How To Make Espresso

Written by Julie Atkin
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Making a good cup of espresso is considered an art form. The act of producing a shot of espresso is called "pulling" a shot. The term derives from older machines, which required pulling a long handle to produce a shot. To pull a single shot of espresso, a metal filter, portafilter is filled with approximately 6.5g of properly ground coffee beans roasted for espresso. The espresso is then compressed (tamped) into a densely packed puck.

When the machine is turned on, a pressurized stream of hot water (90 +/- 5 C) is forced through the head and through the portafilter. The espresso is then "shot" into the demitasse (a small cup). It is served as a shot. You can order a single or a double. It is recommended that you drink it right away, because the oxygen will affect the beverage. Espresso is the foundation for several other popular coffee drinks such as cappuccinos and lattes.

The Timing and the Brewing

The timing of the pulling of the shot makes all the difference. If it is not done properly, the espresso will taste bitter and will not produce a crema. The crema is the golden foam on top of the espresso.

Now that you are ready to try to pull your perfect shot to make that perfect cup, there a few pointers to help you get started. Regardless of the machine warm up time, it is best to let the machine warm up for one half hour. It is also recommended to warm up your espresso cups.

If you have a pump machine or steam machine, use a fine grind of the beans. Put one tablespoon of coffee into the portafilter. Tamp down the grinds. Insert the portafilter and lock with a twist. It is inserted under the group where the steam comes out. Place your cup underneath, and flip the brew switch.

If you are making the espresso with a manual machine, pulling the perfect shot takes practice. A double shot should be extracted within 20 to 30 seconds. If it is faster, the espresso will be flat. If it is slower, it will be bitter.

If you are making a cappuccino or a latte, it is recommended to use low fat milk. The selection of beans will also affect the cup. A blend of Arabica beans that is darkly roasted is usually the best.


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