There’s always room to up your game, and there are quite a few additional tools that can help you make the best espresso you can. These ones are all tools you’d employ before the brew, setting the stage for the perfect extraction.
A vacuum canister is a great way to store your coffee beans. By vacating the chamber of all air every time you close it, the Fellow Vacuum Canister slows down the degradation of all those flavorful oils and chemical compounds inside your (hopefully locally roasted) favorite coffee beans.
This is one of our top picks in our Best Coffee Grinders guide, and it’s a good choice for espresso. Espresso requires a fine and consistent grind, the likes of which you can easily get out of a burr grinder. Just be sure to get in there and give your burrs a sweep now and then—maintenance which the OXO makes easy, with a bean bin that snaps apart without any fuss.
Nothing will improve your espresso brewing like a bottomless portafilter. Not because it will make your coffee better, it’ll make you better by making you more aware of your mistakes and inconsistencies. Bottomless portafilters are finicky, and when your grind is off or you’ve over-tamped your grounds, the bottomless portafilter lets you see that in how the espresso coats the bottom of the filter and pours down into the cup. Be sure to double-check the circumference on your espresso machine’s group head though (the place the filter attaches). There are a number of standard sizes, so you need to make sure you order the right one. The most common are 53 mm and 58 mm, and almost every bottomless portafilter comes in each of these sizes.
Tamping mats are just a thick, soft piece of rubber or silicone, but they make it much easier to maintain a consistent tamping pressure (and a clean tamping space so you won’t stain your kitchen table with coffee or scratch it with the bottom of your tamp). You can also use a folded kitchen towel, but these are easy to rinse off.
Once you put your grounds into your portafilter, the next step is giving them a good, even tamping. You want to use about 30-40 pounds of pressure, and while you can use a scale to determine exactly what that feels like, I find it’s better to just press with your upper body, then extract a shot and see how it went. If it’s too bitter, you tamped too hard, if it’s too watery you didn’t tamp hard enough. A distributor (also called a leveler) makes it easy to get an even surface for you to tamp, and this one has a tamp on one side and a distributor on the other so you can level off your beans, then flip this tool over and give ’em a good tamp. Just make sure you get one that fits the circumference of your machine’s portafilter!
These are my favorite shot glasses in general, but they’re also great espresso shot glasses—tall and narrow enough to allow a wonderfully aerated crema to form on top, and made of tempered glass so they can stand up to the heat. They’re also great for serving up smaller drinks like macchiatos—a shot of espresso with a dollop of froth on top.