Embarking on the journey of making professional espresso at home is incredibly rewarding, for you and your tastebuds. But, that doesn't mean it won't be without its challenges. So, we've put together some helpful tips so you can get the most out of your espresso machine and make delicious coffee all from the comfort of your home!
1. A High Quality Coffee Grinder is Crucial
An example of a quality hand grinder
When aiming to get the best flavour out of your coffee beans, a high quality coffee grinder carries equal significance to that of your espresso machine. A quality coffee grinder will allow you to perform small adjustments to your grind setting so you can finely tune your espresso to get the best results each time. When we refer to a quality coffee grinder, we are referring to burr grinders that are able to produce a consistent grind, achieving better results during the extraction process. This is due to the decreased risk of channelling - when water finds a 'weak' point in your puck and creates a channel where water flows through quickly with little resistance. Espresso shots that
However, it is worth emphasising that finding the correct grind settings may not come first time and depends hugely on your coffee beans of choice. It’s likely you'll start with the wrong grind size, but with careful observation of extraction time and the taste of your espresso, you'll achieve great results.
A general principle to follow is to start coarse, time your shot, and finely tune depending on your espresso extraction time. If your espresso shot was fast (below 25 seconds), grind finer. If your shot was slow (over 30 seconds), grind coarser. We offer the Commandante C40 and Knock Aergrind on our store, which are both great options!
We’ve written a whole article discussing the ins and outs of grind sizes and settings here!
2. Fresh Coffee Beans Are Key
A batch of coffee beans being freshly roasted
The consensus among specialty coffee connoisseurs is that behind every great espresso is a freshly roasted coffee bean. The significance of freshly roasted coffee is widely acknowledged and echoed amongst regional roasters and cafes who use phrases like ‘freshly roasted’ and ‘fresh beans’ to entice customers, and for good reason. Fresh coffee beans contain unadulterated and innate aromas that are untainted by the effects of oxygen and external elements. One of the best ways to preserve these flavours is by storing your coffee beans in an airtight container, or by only using recently roasted coffee beans. Most specialty roasters will display the date their beans were roasted on their packaging so you can visibly see how freshly roasted the beans are. Most baristas would agree that using your beans 1 to 3 weeks after roasting will produce the best shot of espresso.
Freshly roasted coffee beans naturally have high levels of carbon dioxide which release into your espresso shot when they come into contact with hot water and help form the syrupy looking crema. Older coffee beans, since they have been exposed to the air for longer, will naturally have less carbon dioxide, producing less crema or none at all depending on how old they are. The crema is an integral component to the overall flavour and texture of your espresso shot, having less or none at all will result in a shot that is out of balance and a bit sad looking.
There is no shortage of local coffee roasters and coffee subscription services which can provide you with an excellent choice of freshly roasted coffee beans. Its one of the best ways to get barista-quality coffee at home as opposed to using pre-ground coffee. Here at the 9Barista factory we're always on the hunt for quality roasters here are some of the ones that we know and love:
3. Consistent Brew Water Temperature
Typically, espresso is brewed anywhere between 90-96°C (194-205°F). During the extraction process, consistent brew water temperature is extremely important for achieving exceptional espresso. Fluctuations in temperature can cause varying levels of extraction and flavour profiles.
Your choice of espresso maker will largely determine the best ways to maintain consistent brew water temperature during extraction. Achieving this stability can range from simply pre-heating your equipment all the way up to installing a PID temperature control system. The key point to keep in mind is that your tools should be toasty both before and during the brew process. If hot water comes in to contact with cold materials this will create fluctuations in the temperature of your brew water.
Unlike other brewers, the 9Barista regulates your brew water temperature for you, so that you can achieve consistency shot after shot. The twin-boiler system allows the machine to reach high pressures and maintain controlled brew water temperature simultaneously. When the water reaches the coffee grounds, espresso is being brewed at 93°C and this temperature remains consistent throughout extraction. If you'd like to learn more about the technology behind the 9Barista head over to our home page!
4. Filtered Water is Best
Many of the issues home baristas experience with their espresso machine, are down to limescale. You've probably heard people refer to areas of 'hard' or 'soft' water. These terms refer to the levels of calcium carbonate and other minerals present in water.
Hard water has a higher levels of calcium carbonate and minerals, whereas soft water has a lower level. When hard hot water evaporates, it leaves behind these minerals which appears as a chalk-like substance called limescale on the surface of your equipment. Most of the time, this is caused as a result of using tap water as opposed to filtered water.
Filtering your water - especially if you live in an area with hard water - is a very simple way to not only improve the taste of your espresso (high levels of calcium carbonate tend to produce more bitter flavours in your coffee), but maintains the functionality and performance of your machine. Limescale build up has detrimental affects on most equipment, and if not properly maintained can result in costly repairs.
You may find that your espresso machine already has a built in water filter which, although very useful, still needs to have it's filter cartridges changed regularly. The same goes for an external water jug style filter such as those made by Brita. Most brands will provide you with information on how frequently to change these cartridges, so it's always worth checking the guidance directly from the manufacturer.
Even if you do use filtered water, it is important to regularly descale your machine when you notice a build up in limescale. How regular really depends on the quality of your water, but generally speaking every 3-6 months should be enough.
If you're brewing with the 9Barista, keeping your machine free of scale is vital to maintaining the functionality of your machine. You can find our descaling instructions here.
5. Clean Your Machine on a Regular Basis
Similar to descaling, keeping your machine clean and free of any old coffee grounds and oils will improve both the taste of your coffee and the functionality of your espresso machine. When it comes to regular cleaning, there are two main rules to follow to keep your machine in top working order:
- Avoid using soaps and dishwashers.
- Remove used coffee grounds quickly after the brew cycle.
- Use cleaning products that specifically target coffee residue.
It is always best to immediately dispose of your used coffee grounds and rinse your portafilter with just water, then set aside to dry naturally before brewing again. Using detergents can be too aggressive and, if you use the 9Barista can result in water spitting from the chimney. Equally, putting your machine or portafilter in the dishwasher is off limits as this can cause more damage than good. This is primarily due to increasing the risk of causing corrosion and oxidation on your equipment as a result of the conditions used within a dishwasher cycle.
There are a range of coffee focussed cleaning agents out there and which one you use (if you need to use it at all) will largely depend on the type of machine you have. Large home counter top espresso makers such as La Mazorocco Linea Mini or Sage Barista Express will have pre-programmed backflush cycles that require specialist coffee cleaning agent to complete cleaning successfully. The 9Barista, on the flip side, does not need such intense cleaning cycles due to its small size. Simply removing the coffee grounds after each brew and rinsing out all the parts with water and leaving them to dry should do the trick!
6. Use Precision Measurements
When it comes to optimal extraction for espresso - precision is king. Yet, attaining precision and consistency with espresso shots can be quite elusive. Finding the perfect brew ratio is all down to precise measurements which precision coffee scales will provide you. This means measuring out your grams of espresso, coffee beans and water to 0.1g resolution. Using an espresso scale that is able to provide this level of accuracy can make the world of difference to the taste of your coffee.
There are a few reasons for taking measurements throughout the brew process. Perhaps the most valuable reason is that these measurements allow you to develop an espresso recipe that not only suites the type of beans you have (different roast levels require different doses), but your taste preferences.
Using high levels of accuracy will both help achieve consistently delicious espresso, achieve a more sustainable and cost-effective brew. Accurate measurements reduce the amount of wasted coffee produced when brewing, so you can make the most out of those expensive coffee beans you bought!
New home baristas will often overlook the importance of meticulously measuring, but its worth emphasising how important this is in producing consistently delicious espresso.
The Timemore precision scales from our store are a great option!
To sum up, the proper tools play a significant role in achieving exceptional espresso, and the choice of machine is equally important (we naturally suggest the 9Barista!). With dedication, you'll swiftly master the art of crafting café-worthy espresso in the comfort of your home.
What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you! Message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.