When properly brewed, espresso is a wonderful drink that can also be combined with other ingredients to create drinks such as latte or cappuccino. Although it may seem to be a very simple coffee to make, there are numerous steps that affect the quality of the drink. In this article, we are going to go through all the steps to show you how to make the best cup of espresso coffee.
First, we need to make sure that it is clear that a true espresso is defined as needing 8.5 bar pressure to produce the pressure necessary to produce an espresso that is intense, flavorful, and thick with a golden-brown crema on the top. Therefore, this requires the use of a machine such as a fully-automatic or semi-automatic espresso machine. Fully-automatic machines pretty do everything for you. But, it is still good to know all of the steps in espresso making since you can still make adjustments for a fully automated machine. Semi-automatic machines allow more control on each of the steps and are all important.
Equipment you will need:
- Espresso Maker (fully automatic or semi-automatic)
- Espresso Coffee Beans
- Burr Coffee Grinder
- Coffee scoop
- Coffee tamper
- Demitasse Cup
- 1 ½ Tbsp. Espresso Coffee
- Cold water
Step 1: Choose the right beans
Choosing the right type of espresso beans is a very important part in making the best cup of espresso coffee. In Italy, they actually have two different roasts that they tend to use. In many areas, a dark or espresso roast is popular. This will create the strong style of coffee that espresso is known for. But, in Northern Italy, a medium roast is more common. The key here is to try the different roast and find something that you like. But, always make sure you buy quality beans. Arabica is the best choice for type of beans since they are more intensely-flavored and full bodied.
Also, if you really want to step up your espresso, get freshly roasted beans from a local roaster. Since coffee beans immediately begin to lose their flavor after being roasted, beans will lose a lot of their flavor 2 months after being roasted. Therefore, the closer you use the beans from the time being roasted, the better flavor you will get to give you the best espresso coffee.
Step 2: Use clean water and warm the cup
Never under estimate the importance of using good clean water when making coffee. Many people will recommend using filtered water to make a perfect cup of espresso, but as long as your water line has good clean flavorless water, it should be good. Some of the machines will have a built-in water maker on the machine. This is a nice feature that can help improve the quality of water.
Another easy thing to do prior to brewing the espresso is to preheat your cups. This can easily be done by filling it with warm or boiling water prior to making the coffee. This will help keep the espresso warm once it is being served. Once your coffee is ready to be pulled, throw out the water and use the cup. Note that some machines will have warming trays where you can place your cups. The heat from the machine or a heating element will warm up the cups for you. But, we find that the boiling water method works best.
Step 3: Grind the beans to a fine coarseness
Grinding your coffee beans just before brewing the coffee will give you a wonderful aroma and more distinguished taste then just using ground coffee. Therefore, if you are looking to make the best cup of espresso coffee, one important step is to use beans instead of pre-ground coffee and grind the coffee just before brewing. Be sure to use a conical burr grinder since it will give you a proper consistency and not burn the beans.
An espresso machine requires a fine grind similar to the coarseness of sugar. The coarseness is important since having it too fine will cause the water to absorb more of the coffee as it is flowing through the basket. This will cause it to be extra thick or even plugging up the filter. Having it too coarse will cause the water to quickly flow through the ground coffee and not absorb the coffee as much making it weak.
Step 4: Fill the basket with 1 ½ tablespoons of coffee.
Most espresso coffee will be good with 1 ½ tablespoons of ground coffee. Make sure you don’t use too little since it will weaken the coffee. Having more will be a little more difficult since most baskets can’t take much more than this amount. After filling the basket, make sure that the coffee is evenly distributed in the basket and then clean the top so that the edges are clean. This will allow a clean seal when attaching the basket to the machine.
Step 5: Tamp the coffee to 30 lbs. of pressure
After filling the basket with coffee, you will want to tamp down the coffee correctly. You want to make sure you have a tamper the properly fits the filter in the basket. Otherwise, the coffee on the edges will not be tampered and it will allow coffee to flow freely on the edges.
This is another one of those steps where a little experimentation is needed. If the coffee is tamped too hard, water will not flow through. If it is not tamped hard enough, the water will run through the grounds too quickly making a watery espresso drink. In general, the temp should be done with about 30 lbs. of pressure. There are tampers that will click with the appropriate pressure is reached. If you want to get familiar with how hard this pressure is, get a scale and put the basket on top. Then, push the tamper into the basket while it is on the scale until you reach 30 lbs. on the scale. This will give you a general idea of how hard to press the tamper.
Step 6: Pulling the espresso for 25 seconds
Run the machine according to instructions to “pull” the espresso. If the coarseness and tamping are properly done, a pull should last approximately 25 seconds. As it is dripping, look at the shape and color of the stream. It should be fairly thick at the top and taper down at the bottom of the stream. The stream will begin with a dark brown color and will gradually get more tan. Once the amount of espresso needed has poured, stop the brewing process on the machine and pull the cup to not get more coffee into the cup which will change the flavor of the coffee by thinning it out.
When properly brewed, the espresso will have a heavy body along with a thick, golden-brown crema (foam) on the surface. If you add sugar, it will float on the surface for a couple of seconds before slowly sinking. A single shot of espresso is approximately 1 to 1 ½ ounces. Once all of these steps are taken, you should end up with best cup of espresso coffee.