Making the perfect espresso

Espresso coffee – often wrongly referred to as Expresso is a very strong black coffee that you make only from 100% Arabica Beans served in a very small cup. Espresso forms the basis of many other types of coffee such as Latte, Americano, Cappuccino etc…
crema  The mark of a good espresso is the light brown caramel coloured top – this is called the Crema and gives the espresso it’s distinctive flavour, then you have the almost jet black coffee layer.

We just wanted to recommend a new coffee site called – it is full of fantastic tips and hints on making and enjoying coffee.

Making Espresso
With time and patience you will acquire the skill to make perfect espresso every time.

To make the best espresso you need heavily roasted Arabica beans (100% – or an 20% robusta 80% Arabica if you are creating other drink tastes) and they must be very finely ground and a good quality machine capable of delivering high pressure hot water. (Lavazza have a good quality product range.)

Long cool roasting times create a different flavour to short hot roasting. So there is much to experiment with and you can explore the many different types of coffee out there.

Freshly ground coffee tastes much better than pre packaged. More oils are preserved and you get the full range of flavours. Use a ceramic blade grinder to stop the grinding heat from marring the taste of the coffee.

Put the ground espresso beans into the espresso machine and very lightly press down (- see your machines manufacturers instructions). They key to a good espresso Crema is the pressure of the hot water (not steam) and the water flow rate pressure – so it is vital to have a good quality espresso machine.

The longer you extract a shot, the more caffeine you pull out and the more bitter it will taste.

For a smooth creamy deep complex coffee use more ground coffee and shorten the extraction time, for a morning hit use less ground coffee and extract a little more to pull out the caffeine but don’t overdo it or you’ll get a bitter tasting espresso.

Tip for espresso machines – ensure that the water reservoir is  at least half filled  – this will avoid you running out of water under pressure mid way and burning the coffee.

WARNING: On a hot commercial machine you can burn the coffee grounds in as little as 30 seconds just putting them on the machine. So start the extraction as soon as you can.

The key is using water under pressure and NOT Boiling water. A 7 bar machine is all that is required to give a good crema, most 14bar makers drop below this pressure in daily use, so get one with a good consistent pump.

We prefer warming the milk in a microwave to 65-70 degrees and using a milk frothing tool, it cuts the time down taking just 2 minutes to produce a perfect coffee from beginning to end and is also quite predictable.

NEVER – reuse Arabica grounds once it has been extracted otherwise you will have a very bitter tasting coffee. Don’t over extract a double shot from a single shot of ground coffee. Use two shots.

Don’t spoil it by adding milk and sugar!! This is a purists drink.

Instructions on how to make the best . . .
Espresso: The basis for the following drinks.

Use a very finely ground Arabica bean, ensure that there is sufficient steam pressure as the extraction should be quick otherwise you get a bitter tasting drink with little or no Crema (the caramel coloured layer) on the top.

Toward the end of the extraction if the liquid becomes almost clear or loses the caramel colour I recommend using more Arabica grinds or stopping the extraction at the point the liquid starts to run clear.

To create a double espresso you use more espresso grinds but keep the same quantity of liquid a true double is double strength not double the size.

Making Americano:
This is 1 shot of espresso mixed with hot water – milk can be added to suit your taste.

Making Cappuccino:
One third Espresso then add one third hot milk and top with one third frothy milk then on top of the frothy milk you put a generous sprinkling of chocolate powder.


(For the best results use a semi skimmed milk and ensure it is chilled before you start frothing it – the frothing is best done before the espresso comes out of the machine to leave the greatest pressure of steam for the espresso extraction – on some espresso makers this does not matter.)


Making Latte:
Served in a glass. Two Thirds milk and one third espresso – the espresso is poured on the milk slowly to provide a dual layer drink – white at the bottom then a brown turning black at the top layer over this. As you drink it the layers remain and both get proportionally shorter so you are not left with a layer of milk at the end.

Making Iced Latte:
The same as above but this is made with chilled milk – a generous layer of ice cubes and the espresso is poured slowly over this (you can cool the espresso first by pouring into a large glass that has previously had a chilled liquid in it – this stops the ice from disappearing. (This is my choice for the summer!)

Flat white:
Very short extraction time with a large amount of pressed down coffee grounds. Micro froth all of the milk (it takes longer and you set the steam to the edge of the jug to create a rotation aiming for small bubbles and a creamy texture) and pour it from a height into the espresso shot. As you pour wiggle the jug and flow the milk into a shape of a leaf, heart of other design on the coffee.

This is a smooth very strong tasting coffee but has very little caffeine kick associated with it. It is called flat as the milk is blended with the coffee rather than placed on the top. Started in New Zealand, and Australia the flat white was bought to the UK by large chains such as Costa.

Two shots of coffee, a ristretto (very short extraction) then a Lungo (long extraction) which balances flavour with the caffeine hit. Micro foamed milk is then poured into the cup to create a spiral pattern on the top. Very similar to a flat white much much stronger and a good morning coffee, some baristas do leaf designs like the flat white but technically the Revolute should have a flowing spiral pattern.

For a change add a little cinnamon or vanilla essence to the drinks above The milk could be coloured easily with food colourings to add a degree of mystery. Put a scoop of hot chocolate powder in the Americano to create a Mocha.

There is also the cold brew method to explore, where you leave the coffee to brew overnight, an ideal base for cold coffee based drinks avoiding the diluting effects of ice.

Posted in Food and Drink.

One Comment

  1. Good article to get people started! So you know, many espresso freaks believe that you must use a blend of about 20% Robusta and 80% Arabica to make the “perfect espresso.”

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