How To Make The Perfect Espresso?

best espresso

If you want to make the perfect cup of espresso, it is often not enough just to get a high-tech espresso machine.

Type of espresso machine

There are different types of espresso machines, such as both capsule machine and bean-to-cup machines. In addition, it should also be noted that there are different variants of espresso machines – both semi-automatic and fully automatic.

The essential difference between these types lies in how much work you as a consumer have to do. Many espresso machines are semi-automatic (some simply call them manual machines), and there are good opportunities to play barista yourself and influence their finished coffee – thus there is also some manual work. Often coffee grinders are not included for this type (but often, however, milk steamer, so you can use the espresso machine to make coffee varieties with milk such as latte or cappuccino), which means that you have to get the coffee yourself.

When the coffee is ground, the coffee must be stamped with the instrument called a tamper, after which the water must flow through the coffee. The tamping is very important when making espresso, here you manually provide the time that the water needs to run through the coffee – it takes too long, then the coffee becomes bitter, but you can experience too thin coffee, if the water runs too fast.

Water and coffee should only be in contact with each other for a very short time (the experts say about 25 seconds), which is why the painting of the beans is very important – a perfect espresso is seen if the aroma becomes intense and a layer of crema occurs on top . The coffee should be tamped completely compact and straight, and a pressure of 9-15 bar would be most ideal. This will give a good taste in the espresso as well as a 3-4 mm high layer of crema.

A fully automatic espresso machine, on the other hand, manages most of the work itself, and there is both a coffee grinder and a milk frother (often also a whole milk system). You often get a lot of choices for how you want the coffee, whereby the fully automatic machine delivers this – it also manages the tamping itself. A fully automatic variant also often comes with an entire cleaning system, whereas, on the other hand, there is often some cleaning associated with the semi-automatic models.

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Get the machine ready

You need to get your espresso machine ready before use – fill the tank with cold, clean water, put an empty cup under the spout and turn on the machine. In this way, the machine is flushed with water, which comes out again in the cup with any residue from previous brews. Repeat the process until the water entering the cup is clear.

Choose the right coffee

You never get a better cup of coffee than the quality of the beans you use. It is also important with the right degree of grinding, so that the coffee does not become too fine or coarse. If you have an espresso machine with a coffee grinder, you can often adjust the degree of grinding yourself here. On semi-automatic espresso machines, the coffee must also be tamped before brewing, and it is important to tamp the coffee completely smooth and leveled. Dosing is also important – the experts recommend 14-18 grams of coffee for an espresso, but some machines use more coffee.

Heat up the cups

A hot cup keeps the coffee warm longer. Many espresso machines have an integrated cup heating function that one should use before the coffee is brewed. If you do not have such a function, you can fill the cup with warm water inside. Espresso is often a bit cooler than other types of coffee per se and therefore becomes lukewarm faster.

Make the espresso

Make the espresso

Many espresso machines make the coffee themselves, so often you just have to press the right button – it often takes between 17 and 24 seconds, according to the experts. The water temperature for brewing should preferably be between 92 and 96 degrees. Some espresso machines are equipped with PID heat control, which stands for Precise Temperature Control, which ensures that the water temperature is kept warm and constant.

Milk foam 

milk foam

If your espresso machine does not have a whole milk system, then manual work also needs if you want a coffee variant with milk. Use a container for milk (preferably one of metal) and pour a few centimeters of milk into the container. Turn on the milk steamer lever and hold the container underneath so that steam is breathed into the milk. Move the container up and down at a slow pace so that air enters all the milk and now the milk begins to rise and bubbles are formed. Then the milk foam is ready for use.

Mix espresso and milk foam 

If you have to manually make your coffee variant with milk, then the espresso and milk foam must be mixed according to different principles according to which variant you want. Look further down in this article as we guide to the different types of coffee varieties.

If you want to learn more about the art of milk froth in your coffee, watch this YouTube video: 

How to get the best milk foam

milk foam art

Many also acquire an espresso machine for the purpose of brewing coffee varieties with milk such as latte, cappuccino or macchiato. In order to get it, milk foam is needed. In this section we explain a little about what milk foam really is and what the science behind good milk foam looks like. We also discuss what type of milk you should use if you want optimal milk foam in your coffee.

Air bubbles give foam

Milk foam is formed by breathing steam into the milk. When the steam is breathed into the milk, small air bubbles are formed, and between these bubbles, small ducts are created which form spaces between the bubbles. The drops of fat from the milk get stuck in the ducts and act as a kind of blocker, which is why the foam does not collapse but stays high and nice.

In addition to this process, a surface tension also occurs as the milk molecules’ protein molecules attract and create a cohesive force. In doing so, they hold each other firmly and this also helps the foam to stand and not collapse.

Non-organic milk is best

However, it does not matter what type of milk you use for your milk foam – the fat content of the milk has an important effect on the consistency of the foam, and the fatter the milk becomes, the more stable the foam becomes.

In addition, when homogenized milk is used, the best results are obtained, since unhomogenized milk has large fat droplets and they both make the foam unstable and cause it to collapse faster.

Therefore, one must also note that organic milk is not always equally useful for making milk foam – organic milk is precisely not homogenized. There are also several other factors that play a role if you can’t get your foam high and nice.

If the milk has been shaken too much during transport from farm to dairy, then the shaking can actually destroy the fat drops in the milk, which will cause too many fatty acids to be released into the milk. Too much fatty acid has the effect that the foam will collapse.

Another thing that can be wrong if you can’t make the foam stand is soap. Soap and detergent destroy the surface tension that exists between the air bubbles in the milk foam and which keeps it standing. Therefore, care must be taken to wash all soap residue away from the milk jug.

Which milk is best for making milk foam?

Whole milk: Whole milk will often give the best results in milk froth, as whole milk provides a soft, creamy and stable milk foam. Whole milk is a fat milk type, and this obesity also provides a good rounding to the coffee due to the higher fat content.

Semi-skimmed milk, semi-skimmed milk is somewhere in between the fat whole milk and low fat milk types, and actually falls therefore into a pitfall – for semi-skimmed milk provides foam that is very soft and a little unstable.

Skimmed milk and minimal milk: Skimmed milk actually also provides a stable foam, and foams of these types of milk will be somewhat reminiscent of pin-whipped egg whites. Skimmed milk also provides a limited rounding in the coffee, but both skim milk or minimum milk will be good choices if you want to save on the calories.

Know the difference between the different coffee varieties

Espresso, latte, americano, cappuccino…. There are many different types of coffee, and it can be difficult to find them, as many of them are very similar.

Here’s a guide to what the different coffee varieties consist of:

Filter coffee : Filter coffee is not made on an espresso machine, but on a good old fashioned coffee machine, which is equipped with a funnel with a filter. Here the ground beans are poured into the filter, after which the water runs through the coffee. If the filter coffee is produced on a modern coffee machine, you can often choose temperature, water, dosage and beans yourself.

Cafe latte: Cafe latte is one of the milder coffee varieties and is generally very popular with its full and creamy milk froth. Cafe latte consists of 1/3 espresso and 2/3 hot and foamed milk. However, the taste of cafe latte can easily be diluted by adding too much milk. Some add the milk cold, while others add it warm. When abroad, this type of coffee is similar to Café au lait.

Mocha:  Mocha is one of the sweeter coffee varieties and is a mix between cappuccino and hot chocolate. The mocha is made by mixing a shot of espresso with cocoa powder and then adding milk and milk foam.

Espresso: The espresso is the foundation for many of the modern coffee types. This is a “shot” of this powerful variant, which is brewed under pressure. This pressure squeezes flavors and oils out of the beans and gives a very concentrated flavor. The espresso can be drank alone and is completely black.

Double espresso: As the name suggests, here is two shots of espresso instead of one, as in a regular espresso. Double espresso is therefore a very strong coffee.

Americano:  Americano is a strong coffee variant, which consists of two shots of espresso topped with hot water and distributed preferably 1/3 espresso and 2/3 hot water.

Espresso macchiato:  Espresso macchiato is another macchiato variant, and it consists of a milk foam espresso on top.

Cortado: The cortado is a coffee variant that is gaining popularity and it is very similar to the espresso as it consists only of espresso with a little warm milk. Many people make it by using two shots of espresso and some whole milk without foam. The milk must be on top as “cream” on the espresso. This drink is also simply called macchiato in Italian (note that there are several macchiato variants).

Latte macchiato: Despite the name so here, this is a coffee variant that is very opposite to the cortado / macchiato. Latte macchiato consists of only a little coffee and a lot of milk, which is why it is a bit like cafe latte. Latte macchiato is often served in layers with milk at the bottom, blend of espresso and milk in the middle and pure espresso at the top.

Cappuccino: The cappuccino is also a very popular coffee variety, consisting of 1/3 espresso, 1/3 hot milk and 1/3 milk foam. Often the cappuccino is served with some cocoa or chocolate on top. The cappuccino has gained a reputation for being very sweet with equal parts espresso, milk and foam, and if you want it a little more coffee-like, you can use a little less foam. Traditionally, though, a lot of foam is used for a cappuccino.

If you want to get a visual demonstration of how to make the best coffee they make at the cafes, check out this YouTube video from Sage.