Preparing coffee is, for most people, just a routine, but in Italy an espresso has to be perfect. It is not just about putting water and coffee in the coffee maker. When travelling abroad, most Italians study very carefully the area they are visiting to find a coffee bar that has the 'right machine' to serve a 'real espresso'. We look at the brand of the machine, the brand of the coffee, the coffee grinder next to it, but even when we think everything looks the part, we end up disappointed. While sipping a terrible espresso, we start wondering why although they seemed to have the proper machine and the right coffee brand, the result is so poor. That's because preparing coffee is an art and the right tools and the quality of the beans are extremely important but are not enough.
There are strict rules that should be followed when preparing an espresso coffee. Here are some tips:
Pressure: Make sure the pressure of the coffee machine is at 1 bar (this obviously applies to professional machines, as domestic coffee makers have a gauge).
Cup: The cup has to be warm, not cold; otherwise the hot coffee will not take on its original flavour.
Water: Be sure the water is at the right temperature. For excellent coffee, the water should be deionized and at more or less 90C° degrees.
Coffee holder: The coffee holder also needs to be warm. This helps coffee to preserve all its flavour.
Coffee: For a single cup, you usually need just 7 grams of coffee. So you normally use 14 grams for two cups. Here the grinding of the coffee beans plays a very important role, because to obtain a perfect grind, the coffee must be ground neither too finely nor too raw. But we will get back to this point later.
Pressing: We have to ensure that the coffee is pressed properly in the holder. To get the right pressure, you have to push as hard as if you were pressing a 20 kg weight on it. Professionals use a tool that is calibrated with 20 kg.
Timing: 30 seconds to make a perfect coffee: count the seconds as soon as you turn the machine on until the last drops of coffee come out. Again, correct grinding of the beans plays an important role here.
Quantity: Forget huge mugs full of long coffee. An espresso has to be drunk in a small china or glass cup - 25 ml (maximum 30 ml) for excellent coffee, including the cream.
Savour: Drink espresso instantly, otherwise it will lose its magnificent flavour and you won’t get the aftertaste.
Coming back to the coffee itself: the grinding process has its own strict rules. As mentioned earlier, you won’t be able to prepare a good coffee if the beans have been ground too finely or too raw. On the one hand, fine coffee won’t allow the hot water to come through; on the other hand, raw coffee will come out too quickly; therefore it will taste too watery. This also happens if you do not press coffee in the proper way. Don’t worry if you don’t get perfect coffee at your first try… even experts may prepare at least 10 coffees before finding the right way.
Last recommendation: have a glass of sparkling water at hand before enjoying your coffee. Experts say that sparkling water clears your mouth of any other tastes completely and you will then appreciate the taste of coffee even more. So don’t forget to ask for a glass of water before drinking your coffee.