Newbies Starter Guide

Know how


Okay. You got your machine, or you are considering to get one.

The picture above of espresso flowing out like a nose bleed is what you want to get, and you thought it requires some fascinating skills to achieve.
Not really.




It is important to understand your coffee.  Buy beans that suit your palette.
Do not overcomplicate yourself and always let your taste buds be the judge.



Recommended Accessories

You will need a grinder and an espresso machine of course.

Below are other items that you should consider:

1. A 58mm tamper (Only applies for the machines sold at Fine Coffee Company)
2. A 350ml or 500ml milk pitcher for making milk recipes, sharp sprouts are easier for latte art
3. A thermometer for frothing milk
4. A timer
5. Espresso measuring cup

Others items that are optional but selling very well:
1. A knock box, the Bezzera drawers are highly recommended.
2. Bottomless portafilter if you need to study the flow pattern
3. 16g or 20g basket if you want to pack more powder

If you had purchased a machine from us, we should have given you some cleaning agents to start off.

Let’s begin

To help you guys, we gathered some of the better videos we found online. Methods that we think are practical, efficient and explain clearly.

If you want to ignore all the long talks and just want to watch a video?

You can refer to this video from Bezzera:


Below are more details that can help new owners.

1. Use the right water.

Before you use ANY espresso machine, be it automatic or a manual machine.

You should always ensure that you are using soft water that is free of calcium and magnesium. You will need to attach a water softener whenever possible. Do not assume that all types of water filters soften water, check with your filter supplier to be sure.

You will also need to replace your softener occasionally to make sure that they remain effective. Hard water can cause serious damages to any espresso machines and can lead to all sorts of failure. As such, it is better to prevent scale formation from happening.

To learn more about water softening: Click here.

2. Read the instructions and keep yourself safe.

Be careful of hot surfaces and steam.

If it’s a spring lever machine, always keep your head away from the direction where the lever will spring up. Be extra careful during the first use.

If nothing is holding back water in the portafilter, or it doesn’t hold enough resistance, it will spring back strongly! So set your grinder to grind much finer before using.

3. Leave your espresso machine’s pressure settings alone

We always hear from users that they wish to tune their pressure or adjust some settings because they heard from somewhere that it work better that way.

Different manufacturers and different models have different designs of hydrodynamics for their boiler. Their heat exchangers and configurations should have different algorithms or calculations to how it will thermally stabilise.

We will suggest sticking to default settings and work on calibrating the grinder to get the optimal result.

4. Purchase the right cups

If you get the wrong sizes, the proportions will be wrong.

For espresso cup size, avoid getting above 80ml capacity.
For standard lattes or cappuccinos, avoid getting above 180ml.

Coffee is not a notably hot drink; a latte temperature is only at about 55-60 degrees when it’s served and can reach room temperature in minutes. Warm thick cups do last it longer.

5. Use the right beans

Get beans that are fresh enough and packaged correctly that can protect from oxidation, humidity and light.

Always keep your bag of beans away from heat.

If you store the coffee in the hopper, dump the first few grammes of coffee every day, as those are left behind from the last use and had oxidised.

6. Set your grinder

If your extraction is not right, it’s more to do with your grind setting than anything else.

The first time a user set his grinder is always the hardest.


How to set the grinders?

Refer to the following videos:



It is also important to understand the relation between grind level and weight.

The finer is the grind setting; the lighter is the dose.

Illustrated from this video:

The video shows that the user tuned it much finer at 0:40 , the dose has a lighter weight.

It is not practical and necessary to achieve weight accuracy as it’s always changing as the condition of the beans changes from oxidation, the user should adjust accordingly which in turn affects the weight.

7. Tamping

The part most people think is hard, it’s not.

The most important thing about tamping is not the weight you put.
Is about how you keep the coffee flattened evenly.
If it is uneven, coffee will channel out from the thinner side first.

If your basket is of the right size, you should not need to do any distribution techniques to push in the excess powder.

A video on distribution:


Videos on tamping:

1. A convex tamper typically makes it easier for new users on a double basket.
2. If the puck is wet and muddy, it’s perfectly alright. This can commonly happen for very fine grind size with very little dose amount.

8. Frothing milk

If you fail in latte art, it’s alright.
Latte art is wholly for decoration purpose and won’t improve the taste.

If it’s done incorrectly, it may cause baristas to be inconsistent in the foam proportion that directly affects the taste.

Pour from high, will pour the liquid milk out. Bring your spout closer and out goes the foam.

Videos about frothing milk


Videos on some basics to latte art.


9. Taste your coffee

The most important step.

One of the biggest mistakes in learning how to make a good espresso is we judge too much on how it visually looks.
This is no wonder as 85 percent of what we see, gets messaged to the brain. As a result, there’s seemingly a huge assumption by many that espresso has to be as thick and dense as possible. This is often not true, and it might instead limit the clarity of flavours perceived, amplifying the notes too sharply and too overwhelming.

This visual representation can also be deceived by using coffee that had not degassed enough. Coffee made in this way will not have a well-developed profile of aromatic notes as the ageing process is not complete, despite an extraction of a visually viscous coffee. Usage of dark roast and robusta also creates a visually thicker substance, which might not be bad in this case.

To taste the product of your effort, we will suggest that you first smell your espresso. Give it a swirl and break the crema, the smell should be different as the crema breaks, as the aromatic notes trapped under the cream release. Then taste it, and see if it matches the fragrance and suitable to your palate. The bitterness will slowly dissipate and might leave an aftertaste of sweetness, that might linger for half an hour.

As everyone’s sensory profile is different and deteriorates as one age. The expectation for a good espresso might differ between different drinkers.
A good espresso should be balanced in bitterness and sourness, it’s round with a complex and wide spectrum of aromatic notes.

10. Tuning

If the coffee doesn’t taste right, you can adjust the grinder to transform the taste a little.
By adjusting the grind size, the amount of dose will change the flow rate of the extraction.
If it’s too bitter, consider making the grind size coarser to increase the flow rate a little, and end the extraction earlier. Vice versa if it’s too sour.

You can also adjust the duration of the shot, particularly for lattes.

11. Cleaning

Assume it’s a small usage environment.
Do the following:

Daily (Once every day)
– Backflushing with water (Except Lever espresso machines like Bezzera Strega/B2013AL)
– Wipe the shower screen.
Both won’t take you more than a minute so please spare some time to do it.
Occasionally (Once to twice a month)
– Backflushing with grouphead detergent (Except Lever espresso machines)
Once in a while (Once to twice a year)
– Use a grinder cleaner like Pulycaff Pulygrind.(Optional)
– Pull down the shower screen and gasket to clean it.
At the same time observe if there’re coffee stains. This would give you an indication if your cleaning routines had been sufficient.
If it’s for commercial usage, you will have to do it much more frequently.

Refer to the cleaning videos by Pulycaff in the products page in our website for more information.


From the number of people who came to the experimental room, and feedbacks from new users.

Most people have no issues with the espresso extraction part, except setting up the grinder for the first time.
No problem with frothing milk, except drawing latte art.
Of course, if you still have problems, you are welcome to visit our experimental room, a free academy for our users and baristas.
We teach everything except latte art.

Disclaimer: Do note that this guide may not be comprehensive enough to cover all models and all issues, specifically the spring levers and single boilers.
Users are to take the guide as a brief introduction and should still adhere to the advice listed in the user instructions.

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