The Perfect Espresso Shot at Home
As coffee professionals we see many short comings in coffee made by the home barista. Here are four easy tips which will almost instantly improve your home latte. You’re welcome.
1. Quality Coffee
Firstly and perhaps most importantly you need to be using fresh coffee, every single time. Typically, coffee tastes best between week 2 to 3 after the beans have been roasted. Avoid freshly roasted coffee that hasn’t been degassed of excessive amounts of CO2 for a week after roasting. You might be able to prolong the life to a month from roast if you store it in an airtight container in the cupboard, but the flavour of the coffee will just not be the same. Purchasing your coffee from a supply chain similar to that of supermarket will ensure stale coffee devoid of the flavours the roaster intended.
Grind the beans fresh, just before you make the coffee, and don’t store leftover ground coffee in the fridge or freezer. Coffee grinds will absorb the aromatics of whatever groceries you have laying around in there. Your roaster doesn’t refrigerate their coffee and neither should you.
Recently the proliferation of grinding frozen coffee especially in competition has been found to lend sweetness and grind uniformity to coffee. Commercially and for the home user I would still advise against this practice as it allows for an increase in variables that may affect your final cup detrimentally.
If you’re blending your own coffee from several different beans, take the time to get the balance right. A great tasting single origin coffee bean might clash horribly with some other flavours, while nicely complimenting others. I often advise against blending unless you’re chasing an education. For a well balanced cup, trust in the blends your roaster has spent years perfecting.
2. Consistent Method
When grinding coffee use a burr grinder to get a consistent grind. The key to the perfect espresso is consistency. We need to dose the same amount and in the same manner every single time. Our Tamp also needs to be of the same pressure every single time. Once you’ve found the optimum time for your espresso extraction (usually between 25 and 30 seconds) stick with it and ensure you adjust your grinder for the perfect extraction time every single shot!
Good coffee requires a good education. Understanding how to grind dose and tamp is the most important part of the coffee making process. Make sure to learn how to do all this correctly to ensure you get the best from your coffee and machine. And here comes the the shameless plug for our intro to coffee course… but seriously don’t spend $3000 on an awesome machine and grinder for home without learning how to use it correctly. Click the link below and get your education sorted:
3. Avoid Unfiltered Tap Water
Water is one of the two primary ingredients in espresso coffee. It then stands to reason that it could impact dramatically on the
taste of our coffee. Here in South Australia we unfortunately have very hard water which makes for a thinner than ideal body to our coffee. An easy way for a home barista to resolve this is to use natural spring water. In doing so you not only end up with a sweeter cup of espresso with more body, but you also avoid the number one cause of coffee machine breakdowns – scale. Scale and lime build up can cause serious problems in a domestic machine in as little as one year. Softer water will avoid this from ever occurring. Avoid carbon filtered water for your machine, the only water filters able to efficiently filter and soften our water is a system called reverse osmosis which incorporates remineralisation. These systems filter water to near pure H2O and then add back minerals which favourably soften the water.
Besides good general hygiene, keeping a clean grinder, espresso machine and portafilter basket will drastically improve the taste of your coffee. You knew that; right? Cleaning your machine is largely done through a process referred to as back flushing. Back flushing should be undertaken daily to minimise maintenance to your machine and ensure a clean tasting coffee. Back flushing will clean the back end of your group head and disallow the build up of astringent oils which lend unfavourable flavours to each extraction. Your group handles should be thoroughly cleaned daily by removing the baskets and scrubbing the pathway the coffee takes through the group handle to remove coffee and oil build up.
The bean hopper on your grinder (that thing that holds the beans on top of your grinder) should be regularly cleaned to remove oil build up which can be drawn down and through the grinder by beans as they get drawn through. Consider using grinder cleaning pellets through your grinder on a monthly basis to remove oil build up on your blades and in the chute that expels your ground coffee.
If you missed our last article on why and how you should clean your home coffee machine click here to get up to speed.