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The perfect espresso – preparation, variations and expert tips

Would you like to prepare the perfect espresso at home? Learn from real enjoyment enthusiasts what makes a real espresso . We will show you different variations, which different preparation options there are and which beans are particularly suitable. You will also receive many valuable tips. Master the preparation of your coffee and enjoy “La dolce vita” to the fullest!

Lovers of the Italian classic know that the four M rule is particularly important when preparing a perfect espresso. La macchina (machine), la macinatura (grind), la miscela (mixed beans), and la mano (hand). That sounds relatively easy at first. However, it is not that simple. This is also because taste preferences are known to be very different. Some prefer mild espresso notes, others love strong, intense notes.

To find the right strain for you, you should try a lot!

In addition to the type of bean, there are a number of factors you can influence the flavor so that you end up making the espresso you love. This includes, for example, the amount of ground espresso, the brewing pressure, the amount of water and the temperatures, to name just a few. The four M-rule should help you with this. Before we devote ourselves to the preparation in detail, let us first clarify what an espresso is.


What is an espresso?

Espresso is a type of preparation that was invented in Milan around the year 1900. During preparation, water is pressed at high pressure through very finely ground coffee, which comes from dark-roasted beans. The process results in a very strong and aromatic caffè, on which there is a dense, golden-brown foam layer – the crema – which contributes significantly to the aroma. In Italy it is simply called “Caffè”, is served in preheated, particularly thick-walled cups and is often drunk standing up in bars. Source: Wikipedia provides a few additional subtleties and a distinction from filter coffee.

In Italy, a small glass of water is often served with the espresso. This is less intended to balance the fluid balance in the body and more to neutralize your palate. In the meantime, numerous studies have shown that the consumption of espresso or coffee is part of the calculation of the daily fluid intake. So that you can optimally enjoy the fine aromas, drink a sip of water before your espresso.

Tip: You don’t have a coffee machine and still want to prepare an aromatic espresso? Here we show you 3 simple and quick ways how to do it!

Espresso variations – ristretto, corretto – what are the differences?

Ristretto and Corretto are popular espresso variants. There are now countless coffee specialties based on espresso. Have you ever heard of Dalgona coffee? We would like to introduce you to some of the classics:

  • Ristretto: A ristretto is a particularly strong espresso because it is concentrated. The “strong” (Italian) is just a single sip of coffee. The same amount of coffee powder is used for the ristretto as for a normal espresso. However, only 15 to 20 ml of finished espresso are brewed in a preheated espresso cup.
  • Espresso Macchiato: This caffè is a “normal” espresso, topped with a small topping of milk froth. Pour milk froth over the finished espresso.
  • Corretto: The corretto, the “corrected”, is a normal espresso that is refined with a shot of good grappa, brandy or amaretto in the same cup. Refine a normal espresso with a teaspoon of brandy, grappa or amaretto.
  • Doppio: As the name suggests, it is a double espresso with a volume of liquid of around 50 to 60 ml.
  • Marocchino : This variation is very close to cappuccino. The espresso comes in a large cup with milk froth and cocoa powder.
  • Caffè Lungo: Here, the espresso is simply lengthened with hot water. That means you use twice the amount of water, but the amount of grist remains the same.
  • Affogato: Translated “drowned man”. A really simple recipe, yet incredibly flavorful and refreshing. First you put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a coffee cup and let an espresso run over it. Wonderfully creamy. Can definitely replace a dessert.

What types of espresso are there?

A simple principle applies to all the different ways of preparing espresso. Hot water (88 – 94 degrees Celsius) is pressed through ground espresso powder under high pressure. Within an extraction time of 25 – 30 seconds (brewing time), 25 – 30 ml of ready-made espresso are produced. A decisive difference to the preparation of a filter coffee is the grain. For espresso you need a particularly fine grind.

  • Portafilter: The best espresso comes out of the portafilter. However, a little know-how is required to master the various setting options and adapt them to your type of espresso. The purchase is often very expensive, but portafilters are extremely durable with appropriate care.
  • Fully automatic coffee machine: Practical fully automatic coffee machines have become established in many households. Practically and at the push of a button, they not only prepare espresso, but also many authentic Italian specialties.
  • Capsule and pad machine: The capsule systems from Nespresso or Dolce Gusto also offer a wide variety of espressos. A special advantage: thanks to the sophisticated system and the special technology, you always have a consistent coffee experience. The taste comes very close to an espresso prepared with a portafilter.
  • Espresso maker: Almost everyone knows it. At least everyone in Italy. The espresso maker is in almost every Italian household. The metal pot is an icon among espresso makers. They come in an incredible variety.

After you have found out what an espresso is, what variations there are and which devices you can use to prepare espresso, we will now show you how to prepare it. We rely completely on the 4 M rule as in Italy!

The four M rule – Italian expertise for the perfect espresso

Here you will find out step by step how to prepare this delicious Italian specialty using the “Four M rule”. We have also put together many useful tips for you.

La Miscela – The Mixture

La Macinatura – The grinding

La Machina – The Machine

La Mano – The craftsmanship

La Miscela – Which espresso beans are best?

The first “M” stands for the mixture. You decide a lot about the quality of your espresso. Since coffee is a natural product, is subject to many influences and is not always available in all varieties and qualities, we at Cellini Caffè use all our skills to always be able to offer you the high quality you are used to. Basically, we pay attention to a high proportion of Arabica in our exclusive blends, as this ensures a fine, balanced taste. For some varieties we add a small amount of Robusta coffee. This gives your coffee a more distinctive character and more flavor. At the same time, Robusta ensures a thick, velvety crema that preserves the aroma when preparing espresso and pleasantly fills your palate when you enjoy it.

Use fresh espresso beans

In addition to the type of coffee, the freshness of your product is crucial. It is not the time of purchase that is decisive here, but the roasting date. Always enough fresh coffee for home or your colleagues in the office? Try our handy Cellini Lovers subscription . Choose your favorite sports, determine the delivery interval, have fresh coffee delivered regularly and save 5%.

What is the difference between espresso and coffee beans?

The main difference in the production of espresso and coffee beans is the roasting time. Espresso is roasted much longer than beans used for caffè crema or filter coffee. For owners of a fully automatic coffee machine who like to drink espresso and caffè lungo, changing beans is a bit tedious. With the appropriate settings, you can also prepare an excellent lungo with an espresso roast. Mild espresso roasts with a higher Arabica content are particularly suitable for a lungo.

Tip: When choosing the beans, make sure that they are roasted evenly and dark and are slightly shiny. The shine is caused by the escape of coffee oils and is a sign that the beans were roasted long and gently. If they’re too oily, that’s a sign the roast was too hot.

Discover your favorite strain

In the Cellini Caffè online shop you are guaranteed to find a blend to suit your taste, regardless of whether you prefer the milder coffee notes, which our Prestigio 100% Arabica offers you, or prefer a particularly distinctive aroma and strong notes . Here, for example, Crema Speciale convinces, which is drunk neat as well as with creamy milk froth a real coffee specialty. The favorite of our baristas, with whom we work in many countries around the world, is the Barista Gran Aroma . A creation made from 80% of the best Arabica coffee beans and 20% of the highest quality, washed Robusta coffee from India. The balanced and full-bodied taste of the Gran Aroma is pleasantly enhanced by the traditional and particularly gentle roasting in the drum, which every Cellini Caffè blend undergoes.

Freshly roasted espresso beans

La Macinatura – Which degree of grinding is the right one?

Espresso beans must be ground very finely . For the cult drink you need at least 6.5 g of ground espresso powder. The more intense the taste should be, the more g you should use. For a successful espresso preparation, the degree of grinding is the key factor. A wrong setting will quickly make your espresso taste watery, too bitter or sour.

What happens when you grind?

If you swear by the traditional espresso preparation like in a caffè bar, you need a coffee grinder in addition to an espresso machine. The grinder ensures that the preparation is possible at all, because the hot water can only extract the fine aromas and colorings from the bean when it is ground. During the grinding process, the coffee beans are cut into very small particles. Flavors emanate (the typical scent) and essential oils oxidize with the oxygen in the air. We recommend that you always grind the beans freshly before preparing them. If you use a grinder with a dosing container, make sure that there is only a little coffee in it, because the wonderful aromas will evaporate after a short time!

Tip: We recommend a so-called “grind on demand” coffee grinder, which is now offered by many manufacturers. These grinders portion the exact required grammage, either for one or two cups, freshly portioned directly into the filter holder of your espresso machine. Another advantage of this newer technology is that when you adjust the degree of grinding, you will immediately find the result in the sieve of your filter holder, without having to first empty the storage container of your grinder and possibly disposing of ground material that has not been ground correctly. When it comes to freshness and handling, “Grind on demad” mills cannot be surpassed.

Check the grit regularly

However, once the degree of grinding has been set, it must be checked regularly and readjusted if necessary. Freshly ground coffee quickly absorbs moisture from the air and releases it back into the air just as quickly. Humidity from the ambient air (at high humidity – bad weather), prolongs the extraction time. However, if the humidity is low, the ground coffee releases moisture and the extraction time is shortened. In the event of extreme weather fluctuations, it is advisable to check the degree of grinding more frequently. The easiest way to do this is with a stopwatch and a shot glass .

Freshly ground coffee

If the espresso runs into the cup in less than 25 seconds (at 25 – 30 ml), the degree of grinding must be finer. If, on the other hand, the coffee runs for longer than 30 seconds, the beans must be ground more coarsely. Your perfect pick-me-up succeeds when about 30 ml of liquid gets into the cup within an extraction time of 25-30 seconds.

If you don’t have a coffee grinder, Cellini Caffè also has a wide range of pre- ground espresso in 250 g vacuum packs. Our top quality Cellini Caffè Premium is bottled in 250 g cans to ensure the best possible freshness and aroma protection. Here you will find different grain sizes: suitable for preparing espresso with your stovetop pot or finely ground for your portafilter. Even espresso connoisseurs with caffeine intolerance don’t miss out. Cellini Caffè Premium Decaffeinato guarantees 100% enjoyment without caffeine. This fine Arabica blend with a low caffeine content unfolds its unique, fine aroma even without the addition of sugar.

Bialetti espresso maker

Storage tip:

We recommend storing in a cool, dry place so that the aroma is preserved to the last cup. Make sure that the pack is closed tightly again. It is less advisable to pour the ground coffee into a container. Here, the sensitive aromas already begin to evaporate for the first time. A perfect helper to keep the aroma of your espresso fresh longer are the practical Cellini Caffè freshness clips from JoeFrex.

La Macchina – Which machine makes good espresso?


Finally, the third “M” stands for the machine. A good portafilter needs appropriate pressure. The water pressure should be around 9 bar. This is the only way for the crema – the crowning glory of every espresso – to develop properly. Now it’s getting hot! Because the water temperature should be about 88 – 94 degrees. This is particularly important because this is the only way the extremely fine aroma and taste components can develop fully.

An espresso consists of almost 98% water. That is why this “ingredient” plays an important role alongside the coffee itself. Water with a pH value of 7.0 and a total hardness of approx. 8 degrees d (= degree of German hardness) is ideal for preparation. The total hardness of the water indicates the content of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. The higher the number, the harder the water. Before putting a coffee machine into operation, the water quality should always be analyzed and, if necessary, a filter used to optimally prepare the water; because the setting of the water hardness is important for the taste. Just as you use the best machine and the best coffee beans for your coffee, you should also value optimal water quality and hygienic filter technology. By the way, you can easily determine the degree of hardness with a test strip or alternatively ask the value at your local waterworks.

As you have already learned, there are a number of other ways to cook fantastic espresso in addition to the portafilter. With a smaller budget, the small espresso makers are the perfect choice. Even the small ceremony of preparation with the gentle bubbles is an experience.

portafilter machine

La Mano – what should be considered when preparing espresso by hand?


“Craftsmanship” is one of the most important disciplines when preparing espresso. Starting with choosing a high-quality type of coffee, setting your machine correctly and determining the right degree of grinding. In short, the observance of all the parameters described above.

For a cup with around 30 ml of espresso, fill the filter holder with around 7 – 9 g of ground coffee. Now use the tamper to press the grist into your brewing sieve. The contact pressure should be around 15-20 kg. Here, sensitivity is required to ensure that the ground coffee is pressed evenly and straight, otherwise the water will either flow through the coffee too slowly or too quickly.

Cellini coffee tamper

Incidentally, due to the traditional roasting in the drum , the Cellini Caffè compositions are particularly economical in consumption, which means a lower cost of goods per cup.

Before you start the brewing process, we recommend that you briefly drain some water from the brewing unit. The reason for this is as follows: Large coffee machines in particular overheat the boiler water so that the brewing temperature is too high at the beginning. By draining, the temperature is regulated and nothing stands in the way of optimal espresso preparation.

The crema should have a golden brown color and marbling. Their consistency forms a closed cover, which is retained even after stirring and closes again. You can tell whether the crema has a good consistency by adding the sugar to the crema. The sugar stays on top of it and only then sinks – more or less slowly – into the espresso. A moment for connoisseurs!

Tips for your perfect espresso


So that the little black one stays nice and hot, it is advisable to use special espresso cups . These are characterized by particularly thick cup walls. In addition, the cups should be preheated with hot water.

Freshly made espresso

Of course, you can also prepare an excellent espresso at home without a professional portafilter machine. Italians traditionally use an espresso maker . With the small, solid metal maker, you can prepare delicious coffee on any stovetop in no time at all. Cellini Caffè offers the ideal compositions for the perfect espresso preparation. Buon coffee!

Cellini Caffe espresso cup

What should an excellent espresso taste and look like?

  • balanced aroma
  • hazelnut-brown crema that is 3-4 mm thick,
  • the crema should last 3-4 minutes and seal again after stirring
  • long-lasting taste on the palate



We believe that the perfect espresso doesn’t actually exist. Above all, enjoyment has something to do with your own personal preferences. This is also evident in our homeland of Italy. Here, for example, in the north, rather mild compositions with a high proportion of Arabica are preferred, while in the south, pronounced and very strong mixtures are drunk. A few hundred roasting houses in Italy alone are the symbol of this great variety of tastes. Crucial for the success and the preparation are:

  • Coffee selection and quality : Make sure your espresso roast is of good quality. You can prepare about 120-130 cups from one kg, resulting in a cup price of only 12-15 cents, depending on the variety.
  • Preheat cups : Although espresso cups are usually made of thick porcelain, the espresso cools down very quickly in cups that are not preheated. In addition, the crema has a better stand.
  • Clean the brewing head: 3-4 seconds are enough to rinse the brewing unit with hot water. The background is quite simple: coffee residues are removed and water that is too hot is drained, so that an optimal brewing temperature is guaranteed.
  • The right amount of coffee powder : you need about 7g for a so-called “single shot”. Digital precision scales are suitable for the determination.
  • It depends on the degree of grinding : Pay attention to a fine degree of grinding, this should be such that about 30 ml of finished espresso gets into the cup within 25-30 seconds.
  • Tamping correctly : press the ground coffee evenly and with a pressure of approx. 15-20 kg in the brewing sieve of the filter holder of your espresso machine.
  • Enjoy : Put your phone aside and enjoy over 600 flavors. With a small sip of still water you can neutralize your palate and get in the mood for this moment. Complete the moment of pleasure with a piece of chocolate, a Tartufi truffle praline or delicious, soft-baked amaretti!

Did you actually know that…

… Espresso has less caffeine than other coffees

… Caffeine is completely odorless and tasteless

… you cannot boost caffeine by roasting coffee

The contact time between ground coffee and water is decisive for the release of caffeine.

What is the difference between espresso and classic filter coffee?

  • The significantly longer refinement or roasting
  • The green coffees used
  • Preparation using the water pressure process (espresso machine or fully automatic)
  • The caffeine content
  • The wholesomeness – espresso presents itself with a much more pronounced taste experience

Would you like to learn more about how espresso differs from coffee? Explained in detail in our blog post: The difference between coffee and espresso .

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