Coffee is undoubtedly a universal beverage. It brightens up your day and takes away those morning blues. Espresso, on the other hand, is more than just a drink; it is an art. It is made by passing steam through ground coffee beans at high pressure. The main difference between espresso and regular coffee is in the brewing process and the taste at the end.
Espresso has a strong (some might say bitter) taste while regular pour-on coffee has a mellower flavor. It takes time, skill and a lot of care to make perfect espresso coffee. This process is somewhat long but when done right, produces what some call the purest form of coffee.
While this is not commonly done at home, it is important to buy the right type of roasted beans to get the right brew of espresso. Regular coffee requires lightly roasted beans to produce that light-colored fruity flavor associated with coffee.
Espresso, however, needs a much darker roast to bring out the fullness of its flavor. This makes it suitable to use with milk or heavy cream. That said, at the end of the day, it all depends on your personal preference.
This can be done at home (thus a coffee grinder is key). To make perfect espresso coffee, fresh beans are best suited. The texture of the ground beans is the most essential part of this grind. Too coarse and the espresso will turn out watery, weak and acrid (sour taste). On the other hand, too fine and the flavor will be bitter and almost burnt.
The perfect texture is somewhere in between flour and granulated sugar (table-salt maybe). To obtain the perfect grind, you need to spend a few coins on a high quality grinder. It is worth noting that dosing the coffee can be the difference between weak and perfect espresso. This means to grind just the right amount of coffee for the filter.
It is advisable to do a little background check on all the items before the actual brewing. For instance, filtered water is essential. Bad quality water will not only ruin the perfect espresso but might also damage your espresso machine.
You might need a timer depending on the brand of machine that you are using (some do have an inbuilt timer). Before the actual brewing process, it is important to preheat the machine, cup and filter. This is done by running plain water through the cup and filter for about 15-30 minutes.
Due to the strong nature of espresso, 1oz -2oz (15ml-30ml) shots are the most appropriate for a sitting. This calls for a measuring cup (or not, to the trained eye). For this, 14g-18g of ground coffee is used. However, this is not fixed. It heavily relies on your unique inclination.
This is where the major difference between regular coffee and espresso comes in. The former has a less complicated brewing process. It involves coarsely ground beans, a filter, a cup and boiling water. The water is poured onto the ground coffee into the cup through the filter (hence the name pour-on coffee).
Espresso, in contrast, entails water at high (but even) pressure and temperature being forced through finely ground coffee beans. This is where the espresso machine comes in. There are different brands and types of espresso machines, ranging from automatic to manual.
Keep in mind that you will need to do some tamping. This is to compact the ground coffee before brewing. The right amount of pressure (30 pounds or 9 bars) is critical in obtaining the perfect espresso.
Proper tamping levels the coffee and makes sure that the water flows evenly and consistently through the filter and into your cup. At around 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, water is forced through the ground coffee in the filter to extract
If the tamp, dose and grind are perfect, the brewing should take 30 seconds (maximum time) depending on the amount of espresso you are making (this specified time is for a 30 ml brew).
Note: If it takes too long, check the grind (might be too fine), tamp (might be excess) and dose (probably you have too much ground coffee in the portafilter).
To make perfect espresso coffee, the shot should flow as a continuous stream. It starts out dark and turns frothy and golden at the end.
Recap: How to Make Perfect Espresso Coffee
- 1The taste of your espresso will rely heavily on the quality of water used. Hard, scaly water makes for some really nasty coffee. This may not only damage your machine but also might as well ruin your day.
- 2Preheat the machine until it feels nice and warm. This may take 15-30 minutes. Run some clean water through the espresso maker to heat up all the parts.
- 3Freshly roasted and ground beans (you can grind them yourself) are the best. A burr grinder can be flawless. You need finely ground beans (that clump together) or the espresso will be watery.
- 4Dose 14-18 grams of coffee (weighing scales may be used for this) in the filter. Not too much, not too little. 1-2oz of water will be sufficient for this amount of coffee.
- 5Tamp evenly. You can achieve this by placing your wrist, arm and elbow directly above the porter filter and applying even pressure. The ground coffee should be level with no spaces in between.
- 6Brewing should take 20-30 seconds depending on the dose and grind. If your machine has a pre-infusion (pre-brew) stage, then this shall occur before the actual brewing. It is done until the first drops of espresso are seen.
- 7If the brew tastes watery and acrid, the grind may be too coarse and tamp too low. Or if the espresso is too bitter and has a burnt taste, the ground may be too fine and tamp too high.
- 8The brewing should not take longer than 30 seconds. This may mean that the dose is excess, you applied too much pressure when tamping or the coffee was too fine.
You may not make perfect espresso coffee on your first try. Therefore, you shouldn't get all worked up. It takes time and practice to brew quality espresso. After all, an artist doesn’t perfect his craft on the first stroke of the brush!