We recently blogged about basic espresso drinks, but without having a full understanding of your espresso equipment, the drinks are sure to falter. Espresso drinks require more than a simple pour, and the equipment requires more than simply flipping a switch. Once trained, though, your baristas can utilize your espresso machine to create delicious concoctions that are sure to keep your customers coming back for more.
Sweet Maria’s Coffee Library describes the basics of espresso creation:
An Espresso is a small, concentrated coffee beverage, 2.5 ounces or less for a double espresso, served in a demitasse cup. It has both a liquid and a foam element (crema). It is made on a specialized machine that forces hot water through finely ground coffee that has been compacted (tamped), the force of the water being spent in the coffee cake. It takes 20-30 seconds to percolate the water through the coffee cake (or "puck") which is held in a portafilter "coffee handle". It is judged by its appearance, aroma, mouthfeel (body), flavor and aftertaste.
Thus, with variables such as percolation rates, portafilter quality, and overall construction, you can easily see that no two espresso machines are alike! Not only must these machines handle the finite details of espresso creations, but they also must be durable enough to withstand heavy traffic periods. Here are some bits to keep in mind when purchasing and operating your quality espresso machine:
Size is an option! Espresso machines can simply brew a single shot at a time, or they can be purchased with two or three shot groups. This means that two or three portafilters can be filled with coffee pucks and percolated at the same time, giving you the ability to brew multiple shots simultaneously.
Manual or Automatic? The best part about espresso machine technology is that there are now options through many manufacturers for the user to utilize automatic brewing or manual continual flow! Cecilware is the leader of this technology and has a large line of espresso machines available at Ckitchen!
Warm it up. Before brewing, the machine and all its parts need to be warmed up. Every part that comes into contact with the coffee should be warm: the brew head of the machine, the coffee handle and portafilter, the cup, and even the tamper ideally!
Grind quality matters. You need good, even, fine grind to produce good espresso. Purchase a high-quality espresso grinder, and ensure that you’re tamping your grinds the same every time, lest you end up with a wide variety of stronger or lighter coffee brews.
Don’t forget about water quality! If the water is bad, the espresso will follow, so ensure that your water is filtered with a specialized filtration system.
Keep it clean. Before you brew your espresso shot, be sure to wipe off any excess grinds left on the rim of the portafilter, lest you push grinds up into the group head. Residual coffee in the handle, brew head -also called the group head, shower screen (the screen screwed into the brew head), and anywhere else in the brew system will turn rancid quickly and taint every espresso you make! Some machines have a 3 Way Valve that releases pressure behind the brew head. These machines usually come with a Blank Filter - a portafilter that snaps into the coffee handle with no holes in it. That means you can put a little coffee cleaner (Cafiza) into it, put it into the brew head, turn on the machine for 30+ seconds, and backflush! If your machine has no 3 Way Valve, no worries. Just keep the coffee handle clean by soaking it in a Cafiza solution, and remove and clean the shower screen every week or two.
There are many courses one can take to learn how to properly maintain your equipment and create the perfect espresso shot. After you understand your equipment, then the fun begins! Choose your beans that you’ll be using for espresso. Many espresso blends are based on one or several high-quality Brazil arabicas, some washed, some dry-processed. They often involve some African coffees for winey acidity or enzymatic flowery /fruitiness, or a high grown Central American for a cleaner acidity.
Get creative with your espresso drink varieties, and keep your customers coming back for more.