Making espresso coffee at home can be a daunting task. It requires precision, practice, and the right tools. But with this guide, you’ll have all the information you need to make the best espresso coffee right in the comfort of your own home.
Choosing the Right Beans
The first step to making good espresso is to start with good beans. Many people go to the nearest grocery store and purchase whatever is cheapest, but doing so can result in bad-tasting coffee that lacks depth and aroma. Beans are like wine grapes in the sense that they have their own unique flavor profiles when roasted correctly, and with the right stuff you can really taste the difference. They won’t taste very good when brewed incorrectly, either.
So choose your favorite variety of coffee beans, or experiment with different kinds until you find ones you like! The next step after choosing your beans is finding a good grinder for them. Freshly ground beans produce better-tasting coffee than pre-ground beans, which quickly lose their freshness after being ground by the blade on a coffee grinder. The best way to avoid this is by purchasing a burr grinder, which uses two revolving abrasive surfaces that crush the beans into little pieces instead of chopping them up as a blade does. This process results in even pieces of coffee, which when brewed will result in an even taste when extracted.
The importance of grinding your own beans can’t be emphasized enough-if you are using pre-ground coffee beans for your espresso coffee, its flavor will only develop about 25% after being ground. Coffee’s essential oils and aromas only develop properly once its grounds have been exposed to air for about 30 minutes or so before brewing. So if you’re buying ground beans at the grocery store, be sure to bring them home and let them sit out before you grind them and brew them.
Choosing a Grinder
Burr grinders can be purchased online or at any coffee shop that sells quality espresso equipment, but they aren’t cheap; high-quality conical burr grinders can cost up to several hundred $. Fortunately, the bargain bin isn’t completely devoid of good options: blade grinders work by spinning blades very quickly and chopping up beans into small pieces instead of crushing them as a burr grinder does. Blade grinders don’t give as consistent grounds as burr grinders do, resulting in an uneven extraction when brewed. They are also much less durable than their conical counterparts, so expect to shell out around $100 for one if you go this route.
Be sure to choose a burr grinder that has either ceramic or steel burrs, as these materials both stay sharper longer than others. Cheaper grinders use aluminum burrs, which tend to dull quickly and fall out of calibration (tune-ability is something you should look for when purchasing any kind of coffee equipment). Ceramic stays sharp enough to crush coffee beans for several years, so it’s definitely the better option.
The Correct Temperature
You can’t make good espresso without the right temperature, and most people assume that any water heated to 194°F is hot enough. This is incorrect-the ideal brewing temperature for coffee is between 195°-205°F. If your brew water isn’t close to this temperature range, don’t expect the best results when pulling a shot of espresso.
Heating your water to the right temperature is easy: simply boil it and let it sit for a minute or two. For those who don’t want to wait for the kettle to cool down, you can use a microwave; this allows you to measure exactly how long you need to heat up your water by letting it sit in the microwave after heating.
The proper amount of time to extract espresso is 25-30 seconds. Any more than that and you risk extracting too much, producing a bitter shot. If your extraction happens in less than 20 seconds, the water was either not hot enough or wasn’t tamped down hard enough.
When tamping your grounds into the portafilter, make sure to press down with 30 lbs of force for at least 10 seconds. Make sure there are no inconsistent gaps between grounds or else the water will seep through these areas during the extraction process instead of forcing its way through all at once.
The Right Espresso Cup
The right cup is just as integral to the quality of your espresso as the equipment that produces it. If you are using espresso cups that are close to 3 oz in size, simply brew 2 shots of espresso into each one for a total of 4 ounces per serving. Try not to pour any shot more than ½ an ounce at a time or else air will be introduced into your brew, compromising flavor and texture.
Most people prefer a white ceramic cup as opposed to a clear glass or black porcelain cup because it helps maintain heat, and is simply the traditional way of consuming this healthy beverage. This results in a more flavorful and satisfying espresso, so choose accordingly.
Brewing by Numbers
If all else fails on how to make good espresso, brewing by numbers can be a great way to dial in perfect extraction every single time without too much effort. This method involves timing how long it takes water to travel from the boiler through coffee grounds into your cup, which will occur anywhere between 20-25 seconds under normal conditions.
If your shot takes 22 seconds, it is probably perfect; if it takes 28 seconds to complete this process, you should grind coarser next time. This number also assumes that the machine has no major issues like a clogged filter or low water pressure (which can contribute to how long it takes for water to make its way through the machine).
Making espresso at home can seem daunting at first, but with the right tools and tips, it can be a breeze. This guide provides everything you need to make the best espresso coffee right in the comfort of your own home-from choosing the right beans and grinding them yourself, to tamping and extraction techniques. With the correct temperature, time, pressure, cup, and grind size, you too can produce delicious shots of espresso every time.
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