Originally "FAST" or "EXPRESSLY FOR YOU" coffee,
brewed using hot water and steam forced through the grounds, and
therefore somewhat scorched in taste. Half a century of modification
and invention led to the first modern style espresso machine, where
a set amount of water at a temperature around 90° C was forced through
the coffee under pressure. The ability to generate copious amounts
of hot frothy milk probably had a lot to do with the success of
espresso as a process, though, and still does.
Modern espresso can be defined as 25 – 30ml of
coffee concentrate produced from 92° `
2° C water
forced through 6 – 7g of finely ground coffee at a pressure of 9
bar, in a period of 20 – 30 seconds. Obviously there's a fair bit of
latitude there, as well as lots of VERY variable variables. An
Italian coffee organization even specifies that the coffee must be a
blend, which I consider stretching things a bit! especially when you
consider that most Italian blends are based firmly on Brazils,
Brazils and Brazils.
For the home enthusiasts wishing to produce
their own espresso drinks, the first consideration is "What sort of
machine do I need?" The simple answer is "One with a pump." So
called Steam Espresso units produce coffee which is similar to that
from Moka/Espresso Pots, strong coffee but not espresso as it is
currently defined. Only units with electric pumps or lever operated
compression can reach the 9 bar pressure level for true
Pump espresso machines can vary in price from a
few hundred to over 2000 dollars, depending on the materials used
and the levels of gadgetry built into the machines, but it's
important to recognise that a single group commercial machine can be
purchased for less than a fully automatic home unit. In the long
run, the commercial machine will make better espresso with far less
maintainence than the automatic.
The two largest manufacturers
of domestic espresso machines are Saeco and Krups. In general, the
Saeco machines in a given price bracket will outperform the similar
Krups unit in terms of reliability and espresso quality. There are a
number of smaller manufacturers with home units which are better
than either Saeco or Krups, and often cheaper as well, and it's
worth looking up internet reviews of domestic espresso machines at
www.coffeekid.com before committing your cash. My personal wishlist for a
home espresso machine would include a brass boiler, stainless steel
body and professional standard portafilter, and a minimum of gadgets
like "crema" and "froth" enhancers.
IF you have a machine, the next most important
thing is correctly ground coffee. Real espresso coffee is the finest
grind next to Turkish, and if the grind isn't right a good espresso
can't be achieved. The best espresso is produced from freshly ground
coffee, otherwise you need a supplier with a good grinder, the
knowledge of how to use it, and fresh coffee (blush). If you're a
serious espresso fanatic, a good burr grinder is a must. The chopper
blade thingies just can't cut it (pun) where espresso is
Given that you've organised your machine and
your coffee, the next steps are (fairly) standard, and should
produce good espresso.
- Lock your portafilter (groove handle thingy)
into the grouphead with no filter basket in it, and run hot water
through it until the light comes on to tell you that the water is
- Remove the portafilter, insert your filter
basket, fill with coffee (7g for the single basket, 14g for the
double), wipe off excess grounds from the edges with the flat of
your hand, then tamp.
- The finer your grind, the lighter your tamp
needs to be. Coarser grinds need a harder tamp. In all cases,
you're trying to get a reproducible grind/tamp combination which
will give you a 25 second shot.
- Insert the filled portafilter into the
grouphead and lock it in.
- Turn on the brew switch for 3 seconds. Wait a
further 5 seconds, then turn it on again and brew your shot. (This
is the equivalent of commercial machine preinfusion.)
- Your shot (30ml single, 60ml double) should
be rich and unctuous, with a thick layer of reddish brown, fine
bubbled crema and a smooth aftertaste.
Now, if you are making an espresso drink you'll
want to froth up some milk. You will need a stainless steel jug
about 1/3 filled with cold milk. The type of milk you use can affect
the frothing process, but I normally recommend starting with plain,
ordinary, homogenised, pasteurized MILK and playing with fat and/or
protein modified variations later.
- Fill your jug about 1/3 full of cold
- Turn on your "Steam" switch. On some
machines, this is a separate switch, but others simply require you
to open up the steam valve, after which a microswitch activates
the steam heating element.
- When steam temperature is reached (or when
steam begins to come out of the wand on the microswitch models)
insert the tip of your steam wand just below the surface of the
milk, no more than 2mm.
- Open the steam valve up fully and keep the
wand just below the milk surface. As the foam forms lower the jug,
do not move it up and down or side to side.
- LISTEN to the steaming process, the pitch of
the sound will gradually deepen until you start to hear "knocks"
or "pings". Turn off the steam valve at this point, and you should
have perfectly frothed milk about 1cm from the top of the
- If you want hot, non-frothy milk plunge the
steam wand to the bottom of the jug at the start and keep it there
until you hear the "pings".
- After steaming ALWAYS, always clean the dried
milk off the wand with a damp cloth, then open up the steam valve,
turn on the brew switch and wait until water comes out from the
wand. This refills the boiler and cleans any dried milk out of the
Espresso 30 ml of black coffee produced from 7g
of grounds. (1 cup basket.)
Short Black Australian idiom for
Long Black 60ml of espresso with 120ml of hot
water added after brewing
Americano As for long black
Double 60 ml of black coffee produced from 14g
of grounds. (2 cup basket.)
Cappuccino 60 ml of espresso, 60 ml steamed
milk, 60 ml froth
Café Latte 60 ml of espresso, 120 ml steamed
milk, little froth
Macchiato 60 ml of espresso, 5 ml milk on top,
Ristretto 30 ml of black coffee produced from
14g of grounds (strong!)
Corretto 60 ml of espresso, 30 ml of
Mocha Latte 60 ml of espresso, 1 teaspoon
drinking chocolate, 120 ml steamed milk