Espresso is a very interesting drink with complex notes and a smooth texture. It is considered to be one of the pickiest about cooking conditions and barista skills.
There is a lot to be done to make a perfect cup of espresso. You need to carefully select the beans, monitor the cleanliness of the equipment, water pressure and temperature, coffee dosage, tamping, and brewing time.
The consistency of espresso is reminiscent of a syrup; a concentrated beverage with a very intense flavor. All of this is important as Espresso is the base for various coffee drinks. Some of the drinks include cafè latte, cappuccino, cafè mocha, cafè Americano and many more.
Espresso has a higher caffeine amount than a typical cup of coffee, however, due to the lower serving size, the caffeine amount is less than that of a mug of regular coffee.
To make a perfect cup of espresso coffee, you would need the right equipment and ingredients and follow some instructions carefully. We have put together a few tips on improving the quality and enjoying your perfectly brewed espresso coffee every day!
7 Tips For Making Perfect Espresso
Here are 7 tips for making a perfect cup of espresso. If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll always get the smoothest and tastiest shot of espresso. Perfect every time!
1. Good Coffee Beans
Start with good quality, freshly roasted coffee beans. Avoid using coffee beans that are more than two to three weeks old. As time goes by, the beans start losing their freshness and flavor after being roasted.
As a result, it is preferable to utilize the best espresso beans that have been freshly roasted on-site or in small quantities as required. However, there is such thing as espresso that is “too fresh.”
Coffee must degas; that’s the gradual discharge of carbon dioxide that has accumulated during roasting. Excessive degassing will dilute the taste and make achieving the ideal crema more difficult.
2. The Right Equipment
Using good equipment does not guarantee a perfect espresso coffee, but following the correct instructions will help. The equipment you’ll need is a grinder and auto espresso machines.
- The Grinder
The grinder is as essential as the coffee machine. Espresso requires a fine grind size due to its short brew time. The grinder you purchase will determine the consistency of how much you can extract flavors from your coffee beans.
Select grinders that do not overheat the beans will start faster and create a more uniform grind size. Overheating the beans may lead to a reduction in the freshness of the coffee and also in flavor.
- The Espresso Machine
When buying an espresso machine, look for variables that you can control, such as temperature, pressure, water flow, dose, etc. Additionally, user-friendliness should be considered; this refers to your level of confidence while using the machine.
Once you invest in a good espresso machine, make sure to keep it clean every time you use it. This way, your machine will last longer.
3. Grind Your Coffee Well
After being ground, the coffee degasses dramatically. The fresher the grind, the fresher the taste. When you start grinding the coffee beans, consider the grind size. The grind size is essential as it affects the extraction rate of the flavor and aroma compounds in the beans.
Grind size also affects how quickly the water can pass through the coffee. If the grounded beans are too fine, it’ll resemble wet sand, and the water will take longer to pass through. This increases the time of the brew and the degree of extraction.
To make that perfect espresso, make sure the grind size is sufficiently fine so that it would take more or less 20 to 30 seconds to pull the shot.
Less time than that and you’ll be left with salty and acidic flavors. If the shot is pulled within the mentioned time, you’ll experience sweetness in the espresso along with the other flavors.
If you’re not happy with how your espresso tastes, you can always tweak the grind settings and see if it solves your problem.
4. Clean Your Portafilter
When making espresso, make sure your portafilter is clean. A portafilter that has been left wet or contains leftover coffee grounds will eventually lead to bitter and astringent coffee. A clean portafilter is a great step to that caramel-like espresso you want.
If there are any remnants of your previous espresso expedition in the portafilter, then it will alter (putting it harshly, destroy) the taste of your coffee. Also, hygiene is a key factor when making espresso or any food.
5. Water Quality, Ratio, and Temperature
Water quality is a huge factor as it affects the flavor and taste of your coffee. Tap water, also known as hard water, can not only alter the taste of your coffee (due to minerals and impurities incorporated in it), but it can also damage your coffee machine.
Therefore, it is best to use filtered water to taste coffee in its purest form. You can also consider using bottled water or an active carbon filter for tap water.
As for the temperature, it is another critical factor that can affect the taste of the coffee in a big way. So, it is essential to experiment with the temperature yourself. This way you can see its impact on the flavor, and then choose your preferred temperature setting.
Deciding on a coffee-to-water ratio depends on how strong you want your coffee. For a standard cup of coffee, you can try using a 1:3 ratio. So, for one gram of dry coffee, you’ll need about 3 ml of espresso in the cup. For a stronger one, you can use 1:2 and 1:4 for a lungo.
You’ve done all your research and experiments, and you’re ready to pull the shot. But wait! What would happen if the coffee grounds in your portafilter are uneven? You will end up with bad coffee.
Good coffee depends on all the coffee grounds being extracted together at the same time. However, if one section of the grounds in the portafilter seems to be less than the other, the water will flow through the area where there is the least resistance. This will lead to the grinds being over-extracted at one side than the other.
Therefore, before switching on your machine, make sure the coffee grounds in your portafilter are uniformly distributed by tamping it consistently.
Extraction is the climax to your espresso journey. All your preparations come to this point and it is all decided by how you pull the shot.
When using an espresso machine with a heat exchanger, before installing the holder in the group, you need to spill 50-100 ml of water so that the temperature drops to a working temperature.
Usually, at this time there is boiling water with a hiss, as soon as the hissing stops, you can prepare an espresso.
When using a two-boiler coffee machine, it is also necessary to spill water. It is necessary not to drop the temperature, but to clean the dispersion grid from coffee residues from the previous preparation. In this case, significantly less water needs to be spilled – until it becomes clear.
After installing the holder in the coffee machine, you must immediately turn on the spill, since chemical reactions are already starting in coffee at high temperatures.
As a rule, espresso is prepared in 23-30 seconds from the moment the pump is turned on until it is turned off. The time frame is important as anything lesser or more than this will lead to an espresso that tastes bitter and acidic.
Once you’ve mastered extraction along with all the other steps, you can be an at-home barista pulling espresso shots like a pro.
There is no “perfect” recipe to achieve a barista-quality coffee. It’s just a recipe and how well you can control the variables to make good coffee. These include the temperature, water quality, freshness of the roasted beans, grind size, distribution, and clean equipment.
Preparing good coffee is all about experimentation. So experiment by adjusting different variables and find the flavor you prefer the most. It may take time, but one mistake can ruin perfectly good coffee.
So take your time, do your experiments, and soon you’ll be making espresso like a barista. Now, all you have to do now is get a coffee machine and keep this article by your side. I’ll see you next time with another article. Until then, take care!