The exquisite taste of that perfect shot of espresso is no longer confined to your favorite coffee shop. With the right tools and the right skills, you yourself could be the one to make that cup of bliss at home. However, it’s a process the complexity of which should not be taken lightly. You’ll need patience, knowledge and when it comes to the right equipment, you should really invest in that which can truly make a good cup of espresso happen.
Choosing your tools is definitely the first step towards your goal. Investing in quality brewing tools will definitely pay off once you achieve the perfect cup you’ve been longing for and experience the sense of accomplishment after perfecting your skills.
How to Choose Your Beans
We’ll start with the crucial part of any cup of coffee – the beans themselves. Now, you might not have known this already, but there’s a difference between regular coffee beans and espresso beans. Any bean roasted for brewing is a coffee bean. Light, medium or dark-roasted bean features might vary depending on the country of origin, but for your espresso, you’ll need the darker variety of espresso beans. At that stage, they have less acidity and a fuller body, they are richest in natural oils which helps produce that deliciously famous espresso crema.
Your first steps towards a quality cup of espresso should concern getting the right equipment to suit your budget and style of coffeemaking. And with this in mind, no self-respecting aficionado can do without a reliable grinder. It is recommended that you buy your coffee freshly roasted, but for the best results you should grind it yourself before brewing. There are two types of grinders, blade (much like a small blender) and burr (a bulkier machine, not necessarily electrical, often with a handle on top). Both will do a splendid job and it comes to down to your personal preferences of whether you’d want the convenience of a powered machine vs the tactile nature of the hand-cranked variety.
Choose Your Machine
The next step is an efficient espresso machine. You can go for a manual or an automated one. There are also different brewing options you can consider should you choose to be a little more adventurous with your preparation methods. Needless to say, if you’d like to experience a more personal approach to coffee brewing, than the manual is the one to opt for. It does require a bit more skill and more attention to detail, but in the end, you’ll get the desired result.
Automated espresso machines represent an easier approach since they facilitate measuring the necessary ingredients. These devices have advanced to a great extent to make the experience quicker and easier. The more expensive one is, the less work you have to do. Some even come with their own grinders. Don’t forget that these machines are more about convenience than control and you might find yourself wanting a greater degree of interaction and personal satisfaction over the creation of your own cuppa. However, if your lifestyle is more about convenience and you simply want a comparatively hassle-free experience, then get ready to start looking at what models are available out there that will suit the depth of your pockets.
The dose is the weight of dry ground coffee that you are using to make an espresso. Needless to say, getting your dose right is of utmost importance. This can be anywhere from 5-30 grams, but recently the consensus has been that the dosage lingers between 18-21g. You just need to decide how much espresso you really want to make. Changing the dose won’t change the flavor balance, nor will it make the drink stronger or weaker.
The Extraction Yield
If your espresso has ever given you trouble, this is probably why. The yield is a simple term in itself – it’s the weight of an espresso in a cup. However, it entails a compromise between amount and strength, since having more of one is always at the expense of the other. If you push more water through the coffee, you’ll get more flavor but a weaker drink, since this means more dilution. On the other hand, less water means less flavor, but more strength. The right balance here depends solely on your individual tastes and it might very well be a process of discovery before you are able to reach the perfect balance yourself. A stronger, richer espresso calls for recipes with lower yields, while recipes with higher extraction yields mean more sweetness and ripeness.
Lower temperatures enhance the acidity, and higher temperatures lower it. As the machine heats up, the coffee may become more soluble, thus the extraction yields can increase. This could be regulated by lowering the temperature. If you need to increase the extraction yield of a slow shot, a higher temperature will do the trick. Furthermore, higher temperatures will compensate for an underdeveloped roast and vice versa.
Although brew time can be altered by changing the dose and the pressure, the change in the grind size of coffee is what really counts. The water flow through the coffee bed is controlled by the coarseness of the grind, so changing the extraction of flavors has a significant effect on brew time.
Making a homemade shot of espresso may seem daunting, due to the fact that there are so many interdependent, crucial factors involved, but patience and practice will be well worth it. It’s not only the end result, that perfect cup of coffee you’ll get to enjoy – it’s knowing it was your skill and expertise that made it so special.