How to Use an Espresso Machine: Ultimate Guide
If you’re the type of person who simply cannot start the day or even get through one without having a shot of espresso, then you really need to get the best espresso machine that fits right in your budget. There are plenty of espresso makers in the market that can give you that coffee boost early in the morning or even a shot in the arm at midday. But while you may have the best gadget in your kitchen countertop and you don’t know how to use it, then what’s the point? As such you really need to learn how to make espresso with machine. This guide will show you the path to a glorious cup of espresso.
For those of us who are simply content on having a good cup from our favorite coffee shop, we may not really know the difference between coffee and espresso or even bother to know the difference. The thing is that there really isn’t any significant difference between the two especially in terms of the drink. However, there is a very substantial difference when it comes to the making of an espresso.
Coffee can be prepared in a myriad of ways, one of them using espresso machines. There’s coffee that’s made using a French press, a stovetop percolator, or even from a simple pour over coffee setup. The thing is that other methods typically rely on the slow filtration of hot water passed through the coffee ground so that all the coffee goodness from the ground beans can be extracted. This takes time, with some taking several hours just to obtain that coffee goodness we all love. Some systems can offer you a good cup but only after several minutes.
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Espresso, perhaps from the word ‘express’, gives you your cup of coffee in less than 30 seconds. Now that’s what you call express coffee. And you can only get this with an espresso machine.
What’s with an Espresso Machine?
When it comes to how to make coffee with espresso machine, the secret is in the use of pressurized near-boiling water. This pressurized water passes through finely-ground beans that have been packed into cakes. And since it is pressurized, it is able to extract all the goodness of ground coffee in a fraction of the time of other methods. You’ll get aromatic, complex, and caffeine-packed coffee in less than 30 seconds.
But is it possible to make espresso without the machine? Yes, it is. However, given that the machine makes preparation more accurate and a lot easier, you’ll have to be prepared for extra work.
The key to an espresso machine’s magic is the pressure. Not only does pressure ensure quick brewing, it is also instrumental in the development of crema as well as the more even dispersion of rich coffee oils in your final cup. The pressure on these machines can reach up to 130 PSI, although there are some that can provide even higher pressures. To put that into perspective, 130 PSI is like going on a deep-sea dive of up to 300 feet. That’s the pressure put into the compacted finely-ground coffee beans to give you an experience you won’t get anywhere else.
The Coffee Grounds
Your machine may be able to exert the greatest amount of pressure into your coffee grounds, but if you neglect preparing your coffee grounds then you’d still end up with a mediocre cup of espresso.
Conventional coffee brewing techniques call for coarser coffee grounds to strike a balance between the extraction of coffee flavors and the dissolution of particles. Espresso calls for finely-ground coffee beans that have been compacted or pressed into a coffee cake mold. This exposes a greater coffee bean surface area allowing for more efficient brewing and shorter infusion process.
Unfortunately, if the coffee beans are ground too fine, they can also slow the brewing process or even clog up. The reason for this is that as pressurized hot water is passed through the beans, the coffee bed swells. The key, therefore, is to strike the balance between medium and small coffee grounds.
The Final Espresso Cup
Espresso aficionados can easily spot a perfectly-prepared espresso shot. First, it should have a nice layer of crema – the Holy Grail of all coffee foams. This should be between 3 and 4 mm thick and comes with that distinct light brown creamy color. If you don’t touch your cup, the crema should last a good 40 minutes or so. But given the fact that espressos are served in tiny 1.6 oz china cups, you’d probably finish it in just minutes. After all, most folks don’t like their coffee cold.
Underneath the crema is the espresso. It should have a uniquely rich taste with aromas that can fill your nostrils and transport you to another dimension. Sipping a cup will coat your tongue and palate with a velvety blanket. Since the brewing process is relatively short, it is less acidic, making it a great option for those who may be averse to coffee because of hyperacidity. And while the brewing process has been shortened, espresso can still contain 60 to 70 percent caffeine.
How to Make a Good Cup of Coffee with Your Espresso Machine
Now that we have a more or less clearer understanding of what espresso is, what the machine does, the importance of pressure and coffee grounds, and spotting a well-prepared espresso, it’s now time to learn how to make espresso with machine.
- Prepare the Coffee Grounds
As we already pointed above, one of the secrets to making a good cup of espresso is the coffee grounds. If you hit the right consistency, you’ll be blessed with an espresso that trickles more like honey that’s dripping off your spoon. However, if it is too fine, you won’t get any coffee since it will clog the portafilter or the filter basket. If the grounds are too coarse, you’ll have watery consistency and can make the espresso a bit bitter. What you need are coffee grounds where you can still feel slight granules. And when you pack it or tamp it into the hopper, it will not cake when you press it between your fingers.
For single shot espressos, you need to grind about 6 to 8 grams of coffee beans for every 1 to 1.5 fluid ounces. If you’re into a double shot, then you will need 15 grams of coffee beans for every 2 fluid ounces. We really need to emphasize the need to be precise about the measurements, so you can weigh your coffee beans with a digital kitchen scale. As for the grinder, a conical burr grinder is recommended.
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Getting it right takes time. Masters of the espresso often started with trial and error just so they learn to get the right consistency of the coffee grounds that will give them the best possible espresso shot.
- Pre-warm the Espresso Machine
It goes without saying that you need to pre-warm the espresso machine. You’ll need warm water to get that good brew. Different machines will have different warm up times. You should always consult your manual to check just how much time you need to pre-warm the machine.
In your succeeding espresso-making adventures, it is important to run some plain warm water through the espresso machine. This will help get rid of any stagnant water that may be sitting in the tubes or pipes of the device. Additionally, you will also want to remove and dry the hopper as soon as you have run water through the system. This will help make sure that the coffee will not follow the moisture on the hopper’s edges. This will ensure you retain the flavor of espresso you require.
- Tamp the Coffee Grounds
This is a step that you should never miss. More importantly, it is something that should be done correctly if you want to master the art of how to make coffee with espresso machine.
Tamping is the process of compacting or pressing the coffee grounds into the hopper or the storage compartment for your coffee grounds. This is can be very tricky since you will be compressing the coffee grounds into the hopper using a tamper that you press with your hands. The real challenge here is in knowing the right amount of pressure to apply. Ideally, you’d want it to apply 20 lbs of pressure.
Again, it takes a fair amount of practice and trial and error to get the ‘feeling’ of 20 lbs of pressure.
- Get Ready to Brew
Your espresso machine is raring to go and you’ve already compacted the coffee grounds into the hopper. Place your demitasse or espresso cup underneath the spout of the machine and start brewing. A good cup of espresso can be had in as little as 20 seconds, but should never go longer than 30 seconds. Most espresso lovers will get theirs in the middle at 25 seconds.
We don’t expect you to become a master of the craft in just the first try. It often takes months before you can get that perfect blend. At the very least, you now know how to make espresso with machine.