How To Get the Best Coffee At Home: Home Espresso Machine Tips and Tricks

How To Get the Best Coffee at Home: Home Espresso Machine Tips and Tricks

Sometimes, the tools we have are just not enough. We need to know how to use them to be able to reach their full benefit – and allow the machines to produce the best possible coffee. We’ve curated tips and tricks from professional Barista’s for making the closest to commercial-quality coffee as possible. Now, this review has been done for home Espresso machines – and NOT automatic coffee machines. Automatic coffee machines, like most Jura’s etc. have internal brew groups, grinders, milk frothers etc. This takes away from being an integral part of the coffee-making process, and would not be true to coffee itself. Sit back and enjoy learning some useful “coffee hacks”, sure to impress anyone who appreciates a good brew.

Perfect Coffee at Home: Getting your Machine Ready

Although home Espresso machines are designed around ease of use, allowing the machine to prepare itself properly can make the world of difference. Some tips and tricks include allowing your machine to heat up for at least half an hour; your porta-filter and group head should be too hot to hold your hand on. The reason for this is to create a thick, light crema, which is enhanced by piping-hot brewing equipment. It’s also a good idea to place the cup which you plan on using onto the heating tray (if your machine has one); if not – fill your cup with boiling filtered water and allow it to sit while you prepare your milk and coffee.

Ingredients for Home Espresso: Accessories Not Included

Anyone who has a passion for coffee knows that the only way to ensure the freshest cup is to grind your roasted coffee beans freshly; only grind the amount you will need (about 2 – 4 tablespoons of beans) so that you are not left with unused coffee grounds – they will go stale incredibly fast.

Now, when buying those precious little coffee beans – remember that a good coffee bean is like a good Scotch whiskey; you get what you pay for – and sometimes a slightly higher price equates directly into higher quality coffee.

Back to grinding your coffee beans: whether you’re fortunate enough to have a burr grinder, or even if you only have a blade grinder, make sure that your grind ends in the consistency closest to that of castor sugar. Any coarser grind will mean the quality of your extraction is compromised.

Once your coffee is ground, leave it in the grinder so it does not lose any aroma – and move on to the next step.

Making Great Coffee: Know How

So, in many expert opinions, it’s best to start with frothing your milk. The reason behind this is that if you brew your espresso first and allow it to stand while you finish off the other elements, it will lose that amazing aroma, flavour and heat. It’s also recommended that you use either full cream or 2% milk; this milk has a higher protein content and allows for optimal micro-foaming.

Using a single-cup stainless steel jug, fill it just over half way (around 130-140ml). “Purge” your steam wand for between 2-3 seconds to remove any previous milk residue (if any of this residue stays behind the taste of your coffee is definitely going to be diminished).

How do you purge a steam wand?

There should be a lever in close proximity to the steam wand which allows for it to expel steam as normal without actually activating the wand; deploy this and wait for steam to escape from the wand; some water may be expelled too, but make sure steam is omitted, too, before switching the wand back off.

To micro-foam your milk, remove the bulky cover of your steam wand to reveal a much slimmer inner coating. This will allow for even better micro-foam (a denser and creamier variant of normal foam). Place the steam wand just under the surface are of your milk (about 1.5cm), at a slight angle.

Only once you have inserted the wand into your milk should you switch it on. Hold your stainless steel single cup milk jug sturdy while the wand works it’s magic – look for signs of it getting close to being ready: the jug should start to heat up, and the larger surface bubbles on your milk will begin to disappear. Once the milk has minuscule bubbles throughout, and the jug is as hot as you can handle, switch off the steam wand FIRST and then remove the jug. Wipe off your wand immediately.

It’s important to do two things to your frothed milk once this is done; tap the jug once or twice when placing it down, and “swirl” the jug a few times to make sure the milk does not separate from your micro foam. Don’t forget to purge and wipe off your steam wand again before moving on.

Now you can move onto the coffee!

Remove your porta-filter, tap out any coffee grounds that may have been left behind and wipe down the internal basket. Do a quick-rinse on the “shower” – the perforated area that your water will come out through into your porta-filter. Do this by pressing the same button you would use to brew coffee as normal, but only allow the water to treacle through for about 5 seconds.

Back to the porta-filter; add your coffee grounds to the internal basket and slightly over-fill it (small heap). Even this out gently with a clean finger. Proceed to tamp the coffee: it’s recommended you use a minimum of 13kg’s of pressure to tamp the coffee sufficiently. An easy way to measure the metric pressure applied is to place your porta-filter on a regular bathroom scale, apply pressure until it reads 13kg’s (over and above the weight of the porta-filter) and try remember the level of pressure you applied.

After the first tamping, gently knock the porta-filter against the side of the machine, and re-tamp at the same pressure. An easy way to test if you have tamped well is to briefly overturn the porta-filter; no grounds should fall out if they are sufficiently tamped.

It’s important that you try keep the above process short, which will become easier over time, and get to extracting your coffee as soon as possible. Add your porta-filter to it’s spot and watch the coffee brew. The “blonding” of the coffee signals the readiness level it is at. The crema will temporarily lighten the entire brew, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Quick fact: Crema is the light brown foam that appears on coffee whilst brewing. It is the oils contained inside the beans that has been extracted, and due to the difference in density of oil and water, sits at the top of the coffee.

Tap your milk jug once or twice to re-bind the milk and micro-foam and spin it again. Gently add the milk to the extracted coffee to reveal a close-to-cafe-quality cup of well brewed coffee.

Adding some latte art might be enjoyable, even adding a sprinkling of cinnamon or chocolate flavouring might set your coffee apart – but in staying true to the goal of this exercise – we’re after the best quality taste – not appearance.

Now that you know a few tips and tricks to improve on the quality of your coffee, go ahead and try it out.
We’d love to hear your best tips and tricks for brewing an amazing cuppa Joe 🙂