PHUKET: My coffee journey started with instant coffee and graduated to drip filter, plunger, stove top percolator and finally espresso. I am not here to tell people that one method is better than another but there is something unique about espresso based coffee which makes it the most popular drink for cafes and restaurants.
Monday 11 June 2012, 10:36AM
Espresso has its roots in Italy. The espresso machine as we know it today was invented in 1938 with a pump driven machine delivering hot water under pressure with steam power for hot milk and foam.
So what is espresso? A single shot of espresso is produced from 7 grams of finely ground and compressed coffee beans and under pressure. The general rule is that 30 ml of liquid is extracted in 20 to 30 seconds, but there is flexibility depending upon the beans, machinery and subjective taste.
However, if the extraction is too fast or two slow, excess acidity and or bitterness is likely to result. When made correctly, espresso based drinks have naturally pleasant flavours and sweetness in the drink itself. Sugar only serves to disguise flaws in the coffee or the process or to hide these natural flavours.
When extracted correctly a concentrated shot of espresso coffee is produced with thick crema containing gasses and oils overlaying black liquid. Watching espresso poured we see a “Guinness effect” with the crema settling on top.
There are 4 critical requirements for making good espresso:
Fresh coffee is essential and this usually means that the coffee beans are no more than three weeks old (post roasting) and a skilled operator of the machine (a trained barista) is equally important. The espresso grinder needs to have flat or conical burrs to grind the beans evenly and whilst the espresso machine is important the quality of the grinder is even more so.
Espresso is short strong and concentrated drink. Espresso is also commonly consumed with steamed milk. Milk is steamed to create smooth, creamy textured microfoam. When the milk is steamed properly sugars are released bringing more natural sweetness to the espresso and creating a wonderful texture or mouth feel as well. The milk and microfoam can be used to create the following drinks:
Cappuccino – a shot of espresso with milk and a layer microfoam of approximately 15mm, and commonly topped with a sprinkle of chocolate and cinnamon
Café latte – a shot of espresso with milk and a layer microfoam of approximately 10mm
Macchiato – a shot of espresso served in a small espresso cup with just a dash of hot milk and microfoam
There are other variations including ice coffee and flavoured drinks but the above are the mainstays of milk based coffee drinks.
Danny Hyams is an Australian coffee roaster, barista and barista trainer based in Phuket. He runs the Garage coffee shop in Kamala, and also provides advice and sales of a range of coffee equipment and coffee beans, and imports coffees for sale and roasts his own. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 080-534-5512.