What Is a Shot of Coffee and How to Make One?

According to a 2020 report from the National Coffee Association or NCA, the average American coffee drinker ingests three cups per day. Some people can get by on just a shot of coffee, as it’s usually highly caffeinated. What is a shot of coffee, and how do you make one?

A shot of coffee is a small, highly caffeinated, and strong-tasting dose of coffee. To make a shot of coffee, you need an espresso machine. Grind the coffee, pack the grounds, tamp them, and then brew a shot.

If you’ve always wanted to brew a shot of coffee, this guide will tell you everything you need to know. Ahead, we’ll tell you what goes into this small amount of coffee and how much caffeine it has, so make sure you keep reading! 

What Is a Shot of Coffee? What Is It Called?

When we talk about a shot of coffee, exactly what kind of beverage are we referring to?

A shot of coffee is commonly referred to as espresso

The espresso hails from Italy. The drink requires boiling water to roughly 190 degrees Fahrenheit, then grinding coffee beans to a very fine texture.

The beans are put through high pressure between nine and 10 bars, which is roughly 130 to 150 pounds per square inch of pressure or PSI. 

Making espresso has three dispersed phases in all. The first phase is when the oil droplets emulsify. 

That’s followed by the addition of suspended solids in the next phase, and then finally, the introduction of foam or gas bubble layers in the third dispersed phase. 

Espresso is a surprisingly versatile beverage, as no matter which coffee roast or type of coffee bean you prefer, you can make a single shot or even a double shot of coffee. 

The consistency of espresso can surprise some coffee drinkers, especially those trying it for the first time. 

Rather than a watery liquid texture like coffee has, espresso has the same kind of viscosity as warm honey. 

So why the consistency difference? Compared to other coffee beverages, espresso has more dissolved and suspended solids.

The beverage is also made at high pressures and has a creamy foam atop it known as crema. These factors all contribute to the consistency.

The pressurization used during brewing also lends espresso a very strong flavor that’s much more concentrated than brewing standard coffee. 

As you can guess, a shot of coffee is also packed with caffeine. Later, we’ll tell you exactly how much caffeine you’ll ingest per shot, so make sure you check that out! 

What Size Is One Shot of Coffee?  

If you brew a single shot of coffee, the volume is between one and 1.25 ounces, which is approximately 29.5 to 37 millimeters. Some single shots are up to four ounces or 114 milliliters.

For comparison’s sake, a macchiato has the same volume. A cappuccino and flat white are each six ounces or 140 millimeters apiece. 

Caffeinated beverages such as mochas, lattes, and Americanos are larger still at eight ounces or 227 milliliters. 

How Do You Make a Shot of Coffee?

A coffee shot, or an espresso for short, is simple to make at home if you own a quality espresso machine. My favorite is the Breville Bambino Plus found here on Amazon.

You’ll need about nine grams of coffee for one shot.

Here’s how to make a shot of coffee.

TAble showing the 5 steps to making a shot of coffee.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into each step for more clarity!

Step 1 – Choose Your Coffee Beans

As we discussed in the first section, you can use any type of coffee roast you prefer to make espresso. 

You might use beans you already have in your pantry or treat yourself by going to the store and doing some shopping for fresh coffee beans. 

The texture of the coffee beans is not-debatable. 

You’re grind size needs to be very fine, but not powder-like.

Step 2 – Grind the Coffee Beans

You don’t have to grind the beans yourself if you don’t want to or if you simply don’t have the time. 

Should you be interested in grinding your own coffee beans, then that would be the next step.

You have several options for grinding coffee, including hand grinders, electric grinders, conical burr grinders, burr grinders, and blade grinders. You can even use a mortar and pestle. Let’s go over the options now so you can choose which is the best for you.

  • Hand grinder: If you’re trying to make a gourmet cup of espresso, then a hand grinder will deliver coffee of that quality. That said, you do have to put all the work in manually, which can be taxing if you want to grind the coffee beans down to the fine consistency needed to make a shot of coffee. 
  • Electric grinder: For your purposes, an electric grinder might be the better option. An electric grinder works in a similar fashion as a hand grinder but without any of the physical exertion needed on your part. Just make sure you don’t overgrind with an electrical grinder until your coffee beans are dust. Then you can’t use them to brew espresso! 
  • Conical burr grinder: Referred to as the industry standard as far as burr grinders are concerned, a conical burr grinder features a center burr shaped like a cone. The grinder also has a serrated burr on the outside that will produce the fine ground coffee consistency you’re looking for. 
  • Burr grinder: A standard burr grinder lacks the conical components but still gets the job done when grinding your coffee. The grinder has two burrs that revolve to grind the coffee, crushing the beans until they’re the desired consistency. 
  • Blade grinder: The opposite of a burr grinder is a blade grinder, which is also the more affordable alternative. With the larger blades and the way they move in the grinder, it’s harder to grind coffee beans to a fine consistency. 
  • Mortar and pestle: Your last option is to use a good, old-fashioned mortar and pestle. This is yet another option that demands a lot of physical effort on your part, but with time and patience, you can grind down the coffee beans as fine as you need them to make a shot of coffee.

Step 3 – Pack and Tamp the Coffee Grounds in a Portafilter

Now that you’ve ground your coffee beans to the perfect consistency (or bought them that way), it’s time to pack them into the portafilter of your espresso machine.

What is a portafilter, you ask? It’s a basket-like contraption in espresso machines that keep the coffee grounds in one spot while you brew.

You need to fit nine ounces of ground coffee beans into the portafilter, so don’t be surprised if the beans form a mound over the portafilter’s top. That’s normal.

Next, you have to tamp the beams, which means pressing on them until they’re flatter and more compressed. 

You should use a tool known as a coffee tamper for this. 

A coffee tamper has rounded handle on one side and a flat end on the other side. Coffee tampers will always result in well-tamped coffee beans that are perfect for making espresso. 

If you don’t have a coffee tamper, you can always rely on glass bottles (such as a beer bottle) or a pestle to do the tamping. It’s just about as good. 

Your elbow should always be at 90 degrees when tamping. Give yourself something soft to lean on such as a towel on the counter so the tamping process isn’t painful.

Step 4 – Pull the Espresso Shot

Now it’s time to get brewing. Insert the portafilter packed full of tamped coffee grounds into the espresso machine brew head. Then put your cup below that. 

Turn the espresso machine on, set it to brew, and it will pull you one shot of coffee. That should take between 25 and 30 seconds.

The espresso will be topped with delicious crema. It will look perfect!

To learn how to get great crema for your espresso, click here

Step 5 – Enjoy the Coffee Shot 

You can let the shot of coffee cool a little bit, but don’t wait too long to drink it! 

How Much Caffeine Does a Shot of Coffee Have?

As we said we would, we want to discuss just how heavily caffeinated a shot of coffee is. 

The amount of caffeine varies but can be anywhere from 40 to 64 grams of caffeine per shot. That’s why most people only need one shot of coffee to feel ready for the day ahead. 

A full cup of coffee is still more caffeinated, containing 95 grams of caffeine per cup, but the flavor and caffeine both feel less concentrated. 

Other Espresso-Based Drinks to Learn and Sip 

A single shot is far from the only type of espresso out there. To wrap up, here is an overview of other espresso-based beverages you might come across when brewing and buying coffee from cafés. 


A doppio is an Italian word that refers to double, hence why a doppio is a double shot of espresso. 

While it varies depending on the café you visit, when you order an espresso, many of them make a doppio by default rather than a single shot of coffee.

Flat White

A flat white is a variation of the doppio, as it’s a double shot as well. The difference is that a flat white also has aerated milk, which reduces the foaminess that espresso is known for. The flavor is still rich, and this beverage tastes nice and creamy.


Although much bigger than your average single shot of coffee and even a doppio, a cappuccino still takes a page from the espresso’s book. 

The drink includes frothed milk, steamed milk, and a shot of espresso, so each ingredient is added in equal quantities. The texture of a cappuccino is soft, velvety, and rich.

Café Latte 

The classic café latte consists of two shots of espresso heated up and mixed with steamed milk

Then, extra frothiness is added to the top of the caffeinated beverage so that talented baristas can draw incredible latte art. Be sure to snap some photos of your cup before you start sipping! 


A ristretto is another Italian coffee beverage. It’s a single shot of espresso that’s ultra-concentrated so all you get is delicious flavor without any bitterness. The size of a ristretto is quite tiny, about 0.75 ounces.

Some ristrettos are made with two shots of coffee and are up to 1.5 ounces. 


The espresso-based lungo means long in Italian. That’s due to the length of the pull on the espresso machine to make this beverage. With two times the hot water but the same amount of coffee grounds as a shot of coffee, the flavor of a lungo is quite bitter. 

Cafe Mocha

To make a delicious cafe mocha, first pull two shots of espresso and pour it into a taller mug or cup. Next, mix in one ounce of chocolate syrup. You can now add some steamed milk and top it off with some whipped cream.

Alcoholic Coffee Drinks

Looking to spice things up a little? There are some delicious coffee based cocktails that are sure to be a hit at any gathering. Check out our article of 12 Types of Alcoholic Coffee Drinks for more recipes.

Final Thoughts 

A single shot of coffee, also known as espresso, is highly caffeinated and packed full of flavor due to the way that an espresso machine pressurizes the coffee grounds during brewing. 

If you haven’t ever made your own shots of coffee at home and you have an espresso machine that needs some dusting off, take some time this weekend to treat yourself. You certainly won’t regret it!  

Can you Make Espresso with Coffee Beans?

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