Originally a brewing method which arose in Italy in the 19th Century, espresso quickly spread to become the foundation for all of the most popular coffee drinks in the world; cappuccino, latte, flat white, americano, macchiato and many more.
Finding a good, reliable domestic espresso machine can be difficult. Unfortunately, it seems to be that the more you pay, the more reliable the machine you get. Because of the heat and the pressure involved the machinery needs to be well made and robust. Certainly be prepared to part with a few hundred pounds to get something good enough for the job. Glenfinlas Coffee sell three excellent and reliable domestic espresso machines which are the only ones to be manufactured in the United Kingdom and have served us well for many years!
As with most brewing methods, there are no hard and fast rules for what constitutes the best coffee with which to make an espresso but at Glenfinlas Coffee, we would recommend using a very dark roasted coffee. Because dark roast coffees are roasted longer and at higher temperatures, the natural sugars and oils that are present in the beans become caramelised producing a delicious, sweet shot of espresso. In addition, the natural fats and oils rise to the top to give you a lovely, rich crema. In our web shop, you will find two great dark roast blends: Italian Roast and Dolomiti Blend which will make fantastic shots of espresso at home.
Essentially, making or 'pulling' a shot of espresso is forcing very hot water through very finely-ground coffee for a relatively short period of time. As a brewing method, it is the shortest way to extract coffee (for more info, see our advice on grind and how to make the perfect cafetiere). The standard volume of ground coffee for one shot of espresso is 7g (though this can vary) which should then be placed in to a warm filter holder - don't worry about using exactly 7g, a heaped soup spoonful will be fine. Ensure that the ground coffee has been flattened - water will follow the path of least resistance so try and get the ground coffee as level as possible in the filter holder so that the shot pours evenly. Now the coffee needs to be pressed down or 'tamped' into the filter holder firmly. Try and do this as flatly as possible and at the end give it a little twist before you finish, just to flatten-off the coffee. It's important to tamp firmly as if the coffee isn't packed down tightly enough the water will pass through too quickly resulting in a weak, under-extracted espresso.
Now you can place the filter holder in to the machine. Before doing this, wipe any excess ground coffee from around the top of the filter holder and run a little hot water through the machine. Place the filter holder in to the machine (there should be two 'lugs' in which the two 'ears' on the filter holder will fit) and secure by turning firmly to the right. It's important to ensure that the filter holder is fastened securely as, if not, coffee grounds will be forced out over the edge and in to the cup or at worst the filter holder may be forced out of the machine entirely (and over your clothes and kitchen floor!).
The Espresso Shot
The perfect shot of espresso should take between 25 - 30 seconds to pour. Too quick and it will be limp and under-extracted, too slow and it will taste bitter and burned. It should be a steady, slow flow changing in colour from light and creamy to a dark honey giving you a delicious-looking crema at the end (Italians give an espresso three distinct parts: the heart and the body with the crema signifying the soul). Once the shot has been poured, don't let it sit for more than 30 seconds as it will become flat and tasteless. Drink it reasonably soon after pouring or if you are adding hot milk then try and have it ready and waiting and then you are all set to enjoy a delicious coffee at home!