Brewing Espresso - Old City Coffee
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Brewing Espresso

Brewing Espresso

In Italy, where the drink originated, the word espresso means “instant” or “express.” The term “espresso” refers to a unique brewing method that forces hot water through a bed of finely ground coffee beans that have been dark roasted. The extraction is a thick, flavorful, highly concentrated coffee. Espresso is prepared by the cup, ensuring deliciously fresh coffee every time.

The key ingredients for espresso are known as the “four m’s”: miscela (blend), macinazione (grinding), macchina (espresso machine) and mano (the skilled hand of the barista).* The right blend of espresso is crucial to your cup. There are many different espresso blends, and Old City Coffee carries an ideal, traditional Six Bean Espresso that is delicate, with many nuances. Our original Espresso will appeal to those looking for a stronger, sharper taste.

Grinding your beans to the correct consistency is critical to the espresso’s flavor. When ground and packed correctly into the portafilter (the brewer’s filter basket), the espresso will trickle like honey dripping off a spoon. If the beans are ground too coarse, the espresso will be too watery and bitter; if ground too fine, there will be no coffee at all due to a clogged filter. The correct grind for espresso varies from machine to machine. We suggest you grind until you can feel slight granules and the ground coffee packs but does not cake when pressed between your thumb and index finger. For typical home grinders (such as Krups) we recommend grinding small amounts of espresso, and through trial and error, finding the grind that is right for your machine.

If you choose to have your espresso ground by Old City Coffee, we will grind your espresso at #4 on a Ditting commercial grinder (an ideal setting for typical home espresso machines). In some cases, the ideal grind may be finer (a lower number) or coarser (a higher number). You are welcome to specify grind in increments of .5 (example, 4.5). Please specify your grind in the comments box on the order page.

Correct brewing temperature and pressure are of the utmost importance when brewing espresso, and the quality of your espresso machine will determine the quality of your cup. Espresso is made by hand, and the skill of the barista is the key determining factor in the flavor of the cup. The signs of a properly made espresso are a concentrated, sweet coffee aroma and a thick, foamy, cocoa-colored head (called “crema”). Read on to find out more about how to brew your perfect cup.

  1. Use only the freshest coffee beans.
  2. Grind coffee only as you need it. Use 6-8 grams of espresso per 1-1.5 fluid oz. shot (“single”), and 15 grams of espresso per 2 fluid ounce shot (“double”). The portafilter should make the weight determination easy by “leveling off” the ground espresso at the top rim. Then pack the portafilter lightly, so that the portafilter will easily engage on the brew head.
  3. Brewing time for a single or double shot should be 20-30 seconds. We like 25 seconds.
  4. Keep your brewer clean. Oily residue will compromise the taste of your espresso.
  5. Experiment. It takes time and many test-runs to find the right combination of grind, measure of coffee, packing tension and amount of water.

Espresso Recipes
Caffe Latte: equal parts espresso and steamed milk
Cappuccino: equal portions of espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk
Caffe Americano: espresso mixed with hot water to the consistency of drip coffee
Espresso con Panna: espresso topped with whipped cream
Espresso Macchiato: espresso topped with a dollop of milk foam

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