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Really stupid questions about making espresso

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
This is embarrassing... I've just acquired a new semi-auto espresso maker and am trying to figure out how to use it - and am hoping there are some espresso experts out there... before I return this machine and go back to the mocha pot.

First, I'm figuring out how to make a single espresso. After filling the water tank and the 1-cup espresso filter with coffee, I put the cup under the filter and switch on... coffee starts to come out. How do I know when to stop it? There has to be a more or less precise point when the right amount of water has passed through the coffee etc. Is it a matter of just knowing when the correct amount of espresso is in the cup?

Second... I never thought about this before but how does one make espressos for a bunch of people, say 6? Make 2, then clean out the filter, dry it, add new coffee, make another 2 and so on...?

Thanks!
Kevin
post #2 of 5
The wording of your post tells me you're using an espresso machine and not making stove top espresso. Basically, machines have a water reservoir into which a measured amount of water is poured and a basket into which espresso grind coffee is tamped. When the machine is turned on it passes water through the basket and espresso coffee drips into a small cup below the basket. The amount of coffee used for the espresso, commonly called the "pull", is a matter of personal choice. Some people like their espresso quite strong and drink it straight from the initial "pull" from a demitasse cup. Others prefer a blended espresso (Cappuccino, Latte, Macchiato,etc.)
I'd suggest you go to Google.com, type the brand of your espresso machine into the search frame along with the letters "pdf". You can often find an instructional PDF file on the Internet using that format. As an alternative, try typing "instructions xxx" where "xxx" is the brand of your espresso machine.
While machines are similar they are not all alike and trying to explain how to use your machine through this forum would likely prove futile.
My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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My failures in life are few. The most blatant of these is my attempts at retirement. I've studied the process carefully but cannot begin to understand how it is done.
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post #3 of 5
I'd like to strongly, very strongly recommend that you make way less water come through the machine than you would think is right.
I live in Rome, and i was surprised when i first tried espresso here - or even cappuccino - how different (and better) it tasted. The one in the states (typical starbucks for example) is extremely bitter and unpleasant. After many years i finally realized why.
espresso machines are intended to make a very small amount of coffee for each dose of ground coffee used. The reason is that they use steam not hot water, and the more steam you make go through the grinds, at the high temp that steam is released, makes the grinds "boil" after a while. So the flavor after the first amount passes through is like that of boiled coffee. (Take a filtered american coffee, put it on the fire and boil it a minute and see how the flavor changes - Yuck!)
You should not make a cup of espresso that contains more than 1/4 cup (less than 2 oz)
Try it, you'll taste the difference. Espresso should taste mild and creamy, not bitter. It should have a thick dense foam on top (the "crema"), that comes from the machine. (The way to get the foam is to make a cup first of just water without coffee in the filter, then make one immediately after with the coffee. (you don;t have to dry the filter - in coffee bars here they don;t even wash it). Not sure why it works but it does. This applies if you have a machine that you add loose coffee grinds to the little metal cup iwth holes in it and then tamp it down, if it is the kind with capsules or with filter bags with the coffee already in, i don't know, those usually come out with the cream on top anyway because the machine itself is different)

I've gone into starbucks in the states with italians who said you can't get a good espresso in america, and told the guy to stop making the coffee come out when i told him, and the italians said it was perfect.
If you like a greater quantity, then you should do a "caffe' americano" which is (as starbucks has on their signs) an espresso (less than 2 oz) with hot water added. That way the coffee doesn;t burn or boil.

I tell you this as one who doesn;t really like espresso because it finishes too soon. I like "long" american coffee, lightly roasted and a big cup that you can get refilled and that will hold you through a decent conversation with a friend. Going for a coffee at the bar here is too quick for any conversation. You never even sit down! But if i do want an espresso, i want it "short" even "ristretto" - and believe it or not, the "short" espresso has the same caffeine as the long one. The way they decaffeinate coffee is to run water through it, the caffeine is the first thing released, after that it's decaf coming through your machine.
And a ristretto is actually much easier on the stomach, because less acidy, less bitter.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #4 of 5
It's cool that you're interested in espresso, but realize that making a good cup of espresso is **** near an exact science.

An ideal espresso takes 25-30 seconds (too long and it's bitter, too short it's just acidic). To get that ideal time length requires getting 3 things right.

Grind
Tamp
Water

If your grind is too fine or coarse then it could throw off brew time.

If your tamp is too loose or too heavily packed it will make brew time shorter or longer respectively

Water is self explanitory, use just the right amount.

I'd suggest keeping the machine around and experimenting until you find that perfect setup that works everytime.
post #5 of 5
Who knew this could be so complicated?

Great thread.

Jock
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