Espresso is hot right now, in more ways than one. This Italian drink consists of steaming water that has been forced through finely ground coffee bean in an espresso maker. A “shot” of espresso is only 1-1/2 ounces, and is topped with a characteristic foam called “crema.”
The finished espresso is often mixed with hot milk and other ingredients to form cappacino and other treats. Since espresso is quite expensive from the many stands and shops that currently sell it, you may want to have an espresso machine in your home. An espresso machine can do it all for you from grinding your coffee beans to frothing your milk, or you can grind the coffee yourself, right in your own kitchen.
The least expensive espresso machine is a steam driven model that can be purchased for about $30. Beyond that are the espresso machines made with electromagnetic pumps. The espresso machine comes in a very wide range of prices, from around $100 all the way up into the thousands.
Some styles of espresso machine are completely automatic, while others require a certain amount of artistry on the part of the “barista,” or person making the espresso.
How to Use
To use an espresso machine, you first have to put the finely ground coffee into a little filter basket with a handle. This basket is called a portafilter. You lock this into place with a brewhead. Since espresso is made under pressure, this brew-head must be very secure. The water comes through something similar to a little shower-head into the coffee.
The coffee grounds must be “tamped” into the portafilter to just the right degree of tightness for the brewing process to take exactly twenty-five seconds. If it is tamped too firmly, the espresso machine will take too long, and if it is too loosely, it will go too fast, which will result in weak espresso.
Usually an espresso machine has a steam wand. This is a device that has the hot steam moving through it, and is used to heat and froth milk and other liquids added to the espresso when creating drinks. Sometimes an espresso machine has attachments that go with the steam wand for special effects.
Another labor saving device that can be used are pre-ground and formed packets of coffee called pods. These simplify the process, but they also take limit the personal touch so many people enjoy when preparing food or serving guests.