how to make espresso at home

How to Make Espresso at Home. Let’s Know The Espresso 101

    Are you a part of the one-third of American adults that drinks gourmet coffee every day? Gourmet coffee accounts for things like lattes, custom blends, and espresso. But before we look at how to make espresso at home, allow me to answer the burning question: What is espresso?

    Espresso is a small portion of brewed coffee with a high caffeine content. It can be drunk alone, or as the base for other drinks.

    What Kind of Coffee Beans are Best for Espresso?

    There is a misconception that espresso provides a burnt, bitter taste. That's just not true - as long as you prepare it correctly! At the moment, espresso is more popular in Europe than in America. Perhaps if we discuss the best espresso beans, it will take off in the States, too!

    Espressos must be blended for balance, so the flavor is not overwhelmed. Many espresso blends come from Arabica beans. They are subtly aromatic with a sweet fragrance. The beans are full of natural sugars that lead to a soft, sweet taste.

    Arabica beans will produce the fine layer of crema on top of the cup and will make a lighter brown-yellow color. Robusta beans produce a thicker layer of crema and increase the caffeine content.

    Dark-roasted coffees are a good choice and can bring out chocolaty flavors in your espresso. However, there are some great medium and light roasts out there, too. Naturally processed coffees are favorable as they hold onto the beans' natural sweetness.

    Coffee beans for espresso

    What Type of Espresso Machines are the Best ... And Why?

    So, you have high-quality beans and now it's time to get the machine right. If you find a good machine, you'll be able to make gourmet coffee and bring out the full flavors of the beans. Espresso machines produce highly concentrated, rich brews.

    I checked out some espresso machine reviews to bring you the lowdown.

    Pump-driven Espresso Maker

    Pump driven espresso

    Best for ...

    • A dark, rich espresso that is full of flavor and the necessary oils.

    The downside ...

    • They're bigger, heavier and more difficult to use.
    • The pump-driven espresso maker is the ultimate upgrade for your kitchen. It heats water in a sealed reservoir, then forces through coffee grounds at 15 atmospheres of pressure. With this feature, you'll be able to learn how to make espresso at home like a qualified barista!
    • You can purchase pods/capsules for some pump machines. The pods contained pre-ground, pre-measured dose of coffee. This makes the process a lot easier, so anyone could use it.
    • This machine contains two separate systems for generating the required pressure and controlling temperature. This ensures a balanced extraction as well as guaranteeing you'll get the pressure you need.

    Steam-driven Espresso Maker

    Steam driven espresso maker

    Best for ...

    • Easy and cheaper coffee making.

    The downside ...

    • Not all that powerful and can build a slightly bitter espresso.
    • Steam-powered options cannot generate the pressure needed to produce a "true espresso". You can still make a good, strong coffee, but without the required pressure, you won't achieve the crema. Without the crema, is it even an espresso?
    • Steam espresso machines extract coffee at a high temperature. This gives a strong, aromatic coffee. It's a cheaper option, so can make a good gift.

    Lever Machines

    lever espresso machine

    Best for ...

    • Style and good-quality espresso.

    The downside ...

    • Bad for beginners.
    • Lever-operated espresso machines became popular in classic Italian coffee bars. They look attractive and are durable. The user provides the pressure by leaning on the lever. If you're a skilled user, you can create the best possible quality of espresso this way.
    • You have full control over the details of the coffee. You can make it however you want it to be.

    Fully-automated Machine

    fully automated espresso maker

    Best for ...

    • Those who are too busy to spend time crafting their espresso.

    The downside ...

    • You miss out on a custom-made espresso.
    • These machines do the grinding and brewing, and add the crema for you. This saves a lot of time. Simply press a button and get on with whatever other tasks you have. The finished espresso will be waiting for you.
    • Full-automatic options usually self-clean, too. You don't have to worry about getting rid of all of that old, bitter coffee.
    • Back in 1996, a columnist at French Cup magazine predicted that one-half of all US households would have an espresso machine. Now you're armed with all the information you need, what are you waiting for?!

    How to Make Espresso at home

    Let's begin with a quick summary and then I'll provide a step-by-step guide on how to make espresso at home. Espresso is made by forcing hot water through tightly packed coffee grounds. The coffee is then extracted in small, concentrated amounts.

    A shot of espresso contains up to 12% of dissolved coffee solids, compared to less than 2% in a cup of brewed filtered coffee. This makes the flavor of espresso seem about 10X stronger than regular coffee!

    For the best espresso coffee, follow the guide below.

    What you need:

    • Freshly-roasted coffee beans
    • Grinder
    • Espresso machine
    The method:

    Start with the best beans. Buy your coffee beans from a specialist supplier. It's good to know how fresh they are and where they're from. Always buy whole beans and grind them yourself.

    Prepare the machine. Pull out your porter filter and dry it with a cloth. It should be clean as stale coffee grounds will affect the flavor of your cup.

    Grind the beans. You may have a machine that does this for you. The best grind is like flour in consistency, with some gritty salt through it. If the beans are ground too fine, they may give your drink a burnt flavor. If they're too coarse, the espresso will taste thin and watery.

    Enter the beans. Once the porter filter is 3/4 full, give it a tap to level out the coffee grounds. Then add more coffee to fill it. You can then tamp the grounds to compress them. Lean slightly into them and add some body weight, but don't push too hard.

    Use the machine.  First, purge your machine by running some water through it. Now you can lock in your porter filter to the machine and turn on the lever. The coffee will drip out to start with and then will stream out evenly.

    How much coffee? As a guide, you're looking for 30 ml of coffee that should pour out in 30 seconds.

    The perfect espresso. If you've done it right, your espresso will be thick and oily with a layer of crema on the top.

    Health Tips & Caffeine Content of Espresso coffee

    I hear many people wondering about how much caffeine in espresso and is it bad for us? We drink espressos because they provide us with that simple, intense shot of coffee. For this reason, it's not surprising that espresso has the highest concentration of caffeine per unit.

    You can expect to find about 64 mg of caffeine in 1 fl. oz., according to the USDA. In a regular cup of coffee (8 oz.), you'll find about 95 mg of caffeine.

    What are the health benefits associated with espressos?

    To start with, caffeine is great for your long-term memory and attention span. It reduces fatigue thanks to a neurochemical interaction. Don't overdo it, though, as too much caffeine can make you jittery. And then concentration gets harder.

    Espressos only contain about 3 calories for every ounce. If you're drinking it straight, you eliminate fattening elements like cream, milk, and syrup.

    Due to the antioxidant properties of coffee, it can reduce your risk of a stroke and diabetes.

    So there you have it. You can satisfy your cravings without feeling guilty. In fact, regular intake of coffee is actually good for you, so go on, have a cup!

    Variations on Espresso

    How do you take your espresso? Is it a straight shot or do you like to mix it up? If you're not sure, here's a quick cheat sheet to what's available.

    The Drink

    What is it?

    Pure Espresso

    This is that intense, concentrated "shot" of coffee. Popular in Europe, it's served in a mini coffee cup.

    You can drink is as a "Ristretto", which is smaller than a shot. Otherwise, go for a single shot, or even a double shot for a super-powered boost.

    Espresso Macchiato

    Keeping it simple, this is a shot of espresso topped with a layer of foamed milk.

    Espresso con Panna

    One to satisfy your sweet tooth. This describes a shot of espresso and a layer of whipped cream.

    Café Breve

    This is a shot of espresso with steamed half-and-half. If you're not sure what that is, it's something of a light cream.

    12% of US coffee drinkers prefer cappuccino. Again, this drink uses a single shot of espresso as the base. We then add steamed, wet milk.

    Café Latte

    Another very popular drink in America, the latte has a sweet, mellow flavor. This drink begins with a shot of espresso, add 6-8 ounces of steamed milk and then top with a layer of foam.

    Café Americano

    The common coffee. A single shot of espresso gets watered down by filling the cup with hot water.

    The Bottom Line

    Now, you can impress your friends with your espresso knowledge and espresso skills! Always use fresh, high-quality beans and follow each step carefully.

    For the highest-quality espresso that you can make at home, you need a pump-driven machine. However, mastering this is an ongoing art! You'll continuously learn and adapt on the journey, which makes it even more fun. Don't you think?

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