Making Perfect Espresso At Home1. Have High Quality Espresso Beans – It is the espresso beans where it all begins of course. If your espresso beans are of low quality then it won’t really matter how great your espresso machine is. Having high quality espresso beans does not mean you have to go out and buy the most expensive beans you can find either. The very minute you open the bag of espresso, it will start to lose its freshness and flavour. In order to keep your espresso beans fresh, you should keep them in a sealed plastic container. However another thing you can do is to buy your beans in small quantities so they are used up quickly. Just so you know, contrary to popular belief, freezing coffee or espresso does not extend its life, just as freezing fresh bread doesn’t either.
Also, by buying beans and not espresso that has already been ground, your espresso will stay fresher for even longer. This is because the surface area of beans is far smaller than that of grounds relative to mass, so they are in contact with less oxygen which degrades the quality. So simply buy beans and grind it as you need it.
However, if you want to purchase superior quality espresso beans then make sure you look at the grading. The higher the grade, the higher the quality of the beans. In general, beans from Panama are the most premium followed by Nicaragua. However many of those beans are classed as speciality and aren’t available in many local stores, so you may need to order them online.
2. Grind Your Own Beans – As I touched on above, by grinding your own beans, you’ll ensure you have the freshest and tastiest espresso grounds possible. You have to be careful what kind of coffee bean grinder to get though. Some grinders will grind the beans so fine they will heat up, burn and lose their flavour. Poorly set up grinders will not quite grind them enough also, which of course will mean you’re not able to extract all the flavour from your espresso grounds as the water will pass through too quickly. You need to grind them into grounds and not a fine powder. I suggest you look for something such as a burr coffee grinder, which you can get for home use.
3. Filter Your Water – Simple as that really! By having the best components to begin with, you improve your chances of being able to make the best possible espresso from home.
4. Keep Your Equipment Clean – Many of us fail to wash our espresso making equipment regularly enough. Due to the small amount of liquid you get from an espresso, even a small amount of dirt can impair the taste considerably.
5. Tamping Your Grinds – After you’ve ground your beans, you then need to “tamp” them within the holding cup or porta-filter. Tamping refers to manually compressing the grounds within the holding cup. Many Italian espresso machines come with their own tamper and if not then simply use the base of a bottle or something similar.
The most important thing with tamping is the pressure you apply. By applying too much pressure, the water may struggle to extract the maximum amount of delicious espresso flavour and by not tamping enough you may end up with an espresso that’s too thin and bitter.
The correct tamping pressure is 30 pounds! All you need to do to ensure you’re tamping at 30 pounds of pressure is to correctly calibrate your arm on a kitchen scale.
6. Now For The Fun Part – Now you’re ready to start up the machine to deliver your perfect homemade espresso.
The thing to remember is that you need your espresso with a thin layer of crema on top and your espresso should exit the machine in a very thin stream. The crema will start to appear in your espresso after around 15 seconds. After 30 seconds, this will change to larger bubbles. Now is the time to stop, so keep your eye out for these larger bubbles. You can also listen to the change in pitch that will come around this point. If you carry on allowing espresso to exit from your espresso machine for much longer than 30 seconds then what you’ll actually be getting will be espresso that has been largely stripped of its flavour. The result will be a slightly bitter tasting espresso with far too many bubbles.
Remember that if you’d like to convert your espresso into an Americano then it’s best not to keep the espresso coming through the machine for longer, but instead to top it up with hot water.
7. Flush The Machine Through – Once you’ve finished creating your perfect homemade espresso then you can enjoy it. But remember that there may still be some espresso left in the tubes of the machine if you turned it off before it had all been extracted. It’s best to collect this remaining espresso in a separate cup, rather than allowing it to fester until the next day when it will be the first part of the espresso to enter into your next cup.
So now you know how to make perfect espresso at home even with an espresso machine costing under $100. You certainly don’t need an expensive machine to make consistently high quality espresso at your own leisure.