Making the proper cup of espresso not only requires the right espresso machine for the job but you also have to know what the heck you are doing. As it turns out, like fine wine, espresso has lots of rules that ensure the proper cup of coffee.
The outline for the proper cup of coffee are as follows and yes I did call it a cup of coffee, sorry.
The Proper Cup of Coffee
1.5 ounces of water must be heated to at least 195 degrees fahrenheit and forced through 7 grams of properly ground coffee beans with pressure of 9 atmospheres or 130 psi within 25 seconds. No wonder those machines cost so much, it takes more than a bike pump and a coffee pot to accomplish all of that.
A couple of things to look out for when making your own espresso, dishing out enough money for a meal on a drink, or buying an espresso machine are mainly related to durability.
Pump VS. Steam
First it is important to realize that pump driven machines are far superior to steam driven machines. Not only does the steam potentially get way too hot it also does not develop the proper amount of pressure to extract all of the components from the grind to develop the proper flavor.
Pay attention to the grind of the coffee that you are using. This is the foundation of the proper cup of coffee and without a good grind you will just be making over priced strong coffee, save your money and get a french press. The grind should be similar to powdered sugar. Keep in mind that a blade grinder cannot grind the beans fine enough you need a burr grinder for the proper grind.
Like a good beer a good espresso should have good head. In the espresso aficionados world this is referred to as crema and it is a foamy whitish carmel color. You will know it when you see it, looks kind of like a Guinness head. If you don’t see this something is wrong.
If you are shopping for a machine or paying big bucks for a java at a coffee shop don’t be above asking for a temperature measurement of your potential purchase or your brew. Too hot and it burn out the flavor and can’t be consumed. To cold and it doesn’t extract the right flavor. between 195 and 212 Fahrenheit are ideal. Also remember that flavor degrades quickly with exposure to air and cooling, so drink up.