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Legit Coffee

The quest for enlightenment through coffee.

Category Archives: Gear

MarcusA while back, I promised some explication on how to get decent espresso at home. Now, the cafe is a wonderful thing, and I do think that what you pay for isn’t the coffee, it’s the place. If you’re going to have some coffee at home over breakfast, or in the car, you can make your own espresso and do quite well.

And, it is pretty hard to beat cuddling your cats, sipping espresso, listening to NPR while the sun streams in on a lazy morning.

I’ll assume you’ll be buying a good quality burr grinder and an espresso machine with a pump capable of reaching at least 10 bar of pressure.

STEP ONE: what do you want to drink?
You need, even before you go buy a serious machine, to decide what you’re going to drink. Straight espresso? Americano? Latte? This decides whether you want a double boiler or not. If you plan on foaming milk a lot, don’t screw around, pony up for a machine with separate boilers for your espresso and your steam. But also see below about foaming… It is not a trivial business.

STEP TWO: your beans matter a little less than you think they do.
While it is true that the start of good coffee is a good roast, there are so many ways to screw up, and so much personality that goes into making espresso, that you will really need to find a bean that works for you, your grinder, and your machine. To give you a sense, we have found at home that the Costco branded Starbucks espresso roast does almost as well as many primo roasts (Zoka Paladino, SCW’s Best, Gimme Leftist). Why? Because you don’t have a $5000 machine, grinder, and the time to get things perfect. That said, you can still get a fine, rich, chocolatey cup every time.

Lesson: experiment! Be brave!

STEP THREE: Figure out your grind.
There is a whole literature out there on how to do this. Common rules are that the pressure should be 9 bar or that a shot should come out in 20 seconds. Forget all that. What you want is to have a medium brown foam flowing into your cup. This depends mostly on your grind and how hard you tamp. Practice tamping: get a bunch of coffee ground, and mass or measure out equal amounts of coffee. Practice tamping until you can get consistent packing, as measured by the height of the puck in your portafilter. Now start playing with both the tamp and the grind until you find chocolate heaven. You can narrow in by trying one tamp with several grinds, then picking the best grind, and adjusting your tamp. Repeat until you perfect it!

Next time: beyond the ristretto! Milk!


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MarcusThese people are super. If you are serious about home espresso, start here. Lots of good videos and advice. Also check out upcoming posts on #homebrew.

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