Brewing espresso at home is an enjoyable hobby that can also save you money from frequent trips to the local coffee shop. Crafting the perfect shot, though, can take a lot of practice and the right equipment. Before you buy your espresso machine and invite your friends over to your home cafe, here are some things you need to know.
Warm up the Machine
Unlike a coffee maker that is ready to start brewing as soon as it turns on, an espresso machine requires time to warm up before you start serving up shots.
Depending on the size and model, the device can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes before it is ready to brew. Be sure to turn it on well before you intend to have your espresso in hand.
Pay Attention to Your Water
Brewing a delicious espresso requires water that is free of scale and sediment. If you are using your tap water to brew, you may want to use a carbon filter to remove some of the unwelcome minerals. You can also test and treat your water directly. Do not use distilled water, though, as this can harm your boiler.
You Need Espresso Beans
When buying the beans for your machine, it is important to remember that espresso beans are different from coffee beans. While the term coffee is used to describe both, you will want to shop specifically for espresso beans. Unlike coffee beans, espresso beans are always in the dark roast variety and have the highest content of coffee oils.
Get a Burr Grinder
Just as espresso requires a different bean than coffee, it also requires a more precise grinder. A typical coffee bean grinder uses blades, which chop the beans instead of grinding them.
A burr grinder, which uses two rotating discs to grind the beans, will produce a finer blend for the espresso, and therefore a more precise shot. The particles should be as fine as table salt and begin to clump together when the consistency is right. As you become more experienced, you can experiment with the grind to find the consistency that you prefer.
Invest in a Kitchen Scale
Particularly when you are first learning to use the espresso machine, weighing your grinds and your finished espresso can help you to be more consistent and to troubleshoot any issues with taste. Scales with low resolutions will be the most precise.
Learn to Tamp at the Right Pressure
Tamping is an essential part of the process when creating a shot of espresso. First, it is crucial to make sure that the tamper fits your specific espresso machine. If it is too big or too small, it could affect the shot. After you have ground the espresso beans, they require a tamping pressure of 30 to 40 pounds.
You need to press on the grounds evenly, applying this level of pressure to restrict the water flow through the grounds just the right amount. To get the pressure right, it can be helpful to practice pressing on a scale first to determine the right amount of force needed.
Timing is Everything
It is essential to watch the shot pour to make sure that the espresso is just right. It should not gush, but rather drip out steadily. A 1.5 ounce shot of espresso should take about 23 to 28 seconds to extract. If the shot is pouring too quickly, the grounds may still be too coarse. If the shot pours long, you may need finer grounds.
Making espresso at home is a great hobby and investment in something that you enjoy. With these tips, you will be pulling the perfect shot.