Espresso Brewing - Science or Art? Part Two

A Closer Look at the Brewing Equipment

Does the type of espresso machine or grinder you use affect the taste of your coffee?. Let's take a look at some of the equipment that is available and how it can influence the results of your brewing experiment. You may be surprised how something as simple as the type of grinder you use can impact your overall experience.

The Coffee Grinder 

We have discussed coffee grinders here in the past and defined what a weight-measuring coffee grinder can do. Now I’m going to tell you a seldom revealed astonishing fact; the quality of the coffee grinder directly affects the taste and crema of the espresso!

For instance you can experiment starting with a very good semi-automatic espresso machine like the Gaggia Classic. Make espresso shots using grounds of the same coffee from various coffee grinders like a low-end burr grinder, then go up in quality to a better home burr grinder, then to a prosumer-commercial burr grinder and on to a high end commercial conical burr grinder. You will actually notice how much better the espresso is using coffee grounds from each coffee grinder!

In keeping with the spirit of our espresso-as-science experiment and the ability to be consistent, we had talked about the very good Baratza Vario-W 986 Coffee Grinder.

ceThe next step up, in my opinion, would be a prosumer-commercial grade machine like the Ceado E37S Coffee Grinder, which is a programmable dosing grinder that has amazing burrs and will give you a better espresso because of the burrs and the design of the grinder.  It also lets you program the dose electronically based on grind time. So again, you can be consistent in the amount of coffee you use. 

Mazzer Kony Commercial Coffee Grinder from www.wholelattelove.comThe next step up to a commercial grade machine may seem like a little much for home use; however, a great choice would be the Mazzer Kony as it has conical burrs and it is also available in an electronic version for producing consistent doses of coffee grounds. This coffee grinder or any commercial conical burr coffee grinder would permanently end any further need to upgrade your coffee grinder. A coffee grinder like this will absolutely give you the best chance of making a truly superior espresso.

Looking at the coffee grinder as one of the controllable variables in our espresso-as-science experimenting, we find that selecting the best grinder we can afford is one thing we can change and get a predictable result. That is, if we keep everything else the same: tamp, amount and type of coffee, and the size of the shot, then adjusting the grind and tasting the result of the shot will determine what grinder and grind fineness setting will give us the best tasting results.

For most people the grinder and grind settings would be the variable that would give them very noticeable results quickly.

The Espresso Machine

So far we have looked at many of the variables involved in making great espresso. Another variable is the espresso machine. Many espresso aficionados consider the espresso machine to be the most important one. I do somewhat agree that the machine is an important part of producing quality espresso. 

With the correct machine you have the potential to make a great tasting shot of espresso. I say potential because so many factors go into making a great espresso. Many of these factors are going to be based on the user’s knowledge and skill at crafting an espresso from what they have to work with.  Again, if we look at this as a science experiment, one of the factors that can be controlled if you have the proper machine is the brewing water temperature.

Espresso coffee taste will vary considerably when brewed at different temperatures. I always tell people about wine and how to relate wine temperature and how it affects wine almost the same as coffee. Actually wine and coffee have many similarities as far as how they are cupped, tasted and have different characteristics based on where they are grown and even how good or bad the growing season was.

Back to temperature and wine; If you order a really good bottle of white wine somewhere and it is kept in the beer cooler at near freezing, you know when you get that wine it will only taste cold. It is not at the proper temperature for the wine to let you in on all the nuances and flavors the vintner has worked so hard to get in that great bottle of wine. As the wine warms up and gets to the proper temperature for serving then you start to notice the flavors of the wine such as oaky, fruity, flowery, and all the other great descriptions of the wine.

Coffee is the same way. Temperature plays a very large roll in how exactly the espresso will taste.  The whole idea of looking at this as a science experiment is to learn how you can control many of the variables in making espresso. Having a machine where you can control temperature is a huge advantage at being able to make an espresso that may be the best you have ever had.

Spending your money on the right equipment will give you the potential to make an espresso shot that is downright amazing.  The ability to control temperature is going to let the espresso have different tastes. You may be able to pick out chocolate, berry, caramel, fruit and also something like currants. Notice the similarity to wine descriptions.

fewrweIf you invest in a machine that allows you to control the brewing water temperature, like one of my favorites the Expobar Brewtus IV Espresso Machine, and you keep all the other variable parameters consistent, you will get to the point where you know exactly the temperature that will yield the best tasting espresso coffee.

Having an espresso machine that will brew at exact temperatures will certainly help us in our quest to make the perfect shot. Since our love of espresso coffee and our ability to be scientists should have a goal and a plan to get there, I will discuss how this all ties together in Part Three of espresso as science and perhaps reveal what this all means!

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mjackson

My name is Mark Jackson and I run Whole Latte Love’s Commercial Sales Division. I love my job and truly enjoy helping people in the coffee business. I have over 15 years of experience under my belt, I’ve done machine and route sales, catering, ran a coffee cart, as well as managed a small chain of busy cafes. I am also very familiar with the restaurant business. I feel very confident in my ability to help anyone in the coffee business in whatever venue he or she are pursuing within the specialty coffee trade. I’m constantly learning more about my profession and enjoy participating in online forums, trade shows, and seminars/educational events. My personal interests include: golf, great food, my dogs, and traveling.
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