HOW TO MAKE THE BEST ITALIAN-STYLE ESPRESSO AT HOME

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST ITALIAN-STYLE ESPRESSO AT HOME

No need for expensive specialty coffee beans or new espresso equipment. It’s all about the right bean blend from the right origin, using a fresh roast, and making sure your beans are roasted with Italian roasting expertise to get natural sweetness. Brewing and serving in a small glass will show you if your brew is freshly roasted as you produce a thick layer of crema. Small portions further help you avoid bitterness and acidity. Indulge in the best Italian Espresso at home.
 

What is Peak Flavor Coffee?

Freshly roasted coffee reaches best or "Peak Flavor” on days 8-14 after roasting. Compare this to coffee from the grocery store, which is often >120 days old. Peak Flavor coffee taste can only be achieved by a local roaster, who roasts your order on demand and delivers a fresh roast to you within days. At Peak Flavor Coffee, we are committed to blend, roast fresh, and grind specifically for your home espresso machine. Only when you order. And we make sure your order arrives at your doorstep on or before day 8 so you can enjoy an espresso at its best or peak flavor.  I invite you to try our coffee and taste the difference for yourself.

Here are 5 tips to get the perfect espresso from your home machine:

  • Select a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans from large origin countries. No need for expensive specialty beans to make an indulgent espresso at home.
  • Buy and use freshly roasted whole beans. A fresh roast is never roasted more than 8 days ago.
  • Make sure your coffee was roasted the “Italian” way. Only Italian Coffee Roasting has an extended browning phase during which your coffee develops its natural sweetness and mildness.
  • Grind only what you need to avoid oxidation. Use an extra fine grind.
  • Use a portafilter machine and serve your espresso in a small glass cup to see the thick layer of crema on your espresso, a telling sign of perfect espresso quality.

Introduction

Are you looking to make the best Italian-style espresso at home? Although I have a great espresso machine at my house, I still find it difficult to make a perfect espresso at home using coffee beans from the grocery store. Even when I buy expensive specialty beans, the taste of my home-espresso is often bitter, stale, or burnt. Making an indulgent espresso at home is a relevant problem to most Americans. That is why during 2020, only 8%-9% of coffee drinkers used an espresso coffee machine at home. And that is why most Americans do not mind spending $5 and more on an espresso at their favorite coffee shop. Fortunately, it is very well possible to make an indulgent espresso at home without the need to buy expensive equipment or expensive specialty beans. In fact, following the 5 tips in this guide will help you indulge in espresso at good value. According to us, the perfect home espresso should not cost more than $0.59 cents. So, what steps should you take to get the perfect espresso at home?

Tip 1: Use a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans from large coffee producing countries.

Italy is the birthplace of espresso. If you want to avoid bitterness or burnt notes in your home espresso, start with a fresh roast from the right beans. If you ask an Italian expert roaster or Italian barista for the best bean blend to make the perfect espresso, they will tell you to use a blend of 85% Arabica and 15% Robusta beans, roasted about 7-8 days ago. Why 7 days? Coffee beans need to rest for about 7 days and de-gas before acquiring their best or Peak Flavor.

Arabica beans are generally considered to be of superior quality. But a small addition of Robusta beans will produce good crema, which is essential to high-quality espresso. You can immediately recognize a perfect espresso if you see a thick layer of crema (= foam) with rich aromas on top of your espresso. If your roast is fresh, your crema will be thick, made up of many small bubbles and have no “black holes” in the layer of bubbles. When tasting, the espresso will have a gentle smoothness and creaminess caused by this layer of crema.

Bean blends from larger origin countries, such as Brazil, Honduras, and Vietnam, are more likely to produce abundant cream for the perfect espresso at home. These blends are much preferred to the more expensive, rare specialty beans from smaller countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, or Togo. Coffee bean harvests from larger coffee countries are fresher and much easier to work with for mere mortals like me. Larger-origin countries also grow more consistent coffee bean harvests of better quality with fewer defects. Columbia and Indonesia also have larger bean harvests with more consistent quality.

Tip 2: Buy and use freshly roasted whole beans. A fresh roast is never roasted more than 8 days ago.

Most importantly, your medium to dark roasted whole coffee beans should be freshly roasted. “Freshly Roasted” means that the roast happened within the last 7 to 8 days. In its handbook for coffee freshness, the Specialty Coffee Association defines fresh roasted coffee as: “roasted within the past 8-14 days”. Once the expert roaster has done his (or her) roasting, roasted coffee beans need to rest for about seven days to develop their full flavor and get rid of excess gasses, a process called de-gassing. On day eight to fourteen after roasting, coffee reaches its best or Peak Flavor. Between day eight and day fourteen after roasting is therefore the best time to use the fresh roast to make your perfect home espresso.

Expert coffee roasters have no problem indicating the roasting date prominently on the front of their packaging. In fact, if you ask me, you should never buy a coffee brand that does not have a roasting date prominently displayed on the front. How else will you know when the coffee was roasted? And how else can you choose a fresh roast?

Roast freshness is the single most important “ingredient” in making a perfect shot of espresso  at home. Getting freshly roasted coffee at your home is difficult. On Average, most coffee packs on the grocery shelf, are 120 days past their roasting date. These “old” coffee beans make it difficult to get the perfect espresso at home. Some small, premium specialty and gourmet coffees in the grocery store could be even older because they sell at slower rates and thus sit on the shelf for longer. You can imagine that old grocery store coffee has lost most of its flavor by that time and turns stale, bitter and rancid. If your roast is not fresh, it is impossible to make great espresso at home.

If you want the perfect espresso at home, buying and using fresh roasted whole beans to ensure peak flavor is the most important thing to do. This is also why I encourage people to buy smaller packages of coffee. Smaller packages of freshly roasted beans get used faster and ensure that your coffee stock at home does not get much older than 14 days post roasting. Buying & using whole beans instead of ground coffee is important to help you get a fresher roast because whole beans do not oxidize as fast as ground coffee. We’ll discuss oxidation a little later in this guide. 

You can easily recognize the freshness of your coffee by the smell your coffee emits as soon as you open the package. Just like you immediately smell freshly baked bread at your local bakery, only a fresh roast, not roasted longer ago than 8 days, will emit the rich aroma that anybody can immediately recognize. Smelling your coffee when you open the package, is the easiest way to recognize a fresh roast in a second. Before you have even seen the roasting date on the pack.

Tip 3: Use an Italian Roast. Only Italian Coffee Roasting has an extended browning phase during which your coffee develops its natural sweetness and mildness. 

There is a reason Italian coffee is generally considered the best coffee. Besides always being freshly roasted, the Italians employ an expert roasting technique that is designed to bring out natural sweetness and more taste. To do this, you don’t need expensive specialty beans or premium coffee from origin countries you have never heard of. Using expert Italian coffee roasting methods, you can make any coffee bean deliver natural sweetness and mildness, no matter it’s origin. Italian roasters do this in two ways:

First, Italian expert coffee roasters extend the browning phase or “natural sweetness phase” of the roasting process. Generally, there are three phases in any coffee roast. During the first roasting phase, green coffee beans lose their humidity until there is none left. The end of this phase is called “dry end”.

In the second phase of Italian coffee roasting, coffee beans start to turn color from green to brown. The reason for browning is called the “maillard reaction”, a well-known process whereby sugars (carbohydrates) caramelize and turn brown. Caramelization is the reason why your coffee beans are brown. If this process is rushed, the beans will acquire a burnt taste. If this second phase of the roasting process is extended at medium temperatures, like during Italian expert coffee roasting, more carbohydrates are caramelized and your beans will acquire their natural sweetness. Italian roasting expertise in this second roasting phase, ensures you’ll need less added sugar, less milk-sugar (lactose), or artificial sweetener in your morning brew. And still can indulge in the perfect espresso at home.

In the third phase of Italian coffee roasting, the Italian experts roast well beyond “first crack” to release the natural coffee oils which contain most flavor and aroma. In this third and last roasting phase, the beans become gradually darker. This darkening is what most coffee amateurs in the USA speak about, when they talk about light, medium or dark roasts. Italian expert roasters, however, instead focus on making the beans “crack”. Sometimes even a second time when they roast for their espresso. Italian roasting expertise is straightforward on the subject. After “first crack”, coffee roasting enters its third phase. This “crack” literally opens the beans to release the natural coffee oils, which are full of aroma. You should know that aroma and flavor substances are mostly fat-soluble. This means that only if your roasting manages to release the natural fats (oils) from the beans, you’ll unlock the best taste from coffee beans. Breaking off the roast now for a light or medium roast prevents the beans from releasing these natural oils and from developing their full flavor. Expert Italian roasters will roast close to the second “crack” to ensure all flavor, oils, and aroma are released whilst preventing acidity and/or burnt notes. Large coffee roasters often can’t afford to take the time to wait for the second crack. This is exactly why some famous coffees taste a little burnt or sour and need lots of sugar or flavoring.

Tip 4: Grind only what you need to avoid oxidation. Use an extra fine grind.

Coffee’s exposure to air causes it to lose taste and aroma. In scientific terms, this natural process is called oxidation or “exposure to air.” We all know how a sliced apple starts to look and taste worse when we leave it on the table. After the apple slices are exposed to air (oxygen), the apple turns brown and tastes stale. The same is true for coffee beans. Once ground, oxidation accelerates as the exposed surface to the air has increased. The coffee taste and aroma will start to deteriorate over time.

Ideally, you grind your fresh roasted coffee beans yourself, just before you brew in the exact amount needed. Doing this will limit oxidation of your coffee and therefore preserves flavor, taste, aroma and freshness when you pull your espresso shot. To make a perfect espresso at home, you need to grind the whole beans extra fine, maximizing the surface-to-air ratio at which oxidation happens fastest. Remember that “espresso” really means “fast” in Italian. In fact, making an espresso only takes about 30 seconds. This is fast as compared to the 3-4 minutes it takes to brew a French Press. Because of this fast brewing process, you need an extra fine grind to optimize aromas-extraction. The extra-fine grind will release aromas faster.

Coffee professionals advise you to grind only as much as you need immediately before brewing yourespresso. With Peak Flavor’s fresh roast, you need about 8-10 grams of extra fine ground coffee for the perfect single espresso. A double espresso is made with 16-20 grams. Using Peak Flavor’s fresh roasted coffee beans is therefore also more economical as compared to other coffee brands. An espresso made with a fresh roast from Peak Flavor Coffee only costs about $0.59. Compare that to the $5.00 or more, which you spend at your favorite coffee store and you see why Peak Flavor is good value for your money.

Tip 5: Use a portafilter machine and serve your espresso in a small glass cup to see the thick layer of crema on your espresso, a telling sign of perfect espresso quality.

For the best at-home expresso, I recommend using a portafilter espresso machine and grinder (semi-automatic espresso machine) instead of a fully automatic espresso machine. The grinder will allow you to set the perfect espresso fineness (0.2mm) and the correct filling amount for the portafilter (8-10 grams per espresso).

The portafilter lets you temp correctly (pushing with 35 KG pressure). At the same time, the semi-automatic machine gives you the gauge to read that you are extracting at about 10-12 bars of pressure, making a perfect home espresso in 27-30 seconds. Semi-automatic machines with a pressure gauge are usually less expensive, easier to maintain and allow you to make better espresso at home. If you are looking for a brand, I recommend Breville Espresso machines. I personally like the Barista Express the best.

Always serve your coffee in a small glass cup to see the crema. You can recognize the perfect espresso by the layer of crema produced. It should be thick (2-3 mm) and have no large bubbles or holes through which you can see the espresso. This is why professional Italian Baristas serve their espresso in a small glasscup. It lets you see the crema's thickness and judge your espresso's quality. 

You will notice that it is much easier to produce a thick, creamy layer of crema on your home espresso if you use freshly roasted whole beans, which are 8-14 days past their roast. Because fresh roasted espresso beans, roasted the Italian way, taste naturally sweet, smooth, and creamy, your espresso does not need a lot of milk or sugar. A fresh roast eliminates the need for baristas to serve their single or double espressos in large cups. Only espresso made from old roasts that taste more stale or bitter needs milk in large quantities, extra sugar, or artificial sweeteners to mask their defects.

In summary, using fresh roasted, whole beans from larger coffee origin countries is the key to making the best espresso at home. Besides being freshly roasted, for the best espresso or cappuccino at home, it is important that your coffee is roasted with Italian expertise to have natural sweetness, mildness and creaminess from the naturally occurring coffee oils. No need to use expensive specialty beans to get the best espresso or cappuccino at home. Espresso is the fastest way to make excellent quality coffee at home because espresso brewing extracts most oils from your coffee beans, which allows the oils to release their aroma and flavors to the utmost. You can clearly see if you are successful judging by the amount of thick crema you’ll have. Using a fresh roast, roasted the Italian way will get you to enjoy the best espresso or cappuccino at home every time you brew.

Try our Espresso for yourself. I am sure you’ll love it.

Melicent

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