Have you ever watched the barista at your local coffee shop and thought “I reckon I could do this at home!”. Have you gone out and bought yourself a home espresso machine? Have you forked out some serious coin in the hopes that making coffee at home will save you money in the long term? If you have, I’m willing to bet that your first reaction to trying your at-home creation was something along the lines of “Dammit…this taste nothing like café coffee!”. In fact, I bet there’s a good chance that the espresso machine that you went out and bought from the department store is currently sitting in the cupboard, taking up space and gathering dust! Why? Making café quality coffee at home is really bloody hard! Many try and only a handful actually succeed. We all have at some point in our lives tried to perfect our coffee and make it taste like Starbucks or G&B coffee. No matter how much we see the videos or do a step by step procedure we never achieve the same taste. It might be close but never 100%. So why is it so hard to reproduce café quality espresso coffee in the home? Can it even be done? We’re going to explore some main differences between café vs home espresso set ups and go over a few tips and tricks to help you improve your home espresso!
• Get a Good Grinder!
Most people don’t even think about grinders when they begin their home espresso set up. The fact is that your coffee will only be as good as your grinder! Using fresh ground coffee is one the most important variables that go into making quality espresso. Cafes grind on demand; that is, they grind just the right amount of coffee to go into portafilter for that one coffee. Once you grind coffee it will begin to lose its freshness within minutes. The main measure of a grinder is consistency in granule size. It’s in our best interest to have coffee granules that are consistent in size.
• How’s your steam pressure?
OK, we’ve got our espresso tasting at least somewhat like our favorite cafe, now we need to nail our milk. Milk steaming is a skill. Like any skill, we need to practice! Unfortunately, a lot of the entry level espresso machines simply don’t put out enough steam pressure to allow us to achieve anywhere near the silky, well-textured milk we’re used to from our local coffee spot. Nice, well textured milk is a super important component of our coffee (it does after all make up about 90% of our drink!). Choosing an espresso maker with a decent steam unit will take a lot of the frustration out of making coffee at home!
• Keep it fresh!
It is true for any culinary pursuit: fresh is best! Coffee beans, like any fresh food will go stale over time. A little tip once you open the seal on your coffee is to keep the bag in a sealed container. Oxygen is the enemy of coffee, so keeping it properly sealed will allow it to stay fresh for as long as possible.
• Keep it clean!
Learning how to properly clean your espresso maker will not only allow you to get the best possible flavor from your coffee, it will also maximize the life of your unit. Using chemicals to ‘back flush’ your machine will effectively remove gunk from the internal parts of your machine. Oh, and nothing says ‘I don’t care about my coffee machine’ more than a steam wand covered in old milk- so purge and wipe thoroughly after every use. Hopefully some of these pointers will improve your at-home coffee prospects.