We all know that managing to make the perfect espresso is an art. That’s why we have decided to put together 10 rules for you to follow so you can become real coffee shop artists, by following the advice of Riccardo Bertato, barista trainer from the Filicori Zecchini training school Espresso Laboratory.
Starting from the ingredients and the choice of equipment right up to the perfect maintenance of your “work tools”. These, and many others, are the rules we have selected to give you the “recipe” for a perfect espresso. The extraction, in other words, the phase where the water is in contact with the coffee, is a delicate moment, but there are also many other rules to keep in mind…
Rule 1: The water, the fundamental ingredient for the perfect espresso
As I am sure you have heard people say “we are mostly made of water”. This is also true of coffee! Very often this aspect is underestimated, but you must consider it a prime ingredient in every way, seeing as a cup of espresso is made up of 90% water.
When you are preparing an espresso you must use a type of water suitable for the extraction, taking care not to use one which contains either too many mineral salts or too few. Imagine the water is like a container …obviously if the container is full you can’t put anything else in it, so any water which is too rich in minerals (so too hard) does not have the capacity to absorb all the properties of the coffee, and the same goes for water which has too few minerals.
For this reason, if necessary, we recommend installing a water purifier, remembering to keep the tank stocked up with salt.
Rule 2: The grinding, fundamental for making a good espresso
The dimension of the micro-granules of the ground coffee, which can be regulated with the coffee grinder, is fundamental. The risk is, that you may actually serve your customers a really awful coffee!
The level of coarseness or fineness of the ground coffee should be regulated based on the level of humidity in the air, but given that measuring this is very complex, in general it is best to do a trial extraction and, based on the result, you can regulate the subsequent grinding.
Experience allows us to say that, if the coffee is ground too coarsely, you will notice that the extraction is very quick and the result will be a light-colored espresso with a weaker flavor. On the other hand, if the coffee is ground too finely, the color of the coffee will be very dark, with large white marks in the surface bubbles and with an unmistakable “orange peel” effect. Be careful because, in this case, the coffee will be bitter and have a burnt taste!
So, as they said in Latin “in medias res”: try out the different combinations in order to obtain an espresso with an intense, even color, and a fine layer of “cream” without large bubbles. This will undoubtedly keep all your clients satisfied!
Rule 3: The doses and the tradition of the 0,25 oz
For the best extraction, it is necessary to evaluate the dose of coffee to be put in the filter very carefully. Italian tradition says that the quantity needed is 7 grams ( 0,25 oz), but actually some types of coffee (especially those with a high percentage of Arabica) require higher quantities for the extraction.
What happens if, by neglecting these instructions, you don’t use the correct doses?
If you use less than what is recommended, after the pressing, the layer of coffee created will be too thin and the pressure of the water jet from the espresso machine will break the tablet of coffee, thus ruining the extraction (because the water will not have time to extract all the organoleptic properties from the ground coffee).
Whereas if there is an excessive quantity of coffee, the water will not be able to pass through the layer of pressed coffee, and thus the ground coffee will be burnt and give the drink a very unpleasant taste.
Rule 4: Watch the water temperature!
Usually the water temperature will be around 195 °F but you must always pay careful attention to this element.
In fact, if the temperature is too low, you run the risk of getting an under-extracted coffee, in other words a drink where all the flavors of the blend used have not been allowed to infuse. While if the temperature is too high you risk getting an over-extracted coffee. In this case, the coffee will end up having an excessively bitter taste due to the excess caffeine content and extraction of the tannins, the most unpleasant aromatic elements of the coffee.
Rule 5: A perfect espresso coffee…under pressure!
The pump of the espresso machine has a considerable effect on the extraction and all the phases of the coffee preparation. Sothe pressure must be scrupulously controlled.
It must not be too high because you risk extracting the most unpleasant parts of the coffee, or too low because, in this case, you would lose the best aromatic notes.
Rule 6: Ordinary maintenance, for making an extraordinary espresso coffee.
Check that everything is tidy, clean and correctly calibrated. This is the golden rule that goes for everyone, and it is one of the few ways to guarantee a high quality product every time.
When we talk about ordinary maintenance, we are not only referring to the daily cleaning of the coffee grinder, but also the regular replacement of the spray heads, seals and the grinders of the coffee grinder.
The daily cleaning of the espresso machine and the coffee grinder is fundamental so that the essential oils of the coffee don’t become rancid, transferring unpleasant flavors and aromas to the drink.
Rule 7: The pressing, the magic touch of the barista
To make the perfect espresso you need the “magic touch”. The way in which the barista presses the coffee is extremely important: if the pressing is not balanced, there is a risk of producing an uneven layer of coffee, which then causes problems of under- or over-extraction.
Something that not everyone is aware of is that the expert and experienced barista has learnt to calibrate the coffee grinding based on his/her own strength. We recommend that, once the grinding has been calibrated, there should not be a continual change of bar staff preparing espresso coffee because different people press the coffee with different levels of strength and, consequently, the coffees served could be very different from each other!
Rule 8: The equipment, the fundamental tools for making a good espresso
To make a good espresso it is important to start off with top quality equipment: so it is very important to choose the right espresso machine and coffee grinder.
Some invaluable assistance, in this case, can be provided by the Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano (INEI) (National Institute of Italian Espresso). One of their most important jobs (besides the certification of the blends produced by the various coffee roasters) is that of testing and certifying all the equipment which is considered suitable for the preparation of Certified Italian Espresso.
Rule 9: The timing: not more than 15 minutes after the grinding
Timing is everything, also and above all, when we are talking about coffee! In fact the coffee should be used within 15 minutes of the grinding, otherwise it loses 60% of its flavors.
This is why it is important for the grinder-dispenser to process only the quantity of coffee needed in that moment, without leaving any surplus, so that you can always guarantee using fresh product, full of flavors.
Rule 10: Information and assistance
Continuous staff training and updating are important tools for ensuring that your customers are always served the best quality coffee shop products. For this reason we recommend that you choose a business partner that can provide you with fully comprehensive information and assistance, also in the form of training courses (link to Espresso Laboratory).