Cappuccino, Latte, Americano or Macchiato - espresso is the base for all your favourite drinks. Given its importance, learning to brew espresso like a barista is the doorway to making exceptional cafe-like coffee at home.
In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to brew the perfect cup of espresso at home.
What is Espresso?
Before we begin to learn how to make an espresso shot, let's understand what makes up an espresso.
Espresso [ess. press. oh] is a concentrated coffee drink. It is obtained by forcing ground coffee under pressure with a small amount of nearly boiling water. Generally, 1 shot of espresso is 30 to 36 ml.
Typically, a well-balanced cup of espresso has these three parts: Crema, Body and Heart.
- Crema - The Top Layer
The espresso crema is a golden-brown foamy layer that sits on top of your espresso shot. It is made of microbubbles of CO2 gas that are suspended in water.
- Body - The Middle Layer
In between the crema and the heart, you will find the body of the espresso. It is caramel brown in colour.
- Heart - The Bottom Layer
At the very bottom, you will find the heart of the espresso shot. It is rich brown in colour. This layer holds the bitter qualities of your espresso shot.
How to Pull the Shot?
Espresso is made by pushing a highly pressurised stream of hot water through a firmly packed coffee grind. The water extracts the coffee oils, caffeine and other soluble to provide a thick, dark coffee drink. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
1. Select Fresh Coffee Beans: Start with picking the right beans for your espresso-making. The beans should be fresh and of high quality. For a robust flavour, you can go for a dark or medium-dark roast profile.
2. Grind the Coffee: It is imperative to grind the coffee beans just before brewing. This way, you can be sure that the espresso will be fresh and delicious. Use a burr grinder to achieve a fine consistency, similar to powdered sugar. For a double shot, measure about 18 to 20 grams of coffee.
3. Preheat the Espresso Machine: Run a shot of hot water through the machine to warm it up. This helps maintain the optimal brewing temperature.
4. Load the Portafilter: Place the measured coffee grounds into the portafilter, ensuring it is evenly distributed. Level the grounds using a leveller and then, tamp down using a tamper. We need to make sure to create an even, smooth and level surface.
5. Lock in the Portafilter: Attach the portafilter to the machine's group head and initiate the brewing process immediately.
6. Brew the Espresso: Start the extraction process. Ideally, it should take about 25-30 seconds to extract a double shot. The espresso should flow out as a steady, syrupy stream. When it is collected in the espresso cut, it should have a rich, golden crema on top of a dark coffee shot.
7. Serve Immediately: Espresso is at its best when fresh. So, we recommend you serve it immediately in a pre-warmed cup to preserve its flavour and aroma.
How to Extract a Balanced Espresso?
This beverage is quite challenging to master. To obtain a balanced cup of espresso with well-rounded flavours, we need to strike the balance between these three factors - grind, extraction time and dose.
- Grind size: A fine grind size is suitable for brewing a balanced cup of espresso. So, we need to use a burr grinder to achieve the desired grind size.
- Grind fresh: The freshness of the coffee is as important as the grind size. So, we should grind the coffee beans right before brewing.
- Distribute the grind: Use a tool to distribute the coffee evenly in the portafilter. You can alternatively use your fingers and gently tap on it to ensure proper distribution. Then, tamp the coffee grounds to compress and achieve an even surface.
The extraction time for coffee should be anywhere between 20 to 30 seconds. If the extraction is happening too quickly, we need to adjust the grind to a finer size. On the other hand, if the shot's extraction time is too slow, we need to adjust to a coarser grind.
The amount of coffee used to brew is critical for obtaining a well-balanced cup. So, we need to measure out the correct amount of coffee grounds.
In addition to the three factors, there's always another thing to consider - your personal taste. You can adjust the grind, extraction time and dose for an espresso that will satisfy your palette.
Whether you are enjoying your creation solo or impressing guests, relish the aroma and appreciate the flavours the shot has to offer!
While pulling the shots at home, it is important to remember that the art of making espresso is not only about precision; it is also about creating your coffee moment.
As you continue to experiment and refine your technique, may each sip bring you closer to the perfect brew.