Espresso is a popular and delicious coffee beverage that is enjoyed by many people around the world. If you're new to the world of espresso, it can be a bit daunting at first, but with a little bit of knowledge and practice, you'll be brewing perfect shots in no time.
What is Espresso?
Espresso is a type of coffee that is brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans under high pressure. The result is a concentrated shot of coffee that is typically served in small portions. Espresso is the foundation for many other popular coffee drinks, including lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos.
The Espresso Beans
Espresso Beans come in a wide variety of flavour profiles, roasts, regions and blends. Ultimately, the style of espresso bean that you choose to brew your espresso with will depend on your personal taste preferences and the flavour profile that you want to achieve. Whether you prefer a bold and smoky flavour or a bright and fruity one, there is an espresso bean out there that will suit your needs.
Regardless of what espresso bean you choose, ensure they're fresh, as the most important step to delicious espresso is a quality, fresh bean! Look for beans that are closer to their roast date. Usually local roasters (and our own freshly roasted I.XXI beans!) will have fresher options, as they're usually small batch roasted more often.
Tip: If you're brewing from home with an espresso machine that uses an onboard coffee grinder, we recommend selecting a bean that is roasted for use as an espresso, or beans that are lighter roasted with less of an oily sheen. This is because the use of oily beans will clog up the grinder and the machine faster, and could lead to problems down the road if not cleaned enough. However if you choose to use a darker, oily bean, we do recommend running the cleaning process more often!
To brew espresso, you'll need a few pieces of specialized equipment. The most important piece of equipment is an espresso machine, which is designed to produce the high pressure needed to extract the coffee from the grounds. There are many different types of espresso machines available, ranging from simple manual machines, to semi-automatic machines, and fully automatic espresso machines that will complete the full espresso brewing process for you.
In addition to an espresso machine, you'll need an espresso grinder to grind your coffee beans, a tamper to pack the grounds into the portafilter, and a shot glass or demitasse cup to collect the espresso. Some espresso machines also come with a steam wand, which is used to froth milk for lattes and cappuccinos.
To brew espresso, start by filling the portafilter with finely ground coffee. Depending on your machine & your personal tastes, you may need to try different grind settings to get the grind size you need for the perfect espresso. The amount of coffee you use will also depend on the size of your portafilter, but a good rule of thumb is to use around 18-21 grams of coffee for a double shot.
Next, use a tamper to pack the grounds down firmly into the portafilter. You want to apply enough pressure to create a smooth, even surface, but not so much that the grounds become compacted and difficult for the water to pass through. Usually about 30 pounds of pressure is enough.
Once your portafilter is loaded and tamped, insert it into the espresso machine and start the brewing process. The water should be heated to around 195-205°F and the pressure should be between 8-10 bars. The ideal brewing time is around 25-30 seconds for a double shot of espresso, including the preinfusion.
As the hot water is forced through the grounds, the espresso will begin to flow out of the portafilter and into your shot glass or demitasse cup. The finished shot should have a thick layer of crema on top and a rich, full-bodied flavour.
If you'd like to see espresso brewing in action for a visual representation, check out our youtube channel. We have video reviews and guides on all of our popular espresso machines, so you may even see us brewing on your machine.
Wondering about some of the terms mentioned here like portafilters, tampers and different kinds of espresso machines? Check out our article on espresso basics and terminology to learn more about the specifics.
Brewing espresso can take a bit of practice, but with the right equipment and technique, it's a rewarding and delicious experience. As you become more comfortable with the process, you can experiment with different coffee blends and roasts to find the perfect flavour for your tastes. Remember to clean your equipment regularly and always use fresh, high-quality coffee beans for the best results.