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Espresso is about to get better. These days, it’s way easier to make at home with the high-quality espresso machines that are available on the market. In today’s article, we’re sharing how to use these different machines with thorough, easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions.
How to Use an Espresso Machine
Operating an espresso machine doesn’t have to be complicated with these step-by-step instructions below.
Step 1: Switch on Your Espresso Machine
The first step in operating an espresso machine is to fill it with water, ensuring that the tank is topped up. Then, power it on to ensure that it preheats. Most machines take around 30 minutes to heat up, but some appliances can take longer. So check the manual that your device came with. Most espresso machines have an LED light that clearly indicates when it’s switched on to guide you.
Step 2: Weigh Your Coffee Beans
Next, it’s time to add the right number of coffee beans in accordance with how much coffee you’re making. Generally speaking, one-shot will have 6 to 8 grams of coffee, whereas double shots will have up to 16 grams of coffee. You know your preferred strength of a shot of espresso so go with your gut. Some people prefer a stronger espresso shot, whereas others prefer a milder taste.
Step 3: Grind Your Beans
Once you’ve accurately measured your coffee beans, they need to be ground into around 0.8mm particles for a consistency like sugar. The exact grind size depends on the type of coffee used, brand, and what machine you’re using (because many have different functions).
If the espresso coffee is thin, you’ll want to choose a finer grind when you buy coffee beans next time. Alternatively, if the extraction is too slow, consider a coarser setting on the espresso machine. Most high-end espresso machines feature a built-in grinder that provides a high-quality extraction.
Step 4: Add Ground Coffee to the Portafilter Basket
Now it’s time to add the ground coffee to the portafilter, and the type of filter basket that you have plays a big part in the next steps. For example, a pressurised portafilter requires a coarser grind. But if your espresso machine has a non-pressurised filter basket, you should select a finer grind that you’ll need to adjust. For the perfect consistency, it’ll take around 30 pounds of pressure. To do so, press the filter basket down firmly and use a gentle twist motion as you pull the coffee away. This action should result in smooth espresso coffee.
Step 5: Steaming Milk
Finally, it’s time to steam milk. To do so, add cold milk to a milk jug and place the milk jug underneath the machine’s steam wand. Insert the steam wand into the milk below the surface and use the steam output function for a steady stream of hot air.
When steaming milk, you should hold it at a slight angle and move the pitcher up, down and around to add air into the milk to prevent large bubbles from forming while delivering a smooth consistency. Once you’re happy with the milk, add double the amount of espresso to the mug and remove the wand from the pitcher.
Common Mistakes When Making Homemade Espresso
You want to perfect your espresso, which is why an espresso maker is a great choice. But there are still some ways to use an espresso machine incorrectly. Below are some things to avoid for home espresso brewing.
Using Hard Water
Most of a shot of espresso is made of water, 98% in fact. So it’s important that you use good-quality water. Avoid using hard water to prevent the machine from requiring descaling, which can sometimes create problems in the long run. Moreover, ensure that your water hardness is around 35 to 85 ppm. And every year or so, have your water tested to check its hardness levels, which is rare but can change over time.
Additionally, you might want to purchase filtered water rather than using tap water to ensure that it’s chemical-free.
Not Cleaning the Espresso Machine Thoroughly
Your espresso maker can only perform to its best ability if you keep it clean. Coffee will rot and can become harmful to your health, so it’s essential that you take the time to rinse and wipe down your espresso maker after each time.
Cleaning Your Espresso Machine
Below is how to keep your espresso machine clean and in tip-top condition for safe and long-term usage.
Clean the Portafilter
After you use your espresso machine:
- Take the time to remove the portafilter from the head and separately remove the portafilter basket.
- Fill the container with boiling water and place the basket inside to soak.
- Add some espresso machine cleaning solution or use baking powder.
- Leave for up to 30 minutes and rinse the solution with cold water.
Clean the Steam Wand
Next, you’ll need to keep the steam wand clean, ready for the next use. To do so, fill the container with water and washing up detergent, and, if you have an electric frother, use this for few seconds to effectively mix up the solution. Empty the water and rinse again with cold water to ensure that there’s no washing up detergent remains.
This might seem like an unnecessary hassle, especially if your steam wand appears perfectly clean. But if milk gets into the espresso maker, you’ll have a bigger case on your hand as you’ll need to strip the machine down completely to remove any milk residue.
Using Low-Fat Milk
If you want to reduce your fat intake, it makes sense to use low-fat steamed milk. But the low-fat content in milk won’t produce a smooth, silky consistency. Alternatively, you can switch to oat milk, which contains less fat, is vegan and still provides a beautiful texture.
Not Purging Water
Another common mistake that people make at home with espresso makers is not flushing water through the group head before making an espresso shot. Flushing water through the group head allows the machine’s components to function at the proper temperature. Additionally, ensure that your espresso machine has properly heated up before you dive into making an espresso shot. You might even want to preheat your mug for a warmer taste.
Not Using a Scale
Because some people want to avoid any excess steps, they skip using a scale to measure their coffee beans before adding them to the grinder. This results in too little or too much coffee ground. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by accurately measuring the coffee beforehand.
Using Old Coffee
Don’t expect a great-tasting espresso if you’re using an old or poor-quality coffee ground. Instead, use ground coffee that’s fresher for a better result. Ideally, a coffee grind that’s been ground that day will lead to the freshest taste.
Benefits of an Espresso Machine
Now that you know how to use an espresso machine, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of owning these appliances in the first place.
If you wake up in the morning and feel like a single shot of espresso, an espresso machine is a convenient way to get an energy boost without having to endure nipping to the coffee shop or waste time brewing your own espresso. These coffee makers will quickly become a staple at home and suitable for everyday use. Just by pressing a switch, you can enjoy tasty espresso in an instant without coffee shop prices.
Plenty of Features
Make espresso to your liking with an array of features on espresso machines. These features help to enhance the taste of your espresso with the help of a milk frother, grinder, and bypass doser. In fact, a built-in grinder lets you perfect your coffee grind to your liking while making it versatile enough for the entire household.
Save Money in the Long Run
Above all, you’ll save money making espresso at home with an espresso maker rather than buying espresso shots from a coffee shop. Although the upfront cost might be bigger than you’d like, this will certainly pay off and help to save you money eventually.
The Different Types of Espresso Machines
So what are the different types of espresso machines and the characteristics of each one?
Firstly, a semi-automatic coffee machine features an automated system that drives the water through the group head. These machines, which use grinding and temping, are like having a barista in your kitchen while still allowing you to make adjustments as you like. In fact, you’ll become in charge of brewing espresso.
These commercial machines automatically stop water from flowing to ensure consistent volume in every shot. Therefore, you don’t need to watch over the machine during use or stop any overflow.
Best of all, these machines handle every part of the espresso brewing process to brew coffee at the press of a button for consistency with every shot. However, you can still make adjustments regarding timing and grind size, which is what makes these espresso machines perfect for at home and in the office.
Alternatively, pump-driven machines use an electronic pump that drives the preheated water into a mug of coffee. Thanks to the electronic pump, you can achieve consistent high pressure.
Lever-driven machines involve manual work from you, and there are two types: manual and spring-loaded. A manual lever-driven machine has an opening in the brewing chamber that invites in preheated water to grind the coffee ground. You’ll have to remain in control of the flow rate, water pressure, and more.
Alternatively, with spring-driven espresso machines, the lever faces upward once the internal spring relaxes. By pulling the lever towards the ground, the spring compresses and brings up the piston to leave room in the brewing chamber for water. The action of the lever coming back up encourages the piston to push and release the water into a cup.
What Makes Good Espresso?
If you drink coffee, you’ve likely had a good and a bad cup in your life. But what equates to an undesirable espresso shot? Generally speaking, an espresso shot should have a similar crispness and brightness to lemon while having a mild sweetness that feels soft and smooth in your mouth. Care for your coffee grounds and invest in a high-quality bag for a consistency that’s not too harsh without too much of a caffeine hit. Keep in mind your preferences, and you’ll be good to go.
Making Brew Espresso at Home
The biggest preparation involved in making an espresso is grinding the beans and ensuring that they’re at the right consistency for you. Using an espresso machine may be intimidating, but once you learn how to do it, you’ll soon be a natural.
Do you have any advice on using an espresso maker at home?