A good shot of espresso yields a rich and complex drink. But the process of making espresso itself doesn’t have to be complex. Learn how to use an espresso machine for cafe-style drinks in your own kitchen, and start experimenting with new flavors and techniques for your best cup.
WHAT IS AN ESPRESSO MACHINE?
An espresso machine is a coffee brewing appliance that uses high pressure to push a small amount of hot water through tightly packed ground coffee in order to brew 1-2 ounces of a concentrated form of coffee called espresso. This high-pressure process also creates the characteristic crema, a caramel-colored, dense foam on top that lends a creamy texture to espresso.
Having an espresso machine at home opens the door to a world of delicious coffee drinks made just the way you like them. Certain types of espresso machines let you play with a number of variables and hone your technique to craft your perfect espresso whether it’s extra strong ristretto, or a more sippable lungo pull that lets you linger over your cup just a little longer.
WHAT IS AN ESPRESSO MACHINE USED FOR?
Most at-home espresso machines can make up to 2 shots of espresso at once. If the machine includes a steam wand or milk frother, you can create a wide range of cafe drinks from classic cappuccinos and macchiatos, to the ever-popular latte and all its flavor variations. Espresso can also be used in other recipes like mocha mousse with espresso caviar or added to marinades and simmer sauces for savory dishes. Take a deep dive into the different types of espresso drinks with our how-to guide.
WHAT COFFEE DO YOU USE FOR AN ESPRESSO MACHINE?
Espresso beans are usually just a darker roast of “regular” coffee beans. Sticking with a dark roast will help you achieve the deep flavor you expect with espresso drinks. While you can buy espresso coffee beans, any dark roast such as a French roast will work. However, you will always need to grind your beans to a fine consistency if using them to make espresso. Experiment with different types of roasts until you find a flavor profile you love. When it comes to making espresso at home, it’s all about finding flavors that inspire you to create even more.
HOW DOES AN ESPRESSO MACHINE WORK?
While there are many types of espresso machines that all work a little differently, there are some basic commonalities. Espresso machines heat water to near boiling and force it through tightly-packed and finely-ground coffee in a portafilter basket to extract a concentrated “shot” of coffee. Here are some of the main parts and the role they play in making espresso.
For an idea of how these parts work together, you will place the portafilter baskets into the portafilter, fill them with ground coffee and tamp to compress the grounds. Then, connect the portafilter to the grouphead and finally select your brew cycle settings.
HOW TO OPERATE AN ESPRESSO MACHINE
The process for making espresso varies based on what type you have. The most popular type for home use and at coffee shops is a semi-automatic espresso machine. While you’ll always want to refer to your owner’s manual, here are some general steps for making espresso with this type of machine:
PREHEAT THE ESPRESSO MAKER
If you’re making espresso at home, your machine likely has a water tank that will need to be filled before getting started. Once you have enough water in the reservoir, switch your machine on. Most models will automatically draw water into the boiler and begin heating it to the right temperature. Let it heat up while you move on to preparing your espresso beans.
GRIND AND MEASURE YOUR COFFEE
Freshly ground coffee will yield the best results. Remember to finely grind your coffee beans so the resulting texture is similar to somewhere between sand and powder. A burr coffee grinder can help produce more uniformly sized grounds for even extraction. Some models have a specific espresso setting to take the guesswork out of the grinding process. Learn more about types of grinders to find the best one for you.
The KitchenAid® Burr Grinder features 70 precise settings and Automatic Smart Dosing Technology that automatically adjusts grind time to deliver the proper volume and consistency for your selection. It also features a Built-In Adjustable Portafilter Holder so you can grind directly into 54-mm. or 58-mm. portafilters depending on the size and number of shots you’re brewing.
SELECT YOUR FILTER BASKET AND ADD GROUNDS
Select your desired filter basket depending on how much espresso you’ll make. Press the Filter basket into the Portafilter until it clicks into place. Add finely ground coffee to the filter basket. While exact dosage will depend on your espresso machine design and the size of your filter baskets, this quick reference chart can give you a good idea:
|Single wall||1 shot||10 - 12||Freshly ground whole bean coffee|
|Single wall||2 shot||18 - 20||Freshly ground whole bean coffee|
|Double wall||1 shot||10 - 12||Pre-ground coffee|
|Double wall||2 shot||18 - 20||Pre-ground coffee|