If making a great cup of coffee can be considered an art form, espresso may be construed as the medium’s supreme expression. Few things on this planet can equal the full-bodied aroma and the intense but smooth taste of an expertly made espresso. It takes coffee to a whole new level of enjoyment.
There was a time when devotees of this coffee specialty drink could only have their espresso shot from select gourmet specialty coffee shops. However, with the proliferation of espresso machines for the home brewer, fans can now savor its delectable flavor any time of day or night.
Aside from the espresso machine (some home versions of which can cost four figures!), there are some additional paraphernalia that espresso enthusiasts highly recommend for that perfect cup of Joe.
Espresso is made by forcing pressurized hot water through finely ground compacted coffee. The idea is to create an emulsion by extracting the oils from the beans as well as the dissolved components for maximum flavor.
A tamper is necessary to ensure that the coffee in the filter basket is level and smooth, without any air pockets. Aside from fitting snugly in the filter basket, a tamper should feel right in your hand. You need to tamp 9–15 kg of pressure for every seven grams of coffee for proper compaction. If the tamper does not fit naturally into your hand, this will be very difficult to do. You will likely end up with improperly compacted grounds and a disappointing cup of espresso.
Most people think one coffee cup is the same as any other. Generally, that is true. But the cup for espresso has to be ‘just right’ to prevent rapid deterioration. It needs to be thick enough to retain the heat. In fact, it is a good practice to heat cups for espresso by filling them first with hot water and letting them absorb some of the heat before emptying it and brewing into it. Most espresso experts suggest choosing a cup with a smooth, bowl-shaped interior over those with squared-off edges.
The Steaming Pitcher (aka, Frothing Pitcher)
This typically comes in a 12 ounce size with a good pointed spout. Choose one made from sturdy, high-quality stainless steel. You want to make sure it can hold hot, steaming milk safely to prevent any accidents — and a ruined cup of espresso.
To make the best coffee, your need to start with the best machine and tools; then you learn the proper techniques to coax the fullest flavor from the coffee. In the end, making espresso is truly an art, one which the coffee drinker and espresso lover can only be good at with practice and persistence.