In a hard-to-reach cabinet in my kitchen, an espresso machine has been hibernating for years, forgotten after countless outpourings of disappointing espresso. Until now. Last Christmas, I received a proper coffee grinder–a conical burr grinder–which replaced the cheap rotating blade grinder I had previously been using. This new grinder is a game-changer, and has sent me down the rabbit hole of perfecting the pull of my at-home espresso.
As a coffee-crazed work-at-home mom, I don’t always have the luxury of going out for coffee. Being able to pull coffeehouse-grade espresso, (and I’m not talking about the burnt, over-roasted shots served at some of the chain coffee shops), at home has changed my life. Finding the proper grind setting at which to brew the espresso took a little trial and error, but after a few attempts, I think I’ve nailed it. Here’s what you need:
I am particularly partial to the Black Onyx Beans from LAMILLCoffee (shown above) for at-home coffee making, whether it’s for brewing espresso or coffee in the French press. If I’m in a pinch and out of beans, I’ll pick up the Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend from Trader Joe’s. I always buy whole beans, and grind only as much as I need at the time of brewing.
Two Shots of Espresso
I can’t stress the importance of a quality coffee grinder. No matter the beans you buy, the grind directly impacts the flavor and consistency of coffee. If the grind is uneven, the water will filter through at different rates, over-brewing some of the beans and under-brewing others. I’ve been using the Capresso Infinity Conical Burr Grinder, which has 16 different fineness settings ranging from coarse to extra-fine. For espresso, I grind my beans at the second ‘fine’ setting.
As with the grind, the tamp will dictate the speed of the water as it pumps through the coffee. If the coffee is packed too lightly into the filter basket, the water will pass through unevenly and quickly, yielding a weaker shot; tamping too tightly will cause the water to move slowly, which causes the shot to be bitter. Properly-tamped coffee will produce a rich espresso that settles into the glass slowly with a beautiful crema floating on top. (Similar to how a draft of Guinness looks just after being poured from the tap.) I’ve had my eye on this Coffee Tamper by EspressoCraft.
Although the boutique coffee shop in my neighborhood boasts a $11k Clover espresso machine, a mid-level priced home machine will suffice. I use the Breville Cafe Modena Espresso Machine, which we received as a wedding gift. It has all the bells and whistles I need, (as in it makes espresso), has a steam wand for lattes and cappuccinos, as well as a warming plate for espresso cups.
I have a decent stash already, but I’m always adding espresso cups to my collection. Lately, I’ve been coveting the pretty hues of the Pantone Espresso Set Blues. Perhaps they’ll turn up under the tree this season.