WHAT IS AN ESPRESSO?
“Espresso is a 25-35ml (.85-1.2 ounce) beverage prepared from 7-9 grams (14-18 grams for a double) of coffee through which clean water of 195 °-205 °F (92 °-95°C) has been forced at 9-10 atmospheres of pressure, and where the grind of the coffee is such that the brew time is 20-30 seconds.” (Definition by Specialty Coffee Association of America)
Whoah. This is the industry standard definition for an espresso and I will tell you right now that most famous baristas don’t dare violate it. Nowadays, the ones who are feeling a little wild and crazy might try up-dosing a shot or playing with lower temperature extractions. Making espresso at home following this definition is obviously challenging. It takes hours of training and expensive equipment to achieve professional results; no wonder baristas are always looking for improvements.
But how about home folks? Is there a way to make a good espresso? Yes, but prepare to open your wallet (unless you use my method, for which professional baristas must forgive me). Good espresso needs a very fine balance of the right applied pressure, water temperature, and resistance achieved by coffee grind consistency and tamping. For coffee grind consistency you need a high-quality grinder, and the proper temperature and water delivery requires a good espresso maker.
Depending on your commitment to a good shot, prepare to spend $600+ on very basic gear and $3000-$7000 on semi-professional/professional gear. Ouch! My experience is that the lower-end espresso makers tend to have many limitations and shorter life spans, yet they will still cost you $300-500. Generally, I recommend avoiding them. The grinder is a vital part of a good espresso and the prices start around $200, but a good quality espresso grinder can cost you $600+ easily.
IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
The outrageous investment to the gear was the main reason why in the past I went to my favorite cafe and asked a professional barista to do the magic. Until I found ROK.
ROK is a manual espresso maker and it totally fits my needs and budget. Because it is manual, you can be very creative with it and go for different brewing temperatures, you can pre-infuse the coffee if you wish, which is a feature of the high-end espresso makers. ROK is beautiful and is fun and we do not even sell it, but what we sell is a great coffee for ROK. If you check reviews or forums about ROK, you realize that many people find it challenging to create a nice crema and creamy body on ROK. Unleashed Coffee offers a solution.
It is not a secret that sun dried natural processed Brazilian coffees are excellent for espresso. They are used in the best European espresso blends to add sweetness, body and crema. This is exactly what we have for you. Naturally sweet, sun-dried processed coffees.
One of the most important tools for espresso and any coffee is a grinder. The good news is that with ROK you don’t have to go for the espresso-dedicated $600 grinders. You will be fine with the lower-end more universal (filter coffee & espresso) grinders like Capresso Infinity or Baratza models or manual grinders like the one in the video made by ROK. That one is a bit pricey but if you like it, it will make you happy.
Finally, you might need a tamper. Tampers are used to… tamp the coffee. They come in different sizes so make sure you know the size of your portafilter. The ROK comes with a plastic one, which does the job, but feel free to upgrade to a metal one. The one in the video I found on Aliexpress for $9.95; the size is 49mm.
MY KILLER ESPRESSO SHOT RECIPE FOR YOUR ROK
How can you make creamy espresso with gorgeous crema? You will have to create the right pressure with other means than pump (your hands). On ROK, the trick is the grind level and the dose.
For me, the best dose is 18-20g for a double shot (35ml) espresso grind. On my home grinder Breville it is setting 8-10 for Mini me and Catucai RED. In the real world, every coffee is different so you will have to experiment with the grind level. If the espresso is watery and lacks crema, you need to go finer. Other issues might be old coffee, not freshly ground, too light or too dark a roast. You do have to grind fresh, pre-ground coffee will not make a nice crema.
WHICH COFFEE SHOULD YOU USE?
From my experimentation sun-dried natural Brazilian coffees worked the best. I guess that must be the reason why these are the choice for famous European espresso blends. From our portfolio, I like to use:
Mini Me: It is an excellent choice for espresso. It has a very intense chocolate/cocoa flavor with a long finish. If you drink coffee with milk, Mini Me carries it very well. It is my choice when I use espresso for cocktails or in cupcake frosting (yes, we cook with coffee too!).
Catucai Red: It is a perfect choice when you want to drink a fruitier and brighter espresso.
Farm Blend: This is excellent for the lovers of darker roast, who want dark chocolate and a bit of smokiness in their espresso shots. Like Mini Me, this one is also very “milk friendly”.
How about Acaia? Yes, you can definitely make espresso from Acaia. Although I personally find it too delicate, you get plenty of nuttiness and it is fruit forward. If you decide to go for it, skip the milk!
WHAT IS NOT AN ESPRESSOThere are a lot of beverages out there that are delicious and pack a punch much like espresso. But are they the real thing?
Moka pot producers love to label these cute little contraptions “Italian espresso makers”; however, drinks made with moka pots are NOT espresso since they don’t produce 7-9 bar pressure and the brewing temp is over 205 F. The final product does not resemble a good espresso. Yes, it is a strong coffee, but it lacks crema and a creamy body.
Aeropress is an awesome brewer, but once again, it does not make an espresso. It makes amazing coffee though.
Sometimes you can see coffee labeled as espresso. Espresso is a brew method, not a coffee variety.