Espresso is a beverage that is produced by pushing hot water (between 190F and 195F in temperature) at high pressure (between 8 and 9 bars, or 135 PSI) through a bed of finely ground, compacted coffee. A normal single shot of espresso is approximately 1 to 1.5 ounces of liquid, using approximately 7 grams of ground coffee. A normal double shot is between 2 and 2.5 ounces, using double the volume of coffee grounds. When brewed properly, the resulting beverage is topped with a dark golden cream, called crema.
Therefore, at its simplest, an espresso machine must do all of the following:
That's pretty much what an espresso machine is. The result of the above parameters is that using an espresso machine, a shot of espresso can be brewed in under 30 seconds. When you consider most automatic drip coffee makers take 8 or 10 minutes to brew, espresso, which means fast or quick in loose Italian translation, suddenly seems very appropriately named. You should also keep in mind that all espresso machines also include a steam wand that can dispense hot water for tea or hot chocolate or steam so that you can froth and steam milk for delicious cappuccinos and lattes.
But even though espresso machines are similar in all the ways listed above, different types of espresso machines use different means to reach the same end. Let’s take a closer look at these varying methods.
Manual or “Piston” Espresso Machines
Manual machines were the first “real” espresso machines (those that met the requirements above) to be developed, and are still widely popular today. The machines consist of a large boiler that holds and heats all of the water necessary for brewing and steaming/frothing milk. When the boiler is at the correct temperature for brewing espresso, the operator simply lifts the lever, which raises a piston inside the grouphead. Water begins to flow from the boiler into the grouphead and seeps down through the coffee grounds in the portafilter. The coffee begins to drip from the spouts into your cup. When this happens the lever is then pressed down - also pushing the piston down and plunging the rest of the water through the coffee grounds. When the lever is pushed all of the way down, the brew cycle or extraction of espresso is complete and then you can repeat the process to make more espresso. With a piston lever espresso machine, you act as the machine's pump, applying direct pressure by means of the lever and pushing brew water through a finely ground, compacted bed of ground coffee at pressures of 8 BAR or greater.
These machines are not very easy to figure out at first, but they reward the diligent. Those who invest hours or days of practice with the machine can become true espresso connoisseurs that can literally "pull" the most amazing shots possible. As you can see, these machines are not necessarily for weekend warrior espresso fans. These machines are for the diehard espresso lover. But if cappuccino, lattes, or mochas are your thing, then their large boilers provide ample steam for producing perfect foamed and steamed milk.
For the most part, lever style machines have been pushed aside by modern technology and the desire for great espresso with less effort. Electric pump driven machines with sophisticated temperature and pressure monitoring devices and computers are the way of the future it seems, but it will be tough to replace the old world charm and reliable function of the lever espresso machine. La Pavoni and Gaggia continue the hand build the functional work of art to this day.
Semi Automatic Espresso Machines
Semi automatic machines use an electric water pump as opposed to the lever and piston design. They have a separate water reservoir where water is stored until it is pulled into the boiler to be heated and used for brewing or steaming/frothing milk. In short, these machines make the production of espresso much easier and consistent. Semi autos automatically regulate the activity of the water temperature for brewing and steaming as well as the activity of the built in electric water pump.
Semi autos are named as such because there is still a bit of work that you need to do in order to brew. Just like manual espresso machines, semi autos have a portafilter – an attachment that holds ground coffee during the brewing process. Before brewing, the portafilter will need to be filled with ground coffee. Then this coffee will need to be tamped, or compacted, in order for the coffee to fit properly and to create additional resistance during brewing. Then the portafilter is attached to the machine. To start the brewing process, you simply push the coffee brew switch causing the electric water pump to draw water from the boiler and force it under pressure through the portafilter and coffee grounds. When the proper amount of espresso has been brewed, just turn off the brew switch and you are done.
In the same family of semi automatic machines are automatic espresso machines. This term confuses most people because they may think automatic implies the machine does everything including grinding, tamping, and disposing of the used coffee grounds. This type of machine does exist, but is called a super automatic (you can read more about these machines below). An automatic is essentially the same as a semiautomatic except that it automatically controls the volume of water that is dispensed through the coffee grounds. As a matter of convenience you can choose among two to three programmable brewing buttons. The buttons can be programmed by you to tell the machine to run a certain amount of water though the coffee grounds in the portafilter, then automatically stop. Since it can take up to 30 seconds to brew two shots of espresso this automatic feature frees you to prepare other ingredients for your beverage while the machine is brewing the espresso. Many commercial machines use automatic systems such as this to give the drink better consistency and to allow the Barista to prepare other beverages in a timely fashion. However, all of the steps of preparing the coffee for brewing, including adding and tamping the coffee grounds, will still be the same as a semi automatic model.
Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Simply put, super automatic espresso and coffee centers are amazing. Yes, they make espresso, café crème, and they are capable of making all coffee house drinks like lattes, mochas, cappuccino and more. But most of the preparation for brewing is completed automatically by the machine – all at the press of a button.
A super automatic machine has all of the same basic components that semi and automatic espresso machines like an electric water pump, boiler, water reservoir, steam wand, and a variety of dials and switches. What makes super automatics different is that they have an automated internal brewing system and a high-quality burr coffee grinder built in. All of these components come together with the help of an onboard computer to quickly and effortlessly produce perfect and consistent espresso without the mess and guesswork that one might experience with either a semi or automatic espresso machine.
When you push the coffee brew button, coffee beans held inside the machine will be ground and placed into the internal brewing system. The pump will automatically start the flow of hot water through the coffee grounds and then result in espresso being automatically dispensed into your cup from spouts located on the front of the machine. Immediately after brewing has finished, the internal brewing system will take the used coffee grounds and discard them into the onboard waist box for later disposal. From start to finish you can have a fresh cup of espresso or café crème in 30 seconds.
One shining ability of super automatic espresso machines and the reason they are dubbed “coffee centers” as well, is that they can produce a coffee beverage called café crème. This coffee is brewed in the same manner as espresso. However, where espresso is brewed relatively slow (about 15-20 seconds for 1.5 ounces), cafe crème is brewed at a faster rate. Espresso brews slower because the coffee grounds are required to be very fine, which restricts the water flow through the grounds. This helps give espresso its intense flavor and strength. For café crème, simply make a small adjustment to the coffee grinder to make the coffee grounds coarser. This in turn will allow the water to flow more freely through the coffee grounds as required. The result is a wonderfully aromatic and flavor-rich coffee that is a smooth replacement for the same-old drip coffee.
As you can see, espresso machines can be rather diverse despite their similarities. Figuring out which type will suit you best will mainly come down to how involved in the brewing process you’d like to be. If you’re a really hands-on person, a manual or semi automatic machine is probably for you. If you’re into quick and easy, a super automatic is something you should consider. But no matter which type you choose, you can be sure that your machine will be perfectly equipped to make those espresso drinks you’ve been craving.
It seems like nowadays everyone is looking for an easier way out – a way to cut some corners and make things more manageable. Industry leaders have caught on to this idea and have developed several espresso machines and coffeemakers that utilize pre-packaged Espresso Pods, Capsules or K-Cups that make the brewing process even more efficient.Exclusively ESE Approved Pod Machines
An Easy Serving Espresso Pod, commonly referred to as an ESE approved pod is a single-serving pre-packaged espresso pod that has been specifically shaped to fit perfectly inside the chamber of an espresso machine. The amount of coffee, its grind and the degree to which it has been pressed is all specifically defined to ensure a perfect cup of espresso. So all the grinding, dosing and tamping is streamlined! The hassle and mess often associated with a grinder is gone and replaced with a simple pod.
Espresso machines like the FrancisFrancis! X6 Trio and Espressione Grace Auto come with a portafilter that exclusively uses these ESE approved espresso pods. The X6 Trio has a three-position portafilter that allows you to brew a lungo, ristretto or standard shot of espresso, while the Espressione Grace Auto has an attached hinged portafilter. Although these machines have differently designed portafilters, they both have the look and feel of a regular semi-automatic with a chrome plated brass portafilter and stainless steel accents.Versatile Pod and Ground Espresso Machines
Some machines by Capresso, Espressione, Gaggia, Saeco, FrancisFrancis! and la Pavoni have the ability to brew delicious tasting espresso using either pre-packaged ESE espresso pods or ground coffee. By simply swapping out the included filter baskets or portafilters, you can easily switch back and forth between ground coffee or espresso pods on some machines.
If you enjoy making espresso at home, you may find using espresso pods like Illy a quick and easy way to brew espresso while giving you the taste and consistency you are looking for. While most pods are sold in fairly large quantities, many of them now come individually wrapped in oxygen free, foil sealed packets for extra freshness. Both Lavazza and Espressione Pods are individually sealed.
Nespresso Capsule Only Machines
Capsule machines are just as convenient as machines that use espresso pods because they too come in single serving portions in two sizes. The entire line of Nespresso machines operates exclusively with Nespresso capsules. Nespresso capsules are available in 12 different types of coffee strengths and characteristics – making brewing a variety of coffees extremely easy. The Nespresso Capsule System creates a precise and tidy brewing experience s ince ground espresso and other brands of pods or capsules cannot be used to make espresso with these machines.
Keurig, a Dutch company known for single-cup coffee brewers, offers a coffeemaker that brews the perfect cup of gourmet coffee using a K-Cup system. A K-cup is extremely similar to the Nespresso capsule system, however, a K-Cup is unique in its shape. While the end of a Nespresso Capsule is pointed, a K-Cup is flat on the bottom. These single-serving brewing cups are easy to use and dispose of, and come in many varieties of coffee from roasters like Green Mountain, Gloria Jean's, Timothy's and Van Houtte.
While all of these machines not only save time and energy, they also control the consistency and quality of your coffee, so there is no more guesswork! And because these machines are so user friendly anyone can look like an acclaimed barista instantly.
Dosing vs. Non-Dosing Burr Grinders
A dosing grinder has a compartment on the front that catches all the grounds as they are dispensed from the grinder. This compartment contains separators that divide it into even sections, like pie pieces. As these sections are filled with ground coffee, the user pulls a lever on the side of the compartment, which turns the separators and the ground coffee contained within. One or two lever-pulls later, the ground coffee ends up over a hole in the bottom of the compartment, allowing it to be dispensed, or “dosed”.
There are a couple of reasons why this type of grinder is beneficial for use with espresso machines. First off, each section in the doser holds about 7 grams of coffee – enough for a single shot of espresso. Secondly, dosing grinders are usually designed so that you dose your coffee directly into your portafilter. They only provide a couple of inches of clearance between the bottom of the doser and your countertop, and usually have what we call a “portafilter fork”, which holds your portafilter in place. These two features generally make it a little more difficult to fit a drip coffee filter or other container underneath the doser.
Manufacturers are savvy to the fact that people use their grinders for more than just espresso, so they also offer doserless grinders. Instead of a doser, these grinders either have a chute that comes out of the machine and dispenses coffee right after it’s ground, or an internal grinds catcher that is removable after grinding is complete. The chute version allows you to use just about anything to catch the grounds, be it a portafilter, filter basket, or whole French press carafe. With an internal grinds catcher, you can easily dump the grounds into a filter or French press, or scoop out what you need to fill your portafilter. The only drawback we find with doserless models is that they tend to be a little messier because the coffee grounds can sometimes miss their target and land on the counter.
Stepped vs. Stepless Grind Adjustment Mechanisms
All burr grinders have some sort of mechanism for you to adjust the grind setting. This is what allows you to use the same grinder for everything from a Turkish to a French press. (Please note that not all burr grinders have this wide range of grinding capability.) Simply put, stepped grind adjustments have prefabricated settings for you to choose from, whereas stepless grinders have “infinite” grind adjustment capability.
There are two types of stepped setting grinders: self-locking and variable locking. Self-locking mechanisms allow you to either turn a knob or the whole bean hopper to make adjustments to the grind setting. As the setting is moved from fine to coarse you will hear a click. Each click represents one level of adjustment. These are the most popular systems because you can simply turn and “click” your way to the desired setting and once you reach that setting the adjustment will stay locked in that position. On the other hand, variable locking adjustments require that you push a release lever or button while you turn the hopper to the desired grind setting. Holding that lever or button “unlocks” the grind adjustment system and allows movement in either direction. The overall advantage to a stepped setting grinder is that you can easily toggle back and forth between settings. If you do happen to forget the particular setting you were on, it’s also pretty simple to narrow it back down to the correct one.
This method of adjusting the grind setting is nice because it allows for an infinite number of settings and the fine-tuning of your grind. It allows for the slightest movement between settings if you need that perfect grind for espresso. Stepless grinders are usually adusted through either the use of a lever on the side of the hopper like the (like the Mazzer Mini or by turning the bean hopper (like the Pasquini Moka). Although it’s a little easier to “lose your place” if you change grind settings, the great thing about stepless adjustment is that you have precise control over the grind setting. These grinders do have markings to guide you, but if, for example, you find a particular grind is a little too coarse and the next notch down is a little too fine, you can adjust in between them to get the perfect grind for your machine.
High-Speed vs. Low-Speed Burr Grinders
When we’re talking about high and low speed burr grinders, the difference is actually found in the motor contained in the machine. High-speed grinders have smaller, cheaper motors that need to turn at a higher speed in order to get the grinding done. On the other hand, low-speed grinders contain more expensive motors that run more slowly, but are more powerful.
Obviously, high-speed grinders are very popular because you get the grind consistency and quality of a burr grinder, but at a lower cost. Low-speed grinders do have somewhat of an advantage though. One of the biggest differences is that because the low-speed grinder moves more slowly, the beans and grounds are exposed to less heat than with a high-speed grinder. Heat begins to extract the flavor of the coffee, so for maximum flavor, you want them to be exposed to as little heat as possible. In addition, low-speed grinders avoid producing the small amount of static electricity that high-speed grinders can generate.
Low-speed burr grinders also come in two different types: gear reduction and direct drive. Each is a little step up from a high-speed grinder, simply for the reasons listed in the paragraph above. What sets these two types of low-speed grinders apart is the way that they become low-speed.
Gear Reduction vs. Direct Drive Burr Grinders
In a gear reduction burr grinder a high-speed electric motor is connected to a gear reduction system or transmission. Gear reduction systems are used to harness the power of a small, lower-cost motor and amplify it so it can handle heavier loads. This type of gear reduction is the same principle used for motors that turn a Ferris wheel at the amusement park. Although it spins at a high rate of speed, the motor is attached to a spinning drive shaft, which in turn is attached to a series of gears that gradually slow the rate of the large wheel you are riding on. Without gear reduction, the rotation speed of the motor (and the Ferris wheel) would fling you out of your seat and into the circus tent roof.
Direct drive burr grinders have a powerful electric low-speed motor that is connected directly to the cutting wheel and does not have any gears. The motor and the cutting wheel are turning at the same speed. This system is the best method to use because the motor and grinding system are designed specifically for each other and they work in harmony to produce excellent results.
Now your grinder training is complete. You know all there is to know about grinders, what their available features are, and what the corresponding advantages and disadvantages are. Arm yourself with that knowledge and take the next big step; take a look at our selection of grinders by clicking here.
|To get the best shot possible, keep the following brewing parameters in mind:|
A single shot is made with 7 grams of coffee, and should yield 1 – 1.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.
A double shot is made with 14 grams of coffee, and should yield 2 – 2.5 oz of espresso in 20 –25 seconds.
When you’re grinding your own beans for this process, it is also helpful to keep your tamp at a consistent 30 lbs of pressure (or a bit lighter if you have a pressurized style portafilter). If you’re not sure what 30 lbs of pressure feels like, we recommend “practice” tamping on your bathroom scale to get the feel of it. The reason to keep this pressure consistent is so that if your shots aren’t falling into the 20 –25 second range, you will only have one variable to change: your grind setting.
If you’re grinding your own beans and find that your:
If you’re using preground coffee and find that your:
I admit it; I’m a sun-worshipping summer baby. In the dead of winter, I’m a fake n’ baker—pit stopping at the local tanning salon on a semi-regular basis. In warmer weather, I brazenly bask in the sun’s glory, as often as my schedule permits. But, I’m not completely irresponsible; I know the havoc that UV rays can wreak on the skin and begrudgingly carry a bottle of sunblock in my purse, as a result. With over a million Americans diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancers every year, I, for one, will take all the help I can get. But, who knew that, of all things, coffee could lend a helping hand!
A study, recently published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, reveals that caffeine actually helps to kill UV-damaged skin cells—responsible for causing a number of skin cancers. This finding seems to echo several earlier studies, showing that those who regularly consume coffee or tea are less likely to develop nonmelanoma skin cancers. One particularly promising report comes to us courtesy of the researchers at the University of Washington. They followed over 90,000 Caucasian women and the results were astonishing. The women’s risk of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer dropped by 5% with every cup of caffeinated coffee they consumed! But, it’s important to note that decaffeinated coffee had no effect on the participants and tea was only half as effective as regular coffee in preventing the development of skin cancer.
Scientists are just as excited about the studies’ results as the rest of us. There’s been talk that these findings could lead to the development of caffeinated lotions, with the ability to safeguard against certain types of skin cancers and reverse the effects of UV damage. Until then, I think I’ll pack a cup of Joe with me the next time I hit the beach!
I’m not a cook; my culinary skills begin and end at the microwave. But, this banana coffee muffin recipe seems pretty straightforward; it should be doable for even the kitchen-challenged, like me.
When you’re ready to get started, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you grease a muffin tin that has at least 12 cups or, if you prefer, use paper liners.
Throw your butter, bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, and coffee into a big bowl and mix it all together. Then, add the salt and baking soda and continue to mix. After that, pour the flour into your bowl and mix until the batter has a good consistency and add the pecans.
Pour your batter into the muffin tin, divvying it up into equal parts. That’s it; throw that baby into the oven for 20-30 minutes and you’ve got some killer banana coffee muffins!
Hint: Let the muffin tin cool on a rack after it is done baking. If you’re not sure whether the muffins are ready, stick a toothpick into a random muffin, if the toothpick comes out clean, then you’re good to go!
Michael’s Banana Coffee Muffins from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/michaels-banana-coffee-muffins-recipe/index.html
Frugal is the new black. Seriously. With the economy sputtering for the past year and a half, cost consciousness is on the rise among savvy Americans. But instead of quitting our indulgences cold turkey, many of us are looking for ways to cut costs while still retaining our quality of life.
If your routine includes stops at the local café, those daily drinks can add up quickly—and put quite a dent on your wallet. For instance, if you buy a $4.27 Venti Mocha every day, that comes out to be almost $120 a month or nearly $1500 a year! Ouch.
But, we at Aabree would never tell you to give up your java, not with all the health benefits it provides. Instead, consider brewing at home. If you invest in a decent espresso machine, you could make those fancy frappe-cappa-lattes at home and save some big bucks in the long run.
Once you’ve already decided to become a home barista, a great way to save even more cash is by checking out sale items. Aabree has an extensive sale section, featuring everything from machines to coffee and accessories for up to 50% off. You could, conceivably, create your very own home café for half off retail price.
If there’s a machine you’ve been lusting after and it’s not on our sale page, consider getting a reconditioned unit. Aabree has a wide selection of reconditioned machines available for up to 44% off regular price. Our reconditioned machines are guaranteed to be in perfect working condition and all come with warranties, ensuring your complete satisfaction.
Now, if you’re a true bargain hunter, make sure to keep an eye on your e-mail inbox, we send weekly specials and coupons that will save you a ton of dough. So, there’s no excuse to overpay for another a cup of Joe. It’s never been easier to brew your own morning latte, cappuccino, Americano, or espresso. Take a peek at our inventory and discover the money saving secrets home baristas have known for years.
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