At ROASTe we brew A LOT of espresso.
Here are some espresso tips for you to brew better espresso coffee
Espresso Tip 1: Use an espresso blend rather than a single-origin coffee. Single-origin coffees from Panama, Hawaii, Colombia etc. might be all the rage when prepared in automatic drip machines and french presses. But espresso machines put the beans under 8 atmospheres of pressure and are ideally producing a super-concentrated syrupy molasses of a beverage. A blend of beans is perfect for espresso because it can give a more complex taste to go with the syrupy richness of espresso. In my experience single-origin coffees don't always stand up to an espresso machine. Well to be honest after weeks of using espresso blends I like to pull some single-origin espresso just for a change of pace. But it still tastes too thin for many taste buds. Espresso blends contain 2 -- and we've heard of up to 10 -- different beans to balance the flavor. Buy espresso blends for the most well rounded and complex flavors.
Espresso Tip 2: Crema is a godsend. It is the frothy light-beige foam with tiny bubbles on top of your espresso. It's your best friend. It is a good thing because it contains more oil than the dark extruded espresso in your cup and contains much of the flavor. And have you tried a steak without fat? A chicken breast with all fat removed? Then you'll taste what food is like without fat. The fat molecules that mix into the crema hold a lot of the aromatics and flavor of your coffee. Relish it. And don't fret that it's fat. It's probably less than a gram of fat. You'll consume more fat inhaling while walking past a bakery.
Espresso Tip 3: In espresso, 100% Arabica doesn't matter. Remember how everyone touts their 100% Arabica bean coffee? It doesn't matter in espresso. You may want Robusta beans in your espresso blend because it adds punch, oomph and a strong flavor. Think Robusta beans add ashiness and a burnt flavor to your espresso? Marketing magicians want you to believe that. But it's just not true. Robustas add a nice flavor that rounds out many espressos. Almost every Italian espresso we carry includes Robusta beans and they add strength and oomph to the espressos without embedding any bitterness of ashiness. There are plenty of low-quality Arabica beans that can add ashiness and bitterness, from places like Brazil, India and Vietnam. (But just for the record there are great Arabica beans from those countries too!)
Espresso Tip 4: Espresso is a kind of blend, not a dark roast. Somehow we think that espresso coffee is dark roasted coffee so dark that you see some of the oil on the outside of the bean. Not so. Espresso is a method of preparing the coffee in a pump machine under pressure to give you the syrupy concentrated drink. There are many coffee blends that contain light and medium roasted beans too. Not just dark. Our recommendation: Try lots of blends. One of our roasters mixes into their espresso blend 1/3 light coffee, 1/3 medium and 1/3 dark. Another does half and half or medium and dark. Some are just medium roast. I think that we get this impression that espresso coffee must be dark roasted because Italians like their coffee very dark. Well, Southern Italians do. And many Italian-Americans and Italian restaurants are Southern Italian centric: Tuscany, Sicily, Naples, Bari. Northern Italians on the other hand prefer lighter roasted coffee in their espresso. But America got its first shots of espresso pulled by southern Italians, and the legacy (or should I say misunderstanding) continues to this day.
That's it with the espresso tips - enjoy the coffee!