Despite being a brewing method, Espresso stands here as a separate section because of its distinguishing characteristics, its complexity and of course, its popularity. This method requires a special way of processing which differs from Roasting, Blending, Grinding and Brewing. Nowadays, Espresso is so popular and widely accepted that if you haven’t drank it, you’re not likely to have entered the Coffee Drinking World!
The name Espresso originated from Italy. The Italian word for Espresso is ‘express’, which means the coffee is served immediately to the customer. The Espresso brewing method is said to be defined by four Ms. “...the Macinazione is the correct grinding of this coffee blend, Miscela is the coffee blend, Macchina is the espresso machine, and Mano is the skilled hand of the barista...” (source: http://www.coffeeresearch.org). The Espresso will reach its best when the four Ms are achieved.
The preparation of Espresso is considered an “art”, and the barista who makes Espresso may find it a chance for his experience to be fully shown. A perfect cup of Espresso should maintain the extraordinary sweetness, with the potent aroma and freshly ground coffee flavour. Both smoothness and thickness are required. Moreover, a few minutes after drinking, there should be an aromatic aftertaste that still lingers on the palate.
These criteria seem hard to follow, so what are the rules here?
The goal of blending Espresso is to create the complexity of aroma and flavour which a single origin cannot obtain. Types of coffee which are commonly used are those from Brazil, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Different coffee types bring a different aroma, acidity, aftertaste and body to the blend. This has been discussed in Blending.
The aroma and sweetness are of great importance to a good Espresso. Therefore, the goal of Espresso roasting is to maintain its aroma and sweetness, while minimising the bitterness and acidity. This can be achieved by choosing the right time to stop, usually after the first crack.
One notice is that: though it’s difficult to balance the acidity of the Espresso, you should not roast it more than half way to the second crack. This is very important, as over-roasting can spoil the aroma and sugar of your Espresso, which is the main contributor of its distinguished characteristics.
The burr grinder should be used to grind Espresso. Since coffee can easily lose its volatile compounds when exposed to the air, this process should occur as quickly as possible. The appropriate grinding time is usually around 23-28 seconds. Also, the grind setting should be changed throughout the day, as coffee can absorb moisture in the air, causing a longer extraction time.
After grinding, coffee is passed onto the dosing and tamping stages, which which are of no lesser importance to the process. The goal of dosing and tamping is to create a pellet of coffee so that the hot water can penetrate evenly. When tamping is finished, coffee is extracted using an Espresso machine. Here is an article about Espresso extraction from www.coffeeresearch.org:
The espresso is ready to be extracted after correctly roasting, blending, grinding, dosing, and tamping the coffee (See espresso potential).
Before placing the porta-filter in the group head, allow 2 ounces of water to flow through the head. This is called temperature stabilizing. Tightly place the porta-filter in place and place a pre-warmed glass below the spouts of the porta-filter. Use the manual switch to begin the pre-infusion cycle. This distributes water over the top of the espresso pellet to allow it to expand and seal properly before blasting it with pressurized water.
For 1.5 ounces of espresso, the extraction should take between 23-30 seconds where the time starts when the espresso begins to flow from the spouts. The pour should look like warm honey dripping from the spouts. Manually stop the extraction if the espresso turns a slight shade lighter in color. If it took longer than 30 seconds, adjust the grind to be larger in size. If it took less than 25 seconds, adjust the grind to be smaller. Do not vary the pressure you apply in tamping since you only want to adjust one variable at a time. By adjusting the tamping pressure you are simultaneously adjusting several parameters that will often result in an undesirable product even if you do attain the right timing.
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