The 5 M for a perfect Italian espresso

When I was looking into Italian espresso culture recently, I came across this interesting concept they have in Italy for making espresso. In Italy, espresso is not just a drink but a ritual.

For them, preparing a perfect espresso is based on something they call “La Cinque M” or, in English, the “The 5 Ms”: “Miscela” (the espresso blend), “Macinatura” (the grind), “Macchina” (the machine), “Mano dell'operatore” (the hand of the barista) and “Manutenzione” (maintenance). Each of these elements is fundamental and makes the espresso more than just a coffee.

The espresso blend

As discussed in the basics of espresso-making article, finding the proper espresso is a personal preference. Different locations and people will require different espresso blends. Some prefer a more acidic coffee, while others prefer the strong bitter-tasting blend.

The grind

Finding the correct grind size and dose is crucial for making a good cup of espresso. That's why a good grinder is even more important than a machine. Consider the espresso blend and your workflow when getting your grinder. A setup like in a cafe will require a different espresso grinder than at home, where you only make yourself an espresso once or twice a day.

The more experienced you are, the better you will understand how your environment will impact your roasted espresso beans. Depending on where you are, you will treat and grind your espresso differently in summer and winter, and sometimes, in some places, you might even have to adjust settings throughout the day.

The machine

After the grinder has created the correct dose and grind size for the espresso, it's up to the espresso machine to deliver a good espresso.

There are different types of equipment on the market, and, once again, the correct choice depends on the location and workflow. Water temperature and quality, pre-infusion, and pressure are all aspects that influence espresso extraction.

The hand of the barista

The fourth M is the least technical aspect. How a barista treats and makes the espresso dramatically impacts the outcome. We are not talking about how much love someone puts into creating a cup of coffee.

The experience and dedication of a barista are essential to a good espresso. It's up to the barista to dial in the espresso, grind and dose the beans, tamp consistently, and keep the work environment clean. A good barista can deliver you the same coffee experience over and over again, regardless of the situation around them.


The last one is often overlooked by beginners, so it's good to see that it's considered one of the essentials of Italian espresso. Always keep the espresso machine and all other equipment in excellent condition. That means keeping your environment and machines clean each time you make your espresso.

But it also means regular maintenance like descaling and deep cleaning the internals of your coffee machines or removing stale grounds and dirt particles from the grinder. Depending on your location and machines, you must do that more or less frequently.