Making consistently delicious espresso coffee at home should be enjoyable and easy to repeat. But while a repeatable system is key, it can also lead to getting stuck in unnecessary habits without taking time to step back and consider what could be changed to make your coffee taste even better. You’ll never hear us say that there is one unchanging ‘best’ way to make espresso because the wonderful world of coffee preparation is all about improvement. What the industry deemed best practice 5 years ago is most definitely different today — and will probably be vastly different in another 5 years. With that in mind, here are five simple changes that will make your coffee taste better at home. And they might even make the process a little easier.
#1 Worth the weight
Baristas in super busy specialty coffee cafes use scales to measure two important variables: dose into your portafilter and dose out into your cup (the yield). And here’s the thing — if a café using 50+ kilos a day can fit weighing into their work flow, then there’s no reason why a home barista can’t do it either. If you want to take your home espresso to the next level, then dosing in and out is of utmost importance. For dosing in, you need to either get yourself a scale to weigh the coffee grinds going into your portafilter or dosing cup. Or you could simply buy a grinder that weighs for you; did someone say Baratza Sette 270Wi? For weighing out, there’s no better scale than the Acaia Lunar. You’ll also notice that we provide suggested espresso recipes for every one of our coffees. As a general rule, just go with 22g in, 44g out in 29 seconds.
#2 Get Smart
We all want to be environmentally responsible these days, but the flipside of turning your coffee machine off to save energy is the painful wait for it to warm up first thing in the morning. Perhaps it’s time to step into the 21st century and get yourself a Wi-Fi enabled Smart wall plug so you can turn your coffee machine on and or off at any time, from anywhere in the world. You can even use the Smart plug app to set a custom on/off schedule. This app is so intuitive that you can even set weather scenarios (when the temp drops below X, turn my coffee machine on), but that feature is probably best used with your electric blanket (😉 thank me later). So, no more waiting for your machine to warm up when inviting friends over or saying, “Hey honey, did you turn the coffee machine off?” while lying on a beach in the Maldives. Just open the app and voila! And for those super lazy ones out there; if the thought of opening the app is too annoying, just ask Google, Siri or Alexa to turn it on for you. They’ve got your back.
#3 Better water, better coffee
Espresso is made of two ingredients — coffee and water. And one of them is widely neglected: water. It really is a crucial ingredient as it has enormous influence on the final taste. Otherwise you’ll find yourself using good ol’ tap water and wondering why your coffee tastes like you’re licking the back of a spoon. The solution? Ensure you use quality filtered water. Options range from an undercounter water filtration system that can also be tapped for drinking water to one of these new standalone water jugs by Peak that’s specifically designed for specialty coffee.
#4 Heat your cups
Debate rages around how much you should heat your cups and which part of the cup you should heat. There’s no debate, however, around the overall concept. It’s widely accepted that pre-warming your cups creates the perfect receptacle for delicious coffee. The temperature of your espresso largely affects its flavour profile, and a perfect shot hitting a cold cup can immediately affect your coffee’s body and sweetness. This is why most people prefer to drink their espresso immediately and why good baristas mix in steamed milk immediately after brewing. So how do you heat your cups?
Option #1 is to store them on top of your espresso machine on the designated rack for cup warming and storage.
Option #2 is to half fill your cups with hot water from your hot water spout or kettle. Personally, I like this method as it creates the perfect warm bed of ceramic for my espresso to cascade into, but doesn’t overheat the rim of my cup for when I devour it. But just remember with this method that if you’re drawing the water out of the hot water spout of your espresso machine, you will need to give it a bit of time to heat back up to temp.
#5 Grind on demand
I decided to make this my last point on purpose because I’m sure 99% of readers already do this 😉. But if not —
STOP USING PRE-GROUND COFFEE!!
You’re better than that! Honestly! I can’t emphasise enough how critical this is. Buying pre-ground coffee will accelerate the staling process in a big way. It’s like leaving your bread exposed on the counter overnight and expecting your sandwich to be soft and fresh the next day. With pre-ground coffee, the first thing you’ll notice is that the grinds will lose their fragrance. As does your brewed coffee. The resulting brew is often referred to as ‘flat’. As the natural oils in coffee oxidise, the flavour of the brew changes considerably, from pleasant to unpleasant — it can even become offensive and rancid. For the 1% out there who are still buying pre-ground, it’s time to treat your coffee like all your other produce because #freshisbest. If you’ve read this article to this point, and if you’re in the market for a domestic grinder, send us an email with the secret password ‘Purple Monkey’ and we’ll reward with a 10% off deal. You’ll notice the difference instantly. Promise!
Perhaps it’s time to take a step back from your espresso making routine and evaluate the reasons behind some of your steps. The five improvements mentioned above could help, or there could be others. Most importantly, be open to new ideas and new techniques. But remember: every idea or change needs to be backed with a reason why. So if it’s advice from a friend, a pro-barista or even the internet, just ask why. And if you want to know what we teach, you can book into one of our Fundamentals: Espresso & Milk barista courses or check out this summary article: How to make killer espresso.