What does it take to make a perfect espresso?
Picture yourself in your favourite local coffee shop (like Aladdin, for instance!). You sit down at a table with a steaming cup of your favourite coffee beverage. What’s in that cup? Is it a latte, a cappuccino, or an Americano? Maybe it’s a small cup filled with a rich, sweet espresso topped with a foamy layer of crema.
No matter what your favourite type of coffee is, chances are it starts the same: with a shot (or two!) of espresso. What you may not know is that you can make a perfect shot of espresso at home, too!
To do that, there are a few fundamental things to understand before attempting to pull the perfect shot of espresso.
What is espresso?
The word “espresso” comes from the Italian word espresso, which originated from the Latin verb exprimere; literally, this means “press out.” This refers to how espresso is made: water is pushed through the grounds at a high pressure, “pressing out” the coffee into your cup!
But what’s the difference between espresso and coffee?
All espresso is coffee, but not all coffee is espresso!
- Coffee is the liquid extracted from the bean
- Espresso is the method of brewing
Technically, any bean can be used; however, you’ll get better results if you use a blend that’s meant for espresso.
Why is espresso special?
Espresso is used in a variety of coffee drinks or can be enjoyed on its own. The reason for its popularity is that the method of brewing gives a different result than drip coffee.
When making drip coffee, the water acts like a shower, covering the coffee grinds and dripping through the filter where it collects in a carafe or cup. This usually takes a few minutes to do.
Espresso, on the other hand, uses high pressure to force very hot water through the grinds. The water is only in contact with the coffee for 20 to 30 seconds. The use of pressure means that the oils, sugars, and solids in the coffee beans are extracted quickly, creating a thick, rich, and sweet end product that leaves the bitterness behind.
What do you need to make the perfect espresso?
Use a roast specifically for espresso for the best results - and make sure the beans are fresh!
The type of machine you are using will determine how fine the beans should be ground. The closer you are to using a commercial espresso machine, the finer the grind must be.
For a single shot of espresso, you will need 7 grams of coffee, and for a double, between 12 and 14 grams.
Coffee is 98% water, so using high quality water is key in getting a delicious final product. But what is high quality water?
Spring water: spring water contains a high amount of calcium. Calcium builds up in the machine which wears it down and provides a lower quality product over time.
Distilled water: while distilled water is great for your coffee maker since the buildup will be minimal, it can also lead to a flat and dull tasting cup of coffee.
The best choice is tap water or filtered water. That’s right, the water that comes from your sink is the best water to use to make coffee.
To make a great espresso, your water will need to be very hot - between 192 and 204 degrees Fahrenheit, or 88 to 95 degrees Celsius.
This is what sets espresso apart from other brewing methods. The pump on your espresso machine needs to put out at least 9 bars of pressure. This is how you get such a rich, strong result in such a short amount of time.
After this, pulling a shot of espresso is dependent on how your espresso machine works. Pulling a perfect espresso shot can be done at home, but first, you must start with these fundamental steps!