Easy tips for making great espresso at home

True, honest-to-goodness espresso requires more grandiose mechanisms and practice using them than the normal person will encounter. This does not mean that you can’t make a delightfully strong cup of espresso at home. Although you probably will never get a hold of the highest-prized coffee beans to do it (they come out of a small furry animal’s poop).

This friendly, caffeine-guzzling maniac is not afraid to get down and dirty, so we’re going to look at making espresso that you and I can afford to create at home. It’ll impress your significant other but perhaps not the snooty neighbor.

After university, I got a job in France, which sounds fabulous but it was just a low-paying job in a backwater town. At work, we had three scheduled espresso-breaks and that’s where I learned to make this version of potent, dark coffee. 

You need the right gear for espresso.

Espresso machines work by taking a small amount of water and heating it in an enclosed compartment, creating pressurized steam. Once the steam inside the compartment reaches a set point, it is forced through a channel to the basket holding coffee grinds. What comes out of the coffee grinds is espresso. Put another way, it’s pressure-cooked coffee.

Most cafes use a shot glass to measure how much espresso to put into their mocha-latte-ccinos. If you’re having straight-up espresso, you can drink it from a shot glass, an espresso cup or whatever you have on hand. I drink mine out of a larger mug because that’s what I have. Most home use espresso makers come with a small carafe to receive the espresso as it comes through the beans.

Coffee grinders aren’t necessary but they’re handy to have at home. Alternately, you can ask a local cafe to grind your beans (they’ll be more receptive if you buy your beans there). Even larger supermarkets have a commercial grinder in their coffee aisle. Purists will tell you that sharing a coffee grinder in this manner ruins the flavor of your beans. Personally, it worked for me until somebody gave me a grinder for Christmas.

You’ll need coffee beans that have been ground finely for espresso-making. Many people like to purchase “Italian” or “French” roasts because they sound elegant but this is not necessary. Experiment to find the coffee bean roast that you enjoy. Many friends consider a medium roast to be “smoother,” where I find it more acidic than the oilier, dark roasts. Any beans can be used but the fresher ground, the better.

Making espresso with a home model is similar to making automatic drip coffee.

Measure the water and pour it into the open pressure tank, then securely close it. This is important as the maker will create a great deal of pressurized steam. Home models clearly mark water levels on carafes to double duty as your water measure. Do not over-fill. If this is mismanaged, dangerous steam can jet out, which could burn skin or blow the cover off and cause injury.

Open basket and fill with ground coffee to taste. Secure into operational position, similar to inter locking pressure-cooker lids. Your maker will have scores showing suggested amounts. I prefer more.

Make sure a shot glass or the provided carafe is in place underneath the coffee ground basket’s nozzle.

Start the machine. Home models may take a few minutes to build up steam.

Allow to process until the machine runs out of steam.

Enjoy your espresso and allow the machine to cool down before attempting to open the pressure tank.

Everyone can enjoy inexpensive yet tasty espresso at home. The savings from making it at home can go toward a fancier machine later, that will heat up quicker and create an even stronger brew. You may find that your homemade espresso is even better than what they make down at the local shop and stick with it.

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