Brewing Espresso – Science or Art? Part One
Could you make brewing espresso a science experiment? I think you can and should. As with any science experiment, if you can control the variables it is the key to getting what you want in your results. I say why not look at espresso in the same way. In part one I will talk about some of the tools to help you make a great espresso scientifically. In part two, I will discuss some of the equipment that will help.
It is very easy to control variables in the espresso making process especially with all the great equipment and tools available to our customers. The reason you buy all these great products is because it gives you the ability to create something you like repeatedly. You should be able to brew a better more consistent espresso then you can get in over 90 percent of the places now currently selling espresso!
That is why we spend all of our hard earned money for great espresso brewing equipment. We know it gives us the chance of making a great espresso drink 90 percent of the time if we are careful and understand our equipment and methods. This is opposed to the woeful 10 percent chance we have buying it from others.
How can we do this? – Lets start by looking at all the things we can control; and I will point out some products I like that you should consider if you really want to taste great espresso repeatedly.
The amount of coffee used to brew an espresso. This is an easy one, just weigh the amount of coffee you are using. You should always brew with the same amount of coffee. Some people will weigh the coffee before they grind it. This gives them the same amount of coffee each time, but if weighing out each dose of coffee is not your style, then acquire a grinder that weighs the ground coffee dose for you like the Baratza Vario W Coffee Grinder. It will stop grinding at exactly the weight you set. It doesn't get any easier than that!
The amount of water per dose. This can be measured using a variety of methods. Your machine may have programmable cup sizes for volumetric dosing which adjusts the amount of hot water forced through the coffee grounds. That's the easy way; however, if you have a machine with no cup programming, then use a measuring device to determine how much water you are using. This one works great as it is clearly marked so you know exactly how much you are brewing: Rattleware 3oz Shot Glass Pitcher.
The Tamping pressure – In my opinion this is one of the toughest to do consistently. One of my favorite products professionally speaking is a calibrated tamper. It enables you to tamp with precisely the same pressure each time.
In a professional coffee shop or at home tamping correctly is one of the hardest skills to master. The key is to tamp using the same amount of pressure repeatedly. We have a tamper, (and I love it!), that will allow you to tamp at thirty pounds of pressure each time. If you get one it will help you be more exact in our science experiment. Here is a link: Espro Calibrated Flat Tamper, (and I really like this product in case you can’t tell!)
In part two we will go into more detail about the equipment and how all of this will get you to the end goal of creating a delicious espresso.
Choosing a quality tamper is often overlooked as an important consideration of brewing good espresso. I like to think that brewing espresso is a lot like a science experiment. You have many variables that need to be adjusted or altered so that you are able to brew the best shot possible. Tamping is a key part of making that great shot of espresso, and a quality tamper can contribute to your success.
Too much tamping pressure can result in a bitter cup and too little pressure can result in a watery shot. You will need to find the pressure that works well for you based on your grind setting. Great Baristas know that once the perfect combination of tamping pressure and coffee grind fineness are determined, that it is crucial to repeat those elements every time you brew so that the end result does not vary from shot to shot.
I like to use the Espro calibrated tamper because it gives you feedback by a clicking motion once you have reached 30 PSI of pressure which is often considered the optimal tamping pressure. This is beneficial because you will now be able to have a consistent tamping pressure which will bring you one step closer to constantly repeating the perfect shot. After a bit of trial and error you will be able to hone-in on the correct tamping pressure.
I am confident that a little more attention to the important element of tamping pressure will make a wonderful difference in your espresso brewing skills, and yield some great tasting espresso!