It’s hard to deny that the robust, rich flavor of an espresso can be matched by any other coffee. The high concentration and aromatics of espresso coffee make it perfectly versatile, suitable for all your coffee fantasies. It may surprise you to learn, though, that using an espresso machine can be just as easy as your typical drip maker.
Admittedly, there is some practice required if you want to make treats such as a latte or macchiato, but for your basic shot of espresso, you’ll have no trouble at all.
Though the espresso machine looks like a complicated, fascinating tool for your gourmet coffee, I guarantee that you can make quality espresso just like a pro, with the ease of any other coffee maker.
- Get to know your machine. Machines are always equipped with a portafilter, a basket, a group head, a water reservoir, and on/off buttons or dials. Some more elegant machines also include a warming rack, hot water spigot, shot buttons, steam wand, and pressure/temperature dials.
- Run at least 2 full tanks of water through your machine before your first use. This is to clear out any dust or debris that may have settled inside the machine, and to sanitize it for use.
- Always make sure your filter basket and cap are secure to your maker before beginning to brew. Otherwise, the pressure will not build up properly in your machine.
- Never clean your machine or its equipment with soap. Simply use hot water to rinse the portafilter and basket (as well as your carafe or decanter, if you have one) and run a cycle of water through your reservoir to sanitize. You can also buy descaling solutions if you feel your machine needs a deeper clean.
How to use an espresso machine for most machines (aside from the pod), the steps to preparing your perfect espresso are fairly similar:
- Fill your reservoir with fresh water and preheat buy pressing the appropriate button or turning the knob to the preheating image.
- To “pull” your shot, measure out the appropriate amount of grounds into your basket.
- Using a metal tamper, press the grounds firmly into the basket, ensuring a tight fit and smooth edges. Wipe off any excess grounds from around your portafilter.
- Align your portafilter with the group head and turn until it locks in place. This should feel tight to guarantee a strong hold. Place your cup or decanter below the spout on your portafilter.
- Press the button for your appropriate shot measurement or turn the knob to the “on” position. It should only take a few seconds to for the water to be drawn through the grounds, making the ideal espresso.
- Once you are finished, immediately remove and dispose of the grounds in your portafilter. Clean up any spills on or around your machine. (It is important to note that some machines do not turn off automatically. If this is the case with yours, ALWAYS turn your machine off as soon as your shot has been pulled.)
Unlike your drip machine, espresso makers come in many varieties and methods of creation. Below you will find a reference for the three most popular at-home makers: pump, steam, and pod.
The De’Longhi EC155 has a similar design of a classic café espresso maker, but is small enough to fit right on your counter. The preparation is the same as above, simply follow these steps on your machine to ensure the perfect pulled shot.
The great thing about this maker is that you have to option for single or double filters, which makes entertaining with your espresso machine incredibly easy. In addition, this machine comes with a steam wand, a great asset if you prefer cappuccinos or lattes. To use the wand, simply follow these steps:
- Fill your desired mug 2/3 of the way full with milk, then pour into a metal steamer mug.
- Place the wand into the mug and press the button for or turn the knob to the “steam” design. If you want only steamed milk, keep the wand low in the mug. For foam, simply raise the wand closer to the surface of your milk.
- Always clean the wand after use by wrapping a wet paper towel around it and pumping a few shots of steam through the want. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot steam.
Though the steam machine gives you the lowest quality espresso of the three, it is the most common for at-home machines as it is quite inexpensive. Mr. Coffee makes pulling espresso even easier by providing you with a measured decanter. Instead of filling your reservoir to the top, you can pre-measure your exact amount of water needed for your desired number of shots (1 to 4 with this machine). Mr. Coffee also provides you with a steam wand, so you can make your own perfect gourmet espresso treats.
Follow the same steps as the De’Longhi to pull your espresso. However, this machine does not turn off automatically once the reservoir is empty, so be sure to watch your shot carefully. Failure to turn off the heater could result in damage to your machine or yourself.
Here you have easy steps and great machines to make the perfect espresso in your home today!