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.
Do you want to take your espresso experience to another level? Have you ever been served a latte that contained Latte Art? Most people are intrigued by this unique art form and are surprised to learn that this “art” can be performed right at home.What is Latte Art?
Latte Art refers to the patterns, made in the foam, atop an espresso drink. In order to create these images, a trained barista uses an assortment of tools. These tools are readily available and can be purchased by the average coffee lover for home use. Here is quick list of tools needed:
Before you start creating your foamed milk, you need to create a good shot of espresso to pour your froth into. Here is a link to the “Golden Rule" , which will outline how to create a perfect shot of espresso.Milk
What is the best type of milk to create the perfect foam necessary to make Latte Art? This is a question that we get quite often. Milk does play a role in the type of foam that can be created. The first step is to start with very cold milk, which will lengthen the time you have to work with the milk to create foam. Milk with a high fat content will take less time to froth than low-fat or fat-free milk. The low-fat milk lacks butter fat and will create bubbles when you’re trying to achieve the micro foam necessary for latte art.Frothing Pitcher
Frothing your milk in the right pitcher can make a difference. It is best to use a stainless steel frothing pitcher. Depending on the type of machine you are using, steam pressure may play a roll in the pitcher size you choose. You want to make sure that the pitcher you choose has enough room to allow the milk to roll inside the pitcher. Latte Art has become so popular that Rattlewear offers a frothing pitcher specifically for latte art. It comes complete with a tapered spout that helps with the “pour” process of latte art.Thermometer
Temperature plays a very important role in the process of creating foam. Micro-foam is best created below 100?F, at this temperature; the bubbles are small and easier to break down than at higher temperatures. There are several thermometers available on the market today. The digital frothing thermometer delivers immediate results and works on a battery, or a tradition thermometer may be more your speed. Some thermometers may even come complete with a clip to hang on the side of your frothing pitcher.Latte Art Wand
The Gaggia espresso machines come with a Pannarello wand. This wand is perfect for achieving foamed milk with ease. Gaggia also offers a Latte art wand that can be placed on Gaggia machines as well as the Saeco Royal Professional and Saeco Coffee bar. The wand’s simple one-hole design, allows the users to create micro foam.Cup
Now that the final product has been achieved, it is time to showcase your art. Cups are available in many shapes and sizes. The cup size can be a factor in the final product and the “pour.” The most popular cups used in the industry are the ones with round bottoms, shallow bowl shapes and capacities between 6 to 12 ounces. We have a large assortment of cups available to allow you to showcase your art in style; here are some of my favorites:Illy Almodovar Cappuccino Cups
What better way to showcase your latte art than in an art-inspired, limited-edition cups from illy? Each cup is numbered and hand signed. They were created by Academy-Award winning film director Pedro Almodóvar and hold 8.8 ounces.Classic Coffee & Tea Cappuccino cups
These cups look great and come complete in a great hat box. The colors are light and airy and each cup holds 7 ounces.Bodum Bistro Double Walled Mugs
Let your drink be the showstopper. This double-walled glass will help your beverage retain its temperature, while keeping the outside of the glass cool. Be amazed, as the drink floats inside the double-walled glass. These mugs are available in 3 sizes: 10, 16 or 18 ounces.Whole Latte Love Signature Cups
Our signature Whole Latte Love cup says it all. These are the perfect 12-ounce cups for latte art.
With these simple tools, you can be creating Latte Art from home in no time at all. We also have an Latte Art instructional video and a complete latte art package available for purchase. If you would like additional assistance, you can read Randy’s blog, titled “Frothing and Steaming Milk.” I hope this quick guide, helps you create great micro foam at home. Happy Frothing!Tracy
By now most of us have probably heard of something referred to as the Golden Rule
As a quick refresher, the objective of the Golden Rule is to brew a double shot of espresso (2.5oz) in 25 seconds. One variable is the fineness and consistency of your ground espresso; another is tamp pressure. Thirty lbs of tamp pressure is what most experts recommend. There is also a consensus that any tamp pressure that is consistently applied each and every time will work. Consistency is the key word here. Whether it is 30lbs or 50lbs of pressure, the key component is to use the same pressure every time. You can, then, adjust your grind setting to follow suit and get the perfect extraction.
Remember as a rule of thumb it should take an average of twenty five seconds to brew a double shot of espresso. To demonstrate the impact tamp pressure can have on espresso extraction, I usually have customers apply both a very forceful tamp, as well as an extremely light tamp. The difference in the extraction time can be amazing. Literally, you can go from an extraction time of ten seconds, with a light tamp, to an extraction time of forty plus seconds, with a heavy tamp, all using the exact same grind setting. If an excessive amount of pressure is needed to slow the flow down to twenty five seconds, the espresso is probably ground too coarse. Likewise, if the extraction process is taking too long, exceeding twenty five seconds with a light tamp, the grinder should be adjusted to deliver a courser grind.
Keep in mind that everybody’s palate and preferences are different. Some people will use a very heavy tamp pressure and brew their espresso for fifty or sixty seconds; they will adamantly argue this method produces the best tasting espresso. I also know people who always brew a long shot, 3oz-4oz, and will argue that this is the only way to make good espresso. I’m more of an authentic Italian-style espresso maker, but can appreciate that everybody’s preferences are different. In the end, you should use the method that best suits your tastes. So practice, experiment and enjoy!