Hey coffee friends!
Last month I touched on the topic of espresso making and how to set a recipe that will give you a great tasting espresso. I hope you had a chance to jump behind a machine, adapt my methods and pull some sweet looking shots. This blog is going to be all about taking your espresso skills to the next level.
When we think of espresso we think of finely ground coffee that’s extracted at a high temperature and with pressure, but it’s more then that as many factors can make or break the final product.
Depending on what grinder you are using, coffee flows into the basket generally in one common area, which may not seem like a big problem to many. When we tamp the dose becomes compacted flat and looks good to the naked eye but what’s really happening below the flat surface is what affects our shot. It is important to dose the desired amount into the basket, distribute (spread the coffee evenly across the basket) and then tamp as level as possible: no tapping on the sides!! The main reason behind this technique is to avoid channelling and this is when water finds the easiest party through the coffee bed, which will lead to an unbalanced shot. By doing the above you will ensure that there is an even amount of coffee distributed throughout the basket, which will result in a consistent extraction.
Now, onto tamping! I get loads of people asking in me the school about tamp pressure and even people that ask if there is a specific weight that needs to be applied. One problem that people get wrong when tamping is technique. It’s all about keeping your elbow at a 90 degree angle and using your body weight to apply pressure. If you are pushing from your arm and feel like you are straining yourself then chances are that your technique is wrong. One thing to remember is that tamping harder will extend your extraction time by a small amount but this will not give you the results you are looking for. Grinding finer will expose more surface area of the bean, which will effectively dissolve more flavour into our cup. Keep your tamping consistent but adjust grind side to achieve the correct extraction time as well as a balance in flavour.
Last but not least and possibly one step that so many baristas neglect would be cleanliness. I personally will walk away from a shop that has a dirty machine. If a machine is consistently clean then it gives me the impression that there is a sense of pride going on. I recommend that baskets and portafilters are cleaned with hot water throughout the day as often as possible as well as the group heads and shower screen. A build up on the shower screen can lead to unwanted bitter flavours as well as an uneven flow of water. At the end of the day make sure to soak the portafilters in a cleaning solution, such as Puro Caff and back flush the group heads. It is important to rinse off all traces of chemicals, as this can be harmful if consumed. A clean machine is key for delivering quality coffee so make sure not to miss this important step.
Keep your eyes open for next month’s blog where I will be talking about espresso’s best friend, milk! I am going to be writing about several milks, alternative options as well as steaming techniques. Until then, get back to those machines and pull some amazing shots.