Brewing Espresso

Brewing Espresso

Espresso originated in Italy, where the word means "instant" or "express". This refers to a the unique brewing method that quickly forces hot water through a bed of very finely ground coffee. Whether at a cafe or at home, it is prepared by the cup. Espresso should be thick, flavorful, and highly concentrated with a head known as the "crema". The crema is layer of smooth tight bubbles that is the aromatic and creamy signature of good espresso.

Common espresso drinks:
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 foamed milk

• For a single shot: Use 6–8 grams (1.5-2 tsp) of ground beans per 1–1.5 fluid ounce (2-3 Tbsp).
• For a double shot: Use 15 grams (3.5 tsp)of ground beans per 2 fluid ounce (4 Tbsp).

Espresso basics:
• Use only the freshest coffee beans.
• Grind coffee only as you need it.
• Brewing time for a single or double shot should be 20-30 seconds. We like 25 seconds.
• Keep your brewer clean. Oily residue will compromise the taste of your espresso.
• 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 key elements:
Miscela (blend): The right blend of coffee beans is crucial. It should be complex - combining body, richness, acidity and brightness. Old City Coffee makes two blends. Our traditional Six Bean Espresso is delicate, complex and nuanced. Our Original Espresso will appeal to those looking for a stronger, sharper taste.

Macinazione (grind): Grinding your beans to the correct consistency is critical. If the beans are ground too coarse, the result will be too watery and bitter; if ground too fine, there will be no coffee at all due to a clogged filter. When ground and packed correctly in the portafilter, you create the pressure necessary to make proper crema; the espresso will trickle through it like honey dripping off a spoon.

The correct grind varies slightly 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 at a time and finding the grind that is right for your machine through trial and error.

In the shops, we grind your beans at #4 on a Ditting commercial grinder, an ideal setting for typical home machines. You are welcome to specify grind in increments of 0.5.

Macchina (the machine or maker): The quality of your espresso machine will be a large determining factor in the quality of your coffee because it contributes to two other key factors; correct brewing temperature and pressure. These are of the utmost importance.

Inexpensive stovetop varieties will make better espresso than inexpensive electric machines. Electric machines are dependent on their heating element of unknown reliability, while you control the temperature on your stove with a stovetop pot.

Mano (the skilled hand of the barista): At home-this means you! Your hand will improve with practice. The signs of a properly made espresso are a concentrated, sweet coffee aroma with crema that should be a thick, foamy, cocoa-colored head.