The perfect espresso also depends on the right water temperature. Photo: Nicolas Armer/dpa-tmn
Small, strong, black: Espresso convinces with its noble and intense taste. Baristas explain how to make a real, perfect espresso yourself, step by step.
By Florian Sanktjohanser, dpa
If you want to impress your guests, you serve them espresso like from the Italian restaurant. This requires knowledge, some practice and very good equipment.
It's worth it: coffee has around 850 aromatic substances, more than twice as many as wine. And the royal road to savor it is: the perfect shot – the perfect espresso.
How professionals prepare a real espresso?
The renowned Istituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano has defined this with amazing precision:
– 7 grams of coffee grounds in a sieve – 88 degree water – 9 bar prere – 25 seconds brewing time – 25 milliliters of coffee including foam
"A very Italian approach," puts Nicole Battefeld, who won the German barista championship in 2018, into perspective. In the mother country of espresso, coffee is traditionally roasted at a very dark temperature, which is why Italians extract it at a low temperature.
What makes a real espresso?
Textbooks preach the four magic M's:
– Man – machine – grinder – blend
In fact, it depends on the optimal interaction. "People buy a machine for 2,000 euros and think they'll get a good coffee that way," says Wojtek Bialczak, German barista champion 2019. He took fifth place at the world championships in Boston.
But for excellent espresso, many adjusting screws are important. We explain the procedure step by step.
Step 1: How to find the best espresso beans?
Decisive for the perfectEspresso: finding the right beans. The pros advise visiting roasteries in the area first and going on tastings, called cuppings. There you can try several coffees at a time.
Tips for purchasing
To find good roasters nearby, simply Google "specialty coffee. Cities have their own online guides. In the country always remain online stores. "In the Corona era, they improved tremendously, with knowledge corners and blogs," says Nicole Battefeld.
As a reliable guideline, the barista masters recommend the Cup of Excellence competition. In this process, coffees brewed by hand without a filter are tasted blind by expert juries in a three-stage process and auctioned off at the end.
A fabulous rating got reliably in the past years Panama Geisha. This Arabica variety only grows in the mountains near the border with Costa Rica.
"There are five or six farmers in the area who pushed each other and were very ambitious," says Nicole Battefeld. "So the quality went absolutely through the roof." Barista raves about the very delicate flavors; in 2019, a pound of Panama Geisha sold for $1029.
Do espresso beans really have to be so expensive??
Of course not. There are also excellent geishas in Ethiopia, says Battefeld. That's where the variety comes from, by the way, from Mount Geisha. Laymen are often disappointed by the expensive specialty coffee anyway. For Geisha tastes fruity and floral, but has little roasted aromas.
In the end, it's the individual coffee taste that decides. "The one best coffee in the world doesn't exist," says Wojtek Bialczak. Especially since every vintage tastes different depending on the weather, just like wine.
Aylin olcer found her master coffee in Colombia, near the equator at 2200 meters above sea level. "It's cold there at night," she explains. "The beans grow slowly and have enough time to form beautiful acids."
Processing also has a major influence. Aylin olcer advises to always pay attention to the roasting date on the package. "Ideally, the coffee should have been roasted in the last one to two weeks," says the German barista master from 2020.
Arabica or Robusta: Which espresso blend is best?? Espresso blends often contain Arabica-. Robusta beans in the ratio of 80:20 to 50:50. Arabica naturally tastes finer, more elegant, more fruity, explains Wojtek Bialczak.
But: "Robusta brings much more crema".
Nevertheless: Top baristas usually use Arabica exclusively. "You can get just as good a crema with 100 percent Arabica," says Aylin olcer. The decisive factor, he says, is when and how the coffee was roasted and how it is prepared.
Nicole Battefeld is not a fan of Robusta either. The high caffeine content of Robusta is simply bitter, and the high chlorogenic acid content is unpleasant for many people. "It tastes woody, earthy, sometimes even musty."
But it's worth trying different varieties: "There are already fine Robusta varieties," says Aylin olcer. The decisive factor, he says, is when and how the coffee was roasted and how it is prepared.
Nicole Battefeld is not a fan of Robusta either. The high caffeine content in Robusta is simply bitter, and the high chlorogenic acid content is unpleasant for many.
And: "It tastes woody, earthy, sometimes even musty."But this could change in the future. "There are already fine Robusta varieties," says Aylin olcer. With climate change, they are also likely to become more important for gourmets.
Step 2: Which coffee grinder provides perfect results?
The grind of the coffee has an extremely large influence on the taste. "The grinder is more important than anything else," says Nicole Battefeld.
"The same coffee tastes incredibly different depending on the grinder."Conical grinders – also known as cone grinders – squash the beans about, the coffee will be sweet and full-bodied.
The choice is wide: there are grinders with cone, disc and impact grinders. "I would always recommend a disk grinder," says Aylin olcer. It grinds the coffee very evenly, which is enormously important for the taste, he said. However, she strongly advises against the use of impact grinders, which were common in the past. "This only breaks up the coffee."
To keep the grinder working reliably for a long time, connoisseurs need to clean and calibrate it regularly. And every few years, you should replace the grinding disks – yes, according to the run, advises Aylin olcer.
By the way, it does not necessarily have to be an electric grinder. High-quality hand grinders grind similarly well – but are also not exactly cheap.
Tip: You can feel the grind well by rubbing the powder between your finger and thumb. For espresso, it should be finer than sugar but coarser than flour.
Step 3: What is the right water temperature?
Coffee roasters often create exclusive blends. Photo: Matthias Bein/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa-tmn
Water filter worthwhile. That's because the hardness of the water plays a big role, explains Aylin olcer, German barista master from 2020. "If the water is too hard, the coffee becomes bitter. If it's too soft, the coffee will be too acidic."
According to the German Coffee Association, a total hardness of 4 to 8 degrees dH and a pH value of 6.5 to 7.5 are ideal.
Tip: Just ask the local water company about water hardness or get a test strip at the pharmacy.
Water temperature Plays a big role in the taste: "If the water is too hot, the coffee will be burnt – and simply bitter," warns Aylin olcer. "Just like too long extraction" – that is, the extraction of the flavor-. Aroma substances from the coffee grounds, for example, through the brewing process.
As a general rule: "The lighter the roast, the hotter the water can be," explains Nicole Battefeld – up to 96 degrees.
Step 4: How to operate the tamper perfectly?
Use the pestle to press the ground coffee into the sieve. By the way, this tamper must fit exactly into the portafilter. Press it onto the coffee grounds with a vertical forearm and 15 to 20 kilograms of prere, rotating it 120 degrees at the same time.
Tip: Train on the scale to build up the right prere! Between the compressed coffee. There should be a gap of five millimeters between the tamper and the edge of the portafilter. The surface should be smooth. Be perfectly horizontal. Otherwise, the water will seek channels, and only part of the coffee will be extracted. Crema should be hazelnut brown. Be slightly marbled.
Tip: A double espresso is much easier to make than a single one. Because by its downward straight sieve form it is extracted evenly and without turbulences, explains Battefeld.
Step 5: How to achieve the crowning glory – the perfect milk foam?
Latte art also requires a lot of patience: pouring in the milk foam in such a refined way that pictures are created in the crema.
Timing is much more important than fancy motifs when foaming milk. The fine-pored foam should be ready at exactly the same time as the espresso and poured directly into the sieve. How to combine milk. Coffee optimally.
Tip: For the milk to still be sweet, it must not get hotter than 68 degrees when foamed. Simply hold a hand to the bottom of the jug. If it gets too hot, stop immediately.
What else do you need? More tips from the barista masters:
– A scale accurate to the gram: it helps enormously to determine the right amount of coffee. – A stainless steel milk jug is useful if the espresso gets a frothy cap. – Precision and cleanliness: "Many people don't clean their equipment often enough," says Wojtek Bialczak. "Everybody cleans his pan after roasting."If you sloppy with the cleaning of the machine, burnt oils ruin the taste.
How to become a (hobby) barista?
Training courses to become a barista or coffee sommelier are offered by almost every one of the 750 or so roasting companies in Germany. Renowned are, for example:
– Berlin School of Coffee, – roestbar in Munster, – Backyard Coffee in Frankfurt, – Machhorndl in Nuremberg.
A globally uniform training concept is offered by the Specialty Coffee Association. To find good courses, it is also worth taking a look at the coffee network – a community all about coffee. In the forum thousands of coffee lovers give each other tips.
Usually, course participants first learn the basics: the cultural history of coffee, growing regions, varieties, preparation, roasting profiles.
"The espresso workflow only comes at the end," says Nicole Battefeld, who gives courses herself. A big hurdle for many is the correct adjustment of the grinder.
Even trickier: tamping, that is, pressing the coffee grounds into the sieve. "You have to practice this hundreds of times," says Wojtek Bialczak.
Then all that's missing is the milk froth: "Everyone wants to be able to pour a swan at the end of the course," says Aylin olcer. Simple motifs are enough for the barista master herself: "I am the absolute tulip caster."
What really matters in the end with coffee?
"The most difficult thing is to train the taste buds," says Wojtek Bialczak. There are also special sensory seminars for this purpose.
The simple alternative: "try, try, try," says Aylin olcer. She recommends extracting the same coffee sometimes for 20, sometimes for 30 seconds and tasting it one after the other. And to focus entirely on the flavors when they drink.
A trick of the professionals: Slurp. "This is how you create a shower in your mouth." According to Wojtek Bialczak, this allows coffee to reach all the taste areas on the tongue.