6 tips to make the perfect espresso every time
Whether you prefer a straight shot or want the perfect base for your favourite milky coffee, mastering the art of the espresso can make all the difference to your drink. From water quality to grind size, pressure to timings, there are lots of factors to consider, and plenty to experiment with, to make a brew that’s just how you like it.
#1. Grind size
The grind size of your coffee can really affect the flavour, bringing out different notes – and not always in a good way. A fine grind will bring out the sweeter flavours in the coffee while a coarser grind will emphasise acidity. The key though, if uniformity, so if you’re grinding your beans yourself, make sure the finished grind is evenly textured. Or just buy pre-ground to make the process even easier.
How much coffee you put in your espresso maker’s portafilter has a real impact on the finished coffee and it’s all down to TDS, or ‘total dissolved solids’. While coffee experts have equipment to measure this, you’ll see it in flavour and mouthfeel. Generally the higher the TDS, the stronger the flavour and the richer the texture. Follow the guidance for your machine for the recommended dose, but then feel free to experiment with different doses to get the mouthfeel you prefer.
#3. Water quality
Where you live can have a real impact on how your coffee tastes, with hard water creating a flat taste without much complexity, and soft water creating sharp and acidic coffee with limited sweetness. To overcome this, it’s best to use filtered water in your espresso, so the natural flavour notes of the coffee are able to shine through.
#4. Water temperature
Different roasts develop differently depending on the temperature of the water you use in the brewing process. Dark roasts prefer lower temperatures, as high temperatures can bring out some of the harsh flavours that can be present in a darker roast. On the opposite end of the roasting scale, light roasts actually benefit from a higher temperature, which extracts more of the flavour and acidity that light roast fans prefer.
Most espresso machines are pre-set to a certain pressure, usually 9-bar. But if you can shift the dial, it’s worth exploring beyond the factory settings. For example, many baristas start out at a lower pressure for a few seconds to make sure water is flowing evenly through the puck before increasing it to get a more even extraction of flavours.
#6. Extraction time
While there’s no perfect number of seconds to extract your espresso, you need to make sure it has sufficient time. You may be in a rush, but your coffee likes to take it’s time! Aim for at least 15 seconds, or up to 45, to make sure you’re getting the very best out of your ground coffee. Varying how long it takes for your espresso to come through can also help highlight key qualities – for example, a shorter extraction will help acidity shine while a slower process can bring out a coffee’s natural sweetness.
Want more hints and tips on how to make your perfect cup of coffee? Have a look at our other blogs to learn everything there is to know about coffee.