5 Steps to the Perfect Italian Espresso

You can’t make an amazing and authentic espresso unless you have a barista’s license and a million dollar machine, right? Wrong. In most Italian homes today, you’ll find a tiny capsule machine. They mightn’t look Italian, but they make a reliably good espresso time after time.

Start with good coffee

Arabica is used to make most of the world’s coffee. The plant was first grown in Africa, but has now spread through Asia and South and Central America. The best coffee in the world is 100% Arabica because the bean has a natural sweetness and intense flavor profile that is exactly what coffee aficionados are looking for. Sometimes, a hint of Robusta, another type of coffee bean is added. This doesn’t mean the coffee is of an inferior quality. Some Italians love their coffee to have a hint of bitterness. What’s important is that you choose fair trade coffee. After all, you can’t make an amazing espresso without good coffee.

Let’s get brewing

Once you’ve chosen your coffee, you can start brewing. One of the best things about pod coffee machines is you don’t have to worry about getting the water pressure or grind right. All you have to do is pop in the pod. When it comes to choosing your pods, you don’t have to buy Nepresso coffee pods exclusively… thanks Mr Clooney. There are plenty of Nespresso compatible pods out there that are just as good, if not better. These are capsules that are made for your machine but are often cheaper and some are made in Italy. If you’re looking for a true Italian espresso, stick to brands that are made in Italy.

Warm your cup and machine

The first trick to making a great espresso is to heat up your machine and your cup. Leave your machine on for 10-15 minutes before you start brewing and pour some hot water into your cups to heat them up too. Italians actually use shot glasses to make their espresso. It ensures the coffee stays short and is more enjoyable to drink than if it was served in a gigantic mug. A true espresso is no longer than a tablespoon (20ml), so if your pod machine makes a longer espresso, consider turning it off before it’s finished.

Tilt it

Tilt your glass as the coffee pours out. As well as being a barista trick, this helps to produce a better crema. A crema is a sign of a good coffee. It should be thick and a beautiful light brown. Before you serve your coffee, wait a few seconds for the crema to form. Italians say that a crema should be able to support a teaspoon of sugar for five seconds before it disappears into the dark depths below. That is a sign of the perfect espresso.

No sugar, thanks

This will break your heart, but a true Italian espresso is served without sugar. Green coffee has 1,000 notes and after it’s roasted, 2,000. These are flavors that range from bitter fruits to caramel to chocolate and almonds. It’s a sign of a good grower and generations of experience not just with growing the beans, but roasting and packaging them too. By using sugar, you destroy the flavor profile of your coffee. Think of it in terms of wine. We all love a sweet and sugary champagne, but it’s no Moet. Sugar is used in the cellar to disguise what is otherwise a terrible glass of wine. It’s the same with coffee. Sugar hides the bitterness of burnt coffee or old beans. You want to be able to taste your coffee’s bitterness and the many notes it contains. So keep the sugar for the rubbish coffee and drink your espresso Italian-style. If you can’t resist, consider making your espresso and adding a drop of milk at the end. This is called a macchiato and produces a sweeter coffee without using sugar. 

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