Espresso Making 101: The Art & Science

My thinking about espresso might be completely different than your opinion about espresso. In some cases people may think of espresso as just a robust cup of joe. Other folks may see it as something else, something more complex, something almost reverent, a divine gift. I’m definitely somewhere in the center.

Regardless of where your feeling about espresso are, one thing is definite: making a great shot of espresso is achieved only by way of a careful balance of both art and science. Making espresso requires a finely-tuned sense of taste and careful attention to detail.

Creating a great shot of espresso requires several things:

  1. Roasted coffee beans
  2. A bean grinder
  3. An espresso machine

Sounds easy enough up to now, right? In fact it’s definitely not simple, but there are several high quality machines currently available that do, in fact, make it really quite simple to make a nice tasting shot of espresso.

Let’s briefly talk about beans. The best quality of bean is the Arabica bean. The lesser quality of bean is the Robusta bean. The Arabica bean delivers more taste, the Robusta bean delivers more caffeine. Whatever is your preference your beans ought to be freshly roasted.

Next is the grinder, because only the perfect grind of coffee bean can create a great tasting cup of espresso. Too fine and your espresso is going to taste bitter, too coarse and you will end up with a weak cup of espresso. It will probably take a few trials to determine the grind that is best for both you and your machine.

There are several types of espresso machines. There are manual machines, semi-automatic machines, automatic machines, and super automatic machines. Click this link for a complete description of the different kinds of espresso machines.

Now is when attention to detail comes into play. You’ve ground your beans to the proper find grind. You now must place exactly 7 grams of ground coffee into your filter basket of the portafilter on your espresso machine. Tamp the grounds down into the filter basket with medium pressure. Attach the portafilter to the machine and secure in place. Switch on the machine and begin heating the water to exactly 93 degree C. As soon as the water has reached the ideal temperature begin the pull, or switch on the pump. The pump should begin forcing water through the grounds under at least 9 bars of pressure. The espresso should start flowing into the cup in a matter of seconds, and the proper extraction time needs to be somewhere within 25-30 seconds.

If all of this is starting to sound complicated and difficult then there is very good news. A super automatic espresso machine such as the Gaggia Platinum Vision makes creating a perfect cup of espresso almost child’s play. Press two or three buttons, wait a few minutes, and the machine does the rest.

Now the real easy part–sitting back and enjoying an awesome shot of espresso.

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