Getting a cup of espresso is as simple as hailing a cab or tying your shoelaces. I mean, all you have to do is walk to coffee shops in your vicinity and buy a cup to get you going for the day. However, a lot of people prefer to make their coffee themselves. You may be wondering why.
After all, buying a cup of espresso is much simpler and more convenient than brewing a coffee from espresso grounds. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an exciting activity. Besides, there’s this satisfaction that comes from knowing how to brew your own coffee. I’m sure this is something espresso lovers will like to have. So, to know how to use an espresso machine, you have to know more about this equipment and how to use it.
What Is An Espresso Machine Used For?
The short answer is it’s used to make coffee. However, it’s not just any kind of coffee, but the traditional Italian coffee drink, which is called espresso. This equipment is also called an espresso maker.
How Do Espresso Makers Work?
This is the foundation of knowing how to brew your flavorful espresso drinks. To know how this machine work, you need to know its components and their respective functions.
This is an essential component because it secures the portafilter for brewing espresso. It’s made up of a rubber gasket and a metallic filter. A large espresso machine has more than one group head.
This is where you’ll put your espresso grounds for brewing your coffee drink. It’s made up of a spigot, a handle, and a brew basket.
Hot Water Spigot
The hot water spout is where the boiling water comes from to brew coffee.
Just as the name implies, it’s in the form of a metal tube. This is where the steam comes out from. It typically has a lever or control that you can use to regulate the flow of steam. Just like the group head, large espresso makers have more than one steam wand.
Shot buttons collectively describe all the buttons on your machine that send water to the portafilter. As they differ, so do their functions. Their variety was designed to appeal to the preference of the user. What do I mean? There are double shot, single long, single shot, double long, free pour, and hot water buttons.
Most simple espresso machines don’t have this feature. It’s usually seen in commercial machines. The warming rack is responsible for heating the mugs before the coffee brew is transferred into them.
Pressure And Temperature Dial
Hopefully, you won’t have to use this feature. Otherwise, something is wrong with your machine. If that’s the case, contact a technician.
What You’ll Need To Make Espresso?
You’ll have to get the following for your delicious coffee drinks:
- Espresso machine
- Coffee grinder
- Coffee tamp
- Fresh coffee beans
- A mug
How To Use An Espresso Machine (The Brewing Process)?
Step 1: Roast Selection
The roast level you go for should depend on how you want to take your coffee drink. If you want to take coffee, go for lighter roasts. On the other hand, if you’re going for espresso, a darker roast will do.
Step 2: Purchasing Your Coffee Beans
There’s a method to this. To avoid buying the wrong kind of fresh coffee beans, we recommend asking when the beans were roasted. Fresh beans (roasted within the last 5-12 days) are good. However, if it’s very fresh (roasted within a day or two), there’s a problem. The reason is that recently roasted beans still emit carbon dioxide. To prevent this, when buying your coffee beans, check the roast date on the label of the bag. In summary, the beans shouldn’t be too fresh or too stale.
Step 3: Grinding The Coffee Beans
This is where your Burr grinder becomes useful. You have to produce enough finely ground coffee for an espresso shot. There are other grinding options, but to get high-quality coffee grounds, go for a Burr grinder. Ensure you set it to one of its finest configurations so your coffee grounds will have the same fine consistency as granulated sugar.
If you want a single espresso shot, grind 7 grams of coffee beans. If it’s a double shot of espresso, that’s 14 grams. You have to get the texture right because if they’re too coarse, the steaming water will flow through them too quickly, and you’ll get a coffee drink that’s not strong or flavored enough. On the flip side, if they’re fine to the point of being powdery, the water will take too much time to run through, and you’ll get an extremely strong and bitter espresso flavor.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a grinder that can give you good ground coffee, you can request for the coffee beans to be ground.
Step 4: Store The Remaining Ground Coffee
Usually, I recommend grinding enough coffee beans that you’ll use at the moment. However, there are instances where you’ll grind excess coffee. The larger the grind size, the more likely it is that you’ll have excess espresso. The grind size should be according to how much coffee you want to brew. To store them properly, put the excess grounds in an airtight container. Avoid using the refrigerator because that may make your ground coffee damp, which will make it unsuitable for espresso brewing. Finally, ensure you use it as soon as possible. The longer you store it, the more flavor it loses.
Step 5: Power Up Your Machine And Prepare Your Portafilter Basket
Firstly, power on your espresso maker and keep it running for 15-30 minutes. Then, pull a blank shot with it. This will warm it up and get it ready to brew that delicious espresso. Before pulling the shot, ensure that the espresso brewer is linked to a water source. If not, put sufficient water in its tank and make sure the portafilter is in as well.
Pull the blank shot through the group head and into your cup. There are a few nuances depending on the manufacturer of your espresso maker, but most espresso machines work similarly. You can consult your manual for the specifics. After pulling the blank shot, throw the water in the cup away before pulling the real espresso shot.
Step 6: Fill The Tank With Water And Heat It To The Desired Temperature Range
We recommend filling your machine with filtered water. Using tap water means you’ll have to descale your espresso maker frequently to avoid the buildup of mineral content. After filling the water tank, heat the water to a range that falls between 92°C and 96°C. This is the ideal water temperature for aromatic coffee extraction.
Step 7: Extract Your Portafilter And Weigh It
The importance of this step is having an accurate dose of the ground coffee. If you’re familiar with weighing your portafilter, you can skip this. Take out the portafilter and clean it, but be careful because it may still be very hot. After cleaning it, weigh it on a digital scale and tare it so the device will read zero.
Step 8: Espresso Dosing
Put 7 or 14 grams in the portafilter, depending on whether you’re brewing a single or double shot of espresso. Then look at the scale to confirm if your dose is correct.
Step 9: Tamp the Espresso
You might want to roll your sleeves for this one. Lol. Just kidding. This will require a bit of your kinetic energy through. Get your tamp and place your portafilter on a flat surface, then place your hand at a 90-degree angle and push down gently to apply pressure on the coffee grounds. This will ensure the hot water flows evenly through the ground coffee.
Step 10: Put The Portafilter Into The Group Head
Turn the brew head of your espresso maker briefly to remove all traces of the previous coffee grinds. Leaving them could get your fresh espresso wet or even dirty. You don’t want that, do you? Now insert your portafilter containing your tamped coffee into the brew head. Note that letting your espresso sit in your portafilter is not advisable because it could give it a little burn or make it bitter.
Step 11: Pull The Espresso Shot
Power on your machine and put a warmed mug beneath it. After several seconds of espresso brewing, your coffee will begin dripping into the cup.
Step 12: Stop The Espresso Shot
If you want a single shot, leave the machine to brew for about 20 seconds, then shut it off. If it’s a double shot, let it brew for about 30 seconds till you get the quantity you want or till the drip changes from dark brown to blonde.
Step 13: Serve Your Espresso And Clean The Machine
For serving, place the cup on a saucer and consume it right away. For cleaning the machine, extract the portafilter and dispose of the damp espresso grounds, rinse the portafilter, and dry it. Run water through the brew head for a few seconds to rinse it, then return the portafilter back to the machine.
Tips For Making Espresso Machines Last Longer
As a true espresso lover, you’ll want your brewing machine to serve you for as long as possible. That means you need to know how to make your machines last as they should, if not longer. I know some hacks that can help you with that. Let’s take a look at them:
- Clean your machine regularly (after each brew).
- Replace your water filter when it’s due (once in 3 months or thereabouts).
- Descale your machine frequently if you use tap water which comes with a lot of mineral content. I’ve mentioned this already, but it cannot be overemphasized.
- Switch off when not in use to avoid leaving your machine constantly on. It may get too hot in the process.
- Buy a good-quality machine that’s not expensive and can offer you premium value.
How to Steam Milk with an Espresso Machine?
Simple! By using the steam wand of the espresso maker, you’ll change the texture of the liquid and make it creamy. To do this:
- Fill the milk pitcher to one-third capacity with cold milk. Attach an espresso thermometer to the rim of the pitcher.
- Purge the steam wand with a quick on and off to drain any remaining water or milk from it.
- Life the milk jug till the wand is just beneath the surface of the liquid.
- Tilt the pitcher slightly. Moving the jug of milk creates that vortex effect.
- Switch on the steam wand, and as it spins the liquid, dip the wand lower into the pitcher till it’s halfway through.
- When the thermometer reads 49°C, return the position of the pitcher to its vertical stance to prevent more air from entering it and continue steaming the milk till it gets to 54°C.
- Switch off the wand, remove it from the pitcher of steaming milk, and purge it to remove any moisture from it.
- Swirl the pitcher to get rid of the bubbles on the milk and pour it on your espresso. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions – Faqs
How Do I Store My Espresso Beans?
The best way to store your coffee beans is to keep them in an airtight container in a cool place.
What Type Of Coffee Beans Should I Use For Espresso?
Any coffee beans can be used to brew an espresso drink. However, for a stronger flavor, people typically prefer darker roasts.
How Often Should I Clean My Espresso Machine?
Ideally, it should be after each brew. That way, you can get rid of the remnant espresso before you brew a fresh one. Failing or forgetting to do this could ruin the perfect espresso brew because the old and damp coffee beans still left in the machine will mix with the fresh ones and change their flavor.
Is Espresso Stronger Than Coffee?
This question may make you confused, and I understand why. You may be asking, “Is espresso not also coffee?” Yes, it is. They just differ in brewing methods. On a per-ounce basis, espresso has more caffeine than coffee. On a typical serving basis, coffee has more caffeine than espresso. So, to answer your question, espresso is stronger due to the fact that it forces hot water through fine pre-ground coffee.
How Can I Make Iced Coffee With My Espresso Machine?
Yes, but not directly. After getting your coffee blends from the machine, put some ice in a glass, then pour the espresso shot and steamed milk over the ice in the glass. If you prefer, you can add a spoon or two of maple syrup.
Is It Hard To Learn How To Use An Espresso Machine?
It’s not. Simply follow the steps above or consult your user manual. I’ve made it easier for you by starting with the parts of the machine. If you’re familiar with that, knowing how espresso machine work will be a walk in the park.
Can You Use Regular Coffee Beans In An Espresso Machine?
By regular coffee beans, you mean light roasts. Technically, you can use it, but bear in mind that the espresso drink may come out sour. For a stronger, richer aroma and taste, go for dark roasts.
Do Espresso Machines Stop Automatically?
Yes, espresso machines are designed with sensors to stop brewing when the correct amount has been reached. However, you’ll need to manually power it off.
Should I Turn Off My Espresso Machine At Night?
Yes, we highly recommend that. Keeping it on always will make it wear easily, and it may become too hot. Let’s not even talk about the hole it will burn in your pocket when it spikes your energy bills.
How Long Should I Run The Espresso Machine?
The actual brewing shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds.
Does An Espresso Machine Use A Lot Of Electricity?
Yes, it does. An automatic espresso machine may consume up to 1.5 KW of electricity, which is more than that of a single-serve coffee maker.
Should You Leave The Portafilter In The Espresso Machine?
Yes. You should only take it out after each brew to discard the used and damp espresso beans. However, make sure you return it back to the machine so that it will be hot and ready for the next brew.
As you’ve seen, brewing your espresso is a fun process that hinges on thoroughness and finesse. There are certain dos and don’ts that come with it, including storage, preparation, and brewing. As you’ve read through, I’m sure you’re not just equipped with the knowledge of making the perfect cup of espresso but also extending the lifespan of your espresso machine. For those who learned nothing, well at the very least, you now know that espresso and coffee are just different brewing methods.