Espresso Tips & Fun Facts
What it takes to make excellent foam:
You will need to start with a cold pitcher, size appropriate to your espresso machine's capacity, and the amount of milk you will be using at the time. The pitcher should be clean. Pour the amount of cold milk you will need for your drink. It is important that both the pitcher and the milk be cold, otherwise you will not be able to get a rich froth and sweet flavor from the milk to match the espresso. Hold the wand just below the surface of the milk, so the milk becomes a whirlpool; tilt the pitcher a bit to help the air circulate into the milk. The idea behind steaming milk is to aerate it, thus creating micro bubbles. Steam the milk in the range of 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit. After 155F the proteins begin to break down and the milk turns sour. Your milk should now appear to have doubled in quantity. Pull the shots needed for the espresso drink. Combine espresso and milk as needed to create cappuccinos, macchiato, lattes, mochas, and cafe au lait.
Trouble shooting espresso shots:
If the shots come out too watery, check the grind to see that it is fine enough. Too course of a grind leads to water passing through too quickly and the espresso shot will be under extracted, tasting weak. Also pay attention to how the coffee is being tamped. Too little pressure will result in a shot that is under extracted. If the espresso shot is taking too long to pour or there is not enough coffee coming out, check to make sure that the grind of the coffee is not too fine. And again, pay attention to the amount of pressure being applied with the tamper. Too much pressure will cause the espresso to become too compact, the hot water will sit with the espresso too long, causing over extraction and a bitter taste. The same goes for too fine of an espresso grind. Espresso ground too fine will cause over extraction.
Always keep the portafilter in the group head when pulling shots. Good espresso comes from heat. The heat from the group head will keep the portafilter hot, and your shot will have perfect crema every time. You will not get a good shot with a cold portafilter.
The best way to store coffee is in a clean, dry, airtight container. Clean and dry because roasted coffee beans are porous, absorbing any moisture and flavor that might be in the air or container. The airtight container should be kept in a cool, dark place to protect the coffee from sunlight and heat. Sunlight and heat cause the coffee to dry out and become stale quickly.
In the mid 1600's coffee made its way to the New World, but the colony's interest in the caffeinated beverage did not take off until 1773. Unfair taxes set by the British government, and a tea party thrown by local Bostonians, pushed these soon to be Americans to the coffee bean. The tax is gone but the love continues to grow; The United States is currently the largest importer of coffee.
The best tasting coffee comes from beans grown at high altitudes in regions close to the equator. Everything affects the final flavor of the bean: Nutrition content of the soil, variety of the plant, weather during the growth season, amount of rainfall and sunshine. These factors create the different flavor notes of the beans from different regions. Coffee is grown in over fifty countries, Brazil being the number one exporter.
Caffeine produced by the coffee bean is its natural defense against predators. The bitter taste is supposed to discourage bugs from eating it, but the bug commonly known as the coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) is not deterred. This is where birds and bats come into play. During daylight hours birds keep the bug population down to a minimum. When night falls the bats take a sit and wait approach, hunting down these little creatures when they hear them move. Saving the world from a dreadful coffee shortage and the farmers a substantial amount of revenue that would have otherwise been eaten up by crop loss and pesticide costs.