If you're a home barista who wants to perfect your brew, our National Trainer and Head Barista, Ross Bates, shares his top tips for producing a great café-quality espresso every time.
We believe that everyone has their own ideas on how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee. However, sourcing fresh quality beans, grinding, dosing and extracting your coffee are paramount in achieving a great café-quality coffee at home.
Selecting Your Beans
The first step to a perfect cup of coffee is sourcing fresh quality beans that have been roasted for espresso. Most milk based coffees will use blends, which consist of coffee beans from two or more origins. Single origins are best used for black coffee, as they tend to loose character and complexity in milk.
Experimenting with different blends, roast profiles and origins is the fun part of coffee. When selecting your beans, it should always come down to taste. If you love the taste, go for it.
Grinding fresh coffee is the next step in the pursuit to create a perfect cup of coffee. Grinding your coffee long before you intend to use it can result in flat and unpleasant tasting coffee.
Different brewing methods require different particle sizes to achieve the correct rate of extraction. When grinding for espresso coffee you will need a fine grind. The feel of the ground coffee should be a powder like consistency with a slight grittiness. Trial and error extractions, as well as tasting the coffee, are always the most accurate ways to determine the correct grind size.
Today, there are several commercial and household brewing devices, which operate differently, and therefore, need a variety of particle sizes for efficient extraction. The following is a brief summary of the type of grind with the matching brewing method.
|Brewing Method||Desired Grind||Brewing Time||Weight of Ground Coffee||Coffee Volume (Liquid)|
|Stove-top||Medium||Approx. 2 min||Fill the basket level||Depends on size of brewer|
|Espresso machine||Fine||25 - 30 sec||Min. 9 grams||25 - 30 mL|
|Pour-over||Medium||3 - 4 min||Start with 10 grams and experiment||170 mL|
|Plunger||Medium - Coarse||4 - 6 min||Start with 10 grams and experiment||170 mL|
You can start to see how critical measurement is when preparing roast and ground coffee.
Tip: Changes in environmental factors such as weather and humidity, can have an effect on the coffee grind and extraction. As humidity increases, you may have to make the grind coarser. If weather conditions become cooler with low humidity, you may have to make the grind finer.
- Remove group handle from your espresso machine (caution: may be hot)
- Purge water from your espresso machine to remove any dirty water (note: do not wet your group handle)
- Knock out any waste that may have been left in the group basket
- Clean and dry the group basket
- Fill the group basket with ground coffee until the mound is level with the top of the basket
- Tap on bench to collapse coffee (i.e. two firm taps only)
- Using the straight edge of the dosing tool, sweep the ground coffee back towards you to fill the basket evenly, then sweep forward to remove any excess coffee
- Tamp evenly with firm pressure and a slight twisting motion to compress coffee
- Wipe any excess coffee off rim of group handle
- Lock group handle into group head
- Immediately start your extraction
- Ensure correct extraction volume (i.e. 25 - 30 mL of espresso should be extracted within 25 - 30 seconds)
The next step involves releasing all the wonderful flavours of the coffee through the process of extraction. This involves bringing the hot water and freshly ground beans together in a way that allows the water to extract all the flavour, aroma and other desirable parts of the roasted coffee beans.
A good extraction is when the correct amount of water, passes through the correct amount of ground coffee, in the correct amount of time, at the correct temperature, with the correct amount of pressure from the machine.
Tip: If your coffee is pouring too quickly, it will taste sour with minimal body and crema. To avoid this, grind the coffee finer or increase coffee dose in the group basket. If your coffee is pouring too slowly (or is dripping through), it will taste burnt or bitter. To remedy this, grind coffee more coarsely or don't pack the group basket as tightly.
Try not to extract any more than 3 mL of water per 1 gram of ground coffee. To kick off your advanced espresso knowledge, this is a brew ratio of 1:3, meaning 1 gram of ground coffee to 3 mL of water.
For example, a minimum 9 gram ground coffee x 3 mL of water = 27 mL. Extraction time should be 25 - 30 seconds.
When tasting espresso coffee try using this three part process:
- Wait to cool so that a little more flavour may develop
- Stir the coffee and crema together because the coffee can pour in layers
- Consume once the temperature has dropped just a little and the coffee is stirred together for an enhanced espresso experience
Experiment with coffee beans, roasts, coffee dose, extraction time and volume.