What does the word "Espresso" mean?
There seems to be no direct Italian to English translation for the word, but is does seem to suggest coffee preparation "expressly" brewed to order. Also there is a connection between the word and the pressure needed to brew the beverage correctly.
What is Espresso?
Espresso is a benerage which was first served in the early 1920's during the Industrial Revolution. Italians pioneered this method of brewing coffee under extreme pressure to allow for more of coffee's essences to be directed into the cup.
The beverage itself is a rich, intensly aromatic and flavorful coffee extracted in much less water and more concentrated than a "regular" cup of coffee. The coffee is usually served in 1 to 3 ounce portions in small cups called "demitasse". The associated caffeine content for the standard "doppio" or double shot of espresso is roughly equivelent to 8 to 12 onuces of drip brewed coffee. Espresso is the basis for building other popular drink like the Cappuccino, Cafe' Latte, and Cafe' Mocha. Because Espresso is so concentrated the possibilities for the use of this dark and wonderful liquid as a base for drink preparation seem to be only limited by the imagination.
The word "Espresso" refers to the process of brewing and the resulting coffee product, NOT the type of coffee beans or blend of coffe used. Any coffee will make espresso. The "profile" of flavor is the result of the types of bean used in the brewing of espresso, of which there are thousands of great espresso blends. The primary distiction between espresso and other brewing methods is the extreme pressure needed to extract the proper oils and coffee essences. The process involves forcing just off the boil water through finely ground and firmly packed coffee for a period of around 25 to 30 seconds. The result should lend about 1 to 1 1/2 fluid ounces of brewed espresso for each "shot" of liquid. Each "shot" is the extracted espresso from 7 to 8 grams of coffee.
What coffee should I use for Espresso?
There are no rigid criteria for the kind of coffe bean or blend you use. The choice of coffe should be explored to find a flavor profile the is pleasing to you. There are as many ideas of what is correct as there are people who enjoy espresso. Different regions in different countries have sometimes radical viewpoints or philosophies about the pleasure of the drink. Feel free to experiment with coffees you enjoy in a regular cup. Try different roast patterns from light to dark. Explore different Espresso blends from different places. Find what you taste is correct.
These are a few guidlines that will insure good espresso.
1. Buy the freshest coffee from a shop that knows their beans.
2. Buy less coffee more often and develop a relationship with your coffee
seller who should be knowledgable and helpful in the process.
3. Buy whole bean coffee and invest in a home professional "Burr" grinder.
The grinder is the MOST important piece of equipment in the process.
Consistant siizing and shaping of the grounds are essential for an even
and balanced extraction.
4. Invest in a "Home Professional" Espresso machine that is pump driven
rather than the cheaper "steam" driven machines. The investment pays off
in the long run. They last longer and produce a far superior product. More
about this in the section "What type of machine is best for brewing
5. Grind your coffee just before brewing. Volitile oils escape from such a fine
grind very quickly effecting the overall balance of the "pull". Finer
ground coffee becomes stale very quickly and produces a bland, low
6. Store your coffee in a light tight, air tight container at room temperature.
7. NEVER store your beans in the fridge or freezer. This will rancidify and
ruin the important water soluable oils important for great espresso.
Coffee is very good at picking up odors near it. Onion coffee sucks.
8. Use filtered or bottled water, NEVER use distilled water. Water quality is
very important. Use water that has a moderate amount of mineral
content, or water "hardness". Genarally on any measurment "scale" of
hardness, a mid point will be best. Too little or too much mineral content
will cause an "under-extracted" weak cup, or a "over-extracted" bitter cup.
9. Make sure all parts that the coffee brews through or pours into are as hot
10. Target the amount of coffee balanced with a given sizing of grind to attain
1 to 1 1/2 fluid ounce of coffee for each "shot" pulled through 7 or 8
grams of coffee in 25 or 30 seconds. You can adjust the amount of
coffee or the sizing of the grind to achieve the best cup. These varibles will
often change with humidty, temperature, and barometric pressure.
11. Buy LostDogBrand WERKIN DAWG SEXXXPRESSOHHH! blend for
UNPARALLELED performance and pleasure. Our blend is designed to
keep you interested and is the most tasty and easy to achieve sucess
blend on the planet.
How do I know I've done it right?
What your looking for is a very dark viscous coffee "liquor" hall-marked with
a healthy hazelnut reddish golden layer of water soluable long chain oil colloids; "Crema" or "Nectar of the Gods" resting gently on the underlying rich goodness. The Crema should be sweet and dance with a creamy pleasant lingering. The espresso below should be intense with a bite but not bitter. The dynamic of taste should swing and change through the cooling of the cup. When finished the cups walls should display a "lacey" lattice of golden Crema trails. The afterglow of the taste and aroma should stay with you well on down the road, reminding you of that moment of ritual that IS the espresso experence.
These short moments of ritual and contemplation; a slowing down to re-align the days forward motion often are the keys to keeping "on track" and moving with more focus in the day. So enjoy the moment, have another cup and push on through to the other side. Cheers.
We recommend the following steps.
1. Grind the coffee with a prober espresso "Burr" grinder for consistancy.
Play around with the relationship between the fineness of the grind and the
amount of coffee used. This is the most important varible in producing
great espresso. A properly tuned and quality pump driven espresso
machine is of much less importance than the sizing to amount of
ground coffee proportion.
2. Use the proper amount of ground coffee. This will be 7 or 8 grams or
roughly 1 1/2 to 2 level Tablespoons per "shot".
3. Packing or "tamping" the coffee is important. Often sources will reference a
"tamper"; a tool that has a flat suface and a diameter that fits exactly the
diameter of your "Portafilter" basket. This is O.K. as an approach, but we
believe that the relavance of this tools is over emphasized in the coffee
world and can create a "weak link" in the process. The brewing sequence
with tamping becomes totally dependant upon the consistancy and
accuracy of the tampers downward pressure and the need for a perfect
level flatness of the pack. The skill in using a tamper can be a long and
frustrating affair that can result more often in poor extraction, a bad cup,
and waste of precious coffee.
We recommend using using your machines portafilter basket/handle
assembly as the "tamper". By allowing the upward twisting motion of the
portafiter filled with coffee to be compacted or "tamped" as it rotates
on to the group head you will achieve much better and more consistant
results with your labors.. This will take a little time to find the best
relationship between particle size and amount of coffee used Flow too
slow? Then use less coffee or make the grind coarser; or both. Flow too
fast? Then make the grind finer or use more coffee; or both. With a little
playing around you will find the right combination of variables.
After you have found a good working medium the key is then to
"FEEL" the resistance of the coffee as it passes across the shower
screen of the group head. If you reference this "feeling" of resistance
in the same way each time you brew an espresso then you will achieve
the same results each time.
We have found this technique to create an ultra stable pack that is
free of the loosening or "blow-out" of a conventionally tamped basket
due to the slight air space between the shower head and the surface of
packed coffee. The instantaneous surge of high pressure on a packed
basket with this air space (not enough coffee and incorrect grind size
relationship) results in the famous corperate "7 second" shot, making
for a horribily under-extracted and bitter-weak cup of garbage.
Sometimes we discover better ways to do things. Often the result of
blissfull blunder. Sometimes it comes because of freeing our minds of
the rigid rules that bind us from noving forward.
The Espresso experience and process from beginning to end is truly
a journey that is about the sensual nature of the experience; about
exploration and contemplation. It is about FEELING and not so much
about thinking. So FEEL the process. Listen to your senses. Listen to
the coffee. Listen to the bean. When espresso talks...LISTEN! Cheers.
There are two different levels of home "espresso" makers. Most visible in the market place are simple "Steam driven" machines. These units utilize their pressure to extract coffee from the grind as well as the steam needed to "texture" or "froth" milk from the heating of water in their boiler as their temperature rises. Generally, these types of machines run in the $50 to $125 range. This type of machine will be refered by the maker as an "Espresso" or "Cappuccino" maker but should not be confused with true home professional "Pump driven" espresso machines. Steam driven "machines" are mearly "near" espresso coffee brewers. Steam driven units can only build about one third the needed pressure of a true home "professional" espresso machine. They produce an inadequate version of coffee and cannot after the "coffee" is extracted have enough steam pressure left to produce a credible textured Cappuccino or Latte milk. These should be avoided like the plauge.
Both commercial and home pump driven espresso makers on the other hand come in two basic subcatagories. Rotary pump and vibrating pump machines.
Both types of machines produce the correct pressure needed to properly extract true espresso coffee. These types of machine use a boiler for heating up water to temperature and to produce the constant steam pressure nessasary for solid milk texturing. The basic difference between these and steam driven units is that the pressure of water forced through the ground coffee is provided by the pump, saving the steam pressure created in the boiler for the production of a high quality steam pressure needed for well textured milk for Cappuccino and Latte variations.
Pump driven machines range in price from $150 to as much as $10,000 or more. Most well built units range between $250 and $500 and for those who want the most from their passion for coffee will see it as money well spent. Invest in a quality machine. There are many brands available. All of them in this price range are quality goods. The choice of machine will give years of pleasure and the money invested will be returned in no time cosidering how much money you may be spending at the local shop every day. A good coffee shop is hard to find and with a little practice can produce a beverage as good as your average Barista. A great coffee shop is not threaten by "losing" a daily customer knowing that they will still be providing the beans for home action. Most likely the home Barista will enjoy more coffee and consume more beans. Most of the time this is a "win win" situation for everyone.
Traditional "Lever Pull" espresso makers, the precursor to the modern pump driven machines are still available for home and commercial use. These types of machines use man power to "press" the hot water through the ground coffee with a lever arm connected to a simple piston and chamber assembly that draws heated water from a simple boiler. This type of espresso machine takes much more practice and demands more attention to detail, but the resulting combination of an artful "easing" of pressure delivered to the water through the grinds and the traditional ritual of producing espresso, when mastered, cannot be rivaled by any other method. The beautiful and romantic whistling, hissing, and song of escaping steam from a lever as she wakes plesantly replaces the somewhat awkward and noisy "holleringl" of a modern machine as it rattles and bumps it way to it's cuppa.