Archive for December, 2012

The types of coffee used in espresso machines

There are 3 types of coffee used in espresso machines.

Ground coffee

Ground coffee is one of the most common coffees used in espresso machines. Different methods are employed to produce ground coffee. The most common of these is the crushing of the beans into a powdery substance. This forms part of the ritualistic joy for some of the espresso drinking experience. One disadvantage of ground coffee is it is messier to use than other types of coffee, forcing a user to constantly clean the machine. On the plus side extracted grounds can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way by composting the coffee waste in a standard compost heap. The best type of ground coffee to use with an espresso machine is a blend of Arabica beans, as espresso machines do do not tend to work as well with the purer blends.

Coffee beans

Coffee beans have the advantage of tasting fresher than ground coffee. In order to capture coffee beans in the best possible condition you should invest in a bean to cup machine that comes ready made with a built in grinder. This type of machine will instantly grind the beans for you, allowing them to be quickly ready for brewing. This bean to cup device allows you to cut down on mess as it removes the need for an individual to be involved in the tamping process. In addition, coffee beans provides, in my opinion, the best possible flavour of any coffee. The main disadvantages to bean to cup machines are the fact that the grinder can be noisy and they can also cost more than machines that produce ground coffee. If you feel the bean to cup grinder is not within your budget, you can always invest in grinders which are sold as standalone devices.

Coffee capsules

Coffee capsules are entirely different from ground and roast coffee in that they come supplied in sealed containers that are inserted into the espresso machine. Once they are inserted  their outer casing is pierced and the coffee inside fills with hot water. From this point on the coffee is automatically discharged into your cup. The advantages of coffee capsules are they have a long shelf life – lasting in some cases up to 9 months – and they do not create the same mess as ground coffee. The disadvantages are you do lose some flexibility as the capsules can only be used with specific machines. They also tend to work out slightly more expensive per shot than ground coffee. In the international context, Nepresso are one of the largest manufactures of these types of machines.



Making the Perfect Espresso Shot

In making the perfect espresso shot it is generally agreed there are a number of factors you need to take into account:

Factor 1: The water used.

When beginning the process of making an espresso, it is important that the water flows through the filter at the correct speed. There are two ways this can be controlled: alter the pressure the water enters the machine at or adjust the grind of the coffee. If the water moves too slowly through the coffee then it will become over extracted,  leaving a bitter after taste and uneven crema on top in the process. If the water moves too quickly through the coffee grounds then your brew will be weak and there will only be a slight crema on top. Pre-heating the cups can help in developing a frothy crema.

Factor 2: The coffee used

If you want to achieve the same great flavour of coffee that you get in your shop then you will need to use fresh beans. When grinding your beans ensure you only purchase 2 weeks supply as the flavour can deteriorate very quickly. When you purchase the beans store them in airtight containers in a cool dry area. In terms of flavour, the dark roast beans tend to give richer aromas.

Factor  3: Grind the coffee correctly

If using a pre-ground coffee, be sure to purchase an espresso grind that is specifically produced for espresso/cappuccinos. It is important to get the consistency of the grind right: grind too fine and the coffee will taste bitter and the crema on top will be inconsistent, grind too course and the brew will be weak with virtually no crema on top.

Factor 4: The correct way to tamp the coffee grounds

Tamping the coffee correctly is important in order to prevent any of the water seeping through the coffee grounds.  Use the scoop supplied to load the coffee into the basket. Tamp it down with gentle pressure. Ensure that you do not load too much coffee into the basket. One scoop should be enough to provide you with one cup and 2 scoops for 2 cups of coffee. Tamping too hard will lead to over extraction of the coffee. Brush any excess coffee away from the edges of the basket. Place the portafilter onto the brew head and you’ll be ready to pull the first shot.

If  coffee comes out unevenly through the sprouts then you probably need to clean the basket as a residue can be left behind.

Follow the above steps and they will assist you in making the perfect espresso shot – every time.