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Making Espresso

Does great espresso have to be messy? Some say so, others say no. Here we explore this topic. When you have created a truly excellent shot of espresso you immediately marvel at the rich color of the coffee and the creamy dark golden colored crema foam resting on the surface. So, how do we create this coffee masterpiece? And how big a mess will be created as well?

Let’s take a look at the process of making a great espresso. For starters, we will review the process of making espresso with one of my favorite machines, the Pasquini Livia Semi-automatic. We will also look at how some other machines have attempted to make the process of making great espresso with less mess.

7 Steps To Making Great Espresso

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll always have a great shot of espresso with minimal mess. Enjoy!

1) Preparing the Espresso Machine

Add fresh water to the water tank. Turn on the Pasquini Livia and allow it to warm up for 7 to 10 minutes. Prepare a blank shot, and release some steam through the steam wand. This will ensure the machine is completely warmed up. With the Pasquini Livia, I can do this once a day, as it is designed to stay on and be ready to prepare espresso all day long. Add fresh roasted beans to the bean hopper on your grinder, and dose out any old coffee remaining in the doser.

2) Water Quality for Delicious Taste

High water quality is critical to producing excellent espresso. Hard water contains mineral deposits which may or may not adversely affect the taste of your espresso, but they will damage your machine over time. Regular decalcification of your machine or the use of soft water will prevent damage to your machine. Chlorine and other foul tastes must be removed or avoided – if your water does not taste good, neither will your espresso. Either filter your water or use bottled water. Even the most expensive bottled water is affordable when producing a 1 or 2 ounce shot of espresso.

3) Selecting Your Espresso Roast

Roasting your own coffee is a whole other topic, but many insist it is the only way to ensure truly fresh coffee. A local coffee roaster, if you’re lucky enough to have a good one, is another good source of fresh roasted coffee. If one is not available, a variety of quality Italian roasted espresso coffee is available. Companies such as illy and Lavazza are some quality brands. A favorite of mine is Illy’s whole bean medium roast, which comes packed in airtight 250 gram tins.

4) Grinding the Espresso Beans

Freshly ground beans are important for two reasons:
Freshness - once coffee is ground, it oxidizes (gets stale) quickly;
Grind Adjustment - to maximize the extraction of your espresso beans is one of the true arts in the process of making great espresso.

The grind should be consistent and about the coarseness of table salt. Also, only a minimal amount of heat should be generated during grinding. A quality burr grinder is required.

5) Dosing and Tamping

Once you have ground your coffee, approximately 7 grams of coffee for each 1 to 1½ ounce shot is normally used. With the Pasquini Moka grinder, this is accomplished by using the grinder’s built-in doser to portion the coffee into the filter basker/portafilter. Inconsistent dosing will lead to inconsistent espresso.

After dosing the coffee, the coffee needs to be firmly and evenly packed or tamped. I prefer to do this with my 58mm Reg Barber tamper. Apply approximately 30 pounds of pressure until the surface is level. Any remaining loose coffee should be brushed away. The portafilter is then ready to be placed into the group head of your espresso machine.

6) Extraction

I generally run the pump for about 25 seconds to yield a 1 1/2 ounce shot of espresso. Extracting into pre-warmed espresso cups is required. I really like the Illy collectors' cups designed by Kiki Smith

7) Clean-up and Maintenance

After extraction, remove the portafilter and dump the grinds. Rinse the portafilter and basket. Periodically clean out the drip tray and wipe up any spills. Use a soft brush to remove any coffee from up in the group heap. Periodically back-flush the machine using an appropriate cleaner.

That's how you create the perfect shot of espresso. Now let's look at making your life easier with a few great espresso machines.

Espresso Machines That Pour A Great Shot and Reduce Mess

3 brands of espresso machines from the super automatic coffee and espresso center.

The Capresso EC100 provides many time saving and mess reducing features, such as the preparation of the machine. The EC100’s Thermoblock heating system warms up in about a minute. This is accomplished because the espresso pro does not pre-boil a quantity of water, it super heats a block of metal through which a water tube runs. When water has passed completely through the tube, it is consistently heated to the proper temperature.

The EC100 utilizes ground coffee or espresso pods. An espresso pod is a pre-ground, pre-measured disk of coffee held together by a fine filter paper. Espresso pods eliminate the need to grind, measure and tamp your coffee. And after extracting your espresso, the used grounds are easily and cleanly disposed of. 1stin Coffee sells espresso pods from Illy, Lavazza, and San Giorgio.

Nespresso Espresso Machines

The Nespresso Lattissima Plus also utilizes a Thermoblock heating system, but what makes it totally unique are the Nespresso coffee capsules. The Nespresso system was designed to utilize Nespresso capsules from the beginning. The capsules contain 7 grams of pre-ground espresso coffee and inert gas to maintain freshness. Similar to pods, there is no need to grind, measure, tamp the coffee.

Jura Capresso Machines

The Jura Capresso ENA 4 Super Automatic prepares your coffee in about a minute. It's as easy as placing the whole bean in the hopper, filling the water tank, and turning it on. You can adjust the water volume dial to 2 oz. This great espresso machine grinds, measures, tamps, and brews automatically.

A super automatic espresso machine will minimize mess and simplify the process of pouring a fine espresso shot