Coffee information from The Coffee Brew.

The art of Espresso making…..how to make a great cup!

Every coffee house barista and those people with a home espresso machine will have his or her favorite method of making a brew.

 

So here is mine to share with you.....

I believe it all starts with water. Regardless of what quality coffee grounds you use you can’t overcome the associated taste of poor water (strong chlorine from the town water supply is a big no no!). For every new brew you must use totally fresh (buy filtered water or use collected rainwater) and very hot water. It might surprise you but even water can get stale. The optimum temperature is 203F (95C) - nearly boiling that is. I don’t use a thermometer but just as the water is starting to boil I switch it off and then count to ten. That amount of time seems to work well for me.

The next most important ingredient is the coffee.

You might select Arabica – from the high country in Brazil or Bogota (or some place else) delivered fresh for roasting. You might like to roast the green beans yourself or you can buy them freshly roasted – whatever you do, just make sure your special beans have that fresh aromatic smell.

And there is also Robusta – it’s easier to grow and is more disease resistant. This variety has more caffeine and less flavour than Arabica. Generally it should be used for those quick pick-me-up cups and not used for an espresso that is to be savoured.

Now here is something you might like to try if you like to do a bit of blending. Make up your grounds of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta. It takes away that heavier chocolate taste of the Arabica and gives a mellower and creamy textured style of brew. Ladies often like this blend as it is less robust in flavor and is not a heavy assault on the taste buds. I know in Australia you can find this blend already ground in the MAP brand (red packet).

So now to continue on with our perfect cup of espresso. A grinder is what we need next - finely ground fresh beans in burr, not blade grinders and the roast should be dark - French or Viennese. The name refers to the color, not the origin. Just in case you haven’t read our articles on grinding coffee, blade grinders actually chop, not grind whereas burr grinders have pyramid shaped teeth on two plates that grind the beans between them giving beautiful even grounds.

The distance between the plates determines the fineness of the grind - sand grain-sized is good, powder is too fine, and small-gravel too large. True coffee connoisseurs will always tell you the grounds should not be exposed to the air any longer than is absolutely necessary as coffee, like any food, will oxidize and absorb odours from the air. Not something that is conducive to a good cup of espresso.

Now we are on the home straight - a good espresso requires a clean machine of good quality. So what do we mean by good quality? Ok, it is a machine that generates heat by boiler or thermoblock and is capable of producing pump pressure of 9 bar or better. A thermoblock heats water as it passes through the machine on the way to the pump. For a really professional and satisfying brew it is best to avoid the cheaper units that rely on steam to create pressure.

That’s all the basic elements in place. We are ready for the process.

For best results pre-warm the equipment by running clean water through the machine. Then turn the machine on, let the water heat, and run a cup through with no coffee to warm the surfaces and flush the system.

Next add your freshly ground roast and tamp down slightly, just like you would pipe tobacco. You should be feel some springiness but the coffee shouldn't scatter.

Now put the hopper in the machine firmly and place a warmed espresso cup at the outlet. Now for the good part - start the machine and in about five seconds you should have a thin, steady stream of beautiful espresso coffee. (A double shot takes about 20 seconds).

If you would like to make a cappuccino then warm half a cup of milk in the microwave for about 90 seconds, froth, and add to the espresso. Full cream milk froths much better than reduced fat milk so you will have to make a personal decision on this one. Garnish to taste with cinnamon, nutmeg, shaved chocolate or a sprinkle of cocoa. For the sweet tooth you will probably need a dash of sugar – why not try some organic milk and sugar.

That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Start with good quality coffee, keep your equipment nice and clean, use fresh water, don't burn the roast and make sure you grind it properly. And the result? A really great cup of coffee you will just love drinking!

But I don’t have an espresso coffee machine you say…..our next article will give you some more great coffee information.


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