What is espresso?
For many coffee lovers, espresso IS the coffee. Especially in Europe, the homeland of espresso. However, Americans also grew fond of this tasty little cup of joe. And we all want to know how to make espresso at home.
But what exactly is espresso?
The SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) has a definition for everything. They qualify espresso as a coffee beverage, 25-35 ml volume, made from 7 to 9 grams of ground coffee. The water temperature is cca 205F (90.5 to 96.1 C), and the pressure used is 9-10 atmospheres. The dripping time of a good espresso is 20 to 30 seconds, and 25 is the perfect timing.
So, we got the scientific part covered. Let’s get back to normal. Espresso is one shot of coffee, known for its exceptional taste and aroma. Espresso is consumed fresh and hot. The high amount of caffeine that espresso contains in just one ounce of liquid is one of the reasons why espresso is a favorite wake-up drink.
In this article, we will show you how to make espresso at home. Not everyone can obtain a home espresso machine, but that’s no reason to give up on your favorite espresso.
A short history of espresso machines
We are in the 19th century, and coffee houses are booming across Europe. In fact, they are doing so well, they have one common issue. The people are waiting too much to get their cup of coffee. And time is money, as old Ben Franklin would say.
The first patent – Moriondo
Let’s meet Angelo Moriondo, an Italian inventor. In the General Expo, which took place in Turin (Italy) in 1884, Angelo showed the world his latest invention. It was named New steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage, method ‘A. Moriondo’. Also, it was a predecessor of the modern espresso machines. However, Angelo wasn’t a marketing wizard, so his prototype never got famous or widespread.
The second patent – Bezzera
Luigi Bezzera was a man of action, innovation, and science. At the start of the 20th century, Luigi improved Angelo’s invention. He added portafilters, brew heads, and a lot of other parts that are still the key parts of every espresso machine. For the first time, you could actually brew coffee in less than a minute. However, marketing was an issue for Luigi, too.
The third patent – Pavoni
Desiderio Pavoni had no issues with marketing, and he knew a business opportunity when he saw it. In the first half of the 20th century, Pavoni bought the Bezzera’s patent and improved it further. Pavoni improved the functionality of the espresso machine, added a steam wand and the pressure release valve. At the Milan Fair in 1906, cafeé espresso was born. Pavoni took things further, marketing his new espresso brand, while Bezzera just vanished from the picture. This newly made espresso maker could produce a lot of coffee per hour but was limited to a pressure of only 2 bars. Pavoni’s espresso machine was a great success, but the success stayed limited to the city of Milan and its region.
The man of marketing – Arduino
There is always a bigger fish. And Pier Teresio Arduino was a marketing shark. Although he didn’t improve a single little thing about espresso machines, he made them famous. Arduino hired artists to draw posters, spread the word about the amazing modern machines, and invested in a large production facility. In the 1920s, Arduino started exporting espresso machines all around Europe. The world finally met the espresso coffee maker.
The man all baristas adore – Gaggia
Espresso machines finally became famous and available. But they still had two major issues. Massive boilers for water and low pressure of just 2 bars. A Milanese coffeehouse owner Achille Gaggia sorted that problem just after World War 2. Gaggia introduced spring-piston levers, barista operated. So, no need for gargantuan boilers anymore, and the water pressure just jumped up to 10 bars.
Of course, huge pressure means less liquid, and Gaggia’s espresso machine was the first one to limit the espresso volume to today’s standard of one ounce. Also, with new pressure, a new coffee perk was born: espresso crema.
Fun fact: the first customers were enraged when they saw crema floating on their cup of coffee. They asked the Gaggia to remove the rubbish from their cups. But Gaggia rest assured them it’s the best part of the coffee. The old Achille is responsible for inventing the term cafe crema.
Why baristas are not bodybuilders anymore – Valente
Ernesto Valente shaped the modern espresso machines in 1961. His Faema E61 was the first espresso machine with a motorized water pump. The pump was responsible for making the pressure up to 9 bars, so baristas didn’t have to sweat anymore pressing the gigantic levers. The E61 machine was smaller, smarter, and easier to use. Immediately it became a great success. To this day, E61 is still is one of the most famous coffee machines ever.
The four M’s of espresso making
The world of espresso machines is still growing, and every now and then, new inventions see the light of the day. But from the beginning of the coffee history to these days, it’s all about 4 M’s.
- Macchina – a good espresso machine.
- Macinazione – grinding the beans to the proper size, just before making the espresso.
- Miscela – coffee’s roast type and blend.
- Mano – the man. The most important part of coffee making is the skill of the barista.
Are home espresso machines worth it?
Ask yourself how much espresso do you drink and how much do you enjoy it. Tough question, we know. So here are some things you should take into consideration when deciding on buying a home espresso machine.
Making espresso at home saves money
As you know, espresso machines come in a variation from simple manual ones, to fully automated ones including the pod machines. So, the price can vary from $50 to more than a couple of thousand dollars.
On the other hand, how much coffee you drink daily? If you drink two espressos, your guilt pleasure will cost you around $6 every day. That’s around $2000 every year, and it’s more than enough for a decent espresso maker, including additional equipment and a couple of coffee bags. Bear in mind your home espresso machine will serve you at least 5 years. So, in just the first year, you will be saving money.
Making espresso at home saves the planet
Americans drink more than 140 billion cups of coffee every year. That’s a lot of plastic waste, considering the number of people who take their coffee-2-go. You can’t save the whole planet, but you can start from yourself. If you make espresso at home, you will use your favorite mug and wash it after use. Meaning, you won’t be using a plastic cup that takes centuries to decompose.
Even if you are using pod espresso machines at home, you don’t have to pollute our planet. Simply opt to use reusable coffee pods. They are available online, as well as in most of the coffee shops.
Socializing vs. anti socializing aspects of espresso
Let’s face it, coffee isn’t just a drink. Going out for a cup of coffee is just an important social ritual that no other beverage can replace. Drinking a nice espresso with your colleagues or having a nitro coffee with your gym buddies is a great way to start or end a day.
But then the pandemic came. And most of the bars are either closed or have strict regulations on the number of guests. Our coffee drinking experience is immeasurably ruined by COVID 19. But, having a home espresso machine means you can still enjoy a good cup of coffee every day without having to worry about the health risks.
Can YOU make espresso at home?
Making espresso at home is a little less complicated than landing on Mars. However, not everyone has the patience necessary for making a good cup of espresso. Of course, everyone can learn how to make a decent espresso, macchiato, or a perfectly frothy cappuccino. It just takes some time, and not everybody has it. If you are bundle of nerves every morning, don’t sweat it. Continue drinking your espresso in your favorite coffeehouse. But if you just find a little bit of patience, your barista skills will be more than great in a matter of months.
Are cheap espresso machines worth it?
Ultra cheap espresso machines are definetly not worth your money. If a pound of good beans costs more than an espresso machine, you should ask yourself a thing or two.
However, it’s not all black and white (like a good mocha). You can always buy a cheap espresso machine as a test subject. We say go for it. It might not provide you with the best espresso ever, but you can learn the basics of the espresso-making. And there is no risk of damaging the high-priced equipment. Once you get the hang of it, you can gradually move to higher-quality home espresso makers.
How do you make espresso at home without a machine?
As we said, not everyone owns an espresso machine at home. But, fear not. You can still make more than a decent cup of coffee even without the fancy equipment. It will not technically be espresso, but it will be the next best thing. We will show you the three most foolproof methods. However, you still will need the usual coffee making tools. Prepare:
- Electric kettle
- Burr grinder
- Small kitchen scale
- And of course, your favorite coffee beans
How to make espresso at home using Aeropress
AeroPress is one of our favorite coffee toys. It’s fun, it’s scientific and it makes a killer espresso. Also, AeroPress doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and makes a great gift for coffee devotees.
So, let’s start making espresso using Aeropress.
- Using your electric kettle, heat one cup (8 oz) of water to near boiling point. Anywhere between 185F and 205F is OK.
- Using your top quality grinder, grind two tablespoons (1 oz) of coffee. Use the finest grind you can achieve.
- Insert the filter into the AeroPress. Rinse the filter with a bit of hot water so it doesn’t move.
- Put the AeroPress on your favorite coffee cup. Be careful here, as you will need to apply some pressure. You don’t want to end with a broken cup and coffee spilled everywhere.
- Now, add your coffee grounds to the Aeropress. Tamper it a little bit, so the extraction will be perfect.
- Now, take 4 ounces of your hot water and pour it into the AeroPress. Stir quickly.
- After 30 seconds of waiting, plunge the Aeropress using just the weight of your hand. After you came to the bottom, remove the Aeropress from the top of your cup.
- You got a nice dose of strong, fresh espresso. All that with a pinch of science. Enjoy!
How to make espresso at home using Moka pot
Moka pot is a weapon of choice of many espresso lovers, especially in Europe and Latin America. By combining hot water, pressure, and steam, Moka pot will provide you with almost a hundred percent espresso lookalike. So, shall we?
- Grind 4 teaspoons of coffee, using a fine grinding level.
- Now, pour clean water into the base of the Moka pot. Don’t overfill it, as your coffee will become watery.
- Fill the filter basket with your freshly ground coffee.
- Attach the top part of the Moka pot.
- Let your Moka pot boil over a medium heat source. When you hear the famous hissing sound, it means your coffee is ready to be served.
Usually, it takes some time to get used to a Moka pot. So don’t worry if your first few pots of coffee are not as tasty as you thought it would be. Remember, practice makes perfect.
How to make espresso at home using a French press
A French press is a neat little invention. You can use it for frothing milk, making a cold brew coffee, and of course a French press coffee. But did you know you can use a French press to make a homemade espresso?
- Our favorite ratio for this method is one ounce of coffee to one cup of water. As usual, use a fine grind.
- Using your faithful electric kettle, boil 8 ounces of water. Then, let it cool a little bit.
- Put two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee into your French press. Then, splash the grounds with a small amount of hot water from the kettle. The grounds will start releasing the precious oils and aromas.
- Now, add the rest of the water to the French press. Close the lid, and let your coffee steep for 4 minutes. Use a stopwatch app or a small kitchen timer to measure the time.
- After 4 minutes, press down the plunger.
- Pour your coffee from the French press into a serving pot to stop the further extraction.
- Voila! The third method of making espresso at home is over.
To be honest, a French press espresso will taste a lot different than the real deal. However, it will still taste great and give you that caffeine kick in the morning.
Why does espresso taste better than coffee?
As we all know, all coffee drinks are just coffee beans extracted in water. But espresso is different, and we will tell you why. It’s the concentration that counts. As espresso is made using pressure and quick extraction time, it extracts more taste from the bean. And let’s not forget the crema part. Crema appears by emulsifying coffee oils, and only espresso coffee has thick, rich, tasty crema.
Why is espresso so small?
Espresso is not small, but you are probably used to 8-ounce coffees. Espresso is a compact, concentrated drink. It doesn’t use more coffee, just less water, to achieve the perfect set of aromas. Also, you can’t get crema in a large cup. And crema is the best part of the espresso. More is not always the better.
Why do you get a glass of water with an espresso?
If you order an espresso anywhere in Europe, you will most likely get a glass of water along with your coffee. Sometimes even sparkling water. But why is that? A glass of water is coffee’s perfect companion for a few reasons. First, it’s a European tradition to take a small sip of water before every sip of espresso. This way, you clean your mouth, palate, and tongue, so you can enjoy the taste of espresso over and over. The second reason is that espresso can cause certain bowel movements in some people. And a glass of water is there to calm the irritated stomach. The third reason is the most prosaic one. As espresso has a rich taste, you will want to clean your palate before switching to the next drink. Again, a glass of water saves the day.