If you're new to Italian espresso and espresso machines, it can be a little intimidating. Sure, you can use espresso pods for a quick and convenient cup, but nothing beats freshly ground whole bean. So here are some tips on how to make an excellent cup of fresh espresso, as well as helpful info on Italian coffee culture itself.
DON'T: Use tap water
There are two reasons to use filtered water instead of tap water for your espresso machine: taste and machine maintenance. Hard water, meaning water that contains unfiltered minerals and other particles, can interfere with the taste of your espresso. Pre-filtering your water before filling your machine, or even using bottled water, will help you get closer to the true flavor of the coffee grounds. Your machine will also thank you for using filtered water, as unfiltered water can lead to increased limescale build-up that can affect the efficiency and longevity of your machine. If a sophisticated machine isn't in the budget, try the Moka pots we have available at SupermarketItaly.com.
DO: Tamp the ground espresso
What really makes espresso different from coffee is the compactness of the grounds and the water pressure applied. Drip coffee is when hot water is poured over loose grounds. To make espresso, the grounds must be much more compact so the machine can then push hot water through it with considerable force. This is what gives the drink its intense flavor. After you grind your whole beans, use the tamp to flatten them.
DON'T: Drink an espresso shot without crema
The crema is the layer of tan or amber-colored foam that floats on top of your freshly brewed espresso. A good crema is an indication of the high quality of your coffee. An espresso shot with a poor crema or no crema at all should be tossed in favor of better quality beans.
DO: Stir your espresso
Once you've taken a moment to observe the consistency of the crema and smell the wonderful aromas, it is recommended to stir the espresso. This blends everything together for a more balanced tasting experience.
DON'T: Add milk
While it is acceptable to add a sprinkle of sugar to your espresso, do not add any other milk or sweeteners. The essence of espresso is that it is straight, intense coffee. If you find the need to add milk due to the bitterness, go ahead and make a cappuccino instead.
DO: Drink it quickly
It's in the name, isn't it? Espresso is meant to be enjoyed quickly; if you had the time, you would sit at the local café for a leisurely cup of coffee. You also want to be sure to experience all the immediate flavors and aromas right away. Italian coffee culture has specific customs, and this is one of them!