to the part of the tank.

And that’s it. The two keys: preheat the water before assembling the moka (not necessarily on the stove) and fill the basket to the top, without ever pressing the coffee.


The V60 is a way to make coffee using a 60 degree funnel or cone (hence the name) and fine filters. A picture will save me the description:


The idea is to put a filter in the cone, ground coffee in the filter and pour hot water over the coffee. Obviously, this should not be done arbitrarily. There are many techniques, of which the best one seems to me this one proposed by James Hoffman in a very didactic way. I take this opportunity to recommend his channel, from which you will learn infinitely more than I can teach you.

As for the material, I recommend that the cone is made of plastic, because it heats up faster. You do not need a water heater or kettle, but you do need a container or pitcher with a spout so that the water is channeled and goes well oriented to where you want it to go. You can boil the water wherever you want and then pour it into the spouted container.

Good espresso at home

I said we need two things to make specialty espresso: good beans and equipment. I’m going to add another variable: technique.

The bean

About the good bean, I won’t go into it too much. Search the Internet for “buy specialty coffee” or “best specialty coffee in my country” and do some research. The prices will scare you, but that’s the way it is. I am not going to give you a reference price, because it varies from country to country. I don’t want to put a reference store either because I don’t want to do free advertising. On the Internet there is a lot of information and if not you always have my contact.

You have to buy the grain not ground, because if not the rest of the technique that I am going to explain to you is useless. That is, buy the whole grains to grind them according to the needs of the extraction. If you buy the already ground version for espresso, you won’t be able to adjust the grind thickness, one of the most important variables in the process. You may see the word “blend” associated with a type of coffee. This simply means that it is a mixture of different types of beans, specially selected to achieve a special flavor experience.

It is best to store it in the bag that comes with it when you buy it, since it usually has a valve that lets the gases released by the roasted coffee escape and prevents humidity from entering. Ideally, you should take out of the bag what you are going to grind and extract at the moment. However, the pragmatic thing to do, which is what I do, is to fill the tank of the grinder (if it has one) with enough coffee for a few cups. And as for storage time, it is best not to keep it for more than 2 months.


You need at least these items:

Since this is a beginner’s guide, I assume that no one is going to buy a top-of-the-line machine. I don’t have one of those and I don’t need one. If I want the best coffee, I go to the specialty coffee shop and that’s it. The minimum that a machine has to have is the ability to adjust the extraction time, the temperature and the strength with which the water comes out. There is a range of coffee makers of this style, almost all in the same price range. They usually have 3 buttons: espresso, double espresso and steam wand. I know I had said I didn’t want to promote anyone, but a good example seems to me to be the Delonghi Dedica, which by the way is the one I have. There are many that are similar, both in design and functionality. Then there are others a little better like the Breville Barista Express, but they are more expensive. Those of the style of the first one are the minimum I recommend to make good coffee. The expert who is reading this post will cry because they are bad machines in his opinion, but against him I will say that with a Delonghi Dedica I have managed to pull espressos of a quality very similar to what you can find in a specialty coffee shop.

"Delonghi Dedica"

Next is a portafilter and a special basket. The one that usually comes with the machine is a portafilter with a pressurized basket and does not usually support other types of baskets. The pressurized basket is used for the illiterate plebs to make coffee without worrying about the thickness of the grind; basically, it is used to buy ground coffee, put it in and it works. This type of basket does not allow for much adjustment in the technique and, for this reason, it is better to buy a non-pressurized basket, normally accompanied by a portafilter suitable for that basket. There are bottomless portafilters which allow you to see the spectacle of the coffee being extracted, but can also splash the surrounding area with coffee drops. Others have grooves or pipes, and are the most common in coffee shops. Make sure that the diameter of the basket and the portafilter is suitable for your machine. As for the amount of coffee that the basket can hold (not to be confused with the diameter), I recommend a double size basket (14-20g).

"Bottomless portafilter"

The adjustable grinder can be electric or manual. If you don’t want to be turning a crank like an idiot, you’d better invest in an electric one. They are available in higher and lower quality and in various price ranges. The only thing you have to be sure of is that you can adjust it to grind very, very fine. They are often described as espresso grinders and some are not intended for espresso but are “espresso capable”. Look for reviews out there to verify that they can indeed grind very fine for espresso before you spend money. Make sure it looks like this one:

"Coffee grinder"

A good tamper is essential, because the tampers that comes with commercial machines are usually bullshit. You can find packs of pressers and mats at your trusted chinese online store. That the presser is robust is enough. Here’s an example:

"Coffee tamper and mat"

Finally, the scale. This allows us to weigh the quantities of coffee that we put in the basket, and that which we extract during the extraction. It is the way in which we measure the input-output quantity ratio, fundamental in a good coffee (I explain it in the next section).

"Coffee scale"

If you have read the section on moka and V60, you will already know that mineral water, usually bottled water, must be used. If you use tap water, poor quality or strong tasting water, you’re going to ruin your coffee. Take my advice.

An indicative price range for what I think you should spend on all this stuff might be around 400-600€ total, although it will vary with the country, inflation and all that shit. The machine is the most expensive (200-300€), followed by the grinder (80-150€). The rest is relatively cheap.


Good extraction is composed of a good technique and a good adjustment of variables. By technique I mean the set of actions you perform to pull a shot of espresso, once you have equipment and beans. The adjustment of variables refers to playing with quantity, time, temperature, pressure… and is known in the coffee world as dialing.


The first thing to do is to grind coffee. To measure the amount of coffee you pour, you must put the container into which the coffee is going to fall on the scale, calibrate it (set it to zero) and grind coffee and weigh it until you have the desired amount. You understand, don’t you? I use to grind, weigh, grind, weigh and so on until I have my desired grams. The pros, those who have good (and very expensive) grinding machines that take out the same amount that you pour into them, weigh the coffee beans and pour them into the grinder. But we poor people can’t do that because normally our cheap machines retain coffee and don’t get the same amount of coffee that you pour into them.

We already have X grams of coffee in the basket. There will probably be an irregular mountain that we have to fit in order not to leave the table without coffee. The pros use several gadgets: a cylinder that puts higher walls to the basket, a distributor, a lump remover… You don’t need any of that. Some machines come with such a cylinder and if not, you can make it yourself (it’s like making a cilinder). To eliminate the lumps, you can stick several pins in a cork. To distribute the coffee well I use the same tamper, putting it on top of the mountain and rotating it several times without pressing (just letting the weight of the tamper act). When the coffee is well distributed in the basket, we press it. We put the portafilter on a flat surface and press the tamper without excessive force and turning it like a doorknob.

Now we plug the portafilter into the coffee maker. Put the cup under the portafilter and the scale under the cup. Calibrate the scale (to zero) with the cup on top (to measure the output). We press the button to pour the water and that’s it. This is the technique.


Dialing handles many variables. I am going to focus on those that I consider essential and sufficient to adjust a good extraction. These variables are:

“What about pressure?” The expert will say. Machines in the price range I have defined for beginners have fixed or very little variable pressure and usually well below what is usually required for a good espresso (9 bar). It is possible to hack the machine, but that’s a long shot. In the type of machines I have recommended, you can adjust the force with which the water comes out. No matter which of these cheap machines you have: set it to the maximum.

The amount of coffee is linked to the proportion, so I treat them at the same time. The input-output ratio refers to the proportion between the grams of ground coffee that we put in the basket (input) and the grams of liquid coffee that will end up in the cup (output). The basic proportions are as follows:

What does this mean? For example, if I put 10 grams in the basket, the espresso that ends up in the cup will be at least 15g and maximum 25g.

In the case of this “guide” for dummies, I recommend adding between 14 and 20 grams of coffee, depending on your preference and the size of your basket. With the type of machines I have recommended, it is best to never brew more than 18g. An ideal range for me is between 15 and 17 grams.

Let’s take, as an assumption, that we want to extract 16 grams (a good starting point IMHO). As an input-output ratio, I recommend starting with 1:2. According to this assumption, we should end up with 32g of coffee in the cup. We will worry about adding milk later (although if you are going to add milk, i.e. make a latte, it is better to pull a double espresso).

The next most important variable to guide us is extraction time. An espresso (double espresso too) made with a machine should be extracted in between 25 and 35 seconds, with for me the ideal being between 25 and 30 seconds. That is, from the time we hit the button until the water flow is finished, 25-30 seconds should pass. There is usually a pre-infusion time of about 5 seconds, but we are not interested here since this type of machine does not usually allow to configure it. The extraction time, in machines of the type I have recommended, is usually programmed by holding down the extraction button. The idea is that you hold it for 25-30 seconds and then leave it programmed.

Remember this golden rule:

A good espresso is extracted at a ratio of 1:1.5 to 1:2.5 in 25-30 seconds.

Knowing this, we already have our first challenge: to extract 32g having put in 16g, in a time of 25-30 seconds. If the reader knows basic algebra, he will have noticed that we are missing at least one unknown that serves to make the 16g end up in 32g in 25-30 seconds, since, unless it coincides by pure coincidence, this is not going to happen by magic.

Actually, all the factors that contribute to extraction could act as unknowns (this is what dialing is all about), but following the order I have established, the unknown that concerns us is the grind thickness. This is adjusted with the grinder, which usually has a little wheel with a metric and when turning it we adjust it to grind finer or coarser. The finer, the more surface of the coffee touches the water and the more difficult it is for it to pass; inversely, the thicker it is, the more fluidly the water passes through. But this cannot be arbitrary, since good coffee extraction depends on the contact of the water with the ground coffee. For this reason I have said that, although this is the order we are following, it is a particular order, not a universal one, since all factors contribute to the extraction of good coffee. Leaving philosophy aside, what we will do is adjust the thickness of the grind until we extract 1:2 (16g-32g) in 25-30 seconds. This is done by limiting. First we grind to a certain thickness. If in 25-30 seconds more than 2 times what we have put in falls out (>32g in our case), then next time we grind finer. If you press the button and almost no coffee drops come out, you have gone too fine, my friend. Is that understood? You don’t have to be obsessively concerned with accuracy. If you get 1:1.9 (30.4g) or 1:2.3 (36.8g) you’re not going to die.

The last variable is temperature. The general rule is that the darker the roast, the lower the temperature; the lighter the roast, the higher the temperature. You can adjust the temperature on this type of espresso machine, although, as with the pressure, it is usually low on these “cheap” machines, so set it to high. Hey, you’re in luck, because you’re on the Internet, wisdom on the net! I’ve got a hack for you! You can increase the normal temperature of the machine with a simple trick. The idea is that when the machine heats up and is ready to pull an espresso, it can still get hotter when you hit the steam wand button for the milk, because this process requires more temperature. Press that button. What happens now is that it won’t let you pull espresso, because the machine thinks it’s too hot. Don’t worry! Turn the machine off completely. Now turn it on and most likely it will let you shoot an espresso, but in this case the water will be very hot. We are simply fooling the machine. The trick works on many machines like the Delonghi Dedica, but maybe not on all. Keep in mind that as the temperature increases, the coffee expands more and the formula that worked for you without the hack may not get a drop now, because the coffee has expanded so much that it becomes blocked (if this happens, you will have to grind coarser, according to the principles we have established).

Write down the formulas for good extractions:

With coffee of store X and type Y, Z grams, ground to thickness Q, for W seconds

Finally, it is often said that before drinking espresso (not a latte or any type of coffee that has more than coffee in it, such as milk), you should stir the coffee a couple of times with a spoon or whatever utensil. I think this is to mix the cream and the rest of the coffee.

Anyway, we already have everything we needed to make a specialty espresso. Milk steaming and latte art are things I won’t go into here. If you like latte, just pour hot milk into that espresso (this will horrify the coffee expert).