I still remember some 10 years ago when I would come back to Manila for vacation (while living in Spain) how hard or impossible it was to drink a decent espresso. Only the 5 star hotels had them and served them properly. Actually thinking about it now, it was even hard to get a decent cup of brewed coffee during that time.
Then Figaro opened in Glorietta and it became an instant favorite hangout of mine while I was on vacation in manila...fast forward 10 years and now practically any restaurant has a decent coffee maker and can make any kind of coffee, including espresso, cappuccino.
Espresso (my favorite type of coffee) is concentrated coffee brewed under high pressure (ideal is around 9 bars) using finely ground coffee. Served in a small cup (25 to 30 ml.), the main characteristics is that it is thicker than the usual drip coffee and the most important - the crema. The crema should be reddish brown in color and at least 0.5 cm thick. I normally drink it black or sometimes with just a little of sugar - although most of the times I take it black and in 2 sips.
When I prepare it at home, I have a ritual that I follow, which allows me to enjoy an "almost" perfect cup of espresso. I say almost because nothing can replicate the coffee served in bars in Spain or Italy, simply because the pressure they have in their machines can never be equalled by a small espresso machine for home use.
I normally pre-heat my machine by running the water without coffee into the cup. I leave the cup with the hot water so that the cup stays warm while I'm preparing it. Then I load filter holder with approximately 7-8 grams of finely ground coffee. Then here comes the important part. You have to tamp the coffee with around 10-15 kilos of pressure (you can measure/practice this with the scale in your bathroom). Once ready, put in the filter holder, empty the cup with the hot water - and let her rip.
The espresso in my machine takes around 15 to 18 seconds to finish. Once done, simply enjoy your espresso. The coffee (if done well) should have the crema (my test is to lay the spoon on top of it and if there is enough crema, the spoon will not submerge itself in the cup) and not a very bitter taste. I normally enjoy it in the mornings or after meals.