What constitutes a true espresso coffee, well the Italian Espresso National Institute have strict laws and standards that govern this. But basically, a true espresso machine forces out a small quantity of just-off boiling water under pressure through ground coffee. The resulting mixture will be thicker and creamier coffee than normal regular coffee and contain more caffeine. The pressure seems to be the key differential here, so the classic stove top espresso jugs don’t strictly produce espresso coffee. But it must be said if you use one of these devices with good quality and finely ground coffee then you will get a very decent cup of coffee.
The Machine Types
Basically there are two types of machines that produce espresso coffee, pump driven and steam driven. The less common steam machines come in two variations: the pump-less electric machine and the stove top jugs. The pump-driven coffee maker is the most common, and there are several of these to choose from.
- Electronic Pump – where electricity pumps the espresso out
- Manual Lever – where you have to do the work and manually pump the coffee out.
- Automatic Pump – the operator first grinds and tampers the coffee then the machine will automatically produce the espresso.
- Super Automatic Pump – the machine does everything; all the operator has to do is fill it with water and fresh beans. The machine then grinds and tamps the coffee, boils the water, and pushes the espresso out with the correct pressure.
Modern machines now offer a pod type of affair that are also fully automatic. Simply place the pod into the top of the machine and it will do the rest.
Some of the fully automatic machines come with everything you need, but other do not. So before purchasing any machine you will need to check for any additional equipment that you might need. The basics tools for making great espresso are: a grinder, a milk frother and a tamper to compress the coffee before making the espresso.
- Grinder – burr grinders are the professional’s choice, and you should look for a powerful on when shopping. To grind the beans finely enough is the key to making the best espresso, you will get the most flavour and the best crema out of properly ground beans.
- Frother – for those who love milk in their coffee a frother is important.
- Tamper – this is the tool that presses down on your mixture to produce the best results.
A very important part of making a decent cup of espresso is how you clean your equipment after using it, espresso machines are notoriously hard to clean properly so take your time to do a good job.
- Clean the outside regularly after each use, to get rid of germs and dust.
- Clean the inside by running warm water through it, follow the manufacturer’s advice on this.
- Clean the frother and grinder, a stiff brush is ideal for getting rid of excess grounds.
- Disassemble the machine with the parts you can easily take off, you can clean these in a dishwasher, this does not have to be done daily but perhaps once a month.
If you follow these guidelines then you can be enjoying a fresh cup of authentic coffee at home, perhaps not exactly the same as a good cafe can produce but far better than instant coffee.