Okay, so you went and splurged on Black Friday and finally got yourself a great espresso machine. Now you’ve read the directions and you’ve pressed out your first few demitasse cups of black gold and you’re wondering if that’s all there is to it. Well, we at Think Crucial are something of experts when it comes to the bean and the brew, so we’re going to give you some recipes and lingo that you can use to impress your friends. After all, now you need to know the difference between an Americano and a Macchiato; a person cannot live on espresso alone.
Let’s talk about one of the most important parts of a good espresso: the crema. When you first pull your espresso shot, you’re going to get this light colored froth that first comes out. Some people will tell you to throw that part away and only drink the pure black espresso. We’re here to tell you that in our opinion, you’re wasting a huge amount of flavor. Without getting deep into the science of it all, the crema is essentially a large portion of the natural oils in the coffee bean that has been emulsified by that initial push of pressurized water. That emulsification gets blended with carbon dioxide that is naturally released by freshly ground beans, resulting in the pale goodness that is crema. Throwing it away means you’re tossing a good chunk of the flavor profile of the coffee, which is a shame.
Now that you’ve made your espresso, let’s talk about what you can do with it. The basic espresso comes in four varieties: the Ristretto, the single shot, the Lungo, and the double shot. The Ristretto is a short shot of espresso that is only about 3/4 of an ounce. This makes the crema ratio much higher and is considered by many coffee drinkers to be the perfect amount and flavor. A single shot is a standard one ounce shot of espresso, and a Lungo is a longer pull that gives you one-and-a-half ounces of espresso. Note that all three of these shots use a single puck of grounds. To make a double shot, which is a two-ounce pull, you use twice the coffee that you would for a single shot.
Expanding on your espresso shots involves adding something to dilute it. Milk and hot water are the two most common things. When you use hot water to dilute an espresso shot, you’re making an Americano. Legend has it that this variation originated with American servicemen during World War 2 who would water down the espressos served to them to make the drinks more like the coffee they were used to. To make an Americano, take 6 ounces of hot (not boiling) water and pull a single shot into it. Stir gently and serve.
Cappuccinos, Macchiatos, and Lattes, Oh My
The most popular of milk-diluted espresso drinks is the cappuccino. This drink is named for the color of the robes that are worn by the Capuchin monks. These monks adopted the light coffee-colored cloaks, called cappucio, in tribute to the Benedictine monks who sheltered them from persecution. Cappuccino also means little cap in Italian, which describes the white cap of foamed milk that rests on the espresso base. However the name was derived, an estimated 1.5 million cups of espresso are served in the US every day. Here’s how you make a classic cappuccino. First put in a single shot of espresso. On top of that layer 1 oz. of foam and 1 oz. of steamed milk that have been mixed so there are no bubbles visible.
The macchiato is a drink that often has adjectives attached to it like mocha, or caramel, or pumpkin spice. These are fine, if you like additives. But at its heart, the macchiato is a very simple drink that is very similar to a cappuccino; it just eliminates the steamed milk. To make one, simply pull a single shot of espresso and layer 1 oz. of milk foam on top.
Another popular milk and espresso drink is the Café Latte. You can also find it as a Café con Leche or a Café Au Lait. Simply, it’s a single shot of espresso with about six ounces of steamed milk. If you’re in the mood, you can put a layer of foam on top, but it’s not necessary. The great thing about a Latte is that because it’s already such a large drink, you can up the caffeine by pulling a double shot into an 8 ounce mug.
If you’re in the mood for a classic drink with a different flavoring, you can add flavored syrup to any of the above drinks. For a less sweet flavor boost, use dark chocolate syrup or an unsweetened hazelnut. Another lesser known flavor additive for your cappuccino is cardamom. Use just a pinch because the herb is very strong. Pair it with a little bit of cinnamon for a flavor that’s spicy and citrusy.
So there are the ins and outs of some of the drinks you can whip up with your espresso machine. Don’t forget to keep your machine clean according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. That includes descaling and changing the water filter, if installed. That way, nothing will interfere with the great taste of the espresso and espresso-based drinks you prepare this holiday season and many seasons to come.
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