Anyone can brew delicious, authentic Italian espresso right at home with only some basic equipment. Just imagine the joy of waking up each morning to a rich, delicious espresso, cappuccino or latte right in your own kitchen! With the knowledge outlined here, a good (but not necessarily expensive) “pump driven” espresso machine, and some quality ground Italian espresso, you can quickly begin setting up a wonderful home cafe.
What you will need for home brewing (the essentials):
A quality “pump driven” espresso machine.
One of the most important things to know is that you can only brew authentic espresso using a “pump driven” espresso machine designed to create the correct brewing pressure and temperature required for proper espresso extraction. This does not mean you need to spend allot of money for a high-end home espresso machine; however, those low priced “steam powered” units sold in department stores will not fit the bill. The good news is that all of the espresso machines we carry here at Espresso Zone can indeed brew properly.
An espresso tamper.
Espresso tampers are used to compress, or “tamp” the ground espresso in your espresso machine filter basket. This pushes all of the ground espresso particles together, creating the water flow resistance needed to establish proper brewing pressure.
Premium Italian Espresso (Beans or Pre-Ground).
Good Italian espresso beans are blended and roasted specifically for the purpose of preparing an authentic espresso, and with many years of brewing experience we have hand selected the brands and blends we carry. You can of course experiment with any type of espresso you wish, but if you want some solid recommendations for a great starting point, here are some of our favorites which can create a rich, smooth espresso with a nice, thick crema.
Whole Bean Italian Espresso:
Miscela d’Oro Gran Crema (Sicily, Italy)
Kimbo Extra Cream (Naples, Italy)
LavAzza Super Crema (Turin, , Italy)
Bristot “Espresso” (Belluno, Italy)
Segafredo Extra Strong
Pre-Ground Italian Espresso:
Miscela d’Oro Gusto Espresso
Kimbo Antica Tradizione “Export”
LavAzza Qualita Rossa
Bristot Espresso Cremosa
Segafredo Espresso Casa
The Brewing Procedure:
Following we explain how to brew espresso using a semi-automatic, pump-driven espresso machine. There are some subtle differences in operation between machine brands and models (for example switch/button layout and function), so you should read your particular model user manual, but the brewing steps outlined will provide an understanding of the fundamental procedure.
Fill your espresso machine water tank, turn the machine power on, and allow it to warm up (most machines have an indicator light to let know when it’s at brewing temperature).
Proper tamping of ground espresso. Notice the smooth, level surface, light compaction, and gap between the espresso top surface and filter rim.
Install your espresso machine filter basket into the portafilter handle, fill it with fine ground espresso to a level slightly below the top rim of the filter basket, then tamp it down lightly with your espresso tamper.
1. Once tamped down, the top level of the ground espresso should be about 3/16” below the top rim of the filter basket. This is important, as if it’s too high it may bind when you try to install the portafilter into the machine and prevent a tight water seal. Also, if the coffee level is too low a weak, watery espresso may result.
2. The amount of pressure you use to tamp down the ground espresso can have a fairly significant affect on the brewing results, and requires a bit of experimentation with the particular coffee and machine being used. A good approach is to start out with a light tamp pressure and see how it goes. If the espresso seems to flow out too fast, or is weak/watery, you can try a harder tamp pressure to correct this. If the espresso drips out very slowly, or not at all, a lighter tamper pressure should be tried.
The magic begins! Press your espresso machine brew button, the machine will start pumping water from the water tank through the heating element, then forcing it through your ground espresso for extraction. If all goes well, you should see a thin stream of delicious espresso delivering into your cup, ideally it will appear slightly thick and creamy, almost like a drizzle of warm honey.