Preparing a Good Espresso

 "Espresso" is a beverage with characteristics so particular, whose system of preparation characterizes a beverage of small volume, of not more than 45 cm3, aromatic, concentrated and intense and of a balanced flavor, covered with a layer of golden cream that remains in the surface that is generally consumed in less than three swallows.

The secret to obtain a perfect espresso lies in the need to control the multiple variables that influence its preparation, making of this process a true art and the resulting espresso in a complex delight of colors, flavors and aromas concentrated in a cup of coffee.

The methods of espresso preparation constitute the only system in which a limited amount of water is forced through the coffee of fine grinding and compressed, obtaining a cup almost at an instant.

There are various systems, in accordance with the way of providing the pressure to the water:

1.  Semi automatic

It uses a pump, in charge of providing the pressure to the water for the preparation. The operator should manually manage a control to initiate and end the flow of water.

2.  Automatic

It has an electronic control system that dispenses the amount of water required for a short or a large espresso.

Of course one has to know the type of Colombian Coffee to use.

 

The Coffee

The Colombian Coffee used to prepare espresso should be of uniform color and should not contain defective beans. The color or degree of roasting is generally located between medium and medium - dark, taking into account that a too dark roast level will fix a burnt flavor with the presence of oils in its surface that quickly oxidizes, further affecting the flavor. A very light roast degree will provide a non characteristic bitter and sometimes annoying flavor to the espresso beverage.

The freshness is essential; the coffee should have up to one month from being processed. The oils and the lipids present in the coffee are in a great measure responsible for the cream in the espresso. Modern packaging technology allows for the preservation of the freshness of the bean for more time.

It is also important to have in mind that due to effects of the temperature. In some dark roasts one may notice  in the bean surface characteristic oils that contribute to the flavor of the espresso, but that at the same time are very susceptible to the deterioration due to the action of the oxygen of the air.

 

The water

It usually contains minerals in a variety of concentrations and some of them could even interfere in the flavor of the espresso or promote the formation of incrustations in the boiler. Due to this reason it is a practice to use filters connected to the water system of the coffee pots.

 

The operator

Last, but of the same importance than the previously noted parameters, the person in charge of manipulating the machine and prepare the espresso should be conscious that his labor is vital in obtaining the best beverage. He should also have skills that will assure the adequate handling of the coffee and the correct operation of the machine as well as its correct service. This is why it is important that the operator be well trained and informed on all the steps to be followed to achieve its objectives.

 

To prepare an Espresso

The preparation of an espresso constitutes a ritual that combines art and technique; and as every ritual it has its own rules.

The necessary conditions to prepare a good espresso are: 

 

                Amount of coffee                    7 - 7, 5 g.

               Temperature of the water         88 - 92 ºC  (190-200 ºF)

               Pressure of the water               9 - 10 bars

               Time of preparation                 20 - 30 s

 

Organoleptic Characteristics

The tasting of an espresso is a rather complex experience. Drinkers recognize the components and understand the source of the flavors they enjoy.

 

The cream

It is valued by the color, the texture and the persistence; the cream constitutes for the consumer the guarantee of a correct preparation.  

The dark color, with a white dot or a black hole at the middle indicates that the espresso has been over - extracted. This may happen because the coffee was ground too fine, too much coffee was used to prepare the beverage or that the time of extraction has been too long.

The light and inconsistent color indicates a low extraction of coffee. Probably due to a short time of extraction, caused by a smaller amount of coffee than the one required and/or a degree of grinding much coarser than what it is ideal.

 

Aroma  

Governed by the appraisement of its intensity and quality, the aroma of this beverage is of utmost interest.  

 

Body

If the mouth seems to be filled with a creamy layer, it is considered as a sensation of fullness.

 

Flavor

It is the equilibrium between the flavors and the ideal harmony between bitter and sweet.

 

Bitter

A characteristic flavor of variable intensity according to the size of the cup and the origin of the coffee bean, it could be of unpleasant character when an error has been made during the preparation.

 

Persistence of the aroma or an "after taste"

It is the lasting flavor after tasting the beverage. This is because micro drops of oil and liquid are trapped in the surface of the tongue keeping the characteristic flavor of the espresso for around 15 minutes after drinking it.

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