Espresso Coffee is an approach to extracting flavour from ground coffee beans. (other approaches being, French Press, Drip Filter, Stove Top etc…) The principle is to extract only the best and most flavoursome part, using filtered water which is not boiling, but is under a lot of pressure.
Essential understanding is that Espresso preparation is subjective
Our preference is to use follow the World Barista Championships definitions of espresso which states that:
“An espresso shot is a one ounce beverage, 30ml, plus or minus 5ml including crema. Prepared with various grams of coffee, depending on the coffee and the grind, through which clean water of 90.5 to 96 degrees C, has been forced at 8.5 to 9.5 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brewing flow time is between 20 – 30 seconds.”
This is the most common question we are asked and the answer is simple…the one you can afford. Honestly, you can always upgrade later if you develop a passion or if you desire, but remember the machine is only half of the purchase (unless you buy a machine with an internal grinder) you have to allow extra $$$ for a Burr Grinder. You will then need a regular supply of freshly roasted coffee.
But first a question for you. Do you have a juicer and if so do you use it? Coffee machines take time to set up, create a mess in the kitchen and have to be cleaned and maintained. If you have stopped using your juicer at home in favour of a pre prepared bottle of juice, the answer to the machine question may have been answered.
If you still want a coffee machine, identify the intended use. One morning coffee for two people or regular dinner parties for 12 people. This is important as all domestic machines have limitations, like the amount of steam it can produce. Whilst you may be able to adequately make two flat whites before work you may find it takes an hour to make 12 coffees. Some machines will need considerable time to re heat between every coffee. Also look at the steam wand length as some will only allow for a 200ml milk jug (one very small latte). Look at all machines and relate them to your own situation, but buy the one you can afford.
It will take patience, practice, and knowledge to make good coffee at home regardless of how big or expensive the machine is, so don’t expect to take it home plug it in and have cafe quality coffee straight away. Practice, learn, experiment and enjoy!
For all preparation methods (espresso, plunger, drip filter, stove top etc…) the only type of grinder that is adequate is a Burr Grinder. There are two types, flat burr and conical burr. Flat burr grinders are adequate for domestic and most commercial applications.
Do not be fooled by marketing! If you look into the top of a “coffee grinder” and see a silver propeller “blade” understand that you cannot grind with a blade. These “grinders” were originally marketed as spice grinders but with the popularity of coffee have been renamed and marketed as “coffee Grinders”. Although they will break up coffee beans, particle size will be inconsistent and therefore, inadequate for espresso and frustrating for other approaches.
A coffee grinder is more essential than a coffee machine. Fresh whole bean coffee ground seconds before being used in a plunger, stovetop or drip filter will give you a fantastic result.
A grinder is absolutely essential if you are preparing espresso coffee.
I am often asked why it is my preference is to sell whole bean and not pre ground coffee. Put simply you wouldn’t go to the fresh fruit market and ask for fresh apples to be cut up and put in a bag? Would you? You would use a sharp knife to cut the apples just before you eat them?
Coffee in this instance is the same. As soon as coffee is ground the quality deteriorates regardless of packaging. On average it takes approximately 50 individual coffee beans to make a shot of espresso. These beans are ground into approximately 4.5 – 5 million particles! As soon as you increase the surface area of the coffee the quality will deteriorate. Grinding whole bean on demand as close to the time of extraction is the only way to ensure the coffee has the best chance of tasting great!!
Another draw back with pre grinding coffee is accuracy of the grind. With espresso coffee each espresso machine requires a different grind due to pump pressures, material construction etc… Also, temperature and atmospheric conditions play a part, therefore; pre grinding is guess work! Not a good way to get the best out of the coffee or the capital invested in your coffee machine.
In short… BURR Grinder. Cheers.