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  • Brewing the Best Espresso At Home

    making espresso at home

    For many people, a morning cup of coffee is essential. Every day, coffee-lovers around the world drink more than 2 billion cups of coffee. This coffee takes many forms, and every coffee drinker develops their own preferences over the years. Some prefer the ease and convenience of instant coffee, while others prefer picking up an iced coffee at their local coffee shop. 

    Coffee machines help provide easy, delicious coffee at a fraction of the cost of buying drip coffee from a cafe, but many popular cafe beverages require more than drip coffee—they need a shot of espresso. 

    What is Espresso? 

    In 1884, Angelo Moriondo, an Italian inventor, patented the first espresso machine. It was a steam-powered invention built to create instant coffee using high temperature and pressure. The machine was never built, but in the following decade, other Italian inventors tackled the project, eventually succeeding in creating espresso. 

    Cappuccinos, macchiatos, lattes—these popular drinks, and countless others, all require shots of espresso. While a shot of espresso and a pot of coffee are both made with coffee beans, espresso differs from drip-coffee in many ways, including: 

    • Espresso requires coffee beans that are very finely ground, while drip coffee uses a coarse grind. 
    • Espresso coffee has a much shorter brewing time than drip-coffee. In half a minute, an espresso machine pushes a small amount of hot water through the ground coffee with 15 atmospheres of pressure. 
    • Drip-coffee is a thin liquid that is consumed by the cup, while espresso coffee is a thick, creamy liquid that is consumed by the ounce or as part of a coffee beverage. 

    The finely ground coffee, timing, and texture all combine to make espresso a completely different experience than drip coffee.

    Choosing the Perfect Coffee Roast

    Whether you are making a shot of espresso or a cup of drip, French press, or pour-over coffee, you will need to have a quality supply of coffee beans. These beans are found inside the cherries that grow on coffee trees and are harvested, roasted, and packaged for commercial sale. 

    When choosing the right coffee, pay attention to the coffee roast. Coffee beans are roasted to varying temperatures before they are packaged, and these roasts create different flavors. Every coffee enthusiast has their own preferred roast, but a good starting point is a medium or medium-dark roast. 

    Buying the Necessary Equipment

    There are many ways to make a cup of coffee. A coffee machine, a French press, and a coffee pod machine all work by allowing coarsely ground coffee beans to brew in hot water for a few minutes. Each method produces a similar result: a cup of coffee.  

    In contrast, espresso requires very specific equipment, including: 

    • Espresso machine
    • Espresso grinder 
    • Tamper 
    • Scale

    These tools work together to create the conditions needed for the perfect shot of espresso. 

    Preparing Your Shot of Espresso 

    Once you have your equipment and coffee beans, it’s time to pull your first shot of espresso. 

    1. Finely Grind the Coffee

    The first step in preparing your shot of espresso is grinding the coffee beans. The coffee needs to be finely ground. If you are uncertain about the grind, feel the coffee with your fingers. It should be powdery and soft like fine sand. 

    2. Measure the Coffee

    The coffee grounds will be held in a portafilter, and they need to be measured to fill the basket of the espresso machine. Check the amount of coffee your basket is meant to hold, and use a scale to ensure that you are using the correct amount. 

    3. Tightly Compact the Coffee 

    Once the coffee beans are ground and measured, you’ll need to press them. This is done by pushing a tamper tool onto the grounds to tightly compact them into the portafilter. This helps the hot water to be evenly distributed through the grounds while brewing. 

    4. Pull the Shot of Espresso

    When the basket is inserted into the espresso machine, the machine will introduce a small amount of water to prepare the ground coffee for brewing. After this initial stage, the espresso machine will push water through the grounds. Within a few seconds, you will see espresso flowing from the machine. 

    Creating a Memorable Espresso Drink at Home

    While some coffee drinkers prefer an espresso on its own, others use espresso as an ingredient in a wide range of popular drinks. 

    • Americano: This classic drink provides a simple way to enjoy espresso without a long list of added ingredients. All you will need is a shot of espresso and eight ounces of hot water. 
    • Latte: A latte is a combination of espresso and steamed milk. This drink has a smooth foam on top made using the steamer tool on an espresso machine or a hand-held frother. Various flavors and syrups can be added to create a unique taste. 
    • Red-eye/Shot-in-the-dark: The red-eye, also known as a shot-in-the-dark, is perfect for those days when you need an extra boost. Simply add a shot of espresso to a cup of drip coffee, and you’ll have a drink full of delicious coffee flavors and caffeine. 

    Caring for Your Espresso Machine

    With the proper care, your espresso machine can provide delicious espresso for years. Some steps that are important in caring for your machine include: 

    Managing Scale-Buildup and Water Quality

    Hard water is water that contains high-levels of minerals. Over time, these minerals build up in pipes, washing machines, sinks, and anything else that hard water routinely runs through. This scale, the build up of minerals, can cause irreparable damage to espresso machines over time. 

    There are many ways to avoid scale and improve the quality of the water in your espresso, including:  

    • Water softeners: A water softener is an appliance installed on your home’s water main that traps the minerals in hard water. This system produces soft water, which will not cause heavy scaling in your espresso machine. 
    • Reverse osmosis systems: A reverse osmosis system is an appliance installed underneath your sink that will remove heavy metals, pesticides, and other dangerous organic compounds from the water in a specific faucet. 
    • UV water treatment systems: For coffee lovers living in rural areas, UV water treatment systems are helpful for providing safe water for drinking and brewing coffee. A UV water treatment system destroys microorganisms in water contaminated by livestock, flooding, or pests. 

    Daily Cleaning and Maintenance

    Cleaning an espresso machine daily is essential for creating delicious espresso and keeping the machine in working condition. Some standard cleaning tasks include: 

    • Rinsing the portafilter and basket to remove coffee grounds and oils that can impact the taste of future brews. 
    • Wiping any milk residue from the machine and steamer to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria

    These simple steps will improve the quality of your espresso shots and will help you to avoid blockages and other damage in the future. 

    Enjoy Your Kitchen Cafe!

    Learning to brew espresso at home takes time, but the results are delicious. With the right materials (and a lot of practice) you will be brewing cafe favorites every morning in the comfort of your own kitchen.