Ed Kaufmann of Joe New York gives his tips for making the perfect espresso
Do you dream about the perfect shot, served in a demitasse cup with perfect crema? Lavazza, one of Italy’s most popular espresso brands, has revealed their secrets to the perfect cup in a taste workshop at the 2012 Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy. You might not be able to roast your own beans or use a professional espresso machine, but with a few key points, you’ll have a better appreciation for what goes into your daily coffee.
It all comes down to the four M’s: mano dell’operatore, macindosatore, miscela, and macchina espresso (barista’s hand, grind, blend, and espresso machine). The first step in this equation is getting the perfect roast. Unlike the dark roasts from Starbucks and the light roasts popular in Scandanavia, Italians prefer a medium roast that has a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. According to Lavazza, toasting the beans until they are just turning dark brown allows for a good crema and complex taste. Since Italians generally take their espresso with sugar, the coffee should turn sweet with notes of chocolate, dried nuts, and fruit. A lighter roast would be too acidic for Italians and dark roast would be too burnt-wood-y, verging on a thick, coffee-like liquor (Lavazza officials say this is what you’ll find in Naples. We at The Daily Meal cannot confirm if there is any truth to this statement).
Once you get the perfect medium roast, selecting the beans and grinding them are the final stops before the pulling your caffè. Lavazza chooses Arabica over robusta beans for their espresso blends to create a pleasant taste whether or not you take your coffee with sugar. Although they do not use robusta in their blends, Lavazza acknowledges that these quick-growing beans can produce a pleasant, almost woody taste when used in moderation. They should not exceed 50 to 60 percent of the blend, though, with even those percentages being a bit high.
The cherry on top of the perfect espresso is the crema, a frothy layer that forms on top of a well-pulled shot. Crema is created when an extreme amount of pressure and hot water is applied to the grounds, encouraging the release of carbon dioxide. If the beans have been ground and roasted properly, then the crema should sit on top of the espresso, waiting to be stirred in.
Espresso may be a small amount of coffee — a shot measures only 1.5 ounces — but there is plenty of skill and thought that goes into this tiny drink. Next time you line up for your daily coffee, remeber the process that goes into your drink and you'll probably find that it tastes just a bit sweeter and bolder than before!