Being able to drink espresso every day is one of life’s little pleasures. But often, you don’t get exactly what you want. Each cafe has a different method for making espresso, and even different baristas within a cafe will have unique touches that make or break your beverage. More often than not, your drink will be too acidic, watery or not have enough crema to offer the full bodied and deep taste that espresso promises.
What is the best solution for this?
Make your own espresso at home! Making espresso is not difficult, and by learning a few tips and techniques, you can become your own personal barista. Then you can produce your preferred brew every time right in your own home. If you get frustrated with varying espresso brews or want to enjoy this delightful beverage in the comfort of your own home, read on. All you need is a few tools and a little know-how, and you will become a pro espresso maker in no time. Developing this skill will enrich your life and ensure your espresso meets your expectations every time.
The Espresso Machine
The espresso machine is designed with brewing pressure and temperature in mind. If the water pressure is too high, it will force itself through the grounds and make your brew too muddy. If it’s too low, then the grounds will not be evenly permeated, and the resulting drink can be acidic. The temperature has to be hot enough to extract flavor and oils at the right time during the brew, or it can become too watery. The ideal water temperature for brewing an espresso is around 93°C / 199°F (i.e. a little lower than boiling hot).
A quick tip that pro baristas use is 30 seconds to 30 ml. If your machine produces about 30 ml of espresso in about 30 seconds, then your brew should have the right flavors. It should also produce a good amount of crema. Crema is the foamy top to your espresso, naturally produced by the espresso machine’s high pressure and hot temperature as it hits the grind. Be sure to clean your machine out regularly, and wipe excess moisture up with a tea towel or similar cloth between brews. Excess water can start the extraction of oils too quickly, and interfere with your brew.
Select High Quality Coffee Beans
The beans you choose are equally as important as the machine. Pro baristas recommend looking at the date on the pack before purchase. A good rule of thumb for getting the best flavor is to choose beans that were roasted between four days and three weeks ago. Fresher beans will create better crema and have a thicker, fuller flavor. If you use beans older than this, you may end up with flat tasting espresso with little to no crema.
There are two types of roasts you can find for espresso beans, light and dark roast. Whichever type you buy depends on the flavors you want in your brew. Robusta beans are able to produce more crema, so sometimes you will find bean blends that include these beans. Most buyers prefer darker roasts, but lighter ones are available for a variety of flavor. The beans in a lighter roast can appear less oily and smaller than darker roast beans. Arabica beans tend to have the best espresso roasts, so start there when you’re deciding on which beans to try first. As with regular coffee, these beans should be stored in an airtight container away from direct heat and sunlight. Storing your beans in a cupboard is just fine.
Buying the beans whole allows you to be in control of how they are ground, which is a crucial part of the espresso brew. If ground too fine, the oils will be extracted too quickly and can taste scorched. If ground is too coarse (i.e. the particles are too big), it can take too long to extract the flavor & oils. The grind should be like sand and when pinched together between your thumb and forefinger, it should clump up. When brewing espresso at home, you gain the pleasure of learning how to grind your beans to make your own favorite brew. It’s best to use your beans within three weeks of buying, and grind your beans fresh per brew.
Finally, the last part of brewing your espresso at home is tamping. This is a technique that involves pushing down the freshly ground coffee into the portafilter brew basket (a.k.a. group handle), so it compresses and sticks together. You’ll know you’ve done it right if you can tip your basket upside down, and the tamped grind doesn’t fall out. This is a critical step that will prevent the pressurized water from penetrating your grind too quickly, and encourage thorough dispersion of water throughout the basket. To tamp your grinds, use a tamper, a tool with a knob-like end that will fit into the basket smoothly. Baristas say that using about 30 lbs. / 13 kg. of pressure will produce an adequate tamping. You can take a food grade scale and press down with your hand until you see 30 lbs. Doing this a few times will get your arm used to the proper pressure. Tamping is a great way to adjust your brew if your beans were not ground to your liking. If your beans are ground too finely, just tamp your grind lightly. If your ground was not fine enough, simply tamp your grind harder and pack it right in. This will change the way the water interacts with your grind. Tamping is a great way to intuitively adjust the brew to make your own espresso taste and feel how you want it to.
Making your own espresso at home is an intimate experience. You can take your time with your morning routine and enjoy this exquisite beverage in your own home. Having espresso available after a dinner party can really upscale your night. Many people feel a sense of pride and fulfillment when they can craft their own delicacies at home, and with espresso machines available for home use, it’s even easier now. Each espresso drinker has unique taste buds and unique desires for their perfect brew. It’s not always easy finding the cafe and the barista that brews espresso to your liking. Having the control and ability to make it at home is liberating, and gives you the access to your personal perfect brew whenever you want or need.
Using these tips will give you the tools you need to find out exactly how you like your brew, and how to make it each and every time. It’s not difficult to make espresso at home and life just seems that little bit more manageable with a good coffee in hand; don’t you agree?