With Covid -19 meaning a lot of us are working more from home, the home espresso machine has been a very popular purchase. In an uncertain world there is a given. We need coffee. Coffee can bring us that little moment of happiness, giving us the boost/nudge/strength to face the day and challenges ahead. So why then does that latte from your new home espresso machine just not quite taste right (or possibly outright disappointing)?
In this article we will look into the reasons why and how to make your morning coffee as delicious as it can be.
In general, with Super Automatics (which are usually expensive) you trade off coffee quality for convenience. The very best super Auto will taste at best okish but not great. But you can access a coffee with a touch of a button. Semi Automatic and manual machines (the ones where you prepare the ground coffee for extraction and steam the milk yourself) are the most popular type on the market ranging from super cheap to very expensive. Within reason, the more you spend on the machine the better and more consistent the coffee is produced.
A mid range semi automatic espresso machine with built in grinder.
In general super cheap machines can produce ok coffee but are slow and inconsistent, parts are not maintainable and so will only last a couple of years.
Super expensive coffee machines are pretty looking and have the ability to make coffee just like commercial espresso machine from your cafe. However they require a suitably expensive grinder to go with them which together take up lots of kitchen space. The happy medium are the machines in between. A lot of these have built in grinders to save on space, cost between $500-$1000, and have the ability to make very decent coffee. For the rest of the article we will be focusing on this type of machine as it is the most popular type of home espresso machine.
Coffee running TOO FAST (less than 20 seconds) = make the grind finer or put more grind in the basket before tamping
Coffee running TOO SLOW (more than 35 seconds) = make the grind coarser or put less in the basket before tamping
To change the grind: the grinder usually has notches on the grind setting and only move it a maximum of one notch at a time.
Steaming milk is split into two distinct phases: stretching the milk and texturing the milk. Stretching the milk creates the microfoam for your flat white, cappuccino etc, while texturing the milk incorporates that microfoam so the whole body of the milk is thicker and more lush in texture.
To stretch the milk place the wand tip just under the surface of the milk and to the side of the jug. Start moving the wand away from the milk gently at the beginning when the milk is cold. The aim here is to pull in some air. You want to hear some light sucking noises. If its super loud you have pulled the wand out too far and will be creating huge bubbles. If this occurs, lower the steam wand a little, back into the milk.
Stretching the milk: note position of the jug and steam wand.
Once your milk has been stretched enough move the wand deeper into the jug of milk to blend, texture and heat (say 1-2 cm deep, but no more). You want to be creating a whirlpool action, so jug angle and steam wand angle are important here. Adjust your jug until you get the whirlpool action. The ideal temperature for you steamed milk should be between 60 and 65 degrees. This is generally just after the milk jug starts to get too hot to hold.
Once you have finished stretching, texturing and heating the milk, give the jug a bang onto the bench top, this helps any bubbles in the milk to rise to the surface and pop.
Swirl your milk to keep it from splitting and pour your milk strait away. If it sits to long it will split and be difficult to pour. The milk should have a smooth and silky consistency with only micro bubbles.