All About Espresso: Part 2
Hey coffee fans! Welcome to part two of our series on espresso brewing. In part one we went over what goes into the perfect espresso roast, and the basics on what espresso is and why it works.
There's a number of different accoutrements that contribute to brewing great espresso beyond a grinder and a machine. We'll outline them here!
Tampers are perhaps the most important piece of gear outside of your machine and your grinder. After grinding and distributing the coffee in the portafilter, the next step is the tamp! To tamp, use your tamper (pictured here) to apply approximately 30 lbs. of pressure to the coffee. This compresses the ground coffee into the puck that the espresso machine presses water through.
Another consideration for tamping is purchasing a tamping mat (pictured with the tamper). A mat can help protect your countertop as you tamp the puck. This can avoid nicks and scratches on a counter.
You may not think of it, but a scale is a key piece of the espresso maker's arsenal. By precisely weighing dose (the amount of coffee in the portafilter) and output (the weight of the liquid coming out of the machine) you can effectively dial in an espresso machine. It's worth making sure that you get a scale that is waterproof and compact so that it can sit under your shot glass as you pull the shot. This can be a tall, expensive order, but make sure you're at least able to weigh the coffee going in, even if you can't weigh the shot coming out.
Odds and Ends
There are a number of other odds and ends to consider in your espresso setup. Distributors are tools that help you level the coffee in the portafilter. This is important because uneven distribution can lead to your shots pulling unevenly as well. You want to make sure that water is evenly saturating the puck as you pull that shot, and distributors make that easier.
Another tool that helps more with clean up than brewing is a knock box. A knock box is a container with a foam covered bar in the middle. You can use the box to "knock" the portafilter on the bar and clean out the puck. After knocking the puck out you'll just need to do a quick wipe down of the portafilter and cleanup is complete! Once the knock box fills up you can simply empty it into your garbage or compost bin.
Check our part three, where we walk through dialing in a shot, from start to finish!