How to Make Espresso… brewing variables
March 6, 2015 Leave a comment
Before jumping in, let’s make sure we’re wearing the right clothes. There are a handful of things to consider as you prepare to take the plunge, and we call them “brewing variables”. Most of these apply when making coffee of any kind, but some are unique to espresso. Let’s sort ’em out.
WATER: Your espresso will taste only as good as the water you start with. Sediment, scale, and unwelcome minerals will doom your drink and your equipment if they’re not dealt with up front, so, before you get too far, learn about the quality of your water. Most hardware stores have inexpensive water test kits available for purchase but you can also contact your local water source for details about what they pump to your pipes.
DOSE: For a “doubleshot”, it’s better to use between 18 and 21 grams of ground coffee. As you add more coffee, your shot will increase in both body and intensity. Feel free to adjust your dose according to taste and make use of the troubleshooting tips below.GRIND: Before brewing, coffee beans need to be cut into smaller pieces. Making espresso requires a finer grind than most methods, with particles around the size of table salt. You know you’re in the right neighborhood once the ground coffee begins to clump together. Later, you’ll learn how to manipulate the grind to achieve different results.
TAMP: Compacting ground coffee with a tamper restricts the flow of water, forcing coffee and water to interact. Start with a 30-pound press (your bathroom scale can tell you what this feels like), applied evenly. A firm, level tamp is essential to even extraction.
TEMP: Water heated to 90-96 °C is ideal for preparing coffee, and some espresso machines allow you to control this temperature. (For most systems, this is made possible by a “PID controller”.) If yours does, play within this range to find what you like. You’ll notice that lower temperatures draw out more brightness, while cranking up the heat produces roasty flavors. If you’re not able to choose the temperature for yourself, you can assume for now that the machine is doing its job.
TIME: With our recommended dose and yield, about 25-30 seconds should pass between the beginning of extraction and the moment your glass is full. Half a minute for a happy tongue? Not bad.YIELD: With brewed coffee, we measure coffee input and water input, but when making espresso it’s coffee input and beverage output. Depending on your dose and basket size, shoot for about 2 ounces of espresso out, enough to fill a large shot glass. If you’re weighing your shots, a 30-gram yield is a safe place to start.