The perfect espresso made easy. Here's how...
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I wish I was one of those hardcore people that just had straight espresso for breakfast; but for me, espresso has always had an aggressive profile that needs to be diluted with milk. Saying this would probably have my barista friends up in arms. They tell me, a good espresso is like a nice whiskey. To be slowly enjoyed, straight with full flavour. I reluctantly tell them that whiskey has a burn-y burn-y flavour that I don't care for much and at this point they retreat back to the safe space in front of the espresso machine.
Over the many years of working in hospitality I have probably handed out thousands of coffee cups and at the foundation of these orders is espresso. Espresso is the most popular choice, whether it straight, elongated as a long black or diluted with milk. As a disorganised zombified business man once said to me "Give me your strongest, largest coffee. I want to be punched in the face with alertness." In my experience the humble espresso is what keeps the adult world turning.
Many people who obtain the elixir of life do so outside of their home space, But for those wanting to save a few dollars a week, investing in a home set up is definitely worth it. Wanting to explore espresso more I asked someone who knew far more than I. Here are a few titbits to getting the best espresso at home from Brandon.
ESPRESSO YOURSELF AT HOME
Barista, Author & Contributor: Brandon Mallender
ORIGIN OF ESPRESSO
The term itself is supposed by most to be a hybrid of French and Italian, derivative of the phrase, "coffee made expressly for you." Early commercial coffee makers were small, flame heated presses. Then, the 1880's rolled out the first espresso machines. By today's standards, they weren't all that good, awkwardly constructed featuring impractical vertical boilers. 50 plus years later La Marzocco developed and patented multi-group headed machines with horizontal boilers, allowing multiple baristas (barkeeps) to operate and produce more espresso based coffee faster. Until severe flooding and World War 2 forced the factory to close down and destroyed the documentation securing the patent. That's right; we have Hitler to thank for today's market.
Currently, something like 90 percent of all coffee sold in and around Brisbane is espresso based. Earlier, home filter/brew machines are being phased out in favour of pod 'espresso' machines, further the popularity of the term. The domestic market has now grown to such a point of demand that major manufactures have developed single group, home based machines. La Marzocco, Slayer and Kees all have single group machines available for domestic use. Smaller manufacturers, of course, have a better hold on the market. Cheaper, easier to maintain machines litter most retailers.
HOW TO AT HOME
Ordinarily, coffee extracted from a machine follows a few basic rules; involving dosage, time and yield and simple ratios.
- Dosage, the amount of finely ground coffee readied in the filter-basket and tamped before being inserted into the group head.
- Time, the average time for extraction, recorded and replicated for consistency.
- Yield, the intended weight of the final shot. These vary based on the choice of coffee, roaster, age, blend or single origin.
Lighter roast coffees from particular origins and plantations can be brewed with higher yields using lower doses. Storage is oft overlooked for its importance. Purchasing good coffee from nearby roasters is a must and sorting the beans in cool, dry places is preferred. Putting coffee in the fridge is a hell worthy sin.
RATIOS & RECIPES
Ratios work by taking the doses & roughly multiplying it.
- For instance, a 1:1 ratio will have roughly the same weight of liquid coffee extracted as the used amount of dry coffee used to brew it -- called a ristretto in older terms.
- Following this, an espresso will have a 1:2+ ration, where the yield can be up to & more than twice the dose.
- Finally a lungo will have roughly three times the amount extracted for than the amount ground, 1:3.
Following the rules mentioned above, making coffee at home becomes a little simpler. Affordable pocket scales make dosing easier & can be replaced with little expense. Recipes are more variable & can be changed to match the product purchased. Ask your friendly barista for a recipe when purchasing beans.
An example of a recipe:
- Dose: 21g dry coffee in your basket
- Yield: 42g espresso out in your cup
Most home machines come with a blind filter basket; a closed cap that can be placed in the group-handle and used to flush out waste coffee grains from inside the group head. Cleaning agents are available from most coffee retailers and can be used to 'back flush' the machine, cleaning it appropriately. Afterwards, it's a must that the group be purged with in order to rinse it and a 'dummy shot' be run through the machine to assist in prepping the machine for continued use.