Make Espresso as Good as on Your Coffeeshop Ride

Third wave espresso at your local independant café is hard to beat. But you can get pretty darn close (and actual spot on) at home with a bit of practice. Here are some espresso tips
 
 
 
Becoming familiar with the wonders of great espresso is one of collateral gains I've made so far through riding a bike...

I discovered good (really good) espresso in 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.  Thank you cycling, thank you teammates - more specifically former US National Champion, Alison Powers, on that life-changing coffeeshop ride. My first third wave coffee was at Handlebar Coffee Roasters, a California coffeeshop that anyone who goes to ride up Gibralter probably knows of. It's no joke that life was never the same...  

Since that pivitol day in 2013, I've learned how to make coffee practically as delicious as the stuff I get from my favourite coffeeshops.  (And I've learned how to make coffee like a pro, on the road with some really cool gear. This has more value than ever, since they're all closed during the Covid-19 confinement and social distancing orders.)
 
 
Here are my best tips to making a good espresso:
 
1. Get yourself a good machine.  Even more importantly, get yourself a good coffee grinder.  A cheap grinder won't grind fine or evenly enough to get a good quality shot.
Rancilio grinder, Rancilio rocky, rancilio, coffee grinder
 
2. Heat the machine. (Mine has a light that goes off when it's warmed up.)
Let water come out of the grouphead, into an empty cup.
The reason is twofold:
1. A good cup of coffee starts with a warm cup. If your cups have not had enough time to get warm on top of the machine (it's true, putting them on top of the coffee maker actually has a purpose other than storage!) the warmth of the coffee will get sucked away as soon as it hits the mug. 
2. This prevents water that may have gotten too hot near the grouphead from burning your coffee.  You'll know if it happens: there will be less crema, and the taste will be sub-par.
 
Not Neutral, coffeecup, espresso guide, how to make good espresso

3. Stop the extraction as soon as the colour of the coffee coming out of the portafilter becomes pale and translucent.  The coffee will start out darker and opaque, then become more clear as the extraction goes on.  Anything that comes too far after it begins to look even a little watery doesn't taste as good.  (*If you want to make an Americano, the same rule applies.  Stop the extraction as soon as the coffee coming out turns pale-ish.  Finish to the desired volume with fresh hot water, not stuff that has gone through the already-extracted coffee.  Trust me on this, or try a side-by side comparison with both techniques!)
 
Not Neutral

4. Keep your portafilter clean!  This makes a huge difference in terms of flavour!  I use Q-tips to get right into the spout, and steel wool to clean the wider part that the basket sits into.  If the portafilter or the basket are brown with coffee, they're dirty.  You can find plenty of cleaning tools and products for your espresso machine here, from Eight Ounce Coffee Supply.
 

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