How to Choose a Home Espresso Machine
Whether you are a dialed in connoisseur, or a green bean newbie, buying a home espresso machine is not as easy as “I see it, I like it, I buy it.” With so many different an exciting options available it can sometimes seem impossible to decide. Over the last few years we have helped hundreds of clients analyse and choose what is the best machine for their needs and wants.
Based on the research and experience with our customers, we have narrowed down the selection criteria to the following 5 key factors.
- Counter space
- Type of drinks
- Volume of drinks
- Type of Grinder
Picture this, you do all the research, you discover what you want to get out of your machine, pick out the colors you love only to find out it doesn’t fit under your counter space! The standard space between the counter top and the bottom of your cabinets is typically 18 inches. Depending on how you plan to set up your home coffee bar it is something to keep in mind when finalizing your purchase.
Type of Drinks
Every espresso machine we sell we have personally used and know can make great espresso. However not all are suitable to make large lattes. If you prefer large milk drinks, you will most likely need a dual boiler or heat exchanger machine, unless you are only making one drink at a time. If you like straight espressos or long blacks then a single boiler machine works great.
Volume of Drinks
The number of drinks you will be making also plays a big part in the selection of the right machine. Whether making one or two drinks per day or are you always entertaining guests and usually need to make 10 plus drinks at a time will determine you need a dual boiler machine or if a single boiler will work.
Type of Grinder
Yes, your grinder is just as your espresso machine, if you can’t achieve the right grind you will never be able to extract the ‘perfect’ shot of espresso. To dial in your espresso grind, it is crucial that you have a grinder that has the ability to make fine enough adjustments to help you pull a balanced and flavorful shot. A common misconception is that once your grinder is dialed in that you never have to touch it again but this is not true. Your coffee grind may need to be adjusted depending on the kind of beans that you are using, as well as other factors such as the coffees freshness or amount of oils present. Check out our article on Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Grinders.
Finally the ever important bottom line question – what’s your budget? It’s no secret that buying a home espresso machine comes with a hefty price tag, prices can range from RM3,000 to even as high as RM 30,000, but knowing what you are comfortable spending is going to help narrow down your options. Are you buying a new machine, are you upgrading your current set up? Do you need to buy a machine and a grinder? Once you know what you are willing to spend, the rest of the answers will guide you along the path to bringing home your brand-new machine!
So there you have it, the 5 key factors in deciding how to buy a home espresso machine. Schedule a call to talk to us and we will help you go through these factors and select the right machine just for you.
Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Grinders
A consistent grind is hugely important in the process of making a high-quality cup of coffee, which is why the grinder is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to coffee preparation. The espresso grinder is what determines how we unlock the flavor hidden within the beans. But what makes some grinders great and other less so? It comes down to relatively simple criteria: uniform particle size without excess heat or static. The 3 main elements that affect this are:
Size of Burrs
The burr size is what most immediately gravitate to explain the difference between grinders. It is an easy thing to say: the bigger, the better, and to a large degree, this is true. The larger the burr size, the more cutting area available. A greater diameter burr means that for any quantity of beans, there will be fewer rotations of the burr set to grind them thoroughly, which leads to a faster dose of ground coffee: not a more rapid spin, a quicker result. In the world of coffee, faster usually means cooler - as one does not want to "bake" their beans while they are ground. So, we'd like to amend the knowledge and say "faster is better," rather than "bigger is better." Quicker has an added benefit as well. The more rapid the dose, the less chance for static electricity to build between the grinds, which leads to clumping, uneven distribution and inevitably, channeling.
Shape of Burrs
The burr shape often goes hand in hand with the burr size, as conical burr grinders have far more cutting surface than a flat burr for the same given diameter. Also, they can spin slower, as they do not rely on centrifugal force to dispense the grounds: gravity takes on that load. Of course, that means that conical burr grinders are better, right? Not so fast. Unlike the other two criteria, burr shape comes down to personal preference. Conical burr grinders can create more "fines" than flat burr grinders. "Fines" are smaller coffee particles that dissolve more quickly in the cup - bringing out the lighter, more floral flavors. Unfortunately, these "fines" may also create less restrictive pathways through an espresso puck: in other words, channeling. The flat burr grinders, on the other hand, tend to have a more uniform particle size which allows the coffee particles to extract at a more consistent rate. This absorption lends itself to a more balanced, traditional type of espresso. Conical burr grinders definitely retain fewer grounds in the burr set - as they rely on gravity to "clear" them. This can certainly affect the taste, as flat burr grinders - which rely on centrifugal force, will retain grounds in the burr set once the spinning stops.
Size of Motor
And finally, we have the opportunity to discuss motor power, which is relatively straightforward. Big motors = big power = better espresso.
How to Pull a Great Perfect Espresso Shot
Follow this guide to produce a perfect shot of espresso. Producing great espresso is relatively easy with the right equipment, good quality coffee beans, and following the steps detailed below.
There are four key steps to pulling a great shot of espresso coffee:
- Grind - the coffee beands
- Dose - or measure our the groud coffee beans
- Tamp - the group coffee beans into the filter holder
- Extract - the coffee beans with pressurised water to produce the espresso coffee drink
Before you start making your espresso shot; make sure your espresso machine is up to temperature and your filterholder is cleaned and pre-heated. Also, remember to pre-heat the cup or glasses your wil drinking out of by filling them with hot water.
Ground coffee texture is one of the most important factors in producing a great shot of espresso. You want to grind coffee fresh for each cup to minimise oxidation and make sure as much great coffee flavour makes its way into your espresso shot. Always use a burr grinder (flat or conical) to grind your coffee, blade grinders are useless... You want to finely grind the coffee to allow sufficient pressure to extract the coffee oil into your espresso shot.
"Grind your coffee too fine and result will be a slow extraction resulting in an over-extracted shot.... the taste can be bitter and burnt."
"Grind your coffee too coarse and the shot will extract fast resulting in an under-extracted shot.... the shot will have a weak crema, lacking body, and taste weak and watery"
The ground coffee texture you are looking for is somewhere between flour and sand. A good idea is to feel the coffee with your fingertips to adjust the grind before you start running shots from your machine. You can refine the grind by timing your espresso extraction.... ideally you are looking for an extraction time between 25 and 30 seconds.
"If the espresso extraction time is seconds your grind is too coarse.... you should adjust your grinder to a finer setting."
"If the espresso extraction time is >30 seconds your grind is too fine.... you should adjust your grinder to a more coarse setting."
The dose is the amount of ground coffee used to make your espresso shot. The correct dose for a single espresso is 7-9 grams of ground coffee or 14-18 grams of ground coffee for a double shot of espresso. The dose will depend on the particular coffee you are using. Some coffee beans work well with 7 grams, but with some blends you will see better results with 8 or 9 grams per shot. Experimentation is key. As a general rule a good place to start is to fill your double filter basket up, tap it on the bench to let the coffee settle, and level off inline with the top of the basket.
Tamping the coffee compresses the ground coffee together to provide "resistance" to the flow of water produced by the machine... this resistance results in the "extraction pressure" used to press the flavour out of the ground coffee into your drink. The harder you press the tigher the coffee will compress and the higher the extraction pressure.
"If you have ground your coffee quite coarse, more tamping pressure will be required to
achive the correct pressure for proper extraction of your espresso."
"Grind the coffee very fine ad you will need to ensure only light tamping pressure to
ensure sufficient flow for proper extraction of your espresso."
Espresso extraction should produce a double espresso of 50-60ml in 25-30 seconds or a single espresso of 25-30ml in the same time.
Before you connect the filterholder (loaded with coffee) to your espresso machine it is a good idea to to flush some water from the machine. This stabilises the brewing temperature while also clearing any stray coffee from the brewing group.
Connect the filter holder and immediately start brewing the coffee, dont let the filterholder sit in the machine "cooking" the coffee. Place your cup(s) under the filterholder outlet(s) and after a few seconds beautiful espresso should begin to flow.
"If the dose, grind, and tamp are correct then the extraction should produce a single espresso of 25-30ml in 25-30 seconds or a double espresso of 50-60ml in 25-30 seconds."
If the extraction is not quite right, make a small adjustment to your grind while keeping your dose and tamp consistent. Repeat the extraction process and keep adjusting the grind until you achieve the correct extraction.
Great espresso should be sweet and smooth with a dark rich brew topped with a layer of fine golden crema. Once you have your grind, dose, and tamp dialled in correctly you should be able to produce consistently great espresso time after time.
Milk Steaming 101
Everything You Need To Know
Ideally, steamed milk should be velvety and sweet. For a properly frothed milk, your milk relies on three things: lactose, proteins, and fats. Lactose is responsible for the sweet flavors in milk. Proteins create the stability for the formation of foam. Fats create richness in the milk, imbuing the froth with body and velvety texture for a superb mouthfeel. When milk is heated the sugars from lactose begin to caramelize. A good target range for milk froth is somewhere between 140-150 °F. Exceeding this causes the milk to lose its sweetness and flavor.
The ratio of proteins to fats is what determines the final texture of the milk. High fat milks, such as 2% or whole milk are typically more desirable. These milks have a higher fat to protein ratio. This means the foam isn't as stable, but it also means that the foam distributes more readily. The milk foam will not separate as easily, will taste more velvety and have a wetter mouthfeel. It will both taste and feel richer. Because higher fat milks mix more easily they are the easiest for beginners to work with.
Lower percentage milks such as skim milk or 1% milk will have stiffer foam that holds together longer. The foam also doesn't mix as well with the steamed milk because of the low fat content, causing quick separation of the froth from the steamed milk. These milks will tend to result in a foam with drier mouthfeel, and watery steamed milk. Milk alternatives can produce a comparable result. Soy, for instance, is more viscous than almond milk, and will froth quite nicely.
For Different Wands
It’s good practice to purge your steam wand to heat it up and get any residue or water out of the way. Pour cold milk into a frothing pitcher. Cold milk lets you heat the milk for longer, allowing you more time to texture your milk, before hitting the optimal temperature.
For auto-frothing and manual/commercial-style wands, you want to start with the steam off and position the tip of the wand slightly below the surface of the milk. Then turn the steam on. For auto-frothing wands, you can stop there. The machine will do the rest of work for you.
For manual wands, lower the pitcher until the tip of the wand is just under the surface of the milk and you can hear air getting sucked in. A good rule of thumb is to use the spout to hold the wand steady and position it in such a way to cause the milk to whirlpool around the pitcher. This method aerates the milk with small, uniform bubbles called microfoam.
To stop adding air, raise the pitcher to lower your wand deeper into the milk. For lattes, you want to stop adding air when your frothing pitcher starts to feel warm. For fluffier cappuccino style froth, continue adding air for a little longer.
If your machine has a pannarello wand, raise the pitcher to lower the wand enough to submerge the air intake hole in the side of the wand. For manual wands, lower the steam tip just below the surface of the milk. You want to maintain a whirlpool effect in the pitcher when you submerge the steam wand, and continue heating the milk until the pitcher becomes uncomfortable to hold.
Close the steam valve with the wand still submerged. Remove the pitcher and position the steam wand over the drip tray to purge any milk inside. It’s good practice to wipe the wand with a wet cloth after each use.
If there are any large bubbles in your pitcher you can pop them by banging it on the counter like a gavel. Swirling the milk slows separation until you’re ready to pour it into an espresso shot.
Types of Drinks
⅓ steamed milk
⅓ milk foam
½ steamed milk
Just a little bit of milk foam on top
⅓ steamed milk
⅓ milk foam
⅔ steamed milk