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Educational information on Coffees and Espressos, such as Techniques to Brew the Perfect Espresso.

The Espresso Modus Operandi

As you already know, to make an espresso requires a few delicate, yet precise steps.  The correct mode of operation to prepare the perfect espresso can be summed up into what is cleverly called the “4 M’s”, derived from the Italian language.  

The first of the M’s is the miscela or blend.  In our endeavors, we look to designated coffee-origin countries for a distinctive collection of geological factors that ultimately make Grande Italia an extraordinarily flavorful espresso.

The second M is the macinadosatore or espresso dosing grinder. Grinding the espresso beans to the exact fineness allow the correct water pressure to filter through the cup to make the perfect espresso.

The third M is the macchina or espresso machine. The espresso machine is the heart of the process and requires two key elements, water pressure and water temperature. Dark roasted espresso should be brewed at a low temperature typically 85o C at 8.5 bar, while a light roasted espresso should be brewed at 93 o C at 8.5 bar.  This procedure will allow the espresso machine to extract the proper and necessary characteristics from each roast.       

The fourth M is the mano or hand of the barista. The hand of the barista determines the style, characteristic, and presentation of the espresso.  Once the barista has acquired a hand for the machine and understands the proper grind setting he then combines all the ingredients: miscela, macinadosatore, macchina, and mano to create the exquisite espresso experience. 

Techniques to Brew the Perfect Espresso

The key to making the perfect espresso is knowing how to operate and adjust the dosing grinder correctly.  Whether the dosing grinder is conventional or antique, the technique is the same—just follow the steps below.

  1. Warm up the espresso machine and group handle to the correct temperature and pressure.
  2. Grind each cup fresh.  Leaving pre-ground espresso in the doser for more than 15 minutes allows the gas in the beans to disperse—ultimately reducing the amount of crema in the espresso. 
  3. Grind the espresso beans to the exact fineness to capture the full flavor.
  4. Lightly tamp the ground espresso to level off the group handle (Hint: over packing causes the espresso to taste bitter and burnt).
  5. Lock the group handle into place and begin brewing.  The perfect cup of espresso should take between 20 to 30 seconds to pour into a one-ounce cup. (If the espresso brews for less than 20 seconds, the espresso may be too coarse. If the espresso brews for more than 30 seconds, the espresso may be too fine.  In either case adjust the dosing grinder accordingly and repeat steps 1 through 5 until perfected).  
  6. To test the quality of the crema, pour a select amount of sugar onto the golden crema. The sugar should sit on top for a several seconds then capsize and sink.  If this happens—you have made the perfect espresso.
  7. Serve espresso within one minute of brewing.