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by Staff Writer
Every delicious espresso drink begins with the perfect shot of espresso. To make good espresso, you need the right grind, the right bean and the right amount of pressure. Before you begin, read the owner's manual or any manufacturer information that comes with your espresso machine.
If your espresso machine uses pre-measured pods, simply insert a pod into the portafilter and let the machine do the rest. If your machine requires you to measure and pack the grounds yourself, take a look at the following guidelines:
A fine grind: Always use freshly ground espresso beans. Beans older than one week or grinds that have been stored in the refrigerator will have a weaker flavor. As stated above, the grind should be powder-fine; you will need a burr grinder for this grind as opposed to a flat-blade. Flat-blade grinders are perfect for grinding coffee beans, but you need a burr grinder to grind espresso beans down to the proper powdery texture.
Know your beans: Be sure to use espresso beans and not coffee beans when you make espresso. Arabica beans are commonly used to make espresso, but you can use whichever espresso beans you like best for pulling espresso shots at home.
The pressure is on: The correct pressure should be used not only when packing the shot, but also when pulling the shot. When packing the shot by hand, no more than 30 pounds of pressure should be used to tamp down the grounds. You can use a scale to get an idea of what 30 pounds of pressure feels like. While pulling the shot, your espresso machine will automatically apply the correct amount of pressure and water to the grounds. Have a pre-warmed cup ready to catch the espresso.
Practice makes perfect: You will most likely need to experiment with your particular machine until you find exactly the correct grind, the right amount of coffee to use and the firmness of the tamp until the shots are just right.
You can drink shots of espresso plain or you can make a variety of delicious drinks using espresso. Most espresso drinks use some form of milk. The following are general recipes for making the most common espresso drinks:
Americano: Equal parts hot water and espresso (1 shot of espresso is 1.5 ounces)
Cappuccino: Equal parts steamed milk and espresso
Cafe Con Panna: Add a spoonful of whipped cream to your shot of espresso
Latte: 3 ounces steamed milk to every shot of espresso
Cafe Macchiato: Add a spoonful of milk foam to your espresso shot
Cafe Mocha: Add 7.5 ounces steamed milk to espresso and add chocolate syrup to taste
Cafe Creme: Add 1 ounce cream to every espresso shot
Cafe Romano: Espresso with a twist of lemon