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It is a cold, rainy Saturday evening and you have the urge to curl up with a good book and hot coffee—well to be honest, espresso. You love espresso and wish you could make your own. Whether you are debating between purchasing your own coffee machine, or just plain wondering how to make espresso, there are some key things to know to make the perfect brew.
For starters, a good coffee espresso blend must be fresh and less than four days old to preserve its peak flavors and taste. High quality blends waft across your nostrils with its potency; it makes your mouth water with its sweetness, and warms your eyes with its thick dark reddish smoothness. Swirling streaks of milk do not squander the robust caramel-colored silkiness. Moreover, the aftertaste, it’s as rich and bold as that first sip; your palette still heightened as the warmth reaches your chest and your sinuses expand into the length of blend’s whiff.
A light roast color indicates the aromas and sugars are intact and the espresso isn’t bitter. Never used old grounds, rather only make the desired amount to ensure the aromatic content is evident in every cup and not diminished. Only grind what you need, else you will lost the very essence you are trying to capture. The right amount for a single shot is within the range of seven grams per shot.
Other factors influence the full potential of a perfect cup of espresso, as well. For example, tap water and its mineral content versus filtered water, will affect the delicate balance of flavors in your espresso. If filtered is not an option, at least dump the water and use fresh water for each new brew, but make sure to let the water run for a few seconds first. Never use distilled water, and if you do use tap water, remember it would not extend the life of your machine.
On the subject of water, the temperature stability and water pressure in your espresso machine must be optimal. Right pressure and consistent temperature equals perfection. Combined these two important elements ensure that burst of flavor locked within the blend is released under ultimate conditions. Timing is everything when it comes to that perfect espresso—from the time of extraction to when the pump is turned off to the tamp, to pre-heating and brewing. Also, use the right size tamper and make sure the filter basket is tightly packed. The goal is to capture the ethereal quality and fragrance, so when it meets your taste buds, it lives up to your sensual expectations.
A quality machine is as important as the water and blend, and equivalent to gauging the right temperature and pressure. Hence, when buying an espresso machine look for conical burr grinders, they produce a higher quality grind and do not heat the beans during grinding. A good burr grinder is one that gives the right grind of espresso without sacrificing flavor. Additionally, maintaining your espresso machine also benefits excellent brews, for example a warp in the basket that holds the coffee means extraction will be uneven. Cleaning your machine regularly and thoroughly is a task that is as crucial to taste as the blend you purchase. Mineral buildup equals metallic flavors. Removing excess espresso from the burrs and replacing the blades periodically will guarantee evenly blended brews. Lastly, if you want your espresso to have a professional flair to it, be mindful of the cups you use. Warm, narrow mouth cups retain the aroma and temperature as long as possible.
There is so much more that goes into making that perfect cup of espresso. Finding that perfect combination of environment, blend, machine and skill, the journey is almost as pleasurable as the reward…well almost, nothing can match the satisfaction of brewing that perfect cup of espresso. However, that comes with one thing: Practice, practice, practice.