Making a good cup of coffee is a task, but crafting a shot of espresso is a skill--one that can't be perfected without a good tool (a home espresso machine) and the right procedure. Don't have an espresso maker? Check our updated espresso machines report for some great models. As for the precise and somewhat daunting process of making espresso, here's what the experts have to say:
It all starts with the beans. Italian or Brazillian-roasted beans make the best shot, according to TalkAboutCoffee.com. Always choose beans specifically roasted for espresso and grind them yourself if possible.
Fresh ground beans are always preferred, and true aficionados balk at the idea of using pre-ground beans. According to WholeLatteLove.com, the ideal espresso grind resembles the consistency of ground sugar.
The brewing temperature of the water should be between 190 and 196 degrees (don't worry most machines on the market are designed to brew in this range). The optimal in-cup temperature of espresso is around 160 to 165 degrees. Temperature loss is attributed to the cup and air temperature. To make sure your espresso doesn't lose too much heat, always warm the serving cup as your machine heats up. Some machines are equipped with a cup heater; otherwise, the cup can simply be heated by running it under hot water.
Pressure is another key component to a perfect espresso; it ensures the brew is extracted from the beans correctly. Many of the high-end machines have a max pressure of up to 15 bars or atmospheres; however, 8 to 9 bars of pressure is ideal. Too little pressure leads to weak espresso and too much pressure brews bitter a shot.
Brew time is fairly precise when it comes to espresso. Most experts suggest that a 2-ounce shot should take 20 seconds to brew and a 2.5-ounce shot should take 25 seconds. Simply put, by staying within the 20-25 second range, the coffee extraction will be at its peak. A few seconds either way will significantly alter the taste and experience.
As with any hobby, practice makes perfect. If the whole process seems too complicated, go for a pod espresso machine--they pretty much take all the guess work out!
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