What is needed?
A professional espresso machine for bars costs several thousand euros. A good "double group" (ie with two dispensers) ranges from 6,000 euros upwards. But the key ingredient, in the end, is coffee.
If you buy a coffee like that of Café 124, or of many other Italians and non-Italians, the real goal is to have an espresso kit that does not spoil the aroma. Starting from a high quality of the main ingredient, you can go down for inexperience and for not having professional material - but we assure you that you will have a ... espresso better than many bars.
First of all a good coffee ...
Better to buy coffee beans.
Although traditionally espresso is made with a darker roast, it is not necessary to choose a coffee bean marketed as "espresso". "Espresso roasts" often means "dark roast" and, in our humble opinion, roasting should never cover the true aromas of the coffee. Dark roasting of poor grains is fine. Dark roasting coffee that is hand-picked in the Ethiopian mountains is less than good.
Another thing: roasted coffee begins to lose its most particular aromas after 3 months. You can find good roasted coffee 6 months earlier, but not a year earlier. It has nothing to do with how you store it: roasted coffee degrades.
Don't make the mistake of putting it in the refrigerator. Think about wine: would you put a Barolo in the fridge?
Depending on the filter you have, a double espresso (the one that gives the best result thanks to the perfectly cylindrical filter) requires no less than 15 grams of coffee. If you take into account that a Nespresso capsule contains 5 grams of coffee, you understand why the result is a bit bland.
The coffee must be finely ground, but not into powder: the water must pass through without problems. The factors are:
- Quantity: the more powder, the more loaded the coffee will be - but be careful not to overdo it, otherwise the water will remain in contact with the powder for too long and the result will be an over-extracted, bitter espresso
- Fineness: it is essential to find the right one. Start with a coarse grind and then go further and further towards the end. At first the espresso will be a bit acidic (under-extraction). When you begin to perceive bitter notes you have exaggerated the finesse (over-extraction). Yes, the coffee is not bitter.
A tip: ground coffee becomes rancid after a few hours if exposed to air (yes ...). Therefore, always "clean" the grinder in the morning with a few grams of coffee which you will then throw away.
In the picture one of our favorite home grinders. Steel grinders, easily removable for cleaning, robust (for a year it has been grinding at least once a day), and costs just over € 60 (click on the image to go to Amazon).
You have seen thousands of baristas casually press the coffee into the filter as if it were an unimportant step. Wrong. Pressing is essential.
- If it is not always done in the same way, all of the above is worth nothing. Finely ground and not pressed or coarsely ground and hard pressed, and the result will be similar ...
- If you do not press evenly, but for example press more on one side, the water will be channeled only in some areas, giving you ... an over-extracted (bitter) espresso with little body.
Then you give the filter a few taps in order to distribute the dust, and then press it well (around 15 kg) ... always the same!
It goes without saying that the filter must be perfectly cleaned of the old dust before accepting the new one!
Have you ever seen a barista insert the filter holder under the dispenser without first "bleeding"? If so, ask them to put a glass cup under the shower, without a filter, and let some water out: you will understand why it is important to drain.
For the first espressos we recommend glass - it's nice to see how the espresso is layered!
With the delivery we add two other parameters that we must take into account (besides grinding, quantity, pressing ... and we are thus at 5!):
- Amount of water. Generally, for 15 grams of coffee you should get about 50-70 milliliters of espresso.
- Time. The water must not remain in contact with the powder too much, let's say that 60 milliliters must come out in about 25 seconds.
In the picture the Breville / Sage espresso machine. We will add others, but this one offers a good compromise for those who do not want a separate coffee grinder.
These from Café 124 are absurd: they are not satisfied with telling us who should grow the coffee, how it should be roasted, how we should grind it, store it, extract it ... even how should we drink it?
Oh well, it's advice. Try it once, just to make us happy.
With a teaspoon slightly move the "cream" and smell. If you are drinking our coffee - but really, there are many others as well and even better! - you will feel the aroma of that coffee. Different coffees have different aromas, and the nose is the first judge.
Then turn to mix the different layers (the first a little acid, the last a little bitter) and take a small sip ... making noise if you are not alone (the liquid is atomized as it enters your mouth and releases everything the aroma). However, sip gently. In very small sips, letting the liquid wet the whole mouth and swallowing only after having tasted it with the nose as well.
After each sip, focus on the aftertaste: it must be persistent, but pleasant. Not bitter. The best compliment to an espresso was given to us by smokers: "I don't smoke my cigarette right away, I don't want this flavor to disappear ....".
PS Other coffee grinders
We have received requests for other coffee grinders, less bulky and less expensive. Here are some brief reviews:
- Hosome blades , € 20-25. It does not grind but chops with rotating blades. We cannot fail to mention that Atlas Ufo Robot used the rotating blades to slice enemies, not to grind coffee. However if you need space and / or don't want to spend too much, this is occasionally on offer on Amazon and uses 200 watts, it's worth it.
- With Sboly steel grinders , € 65. Good but has a big flaw: the grinders are not easily disassembled, and therefore it is difficult to clean.
- Cozyselect blades , € 18. Not recommended. The oval shape causes dust to accumulate in the parts with more pronounced curvature. If nature has chosen symmetry as its principle there is a reason, and a circle is infinitely more symmetrical than an ellipse ...
- A DeLonghi KG79 ceramic grinders , € 51. Not highly recommended. The ceramic grinders are never the best, after a year of daily use it broke, and finally it is annoying to want every piece in its place to go. Lose the lid of the drawer and your coffee grinder is no longer of any use ....