Yes, Espresso is coffee that has been brewed in a particular way using a coffee machine that forces water through coffee beans that have been ground down into an almost powder like consistency. Espresso coffee is a unique method of making coffee that can only be done properly if the preparation is done correctly.
When you go into one of the high street coffee shops like Starbucks or Costa and you see a board full of drink choices it’s easy to be confused into thinking that that there are all sorts of different coffee to choose from.
All of the coffee shops like Café Nero, Starbucks and Costa use Espresso coffee in all of their coffee drinks. The only thing that turns it into a drink with a different name depends on how much milk or water gets added to the Espresso.
How do you make Espresso coffee?
If you are willing to take the time to understand the 7 different factors in addition to an espresso machine that make up the perfect espresso then you will turn your daily coffee into an experience rather than something that is just part of your daily routine.
You will know if you have everything just right if you deliver a double espresso with 60ml of water in 20-30 seconds.
Probably the biggest mistake that is made is a double espresso being delivered too quickly. It just produces a weak, tasteless coffee that could put you off and make you think that only coffee shops can do a proper coffee. Time is how you measure if you have got everything else just right.
Grind around 18-20 grams of coffee for a double espresso. Each coffee bean is different but if you start there then you can tweak it. Getting the right dose of coffee is important.
It is not only important to get the right amount of coffee but also to grind it to the correct level of fineness. As a general rule, coffee for espresso should be ground finely into a sandy type consistency.
Burr coffee grinders will allow you to adjust the level of fineness so that you can get it just right to get to the 20-30 seconds for perfect espresso delivery. Getting the right grind size is crucial.
Once you have the correct dose and grind fineness you need to compress the coffee so that the water does not pass through the coffee too quickly and make it watery and weak. This is called tamping. With a little bit of practice, you will be able to apply the right amount of pressure to hit the 20 – 30 seconds time for perfect espresso delivery.
Good espresso machines will push water through the ground coffee and into your cup with 9 bars of pressure. A lot of espresso machines deliver 15 bars of pressure which is ok as well but check this when you buy one.
Sage coffee machines are top end domestic espresso machines for home use. They all use 9 bar of pressure.
The best temperature for the water to be delivered through the coffee is 93 degrees (give or take a few degrees). The more you are prepared to spend on an espresso machine the more consistency you will get with water temperature.
If you like milk based espresso drinks like cappuccino or latte then a powerful steam nozzle that produces thick creamy foam is important. The better the machine the better the steam.
To summarise, if you can perfect the seven elements above that are highlighted in bold (time, dose, grind, tamp, pressure, temperature and steam) you don’t need an expensive espresso machine to make a great cup of coffee.
This article explains in detail how to make an espresso like a professional barista.
There are a number of different names for different coffee types but they all start with a double espresso (or two shots as it is also called because the espresso is delivered into shot glasses before being poured into your coffee glass or cup).
The most popular coffee drinks that come from Espresso when milk or water is added are:
You will enjoy a cappuccino if you like a medium to strong coffee.
The ratio for cappuccino is very simple. 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk and 1/3 foam.
Stir the foam into the steamed milk and espresso and you are left with a wonderful creamy, foamy, textured liquid with a bold unmistakable taste of a good strong coffee.
The problem with ordering a cappuccino in a coffee shop is that the so called “barista” that makes your coffee is unlikely to know the difference between a cappuccino and a latte and you will most likely end up with a latte regardless of what you ordered.
If you like a medium to strong coffee and you have paid £3 or more for it in a coffee shop and they add too much milk be sure to send it back because it makes a huge difference to the taste.
If you don’t want to spend £3+ for a coffee then you can easily make your own espresso based drink at home for a lot less than you think.
There are some specialist machines that cost a lot of money but if you are just starting out there no reason why you can’t make a cappuccino or latte that replicates the quality of a coffee shop with a machine that costs in the region of £80 – £150.
This can be viewed as an investment because you will soon stop going into Costa or Starbucks once you realise you can make you own for a fraction of the price and even if you drink just one or two coffee’s a day it won’t take more than a few months before you have saved the cost of your machine.
If you prefer a milder more milky coffee then you will probably favour a latte.
A latte should be one part espresso and four parts milk. A double espresso is normally 60ml of liquid coffee so you need to be adding 240ml of milk.
Be careful when you order a latte in a coffee shop because a lot of the time you will just get a pint of milk added to your double espresso and you will not even be able to taste any coffee.
A latte made correctly will have a smoother milder flavour but you should still be able to taste the coffee. If you can’t, send it back.
If you are not a fan of adding milk to your coffee then you are more of a purist and a real coffee fan, congratulations.
The intensity of a double espresso on its own may be a bit too strong to handle and it will literally be gone in one or two mouthfuls so if you want to savour the flavour of espresso then dilute it a bit with some water and it turns into an Americano.
There are no set rules for how much water to add, it all comes down to personal taste. The more water you add the more diluted it will become and the milder the taste.
If you like Americano then you may also like the type of black coffee that gets brewed with a filter coffee machine.
You can use the same type of coffee that you would use in an espresso machine but the grind would be slightly coarser and the water passes through the coffee slower and therefore creates a slightly different taste profile but you can pick up a filter coffee machine that will make a good cup of coffee for as little as £20.
This drink is a little bit of a gimmick really. It’s for those that like espresso as it comes which is really strong.
To create a macchiato, just add a dollop of foam to a double espresso and it will take the edge off slightly from the silky tar like pure espresso.
If you have ever wondered why a coffee shop coffee tastes so good and you can’t get the same taste when you make a coffee at home it’s because a lot more than just pressing a button on a coffee machine goes into making the perfect espresso coffee that can then be turned into your favourite milk based coffee beverage.
Is Espresso stronger than coffee?
Espresso is the strongest type of coffee because it is extremely concentrated.
Only 60ml of water will be pushed through 20 grams of finely ground coffee beans to produce a double espresso.
Other methods like cafetière or filter coffee machines allow more water to mix with more coffee for longer and that can produce a milder a different less intense flavour.
Espresso is not stronger than coffee, it is a coffee that is strong.
Can you use regular coffee for Espresso?
By regular coffee, a lot of people mean instant coffee. You cannot use instant coffee to make espresso because it has already been freeze dried ready for water to be added but not for water to be forced through the coffee at high pressure in the way that espresso is produced.
Can you make espresso in any coffee maker?
There are only certain types of coffee machine that will produce espresso but they don’t have to be super expensive machines that run on electricity.
If you don’t want to spend much money on an espresso machine then you can use a stove top espresso machine that will get you started without having to make a big investment.
Bialetti has been making them for more than 100 years and they are still going strong so that would be a good place to start.
Does espresso keep you awake?
There is a lot of caffeine in coffee and that can keep you awake if you drink too much close to the time you want to go to sleep.
Personally, I don’t drink coffee after 4 pm to give the caffeine plenty of time to clear itself out of my body to ensure a good night’s sleep.