Making Espresso for the First Time

I’m a huge Alton Brown fan. I love his show Good Eats, I love watching him on Cutthroat Kitchen. He’s one of my go-to guys when it comes for advice, tips, recipes, etc. for cooking new things (or even kitchenware to buy). My boyfriend and I both watched his Good Eats episode entitled “Espress Yourself” (you can watch it online here) and I suddenly became highly interested in making my own espresso. I’ve always loved coffee, I drink it everyday but something about espresso was just a little more alluring.

I did some research online for espresso machines (googled terms like “best cheap espresso maker”) because I knew that some machines were hundreds or thousands of dollars, and that was not what I wanted or needed. Alton had also made note that you shouldn’t be whisked away by the fancy machines, because there really are only a few things you need to have when you get an espresso machine. Time and time again, I came across the De’Longhi EC155 15 BAR Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Maker. I did some research on the machine itself, and it had great reviews, so that’s what I ultimately ended up purchasing (technically, I bought this for my boyfriend for our anniversary).

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Looking at an espresso machine is confusing. The act of actually making espresso seems like it’s an exact science (from how coarse the beans are ground, to how hot the water is supposed to be) so it’s a little bit intimidating. But once I actually started making it, it wasn’t even that hard. I think getting to know your espresso machine is the biggest hurdle, and after that, it’s smooth sailing.

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The espresso needs to be compacted into the filter with a tamper. This is supposed to be done with roughly 40 pounds of pressure, with your arm holding the tamper putting the pressure at a 90 degree angle. This creates a puck of the espresso. If you don’t evenly tamp the espresso into the filter, then the water doesn’t flow properly through the espresso. After that, you load the filter into the machine, switch a knob and out comes the espresso.

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Next comes the milk frothing. Some people like straight shots of espresso, but I am not one of those people. I enjoy my cappuccinos, lattes and cafés au lait. I learned the little intricate differences that make each of these beverages different from each other, with varying amounts of espresso, milk and foam. The important part is to heat the milk to 160 degrees before actually frothing the milk (because you don’t want to pour cold milk into your hot espresso), but both can be done with the frothing wand. The end result was perfect. I’ve already made some sort of espresso drink everyday since I got the machine. It’s fun to do and really makes me appreciate espresso that much more. Next stop: latte art.

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