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How to Make Espresso


Why espresso?

Espresso is the base of all or rather most coffee drinks. An espresso machine delivers espresso, it doesn't create cappuccino, latte, mocha and so on... An espresso machine in fact doesn't even create espresso, it is the barista who creates the espresso with the aid of the espresso machine which is why coffee is so often very inconsistent and unpredictable.

It isn't easy to make a consistently good espresso as there are so many factors to take account of in its creation. Above all, it requires the right equipment, knowledge, patience, practice and skill, taste and of course high quality and freshly coffee beans.

All of the following must be considered when making espresso;

Quality and freshness of the beans is paramount. Our beans come from some of the best coffee farms across the globe. The beans must be fresh. Beans should be bought from a specialty roaster as supermarket or general wholesaler coffee beans will have been roasted many weeks if not many months in advance and as such they will be past their best and stale. In addition to this, the majority of roasters have little attention to detail, they have no sensory knowledge or skills and therefore, the coffee that they roast will be very inconsistent and they will not be able to accurately describe, if at all, the taste and aroma of the coffee they have roasted. Further, it is likely the beans will be over roasted, largely burnt and thus the natural characteristics of the coffee beans will be lost.

Beans should be freshly ground as and when required using a high quality burr grinder. It may take a while to achieve the correct grind specific to the beans being used which is one reason we use several grinders as they are set specifically to each bean. Do not use blade grinders as they cut and slice rather than grind giving poor results. Conical grinders have a tendency to clump coffee which will give you subsequesnt problems.

As espresso is a small drink, it quickly drops in temperature therefore it is crucial that its temperature is maintained as much as possible, therefore ensure your espresso machine is warmed up first, this ensures the portafilter body is warm and also ensures your cup is pre-warmed (this is why we place our cups on top of the espresso machine).

The correct dose of espresso should be used, historically 7 grams per shot (although nowadays in specialty coffee more likely to be 9-11g), this should be ground directly into the pre-cleaned and dry portafilter basket. Tap the portafilter gently to level the ground coffee so that you have a smooth and level surface, then tamp firmly with a flat tamp.

Always use filtered water in your espresso machine as varying levels of chlorine found in tap water can also affect the taste. Hard water areas will also cause you problems. If you are in a hard water area, you may need a reverse osmosis water system to improve the water. Purge the espresso machine before you place the portafilter in its group head i.e. let the water run out a little to clean the shower head, then attach the portafilter to the group head and switch on.

A shot of espresso is historically 1oz / 30ml in volume although this does tend to vary wherever you go. the volume of espresso in the cup is what we call our "yield". Different yields produce difference tastes and this is why we will create an espresso recipe. Watch the espresso as it is dispensed, it should be a rich golden brown and resemble a 'mouses tail' as it is being extracted. It should take roughly 20-30 seconds and should not gush out, otherwise it will be weak and watery and potentially sour, neither should it slowly drip otherwise it will be burnt, intense and bitter. If you find it came out too quickly then you may need to grind the beans a little finer and / or tamp more firmly, on the other hand, if you find it came out too slowly then you may need to alter the grind to be a little coarser - it's all about practice and patience.

To find out more, why not join us on one of our barista training courses, they run regularly.


 
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