Every barista (professional maker of coffee drinks) will have his or her method. Here's mine...
It all starts with water. No coffee grounds, no matter
the quality, can overcome an association with poor
water. It must be fresh and very hot. Yes, even water
can get stale, thanks to mildew, poor cleaning practices,
and inadequate filtering. The optimum temperature is
203F (95C), nearly boiling.
Next comes the coffee. Select arabica - whether from
Brazil, Puerto Rico, or elsewhere, grown above 3000 feet
(915m) and delivered fresh for roasting. Either self-
roasted or bought within a few days after, the coffee
should have that 'fresh food' smell.
Robusta - though easier to grow and more disease resistant - has more caffeine and less flavor. It should be
reserved for those quick pick-me-up cups, not used for an espresso to be savored.
Finely ground in burr, not blade, grinders the roast should be dark - French or Viennese. The name refers to
the color, not the origin. Blade 'grinders' actually chop, not grind. Burr grinders have pyramid shaped teeth on
two plates that grind the beans between them.
The distance between the plates determines the fineness of the granules. Sand grain-sized is good, powder is
too fine, and small-gravel too large. Of course, the grind should not be exposed to air any longer than
necessary. Coffee, like any food, will oxidize and absorb odors from the air. Neither is conducive to a good
And, last but not least, a good espresso requires a clean machine of good quality. 'Good quality means:
generates heat by boiler or thermoblock and is capable of producing pump pressure of 9 bar or better. A
'thermoblock' heats water as it passes through the machine on the way to the pump. Avoid the cheaper units
that rely on steam to create pressure.
Now you have the basic elements. Next comes the process.
Pre-warm the equipment by running good water through a clean machine. You can turn the machine on, let
the water heat, and run a cup through with no coffee to warm the surfaces and flush the system.
Add your ground roast and pack down slightly, as you would pipe tobacco. Just as with pipes, you should be
feel some springiness, but the coffee shouldn't scatter.
Insert the hopper in the machine firmly and place a warmed espresso cup at the outlet. Start the machine and
in about five seconds you should have a thin, steady stream. (About 20 seconds for a double shot.)
For a cappuccino, warm half a cup of organic milk in the microwave about 90 seconds, froth, and add to the
espresso. Garnish to taste with cinnamon, nutmeg or chocolate. For those who like it sweet a little organic
sugar goes a long way.
Simple, straight forward, and easy. Start with good ingredients, keep your equipment clean, and don't burn the
roast. The result? A great cup!