Many view the making of espresso as an art that can only be perfected by knowledge, the right tools and dedicated practice and experimentation.
If you want to brew the perfect addition to your cappuccinos and lattes you first need to know the basics of how make espresso. The integral quality of great espresso is the “crema”. This is the wonderful creamy golden foam on the top of your espresso. The crema is a sign of a great coffee brew! Read on to learn how create a great crema and how to make espresso that will have your guests calling you a coffee maestro in no time.
Espresso Rule Number One
This is the most crucial rule for making great espresso and relates to the quantity of coffee to the amount of brewing time:
Single Shot = 1 to 2 ounces in 25 to 30 seconds
Double Shot = 2 to 3 ounces in 25 to 30 seconds
Once you understand the first rule, the rest simply follows on from there. If you are a beginner we suggest you start by making a double shot.
The Basics of How to Make Espresso
The Double Espresso Shot
Start by preheating your espresso machine, your portafilter, and your cup. If you don’t preheat you can’t make espresso that is more than mediocre. Preheat your equipment by running the espresso cycle without the coffee.
Next, grind your coffee and scoop fourteen grams into the double shot portafilter. Several espresso machines include a pre-measured seven gram scoop so use two level, non-compacted scoops. Tamp the coffee with the tamping tool in a smooth, even motion using about thirty pounds of pressure.
If you place the portafilter on a countertop and press down from above, your tamping process will be more successful. Use a very light tamp if your machine has a built-in resistance device.
Now examine the tamped coffee making sure it is level and well compacted. If the tamp is uneven the extraction may be inadequate. Your coffee should look smooth. Loose grounds around the top rim must be brushed off.
The gasket that forms the watertight seal with the portafilter may become crusted with ground coffee if you don’t do this properly and a leaking seal could spoil the flavor of your espresso.
Lock the portafilter into the machine and place your pre-warmed cup beneath the nozzles.
Start the pump action and begin your extraction. At first the coffee will be dark but this will change to creamy, golden foam near the end. When you reach two to three ounces of espresso coffee, stop the machine. Make adjustments to your process by timing yourself.
Where your extraction took longer than the 25 to 30 second goal, your coffee may be ground too fine or the tamp may need adjusting. If it was too quick, try a finer grind. Keep experimenting to find the perfect flavor for your own taste.
Tips for Espresso Beginners
Start to make espresso by taking a scientific approach. Use the rules to get a good result and the as you make progress manipulate and refine the process to create the perfect espresso. At this point it will begin to grow into an art.
Always use freshly roasted coffee beans to make espresso. Stale beans will produce a poor brew even with great techniques.
Choose the appropriate roast for your espresso. Roasts that are very light just don’t contain sufficient oils to make espresso that is satisfying. A darker roast is preferred for espresso because of its higher oil content but we recommend experimenting with a variety of roasts and blends.
Medium and dark roasts are ideal for making great espresso but varying techniques will ensure the best extraction from each kind of roast.
The grind of the coffee beans will always vary relative to the bean and how it is roasted. A dark roast needs a coarser grind than a medium roast to achieve the right brewing time and volume.
The level of consistency of the will also influence brewing results. Invest in a good coffee bean grinder to make sure to get the balance correct. There are two types of grinders namely: Burr grinders and blade grinders.
A blade grinder chops coffee beans with a whirling blade and work well for making coffee, however, they are not really suitable when you make espresso. They don’t give a consistent grind, and also tend to produce heat which affects flavor.
Burr grinders use two opposing grinding cylinders and can crush beans to a consistent size. How far the cylinders are away from each other will determine how coarse or fine the grind. These grinders are slower than a blade grinder so less heat is generated.
The lower the grinder setting the finer the grind will be. If you want a coarser grind choose a higher setting. To make espresso we suggest using a setting in the three to eight range.
Pressure consistency is vital when tamping your coffee. Use the tool that came with the machine or portafilter. Don’t use tamping pressure that is too great as this will mean a longer brewing time since water is unable to pass through dense coffee. If you use too little brew time will be shorter and your espresso will be inferior.
Tamp the coffee with 30 pounds of pressure to create the ‘puck’ for a good extraction on a standard machine. Other machines require a light tamp, since they are designed with pressurized filter handles. These allow a buffer for tamping error to help you to make espresso of the ideal quality.
Brewing temperature should be monitored as it is vital to the temperature of the espresso. The temperature of the water at the point where it comes into contact with the ground coffee is called its brewing temperature and is controlled by the thermostat. It should be 190 to 196 degrees Fahrenheit. In this case the temperature of the espresso will be between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit i.e. hot but never scalding.
Heat is lost via the brew group, the air and the cup. The heat loss occurs in the brew group, the air, and the cup. This is the ideal temperature for espresso in order to feel hot without scalding.
Brewing pressure is the amount of pressure created when extracting the coffee. It should be eight to nine bars of pressure. There are machines which exert fifteen to nineteen atmospheres of pressure but often higher pressures produce bitter coffee. If your espresso machine doesn’t have a gauge read the ‘First Rule’
Double shots of espresso = 2 to 3 ounces in 25 to 30 seconds. These machines have a safety valve that releases pressure if it exceeds a certain level to avoid severe over-extraction of the coffee and undue stress on the machine.
The Art of Making Espresso
To make espresso that is perfectly tailored to you start by selecting coffee beans that you enjoy. A variety of distinct choices exist and you may decide to roast your own. Either way, never forget that freshly roasted beans are the best. The grind of your coffee beans should be much like that of ordinary salt. It is a bit finer than granulated sugar.
This is the best consistency for beginners as you can make adjustments more smoothly.
Preheating makes all the difference when you make espresso. If, during the brewing process, your equipment is too cool the crema may be lost and the brew may be bitter.
You will need to be one part scientist and one part artist to make espresso worthy of the best but with a little practice, creativity and persistence you can master the basics and create a blend that sizzles. Above all make espresso with passion and creativity and you will understand the art of making great coffee!