So, you’ve finally bought a coffee machine, made the first launch strictly according to the manual, brewed coffee and… got disappointed in this thing completely.
Or, maybe your coffee maker stands on your counter for years, but you still buy coffee in coffee shops, because homemade drink just isn't good?
Whatever the problem is, it will be solved today.
I’m going to give you some hacks that will help you prepare an excellent cup of espresso whenever you need it. So, get cozy and continue reading!
1. Use Filtered or Bottled Water Only
Few people realize that a key component of any coffee drink is not coffee alone.
It’s also water.
You see, a standard espresso shot is about 98% of water. The remaining 2% are soluble components of coffee beans. The water may reveal their flavor to a full extent. Or, it may not, and instead of a rich taste and aroma, you’ll get a spoiled mood.
So, what’s wrong with tap water?
A lot of things:
- To clean it, copious amounts of chlorine are usually used. You probably don’t want your 100% exclusive arabica blend smell like a swimming pool.
- Running water contains microparticles of debris, rust, and organics. Because it is impossible to clean it completely.
- Tap water is hard. This means that it contains a lot of calcium and magnesium salts, which form scaling when heated. And scaling is the number one enemy for your coffee machine.
That is why it is better to use bottled water. Or, purchase a jug with a built-in carbon filter and clean it yourself.
Distilled water, although it does not contain impurities and chlorine, is lacking certain minerals, which not only benefit our body but also make the water taste good.
“According to science, our taste perception is enhanced when we consume warm substances. Therefore, you can do a little test: heat the water that you plan to use for coffee and taste it. If it’s good, then proceed to the brewing.”
Manufacturers of modern coffee machines also produce models with an integrated filter that allows you to clean water and immediately prepare coffee.
2. Grind Your Coffee Right Before Brewing
The rich aroma of coffee puts me into a state of trance.
I think this is true for you too; otherwise, you would have not been here.
My point is, aroma is important. It is the result of volatile coffee oils evaporation, which is directly related to the freshness of your coffee beans.
A coffee shop nearby that roasts its own blends is the ideal source of the beans.
However, coffee beans from the grocery store might do fine too. The main rule here is to grind them in small batches and brew immediately.
If you have an espresso maker, it usually has a portafilter with a volume of a single or double shot (8-10 and 18-22 grams respectively).
And this is exactly the amount of coffee you need.
“If you want a flavorful coffee drink, do not buy pre-ground coffee. It is most likely exhausted and has lost all its aroma.”
Image source: Unsplash.com
3. Use a Fine Grind
Now that we have our coffee, it is time to discuss the grinding.
The grind degree is strongly tied to the brewing method you choose:
A coarse grind is suitable for a French press, filter coffee, and cold brew.
A medium grind is universal. It can be used for both automatic coffee machines and alternative brewing methods.
A fine (espresso) grind, as the name implies, is ideal for use in espresso machines but can be used for brewing with an Aeropress too.
Since we are still talking about coffee machines here, I recommend using medium, sand-like grind for your espresso.
“If you choose the coarse grind, it will just let the water through itself very quickly, and the coffee will not have enough time to extract its oils. With a very fine grind, on the contrary, the extraction time will last longer, which might lead to excessive bitterness.”
And here’s another thing:
The consistency of coffee bits should be uniform. This will allow for a more even extraction process, and as a result, your coffee will have a more balanced taste.
Burr grinders are the best choice here. Plus, they give you more control over the grind. This may seem like an expensive investment for homemade coffee, but these grinders are usually built to last, so they pay off quickly.
Also, you can simply buy a coffee machine with a built-in grinder and make it easier for yourself. I suggest that you take a look at these espresso machines.
4. Check the Timing
Another component of the perfect espresso is the time spent on extraction.
Usually, this time varies from 20-30 seconds for a single shot, to 45 seconds for a lungo.
If your coffee machine does not have a built-in timer, you will have to monitor the process yourself.
Of course, when you learn to determine the readiness of coffee by the color of a stream, the timer will no longer be needed. But at first, be sure to use it.
5. Play With Spices
The fun doesn’t end when you learn how to make a standard espresso like a barista.
Besides the fact that now you can improve your other coffee drinks, such as latte or cappuccino, you can also make your espresso even better.
It’s simply: spice it up!
Spices will complement the taste of coffee and reveal its other sides. I recommend trying to add the following:
- star anise;
- black pepper (or ground chili).
Or, use a few of them at a time. Maybe you will eventually invent your own secret mix.
“Quick tip: If your coffee turned out more bitter than you expected, add a few large salt crystals to it. Salt contains sodium that alters the way bitterness is perceived by our taste buds.”
Making coffee is a creative process, which does require training some skills and learning the nuances. However, as soon as you find the perfect way for you to brew this invigorating potion, I assure that you will forget about coffee from coffee shops.