Firstly, you should have a naked portafilter. That’s right. A bottomless portafilter is by far the coolest way to make espresso, and not only does it give you mad hipster points, it means your crema will be the perfect canvas for latter art.
To extract the perfect crema from your naked portafilter, heat, perfect grind fine-ness, and solid tamping pressure are key. Your shot should run smoothly but not so fast that you have a mini waterfall. Waterfalls have too much water in them for any real enjoyment. Try making your grind finer, or adding up to 19g of grounds if you have issues dialing in the flow rate of your shot.
The second component to awesome espresso is the delicious microfoam. Microfoam is the type of foam that isn’t so foamy you’re sipping air, but rather, its small bubbles that are swirled into the heating milk, breaking down and creating even small bubbles. Hence, the micro. Your milk should heat within a few minutes and only a few seconds of those minutes should be spent creating bubbles. After the first few seconds, the milk will be too warm to build adequate bubbles, and you want to dive the steam wand further into the frothing cup to create a whirlpool. This whirlpool sucks the bubbles down and breaks them into smaller bubbles. The finished product should come out with a shiny white finish. Bang the frother (gently) on the surface a couple times to tame any errant large bubbles into breaking down.
Now, lets paint. Pour your foam into the crema from a decent height. You need the milk to dive smoothy under the crema, leaving the surface smooth. Think olympic high divers…they get serious cred if they don’t cause ripples. As the cup gets 2/3 of the way full, bring your frother cup close to your mug and start coaxing out a little back and forth movement. This creates the leaves. Draw the milk through the middle of your leaves, and TA-DA!