Has your love for espresso gone so far that you want to try and make it yourself at home or work? Or are you opening your own coffee shop or restaurant? Reaching the perfect espresso shot requires practice, yet, you will enjoy each stage of the process and the variety of drinks you can prepare.
So, let’s start with some tips on how to make the perfect espresso.
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What Is Espresso?
Let’s first understand the process: espresso is a concentrated coffee drink served in “shots,” usually made with an espresso machine. That machine has a compartment where you add ground coffee beans, then it forces and pressures hot water through those very finely ground coffee beans resulting in the concentrated and rich flavored drink; espresso. That whole process is known as “pulling a shot.”
What Tools Do You Need?
To practice pulling a perfect shot, you need to have a grinder and an espresso machine. Keep in mind that it’s better to start practicing with the machine only because different tools and machines vary in features.
Coffee grinders are sometimes underrated or overlooked, however, freshly ground coffee is the number-one key element in the process because pre-ground coffee can go stale rather quickly, which results in a bitter, odorless espresso. Coffee aficionados suggest you do some research to find out which options would work best for you, as coffee grinders, such as those listed here, come with an array of features serving various needs and purposes. But whether you’re looking for a basic home espresso grinder or a rather advanced, commercial one, there are three key features that have to be present in your coffee grinder:
- A durable cast steel grinding disc with a flat burr, which will grind your coffee in a perfect, uniform consistency, enhancing its flavor characteristics when extracted.
- A heat removal system, since an overheated grinder can lead to a burned and bitter taste in espresso. Always keep in mind to find a machine with a double ventilation system.
- A stepless grinder, which offers limitless grinding settings—unlike a stepped grinder that offers preset settings you can choose from. The former gives the user the privilege to set their own grinding setting to tailor their own recipe.
How to Pull an Espresso Shot?
As mentioned before, there is no quick recipe on how to pull the perfect espresso shot; you need to practice because it is a trial and error process.
Here is the process you need to go through:
To ensure an even water distribution in your espresso machine, start by preheating it by pulling a blank shot in a cup. This will preheat the portafilter—where you add the ground coffee—and your serving cup.
While your machine is preheating, grind your coffee to a perfect texture; which should be like granulated sugar. Do not grind too fine because your machine’s heat will burn it, and also not too coarse because your machine’s water will run fast through it and you will end up with a watery espresso.
Add ground coffee—baristas call it “dose the coffee”—to our machine in the portafilter. Since there is no perfect amount, test in between the range of 8-10 grams for single shots and 14-18 grams for double shots. Now hold the tamper perpendicular to your portafilter and compress the grind till the end.
Put your portafilter in place and start pulling the shot; the volume of water is one ounce for one shot and two ounces for a double shot. Now, brewing takes from 23 to 29 seconds, depending on many factors like grind texture or coffee bean roast. Set a stopwatch and test different brewing times till you reach your preferred espresso.
What is a Perfect Espresso Shot?
Observing the shot filling the cup can tell you a lot about what to do better next time, like the “tails”—the two espresso streams coming out of the portafilter. Those can start drippy but they have to smooth out in a few seconds. Another thing you can notice before tasting it is its color; an espresso shot is a rich, deep brown color, and anything else points at an error in the process. For example, if it is blonde, that indicates a fast extraction, or coarse grinding, or bad tamping. The golden crema at the top is the sign of an ideal process; if it isn’t perfect, then there is an error in the extraction stage only.
As you might have noticed by now, espresso can be enjoyed on its own with its rich coffee flavor or can be used as the base of various cold and hot drinks. How you make your own espresso depends on different aspects of the process, so try it out and enjoy it!